The decline of Buddhism from the plains of India is one of the most puzzling questions in the history of India. Different scholars have suggested different reasons for this decline. In this paper, an attempt has been made to examine as to whether the animosity of the Brāhmaṇas and persecution of Brāhmaṇical kings could have caused such a decline. The views expressed and examples cited in support of this hypothesis have been examined in detail, especially the background and consequences of the anti-Buddhist campaigns of Puṣyamitra Śuṅga and Śaśāṅka.
An attempt has also been made in this paper to show that though it cannot be denied that some friction did exist from time to time between the followers of the Buddha and Brāhmaṇas in India and that some actions of Puṣyamitra Śuṅga and Śaśāṅka can be construed as anti-Buddhist, but it is not possible to visualize Buddhism as having declined as a result thereof. Nor does it appear probable that Buddhism declined in India because of Islamic onslaught, development of corrupt practices and divisions in the Saṃgha, or growth of Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna. It is proposed here that the issue of decline of Buddhism took place at two different levels i.e., at the laity and the Saṃgha level. The upshot of the paper is that the crucial reason for the decline of Buddhism in India was the laity which at best could be described as fickle-minded and at worst non-existent.