Buddhism greatly influenced the Indian religion. It gave to Indian people a simple and popular religion. It rejected ritualism, sacrifices and dominance of priestly class. It has also left its permanent mark on Indian religious thought. Buddhism appealed to the masses on account of its simplicity, use of vernacular language in its scriptures and teachings and monastic order. Buddhism left deep impact on the society. It gave serious impetus to democratic spirit and social equality. It opened its doors to women and shudras. Buddhism encouraged abolition of distinctions in society and strengthened the principle of social equality.
The Buddhist viharas were used for education purposes. Nalanda, Vikramshila, Taxila, Udyantpuri, Vallabhi and others cities developed as high Buddhist learning centres. Buddhism helped in the growth of literature in the popular language of the people. The literature written both in Pali and Sanskrit were enriched by scholars of Hinyana and Mahayana sects. The Buddhist texts like Tripitakas, Jatakas, Buddha charita, Mahavibhasa, Miliand panho, Lalit Vistara are assets to Indian literature.
The main contribution of Buddhism to Indian life is in the domain of architecture, sculpture and painting. The stupas, viharas, chaityas that were built at Sanchi, Bahrut, Bodhgaya, Nalanda, Amravati, Taxila and other places are simply remarkable. The Sanchi Stupa with its beautiful ornamental torans is considered a masterpiece in architecture. The cave temples of Ajanta, Karle, Bhaja, Ellora etc show their achievement in rock cut cave temples. The Ajanta painting depicting touching scenes of Buddha's life are world famous.
They bear a testimony to the heights reached by them in the field of painting. This Buddhist art forms a glorious chapter in the history of Indian art and architecture. They fostered a new awareness in the field of culture. Buddhism established intimate contact between India and foreign countries. Indian monks and scholars carried the gospel of Buddhism to foreign countries from the 3rd century BC onwards and made it the prominent religion of Asia. These religious movements helped in carrying the message of Indian civilization to many distant countries of Asia. It also helped in assimilating foreign influence in Indian culture.