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The Contribution of Buddhist Kingdomsin Indonesia to the Nation’s History and Identity

2009年03月29日 16:10:00 佛教在线 点击:0

The Contribution of Buddhist Kingdomsin Indonesia to the Nation’s History and Identity

Bhiksuni Bhadra Pranidhana(釋賢願)

Center of Buddhist Studies, the University of Hong Kong

Introduction

Buddhism speaks about conditionality, inter-connectedness, nothing exist on its own. Such law of inter-dependent applies to all phenomena, and the “becoming” of a nation is no exception. A nation cannot abruptly come into being without undergoing many different processes and changes across time, on many aspects requisite to a formation of a nation. These processes are the embryonic stage of an identity of a nation. To quote from the “The Hindu” newspaper: “The question of identity is of primary importance in the formation of a nation. What then is the basis of identity? Identity, most commonly, is based on a shared sense of history, culture and language.”[1]  Undoubtedly, history, culture, and language are three crucial components of identity of a nation, and that these component also changes, fluctuates, reshapes, as a continuous transformation of the identity.

A good starting point in discussing the history of Indonesia that links to Buddhism was India’s relation to the nation. Even though Indonesia has been in trade contact with India since prehistoric time, but the culture started to penetrate into Indonesia only from around the first century C.E. It is important to note that Buddhism with its non-caste system and tolerant attitude towards all seemed to have given Indian merchants more opportunities to reach foreign lands.  The communication between the Indian and local merchants later on, eased the process of cultural and religious penetration. Indian aspects were welcomed by the locals, and considered to be beneficial for them, enabling the two cultural ingredients to mold smoothly.

From the end of the second century to the beginning of the third, Indian community formed through the natural process from unification of the locals, headed by an Indian leader or Indianized local leader, started to appear in Southeast Asia.  It started to grow rapidly from the fourth century, along with the conquest of Samudragupta dynasty in Southern India which created migration of merchants, noblemen, clergies to the East for about three centuries.  Naturally, “Beginning in the fourth century A.D., there are indications of a widespread adoption in Southeast Asia of religious and political traditions whose original home lay in the Indian subcontinent.”[2] Even though in the early fifth century Chinese monk Fa Xian who made a stop in Indonesia from India mentioned in his record, “The Faith of Buddha was in a very unsatisfactory condition”[3], however this does not mean it did not exist at all. As a matter of fact, the few Buddhists in the fifth century might have paved the way to the development of many Buddhist kingdoms in later centuries, and these Buddhist kingdoms including the ones in Indonesia, which were strategically located in favor of international trade, continued to be active in establishing trade, diplomatic, and religious relations with India, as well as with China.

This paper is intended to briefly show evidences that prior to the modern Indonesia, there were many dynamic Buddhist entities that emerged partly due to the spread of the religion, actively networking across borders. These entities received foreign influences, gradually formed their identities, take actions for gaining recognitions, and in some point in time, some of these kingdoms even became the center of attention and target of destination. Although the traits and identities of these entities may differ from those of today’s Indonesia, they are indeed an undeletable enrichment of the history, as well as the identity of Indonesia, the current modern nation they apparently belong to.

Relations with India

As all nations in the world, Indonesia has experienced many changes throughout history. The classical history of Indonesia is inseparable from the culture and religions of India, including Buddhism. Centuries ago Indonesia was adorned with a glorious period of Buddhist kingdoms, and evidences are abundant.

The Gupta (India) style metal Buddha statue found in Kutai of the current Kalimantan island of Indonesia, the Buddha statue of Amarāti style found in Bukit Seguntang, Palembang, are evidences of the presence of Indian Buddhist impact on Indonesian culture by the fifth century.

