-Buddha History And Philosophy Discussion Corner- (Page 2)

RoseFairy IF-Dazzler

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Main article: Sunyata

Mahayana Buddhism received significant theoretical grounding from Nagarjuna (perhaps c. 150-250 CE), arguably the most influential scholar within the Mahayana tradition. Nagarjuna's primary contribution to Buddhist philosophy was the systematic exposition of the concept of nyat, or "emptiness", widely attested in the Prajpramit sutras that emerged in his era. The concept of emptiness brings together other key Buddhist doctrines, particularly anatta and prattyasamutpda (dependent origination), to refute the metaphysics of Sarvastivada and Sautrantika (extinct non-Mahayana schools). For Nagarjuna, it is not merely sentient beings that are empty of tman; all phenomena (dharmas) are without any svabhava (literally "own-nature" or "self-nature"), and thus without any underlying essence; they are "empty" of being independent; thus the heterodox theories of svabhava circulating at the time were refuted on the basis of the doctrines of early Buddhism. Nagarjuna's school of thought is known as the Mdhyamaka. Some of the writings attributed to Nagarjuna made explicit references to Mahayana texts, but his philosophy was argued within the parameters set out by the agamas. He may have arrived at his positions from a desire to achieve a consistent exegesis of the Buddha's doctrine as recorded in the Canon. In the eyes of Nagarjuna the Buddha was not merely a forerunner, but the very founder of the Mdhyamaka system.[55]

Sarvastivada teachings"which were criticized by Ngrjuna"were reformulated by scholars such as Vasubandhu and Asanga and were adapted into the Yogacara (Sanskrit: yoga practice) school. While the Mdhyamaka school held that asserting the existence or non-existence of any ultimately real thing was inappropriate, some exponents of Yogacara asserted that the mind and only the mind is ultimately real (a doctrine known as cittamatra). Not all Yogacarins asserted that mind was truly existent; Vasubandhu and Asanga in particular did not.[56] These two schools of thought, in opposition or synthesis, form the basis of subsequent Mahayana metaphysics in the Indo-Tibetan tradition.

Besides emptiness, Mahayana schools often place emphasis on the notions of perfected spiritual insight (prajpramit) and Buddha-nature (tathgatagarbha). There are conflicting interpretations of the tathgatagarbha in Mahyna thought. The idea may be traced to Abhidharma, and ultimately to statements of the Buddha in the Nikyas. In Tibetan Buddhism, according to the Sakya school, tathgatagarbha is the inseparability of the clarity and emptiness of one's mind. In Nyingma, tathgatagarbha also generally refers to inseparability of the clarity and emptiness of one's mind. According to the Gelug school, it is the potential for sentient beings to awaken since they are empty (i.e. dependently originated). According to the Jonang school, it refers to the innate qualities of the mind that expresses themselves as omniscience etc. when adventitious obscurations are removed. The "Tathgatagarbha Sutras" are a collection of Mahayana sutras that present a unique model of Buddha-nature. Even though this collection was generally ignored in India,[57] East Asian Buddhism provides some significance to these texts.



Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, India, where Gautama Buddha attained Nirvana under the Bodhi Tree (left)
Main article: Nirvana (concept)

Nirvana (Sanskrit; Pali: "Nibbana") means "cessation", "extinction" (of craving and ignorance and therefore suffering and the cycle of involuntary rebirths (sasra)), "extinguished", "quieted", "calmed"; it is also known as "Awakening" or "Enlightenment" in the West. The term for anybody who has achieved nirvana, including the Buddha, is arahant.

Bodhi (Pli and Sanskrit, in devanagari: ) is a term applied to the experience of Awakening of arahants. Bodhi literally means "awakening", but it is more commonly translated into English as "enlightenment". In Early Buddhism, bodhi carried a meaning synonymous to nirvana, using only some different metaphors to describe the experience, which implies the extinction of raga (greed, craving),[58] dosa (hate, aversion)[59] and moha (delusion).[60] In the later school of Mahayana Buddhism, the status of nirvana was downgraded in some scriptures, coming to refer only to the extinction of greed and hate, implying that delusion was still present in one who attained nirvana, and that one needed to attain bodhi to eradicate delusion:

