THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE BUDDHIST MONKS
So far we have discussed the contiributino of Brahmin to the early transmission of Indian culture to southeast Asia. Buddhist monks, however, were at least as important in this respect. Two characteristic features of Buddhism enabled it to make a specific impact on southeast Asia, First Buddhist were imbued with a atrong missionary zeal, and second, they ignored the caste system and did not emphasize the idea of ritual purity. By his teaching as well as by the orginzation of his monastic order (Sangha) Gautama Buddha had given rise to this missionary zeal, which had then been fostered by Ashoka's dispatch of Buddhist missionaries to Western Asia, Greece, Central Asia, Sri lanka and Burma.
Buddhism's freedom from ritual restrictions and the spirit of the unity of all adherents enabled Buddhist monsk to establish contacts with people abroad, as well as to welcome them in India when they came to visit the sacred places of Buddhism, Chinese sources record 162 visits to India of Chinese of Buddhist monsk for the period from the 5th to the eigth century AD. Many more may have trvelled without having left a trace in such official records. This was an amazing international scholarly exchange programme for that day and age.
In the early centuries AD the center of Buddhist scholarship was the University of Taxila (near the present city of Islamabad),but in the fifth century AD when the University of Nalanda was founded not far from Bodh Gaya, Bihar the center of Buddhist scholarship shifted to eastern India. This university always had a large contingent of students from southeast Asia. There they spent many years close the holy places of Buddhism, copying and translating texts before returing home. Nalanda was a cenre of Mahayana Buddhism, which became of increasing importance of Southeast Asia. We mentioned above that King Balaputa of Shrivijaya established a monastery for students of his realm at Nalanda around 860 AD which was then endowed with land grants by King Devepala of Bengal. But the Sumatran empire of Shrivijaya had acquired a good reputation in tis own right among Buddhist scholars and from the late seventh century AD attracted resident Chinese and Indian monks. The Chinese monk I-tsing stopped over at Shrivijaya capital (present day Palembang) for six months in 671 AD in order to learn Sanskrit Grammer. He then proceeded to India, where he spent 14 years, and on his retun journey he stayed another four years at Palembang so that he could translate the many texts which he had collected. In this period he went to China for a few months in 689 AD to recruit assistance for his great translation project (completed only 695 AD). On his return to China he explicitly recommended that other chiense Buddhists proceeding to India break journey in Shrivijaya, where a thousand monks lived by the same rulers as those prevailing in India. In subsequent years many Chinese Buddhists conscientitously followed this advice.
Prominent Indian Buddhists Scholars similarly made a point to visit Shrivijaya. Towards the end of Seventh century AD Dharmapala of Nalanda is supposed to have visited Suvarnadvipa (Java and Sumattra). In the beginning of the eighth century AD the south Indian monk Vajrabodhi spent five months in Shrivijaya on his way to China. He and his disciple Amoghvajra, whom he met in Java, are credited with having indroduced Buddhist Tantrism to China. Atisha, who later became know as the great reformer of Tibeta Buddhism, is said to have studied for twelve years in Survarnadvipa in the early eleventh century AD. The high standard of Buddhist learning which prevailed in Indonasia for many centuries was one of the important precodition for that great work of art, the Borobudur, whose many reliefs are a pictorial compendium the Buddhist lore, a tribute both to the craftsman ship of Indonasia artists and to the knowledge of Indonasia Buddhist Scholars.