Tantric Buddhism[4] flourished in Bengal and Magadha, India from the mid-seventh century under Pāla dynasty.[5] It is said that many Buddhist clergies in that period went to South East Asia and hence were accountable for spreading Tantric flavored Mahāyāna Buddhism to Indonesia. Telaga Batu inscription in Palembang, Karang Birahi inscription in Jambi (Malayu), Kota Kapur inscription in Bangka (686 C.E.), and South Sumatra’s Lampung inscriptions attributed to king Jayanasa, all conveyed Tantric magic curse.[6]

Tantric curse was often used as a spiritual weapon, a king’s tool to generate fear among potential enemy, to ensure loyalty, and served as a reward to the obedient. Indian’s religious influence was by no means short lived, which can be detected from the adoption of  kālachakra, Tantric ritual that was originated from Bengal, by K?itanagara, the 13th century Javanese king of Singhasāri, and ādityavarman, 14th century king of Minangkabau territory.[7]

Moreover, “This adoption of ‘Indian’ traditions was undertaken by dynastic leaders who were increasing their dominance over local groups as well as improving their contacts with other cultures.”[8] The statement can naturally be proven by the fact that the kings of Buddhist kingdoms played a significant role in preserving the diplomatic ties with India via religious means.  One of them is Bālaputradeva, the first Sailendra dynasty as king of Srīvijaya— a great kingdom served as Buddhist center of Suvarnadvīpa (Sumatra)— who was the son of Samaratunga.[9]  As stated in the Nālandā Charter of 860 C.E., Bālaputradeva built a monastery in Nālandā as a tribute to king Devapāla, India.  As a returned favor, the Indian king of Pāla dynasty granted Bālaputradeva’s request and offered many villages as caretakers of the monastery.[10] Another similar move was done by another Srīvijaya king, Chūlāmanivarmadeva. According to the early 11th century inscription of Tanjore, the king built a monastery called Chūlāmaivihāra at Nāgīpattana, South India for the king of Chola, Rājarāja I. Likewise, the Cho?a king provided large village for the monastery. [11]

The Indian culture could still be felt until as late as the fifteenth century, when a new Hindu dynasty of Majapahit kingdom in Java appeared in 1486. This dynasty of Girīndravardhana was perhaps the last Indianized kingdom in Indonesia.[12]

These show that Indian culture have been part of Indonesia from prehistoric time up to the fifteenth century. But this does not mean that the culture died out after the fifteenth century, rather, it shifted and concentrated in the island of Bali until the present day.

Relationship with China

As with Southeast Asia’s trade relation with China, it was a slow start in the first century, and only started to pick up from the third century on, along with the rise of Funan kingdom (Cambodia). However, the Chinese was incredibly diligent in recording the tributary visits by ambassador sent from Southeast Asia kingdoms, including the ones sent by the Buddhist kingdoms of Indonesia.

She-p’o in Java was a place where the whole kingdom turned to Buddhism soon after the arrival of a monk, formerly a Kashmir prince, named Gu?avarman.[13]  The kingdom sent its ambassadors to China in 433 C.E. and 435 C.E.

In Central Java, the kingdom Ho-ling was mentioned in the history of Tang dynasty. It sent its first embassy in 640 C.E., and the last was in 818 C.E. Ho-ling kingdom then became known as She-p’o. In 873 C.E. it participated in the celebration of the arrival of the Buddha’s relic at Chang An by offering gifts such as fragrant incense[14]. Kan-t’o-li which believed to be the predecessor of ?rīvijaya in Sumatra, was recorded in the Liang dynasty history. King ?rī Varanarendra sent a Hindu delegation named Rudra to China in 454-464 C.E. As per Chinese record, a Buddhist king named Gautama Subhadra ruled the kingdom in 502 C.E., and an ambassador was sent to China in 510 C.E. by king Vijayavarman.[15]

Similar to the diplomatic maneuvers done by Buddhist kings with India, nourishment of diplomatic ties with China also involved religious elements. In 1003 C.E., embassies were sent to China to inform the emperor that as an expression of gratitude for China’s help during  Javanese attack on ?rīvijaya, king Chū?āma?ivarmadeva built a Buddhist temple in Sumatra for the long live of the Emperor of China. Besides requested a bell to be made, he also requested the Emperor to name the temple. The temple was named:

“Ten Thousand Years Receiving from Heaven”.[16]

These Buddhist kingdoms were successful in establishing close ties with China. Its returned favor and expression of gratitude, the carefully recorded embassy visits were among the many reasons showing that they were very much acknowledged and taken into serious accounts by China. Vice versa, it was crucial for these kingdoms to receive recognitions and confirmed identities from the emperors of China as it was a strategic diplomatic move to ensure economic and political security.