An important development in the Mahayana [was] that it came to separate nirvana from bodhi ('awakening' to the truth, Enlightenment), and to put a lower value on the former (Gombrich, 1992d). Originally nirvana and bodhi refer to the same thing; they merely use different metaphors for the experience. But the Mahayana tradition separated them and considered that nirvana referred only to the extinction of craving (passion and hatred), with the resultant escape from the cycle of rebirth. This interpretation ignores the third fire, delusion: the extinction of delusion is of course in the early texts identical with what can be positively expressed as gnosis, Enlightenment.
"Richard F. Gombrich, How Buddhism Began[61]

Therefore, according to Mahayana Buddhism, the arahant has attained only nirvana, thus still being subject to delusion, while the bodhisattva not only achieves nirvana but full liberation from delusion as well. He thus attains bodhi and becomes a buddha. In Theravada Buddhism, bodhi and nirvana carry the same meaning as in the early texts, that of being freed from greed, hate and delusion.

The term parinirvana is also encountered in Buddhism, and this generally refers to the complete nirvana attained by the arahant at the moment of death, when the physical body expires.

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Main article: Buddhahood

According to Buddhist traditions a Buddha is a fully awakened being who has completely purified his mind of the three poisons of desire, aversion and ignorance. A Buddha is no longer bound by Samsara and has ended the suffering which unawakened people experience in life.

Buddhists do not consider Siddhartha Gautama to have been the only Buddha. The Pali Canon refers to many previous ones (see List of the 28 Buddhas), while the Mahayana tradition additionally has many Buddhas of celestial, rather than historical, origin (see Amitabha or Vairocana as examples, for lists of many thousands Buddha names see Taish Shinsh Daizky numbers 439-448). A common Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist belief is that the next Buddha will be one named Maitreya (Pali: Metteyya).

According to Theravada

In Theravada doctrine, a person may awaken from the "sleep of ignorance" by directly realizing the true nature of reality; such people are called arahants and occasionally buddhas. After numerous lifetimes of spiritual striving, they have reached the end of the cycle of rebirth, no longer reincarnating as human, animal, ghost, or other being. The commentaries to the Pali Canon classify these awakened beings into three types:

  • Sammasambuddha, usually just called the Buddha, who discovers the truth by himself and teaches the path to awakening to others
  • Paccekabuddha, who discovers the truth by himself but lacks the skill to teach others
  • Savakabuddha, who receive the truth directly or indirectly from a Sammasambuddha

Bodhi and nirvana carry the same meaning, that of being freed from craving, hate, and delusion. In attaining bodhi, the arahant has overcome these obstacles. As a further distinction, the extinction of only hatred and greed (in the sensory context) with some residue of delusion, is called anagami.

According to Mahayana
The Great Statue of Buddha Amitabha in Kamakura, Japan

In the Mahayana, the Buddha tends not to be viewed as merely human, but as the earthly projection of a beginningless and endless, omnipresent being (see Dharmakaya) beyond the range and reach of thought. Moreover, in certain Mahayana sutras, the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are viewed essentially as One: all three are seen as the eternal Buddha himself.

The Buddha's death is seen as an illusion, he is living on in other planes of existence, and monks are therefore permitted to offer "new truths" based on his input. Mahayana also differs from Theravada in its concept of nyat (that ultimately nothing has existence), and in its belief in bodhisattvas (enlightened people who vow to continue being reborn until all beings can be enlightened).[62]

Celestial Buddhas are individuals who no longer exist on the material plane of existence, but who still aid in the enlightenment of all beings.

Nirvana came to refer only to the extinction of greed and hate,[dubious - discuss] implying that delusion was still present in one who attained Nirvana. Bodhi became a higher attainment that eradicates delusion entirely.[61] Thus, the Arahant attains Nirvana but not Bodhi, thus still being subject to delusion, while the Buddha attains Bodhi.[dubious - discuss]

The method of self-exertion or "self-power""without reliance on an external force or being"stands in contrast to another major form of Buddhism, Pure Land, which is characterised by utmost trust in the salvific "other-power" of Amitabha Buddha. Pure Land Buddhism is a very widespread and perhaps the most faith-orientated manifestation of Buddhism and centres upon the conviction that faith in Amitabha Buddha and the chanting of homage to his name liberates one at death into the Blissful (), Pure Land () of Amitabha Buddha. This Buddhic realm is variously construed as a foretaste of Nirvana, or as essentially Nirvana itself. The great vow of Amitabha Buddha to rescue all beings from samsaric suffering is viewed within Pure Land Buddhism as universally efficacious, if only one has faith in the power of that vow or chants his name.

