Buddhism seems to have a wider sway in Orissa. It was from Orissa that the two merchants, 'Tapasu' and 'Bhallika', spread the message of the Buddha in Kalinga and two tribes, 'Vass' and 'Bhanja' were converted to Buddhism and made efforts for its propagation.
It is believed from legends that a mendicant or 'Bhikshu' named 'Kshama' retrieved a tooth of the Buddha from the pyre and gave it to the Kalinga King 'Brahmadatta' who built a 'Chaitya' and named the place as Dantap.
In the history of Buddhism in India the Kalinga War is one of the most memorable events since the scene of massacre and the carnage there resulted in a profound change in Ashoka's heart culminating in his conversion to Buddhism to eschew violence, on the realization that the victory of the sword was not genuine. Thus the terrible 'Chandashoka' was transformed into the compassionate 'Dharmashoka'.
Under Ashoka's patronage Buddhism spread swiftly over the world from Greece to Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka). Tissa, brother of Ashoka, spent his last years in Kalinga and Bhojakagiri Vihar became the residence of Dharmarakshita, the teacher of Tissa, from where he transmitted the doctrines of Buddhism and inspired the people of Kalinga. His distinguished disciple 'Dhitak Kumar' came to Kalinga to establish the foundation of the 'Sravastivada' school of Buddhism, which received wide acceptance, and Kalinga turned out to be one of its principal centres.
In order to make it a mass religion the followers of this school admitted common people into its fold and in the process transformed Budda into an omnipotent, omniscient super human being. 'Asta Sahasrika', the earliest 'Prajnaoaramita' literature, was prepared in Orissa leading to the development of the 'Mahayana' school of Buddhism in Orissa. It did not, however, displace the 'Hinayana' school, which had influenced the life of the Oriya people after the construction of the Chaitya at Dantapur to preserve the sacred tooth relic, Guhasiva, the king of Kalinga in the 3rd century AD had become a Buddhist and he sent the relic to Ceylon for its safe preservation.
The 'Sailodbhava' kings were Buddhists who took Buddhism to the Southeast Asian countries along with Orissan art and culture. 'Sasanka' who conqured Kangoda was, however, an opponent of Buddhism which, as a result, disappeared from Kangoda although it survived in the Kalinga region where Puspagiri became famous as one of the great centres of Hinayana Buddhism as mentioned by the Chinese traveler 'Hiuen Tsang', who found it to be a centre for both Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism.
The Home Of Buddhist Complexes
The wide influence of Buddhism between the 1st and 7th centuries AD on the religious and spiritual life of Orissa is evident from the literature, art, architecture, sculpture and philosophy of the period. To this efflorescence of Mahayana Buddhism the contribution of Orissa can be judged from the flourishing Buddhist centres at Parimalagiri, Surabhagiri, Bhorasila, Tamralipti amd Chelitalo.
The great "Madhyamika" philosopher 'Nagarjuna' is supposed to have lived on the "Harisankar-Nrusinghanath" in Balangir district. "Surabhagiri" is identified as the Dhauli hill at Bhubaneswar where the philosopher 'Acharya Sarvagami' had his 'Vihara' for the teaching of 'Yogachara'.
The philosopher 'Dingnaga', the founder of Buddhistic logic is believed to have lived at "Bhorsila", which is imagined by some to be 'Delang' (Puri). The ultimate development of logic was achieved by Acharya Dharmakirti who lived in the Ganjam district.
The greatest centre of the Yogachara School, however, was 'Lalitgiri' (Jajpur) and the archaeological excavations there as also at 'Udaigiri' have proved beyond doubt that it must have been a great flourishing centre of 'Buddhism' of the Hinayana, Madhyamika and Yogachara schools.
'Tantric' Buddhism seems to have evolved from the Yogachara School. 'Acharya Pitupada', (800-900 AD) achieved a great reputation for scholar and saint at Ratnagiri and promulgated "Kalachakryana", a new vehicle of Buddhism.
By the 7th century AD, Tantric Buddhism made its appearance and 8th century, King 'Indrabhuti' of Sambalpur purified Tantric Buddhism and introduced it as Vajrayana, which is supposed to have travelled to the remaining parts of the country and Tibet. Vajrayana was changed to 'Sahajayana' by 'Lashminkara', the princess of Sonepur and sister of 'Indrabhuti'. It is believed that the great Buddhist saint 'Padmasambhava' went to Tibet from Orissa to propagate "Vajrayana" Buddhism.