Buddhist Kingdoms as International Buddhist Centers

It is definitely not an exaggeration to say that Buddhist kingdoms of Indonesia had attracted many Buddhist monks from overseas. Fa Xian, Gu?avarman, Hui Ning, Yi Jing, Vajrabodhi, Amoghavajra, Atī?a were among the Buddhist clergies who visited and studied in Indonesia.

Even though in the early fifth century Java was not a significant Buddhist land, but it is important to note that Fa Xian made a five month stop at Yeh-p’o-ti in Java in 414 C.E. while returning from India, and it was the same island that monk Gu?avarman from Kashmir came to, as mentioned earlier. However, by the seventh century Ho-ling mentioned earlier, became a Buddhist center on the island. It was also the homeland of monk J?ānabhadra, who assisted a Chinese monk Hui Ning to translate early Buddhism Sanskrit texts into Chinese, among them was the Mahāparinirvā?asūtra, sometime in 664-665 C.E. [17]

An even more important Buddhist center in Indonesia was the ?rīvijaya kingdom of Suvar?advīpa. It was well-known as the center of Buddhist learning in Southeast Asia since the seventh century. Yi Jing, a scholarly monk from China stopped for six months at the kingdom, while on his way to India in 671 C.E. After coming back from India, he again stopped at the center for four years at 685 C.E. He went to China in 689 C.E., and immediately came back with four assistants to help him translating Sanskrit Buddhist texts that he brought from India.

He stayed in ?rīvijaya (or Fo-shih) until 695 C.E.; total of more than 10 years he spent in the center, bringing with him volumes of Buddhist scriptures from India to be translated into Chinese. The center was so popular that he noted, “In the fortified city of Bhoga Buddhist priests number more than 1,000, whose minds are bent on learning and good practices.”[18] The place was considered a prerequisite for monks prior to embarking for India to stop here and study India’s Buddhist custom, teachings, and language for one or two years.

?rīvijaya was visited by Vajrabodhi in 717 C.E., one who introduced Tantrayāna to China.

It is believed that at around 717C.E. or 718 C.E. he met the thirteen-year-old Amoghavajra in Java, whom later became his disciple and the Patriarch of Esoteric Buddhism in China.[19]

During the time of king Chū?āma?ivarmadeva, there was a learned local monk called Dharmakīrti or Dharmapāla of Suvar?advīpa. Atī?a or Dipa?kara ?rīj?āna at the age of 31 around 1012 C.E. left India for Dharmakīrti, and spent 12 years in the island studying Buddhism under him.[20]

The importance of the Buddhist centers in Indonesia was obvious, as it was treated by many learned individuals, as the place to study, practice, and translate Buddhist texts.

Conclusion: Buddhism in Indonesia and National Identity

As we can see, the influence of Indian culture and beliefs had offered Indonesians, i.e. the people of the ancient kingdoms in the land of current Indonesia, new knowledge in art, religion, and way of life. Since its penetration, Buddhist kingdoms started to appear, which undoubtedly economically supported by the trades with India. Buddhism then played a role in creating a sense of conformity with India. Likewise, the relationship with China was not only that of trade, but also politic as well as religious. The kingdoms had eventually learned necessary diplomatic moves in exchange for a confirmation of the identity and existence of the kingdoms by the Chinese emperors.

Within all these activities, with India and China, Buddhism seemed to support the nations’ sense of being and interconnectedness with foreign lands. In the mid seventh to the eight century, Buddhism literally made Indonesia famous; Indonesia was famous for those in search of knowledge and wisdom. The fame of Buddhist centers had created a great amount of enthusiasm among the local and overseas Buddhist monks .