Buddha eras

Buddhists believe Gautama Buddha was the first to achieve enlightenment in this Buddha era and is therefore credited with the establishment of Buddhism. A Buddha era is the stretch of history during which people remember and practice the teachings of the earliest known Buddha. This Buddha era will end when all the knowledge, evidence and teachings of Gautama Buddha have vanished. This belief therefore maintains that many Buddha eras have started and ended throughout the course of human existence.[63][64] The Gautama Buddha, then, is the Buddha of this era, who taught directly or indirectly to all other Buddhas in it (see types of Buddhas).

In addition, Mahayana Buddhists believe there are innumerable other Buddhas in other universes.[65] A Theravada commentary says that Buddhas arise one at a time in this world element, and not at all in others.[66] The understandings of this matter reflect widely differing interpretations of basic terms, such as "world realm", between the various schools of Buddhism.

The idea of the decline and gradual disappearance of the teaching has been influential in East Asian Buddhism. Pure Land Buddhism holds that it has declined to the point where few are capable of following the path, so it may be best to rely on the power of the Amitabha Buddha.


Main article: Bodhisattva

Bodhisattva means "enlightenment being", and generally refers to one who is on the path to buddhahood. Traditionally, a bodhisattva is anyone who, motivated by great compassion, has generated bodhicitta, which is a spontaneous wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.[67] Theravada Buddhism primarily uses the term in relation to Gautama Buddha's previous existences, but has traditionally acknowledged and respected the bodhisattva path as well.[68]

According to Jan Nattier, the term Mahyna ("Great Vehicle") was originally even an honorary synonym for Bodhisattvayna, or the "Bodhisattva Vehicle."[69] The Aashasrik Prajpramit Stra, an early and important Mahyna text, contains a simple and brief definition for the term bodhisattva, and this definition is the following:[70][71][72]

Because he has enlightenment as his aim, a bodhisattva-mahsattva is so called.

Mahyna Buddhism encourages everyone to become bodhisattvas and to take the bodhisattva vows. With these vows, one makes the promise to work for the complete enlightenment of all beings by practicing six perfections (Skt. pramit).[73] According to the Mahyna teachings, these perfections are: giving, discipline, forbearance, effort, meditation, and transcendent wisdom.

A famous saying by the 8th-century Indian Buddhist scholar-saint Shantideva, which the Dalai Lama often cites as his favourite verse, summarizes the Bodhisattva's intention (Bodhicitta) as follows:

For as long as space endures, and for as long as living beings remain, until then may I too abide to dispel the misery of the world.

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Main article: Buddhist devotion

Devotion is an important part of the practice of most Buddhists.[74] Devotional practices include bowing, offerings, pilgrimage, and chanting. In Pure Land Buddhism, devotion to the Buddha Amitabha is the main practice. In Nichiren Buddhism, devotion to the Lotus Sutra is the main practice.


Statue of the Buddha in meditation position, Haw Phra Kaew, Vientiane, Laos

Buddhism traditionally incorporates states of meditative absorption (Pali: jhna; Skt: dhyna).[75] The most ancient sustained expression of yogic ideas is found in the early sermons of the Buddha.[76] One key innovative teaching of the Buddha was that meditative absorption must be combined with liberating cognition.[77] The difference between the Buddha's teaching and the yoga presented in early Brahminic texts is striking. Meditative states alone are not an end, for according to the Buddha, even the highest meditative state is not liberating. Instead of attaining a complete cessation of thought, some sort of mental activity must take place: a liberating cognition, based on the practice of mindful awareness.[78]

Meditation was an aspect of the practice of the yogis in the centuries preceding the Buddha. The Buddha built upon the yogis' concern with introspection and developed their meditative techniques, but rejected their theories of liberation.[79] In Buddhism, mindfulness and clear awareness are to be developed at all times; in pre-Buddhist yogic practices there is no such injunction. A yogi in the Brahmanical tradition is not to practice while defecating, for example, while a Buddhist monastic should do so.[80]

Religious knowledge or "vision" was indicated as a result of practice both within and outside of the Buddhist fold. According to the Samaaphala Sutta, this sort of vision arose for the Buddhist adept as a result of the perfection of "meditation" coupled with the perfection of "discipline" (Pali sla; Skt. la). Some of the Buddha's meditative techniques were shared with other traditions of his day, but the idea that ethics are causally related to the attainment of "transcendent wisdom" (Pali pa; Skt. praj) was original.[81]

The Buddhist texts are probably the earliest describing meditation techniques.[82] They describe meditative practices and states that existed before the Buddha as well as those first developed within Buddhism.[83] Two Upanishads written after the rise of Buddhism do contain full-fledged descriptions of yoga as a means to liberation.[84]

While there is no convincing evidence for meditation in pre-Buddhist early Brahminic texts, Wynne argues that formless meditation originated in the Brahminic or Shramanic tradition, based on strong parallels between Upanishadic cosmological statements and the meditative goals of the two teachers of the Buddha as recorded in the early Buddhist texts.[85] He mentions less likely possibilities as well.[86] Having argued that the cosmological statements in the Upanishads also reflect a contemplative tradition, he argues that the Nasadiya Sukta contains evidence for a contemplative tradition, even as early as the late Rig Vedic period.[85]

Refuge in the Three Jewels

Relic depicting footprint of the Buddha with Dharmachakra and triratna, 1st century CE, Gandhra.
Main articles: Refuge (Buddhism) and Three Jewels

Traditionally, the first step in most Buddhist schools requires taking refuge in the Three Jewels (Sanskrit: tri-ratna, Pli: ti-ratana)[87] as the foundation of one's religious practice. The practice of taking refuge on behalf of young or even unborn children is mentioned[88] in the Majjhima Nikaya, recognized by most scholars as an early text (cf. Infant baptism). Tibetan Buddhism sometimes adds a fourth refuge, in the lama. In Mahayana, the person who chooses the bodhisattva path makes a vow or pledge, considered the ultimate expression of compassion. In Mahayana, too, the Three Jewels are perceived as possessed of an eternal and unchanging essence and as having an irreversible effect: "The Three Jewels have the quality of excellence. Just as real jewels never change their faculty and goodness, whether praised or reviled, so are the Three Jewels (Refuges), because they have an eternal and immutable essence. These Three Jewels bring a fruition that is changeless, for once one has reached Buddhahood, there is no possibility of falling back to suffering."[89]

The Three Jewels are:

  • The Buddha. This is a title for those who have attained Nirvana. See also the Tathgata and Gautama Buddha. The Buddha could also be represented as a concept instead of a specific person: the perfect wisdom that understands Dharma and sees reality in its true form. In Mahayana Buddhism, the Buddha can be viewed as the supreme Refuge: "Buddha is the Unique Absolute Refuge. Buddha is the Imperishable, Eternal, Indestructible and Absolute Refuge."[90]
  • The Dharma. The teachings or law of nature as expounded by the Gautama Buddha. It can also, especially in Mahayana, connote the ultimate and sustaining Reality that is inseparable from the Buddha. Further, from some Mahayana perspectives, the Dharma embodied in the form of a great sutra (Buddhic scripture) can replace the need for a personal teacher and can be a direct and spontaneous gateway into Truth (Dharma). This is especially said to be the case with the Lotus Sutra. Dr. Hiroshi Kanno writes of this view of the Lotus Sutra: "it is a Dharma-gate of sudden enlightenment proper to the Great Vehicle; it is a Dharma-gate whereby one awakens spontaneously, without resorting to a teacher".[91]

According to the scriptures, Gautama Buddha presented himself as a model. The Dharma offers a refuge by providing guidelines for the alleviation of suffering and the attainment of Nirvana. The Sangha is considered to provide a refuge by preserving the authentic teachings of the Buddha and providing further examples that the truth of the Buddha's teachings is attainable.