Unfortunately nothing surpasses the truth of the teaching of the Buddha: nothing is permanent.  Buddhism is not the major religion in Indonesia, however it has become more than just a religion that left us with great monuments like Borobudur, Mendut, Pawon, Plaosan, and many more. Buddhism has become one with Indonesia, and it was the first one to be identified with the most glorious time of Indonesia.  Moreover, with Indonesia’s motto of Unity in Diversity, Buddhism continues to exist along with the other five religions acknowledged by the government.  To quote from a modern scholar:

“Today, there is no country in Asia that has not had a strong Buddhist presence at some time, including such lands as currently Islamic Afghanistan and Indonesia…As it spread, Buddhism was quite happy to live alongside other religious traditions,…Buddhism has been happy to have an open frontier with other religions, which it related to with critical tolerance, always making clear its invitation into the various different levels of Buddhist commitment and practice.”[21]

In connection with the international world, the Buddhist kingdoms have left markings on the history of India, China and other nations in the region.

However, what is most important to realize is that in the end, all of those kingdoms each with their own histories, left markings on just one book of history, the glorious history of Indonesia.

Bibliography

Chattopadhyaya, A. (1999). Atisa and Tibet: Life and Works of Dipamkara Srijnana in Relation to the History and Religion of Tibet. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.

Coedès, G. (1971). The Indianized States of Southeast Asia.

(W. F. Vella, Ed., & S. B. Cowing, Trans.) Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii.

Engineer, A. A. (2000, May 13). Nation-state, Religion & Identity. The Hindu , p. 1.

Fa-hsien. (1959). The Travels of Fa-hsien. (H. Giles, Trans.) London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Harvey, P. (2001). Introduction. In P. Harvey (Ed.), Buddhism (pp. 1-28). London and New York: Continuum.

Hazra, K. L. (2002). History of Theravada Buddhism in South-East Asia with Special Reference to India and Ceylon. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt Ltd.

I-Tsing. (1970). A Record of The Buddhist Religion as Practiced in India and The Malay Archipelago (A.D. 671-695). (J. Takakusu, Trans.) Taipei: Ch'eng Wen Publishing Company.

Lancaster, L. R. (2004). The Korean Buddhist Canon: A Descriptive Catalogue. Retrieved January 13, 2009, from Acmuller: http://www.acmuller.net/descriptive_catalogue/index.html

Munoz, P. M. (2006). Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet.

Orlando, R. (1981). A Study of Chinese Documents Concerning The Life of The Tantric

Buddhist Patirarch Amoghavajra (A.D. 705-774). Dissertation, Princeton University, Department of East Asian Studies.

Robinson, R. D., & Johnson, W. L. (1996). The Buddhist Religion: A Historical Introduction.Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Smith, M. L. (1999). "Indianization" from the Indian Point of View: Trade and Cultural Contacts with Southeast Asia in the Early First Millenium C.E. Journal of the Economic and Social   History of the Orient , 42 (1), 1-26.

Wolters, O. W. (1983). A Few and Miscellaneous Pi-Chi Jottings on Early Indonesia. Indonesia ,36, 49-65.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Engineer, 2000, p. 1.

[2] Smith, 1999, p. 55.

[3] Fa-hsien, 1959, p. 78.

[4] Such as Vajrayāna,  Kālachakrayāna,  Mantrayāna, and Sahajayāna.

[5] Hazra, 2002, p. 47.

[6] Munoz, 2006, pp. 126-127.

[7] Coedes, 1971, pp. 198-199; p. 232.

[8] Smith, 1999, p. 55.

[9] He is known to be the one who completed Borobudur.

[10] Munoz, 2006, p. 144.

[11] Coedes, 1971, p. 141

[12] Ibid., p. 242.

[13] Coedes, 1971, p. 54.

[14] Wolters, 1983, p. 62.

[15] According to Munoz, the embassy sent by Vinyiavarmam (Vijayavarman) was in 519 C.E.; Munoz, 2006,p. 103; Coedes, 1971, p. 55.

 [16] Coedes, 1971, p. 141.

[17] Ibid., p. 79; Lancaster, 2004.

[18] Yi Jing called nthe place he stayed as the city of Bhoga in the country called Sribhoga, which is Malayu; I-Tsing, 1970, pp. xxx;xxxiii-xxxiv.

[19] Orlando, 1981, p. 10.

[20] Chattopadhyaya, 1999, p. 85.

[21] Harvey, 2001, pp. 3-4.


 

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