Buddhist ethics

Main article: la
Statue of Gautama Buddha, 1st century CE, Gandhara. (Muse Guimet)

la (Sanskrit) or sla (Pli) is usually translated into English as "virtuous behavior", "morality", "ethics" or "precept". It is an action committed through the body, speech, or mind, and involves an intentional effort. It is one of the three practices (sila, samadhi, and panya) and the second pramit. It refers to moral purity of thought, word, and deed. The four conditions of la are chastity, calmness, quiet, and extinguishment.

la is the foundation of Samadhi/Bhvana (Meditative cultivation) or mind cultivation. Keeping the precepts promotes not only the peace of mind of the cultivator, which is internal, but also peace in the community, which is external. According to the Law of Karma, keeping the precepts are meritorious and it acts as causes that would bring about peaceful and happy effects. Keeping these precepts keeps the cultivator from rebirth in the four woeful realms of existence.

la refers to overall principles of ethical behavior. There are several levels of sila, which correspond to "basic morality" (five precepts), "basic morality with asceticism" (eight precepts), "novice monkhood" (ten precepts) and "monkhood" (Vinaya or Patimokkha). Lay people generally undertake to live by the five precepts, which are common to all Buddhist schools. If they wish, they can choose to undertake the eight precepts, which add basic asceticism.

The five precepts are training rules in order to live a better life in which one is happy, without worries, and can meditate well:

  1. To refrain from taking life (non-violence towards sentient life forms), or ahims;
  2. To refrain from taking that which is not given (not committing theft);
  3. To refrain from sensual (including sexual) misconduct;
  4. To refrain from lying (speaking truth always);
  5. To refrain from intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness (specifically, drugs and alcohol).

The precepts are not formulated as imperatives, but as training rules that laypeople undertake voluntarily to facilitate practice.[92] In Buddhist thought, the cultivation of dana and ethical conduct themselves refine consciousness to such a level that rebirth in one of the lower heavens is likely, even if there is no further Buddhist practice. There is nothing improper or un-Buddhist about limiting one's aims to this level of attainment.[93]

In the eight precepts, the third precept on sexual misconduct is made more strict, and becomes a precept of celibacy. The three additional precepts are:

6. To refrain from eating at the wrong time (eat only from sunrise to noon);
7. To refrain from dancing and playing music, wearing jewelry and cosmetics, attending shows and other performances;
8. To refrain from using high or luxurious seats and bedding.

The complete list of ten precepts may be observed by laypeople for short periods. For the complete list, the seventh precept is partitioned into two, and a tenth added:

6. To refrain from taking food at an unseasonable time, that is after the mid-day meal;
7. To refrain from dancing, music, singing and unseemly shows;
8. To refrain from the use of garlands, perfumes, ointments, and from things that tend to beautify and adorn (the person);
9. To refrain from (using) high and luxurious seats (and beds);
10. To refrain from accepting gold and silver;[94]

Monastic life
Buddhist monks performing a ceremony in Hangzhou, China

Vinaya is the specific moral code for monks and nuns. It includes the Patimokkha, a set of 227 rules for monks in the Theravadin recension. The precise content of the vinayapitaka (scriptures on Vinaya) differs slightly according to different schools, and different schools or subschools set different standards for the degree of adherence to Vinaya. Novice-monks use the ten precepts, which are the basic precepts for monastics.

Regarding the monastic rules, the Buddha constantly reminds his hearers that it is the spirit that counts. On the other hand, the rules themselves are designed to assure a satisfying life, and provide a perfect springboard for the higher attainments. Monastics are instructed by the Buddha to live as "islands unto themselves". In this sense, living life as the vinaya prescribes it is, as one scholar puts it: "more than merely a means to an end: it is very nearly the end in itself."[95]

In Eastern Buddhism, there is also a distinctive Vinaya and ethics contained within the Mahayana Brahmajala Sutra (not to be confused with the Pali text of that name) for Bodhisattvas, where, for example, the eating of meat is frowned upon and vegetarianism is actively encouraged (see vegetarianism in Buddhism). In Japan, this has almost completely displaced the monastic vinaya, and allows clergy to marry.


Buddhist monks praying in Thailand
Main article: Buddhist meditation

Buddhist meditation is fundamentally concerned with two themes: transforming the mind and using it to explore itself and other phenomena.[96] According to Theravada Buddhism the Buddha taught two types of meditation, samatha meditation (Sanskrit: amatha) and vipassan meditation (Sanskrit: vipayan). In Chinese Buddhism, these exist (translated chih kuan), but Chn (Zen) meditation is more popular.[97] According to Peter Harvey, whenever Buddhism has been healthy, not only monks, nuns, and married lamas, but also more committed lay people have practiced meditation.[98] According to Routledge's Encyclopedia of Buddhism, in contrast, throughout most of Buddhist history before modern times, serious meditation by lay people has been unusual.[99] The evidence of the early texts suggests that at the time of the Buddha, many male and female lay practitioners did practice meditation, some even to the point of proficiency in all eight jhanas (see the next section regarding these).[100]

Samdhi (meditative cultivation): samatha meditation

In the language of the Noble Eightfold Path, samyaksamdhi is "right concentration". The primary means of cultivating samdhi is meditation. Upon development of samdhi, one's mind becomes purified of defilement, calm, tranquil, and luminous.

Once the meditator achieves a strong and powerful concentration (jhna, Sanskrit dhyna), his mind is ready to penetrate and gain insight (vipassan) into the ultimate nature of reality, eventually obtaining release from all suffering. The cultivation of mindfulness is essential to mental concentration, which is needed to achieve insight.

Samatha meditation starts from being mindful of an object or idea, which is expanded to one's body, mind and entire surroundings, leading to a state of total concentration and tranquility (jhna) There are many variations in the style of meditation, from sitting cross-legged or kneeling to chanting or walking. The most common method of meditation is to concentrate on one's breath (anapanasati), because this practice can lead to both samatha and vipassana'.

In Buddhist practice, it is said that while samatha meditation can calm the mind, only vipassan meditation can reveal how the mind was disturbed to start with, which is what leads to insight knowledge (jna; Pli a) and understanding (praj Pli pa), and thus can lead to nirva (Pli nibbna). When one is in jhana, all defilements are suppressed temporarily. Only understanding (praj or vipassana) eradicates the defilements completely. Jhanas are also states that Arahants abide in order to rest.

In Theravda
Main article: Jhana in Theravada

In Theravda Buddhism, the cause of human existence and suffering is identified as craving, which carries with it the various defilements. These various defilements are traditionally summed up as greed, hatred and delusion. These are believed deeply rooted afflictions of the mind that create suffering and stress. To be free from suffering and stress, these defilements must be permanently uprooted through internal investigation, analyzing, experiencing, and understanding of the true nature of those defilements by using jhna, a technique of the Noble Eightfold Path. It then leads the meditator to realize the Four Noble Truths, Enlightenment and Nibbana. Nibbana is the ultimate goal of Theravadins.

Prajna (Wisdom): vipassana meditation

Main articles: Prajna and Vipassana

Praj (Sanskrit) or pa (Pli) means wisdom that is based on a realization of dependent origination, The Four Noble Truths and the three marks of existence. Praj is the wisdom that is able to extinguish afflictions and bring about bodhi. It is spoken of as the principal means of attaining nirva, through its revelation of the true nature of all things as dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), anicca (impermanence) and anatta (not-self). Praj is also listed as the sixth of the six pramits of the Mahayana.

Initially, praj is attained at a conceptual level by means of listening to sermons (dharma talks), reading, studying, and sometimes reciting Buddhist texts and engaging in discourse. Once the conceptual understanding is attained, it is applied to daily life so that each Buddhist can verify the truth of the Buddha's teaching at a practical level. Notably, one could in theory attain Nirvana at any point of practice, whether deep in meditation, listening to a sermon, conducting the business of one's daily life, or any other activity.


Main article: Zen

Zen Buddhism (), pronounced Chn in Chinese, seon in Korean or zen in Japanese (derived from the Sanskrit term dhyna, meaning "meditation") is a form of Buddhism that became popular in China, Korea and Japan and that lays special emphasis on meditation.[101] Zen places less emphasis on scriptures than some other forms of Buddhism and prefers to focus on direct spiritual breakthroughs to truth.

Zen Buddhism is divided into two main schools: Rinzai () and St (), the former greatly favouring the use in meditation on the koan (, a meditative riddle or puzzle) as a device for spiritual break-through, and the latter (while certainly employing koans) focusing more on shikantaza or "just sitting".[102]

Zen Buddhist teaching is often full of paradox, in order to loosen the grip of the ego and to facilitate the penetration into the realm of the True Self or Formless Self, which is equated with the Buddha himself.[103] According to Zen master Kosho Uchiyama, when thoughts and fixation on the little "I" are transcended, an Awakening to a universal, non-dual Self occurs: "When we let go of thoughts and wake up to the reality of life that is working beyond them, we discover the Self that is living universal non-dual life (before the separation into two) that pervades all living creatures and all existence."[104] Thinking and thought must therefore not be allowed to confine and bind one.[105]

Vajrayana and Tantra

Though based upon Mahayana, Tibeto-Mongolian Buddhism is one of the schools that practice Vajrayana or "Diamond Vehicle" (also referred to as Mantrayna, Tantrayna, Tantric Buddhism, or esoteric Buddhism). It accepts all the basic concepts of Mahyna, but also includes a vast array of spiritual and physical techniques designed to enhance Buddhist practice. Tantric Buddhism is largely concerned with ritual and meditative practices.[106] One component of the Vajrayna is harnessing psycho-physical energy through ritual, visualization, physical exercises, and meditation as a means of developing the mind. Using these techniques, it is claimed that a practitioner can achieve Buddhahood in one lifetime, or even as little as three years. In the Tibetan tradition, these practices can include sexual yoga, though only for some very advanced practitioners.[107]

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History of Buddhism

Dharma Wheel.svg

The History of Buddhism spans the 6th century BCE to the present, starting with the birth of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama on the Indian subcontinent, in Lumbini, Nepal. This makes it one of the oldest religions practiced today. The religion evolved as it spread from the northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent through Central, East, and Southeast Asia. At one time or another, it influenced most of the Asian continent. The history of Buddhism is also characterized by the development of numerous movements, schisms, and schools, among them the Theravda, Mahyna and Vajrayna traditions, with contrasting periods of expansion and retreat.

Siddhartha Gautama

Main article: Siddhartha Gautama
The Aoka Chakra, an ancient Indian depiction of the Dharmachakra and depicted on the national flag of India.

Siddhrtha Gautama was the historical founder of Buddhism. He was born a Kshatriya warrior prince in Lumbini, Nepal. The dates of his birth and death are still a point of controversy[1] but most scholars "suggested that the Buddha died within approximately a few decades on either side of 400 B.C.E".[2] His particular family of Sakya Kshatriyas were of Brahmin lineage (Sanskrit: gotra), as indicated by the family name "Gautama". 19th-century scholars, such as Dr. Eitel, connected it to the Brahmin Rishi Gautama.[3] In many Buddhist texts, Buddha is said to be a descendant of the Brahmin Sage Angirasa.[4] For example, "In the Pli Mahavagga "Angirasa" (in Pli Angirasa) occurs as a name of Buddha Gautama who evidently belonged to the Angirasa tribe...".[5] Scholar Edward J. Thomas too connected Buddha with sages Gautama and Angirasa.[6]

After asceticism and meditation, Siddhartha Gautama discovered the Buddhist Middle Way"a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification.

Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment sitting under a peepal tree, now known as the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India. Gautama, from then on, was known as "The Enlightened One ," the Samyaksambuddha.

Buddha found patronage in the ruler of Magadha, emperor Bimbisra. The emperor accepted Buddhism as his personal faith and allowed the establishment of many Buddhist vihras. This eventually led to the renaming of the entire region as Bihr.[7]

At the Deer Park near Vras in northern India, Buddha set in motion Wheel of Dharma by delivering his first sermon to a group of five companions with whom he had previously sought enlightenment. Together with the Buddha they formed the first Sagha, the company of Buddhist monks, and hence, the first formation of the Triple Gem (Buddha, Dharma and Sagha) was completed.

For the remaining years of his life, the Buddha is said to have traveled in the Gangetic Plain of Northeastern India and other regions.

Buddha attained parinirva in the abandoned jungles of Kuinra.

Just before Buddha died, he reportedly told his followers that thereafter the Dharma (doctrine, teaching) would be their leader. The early arhants considered Gautama's words the primary source of Dharma and Vinaya (rules of discipline and community living), and took great pains to formulate and transmit his teachings accurately. Nonetheless, no ungarnished collection of his sayings has survived. The versions of the canon (accepted scripture) preserved in Pli, Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan are sectarian variants of a corpus that grew and crystallized during three centuries of oral transmission.[8]

Early Buddhism

Further information: History of Buddhism in India

Early Buddhism remained centered around the Ganges valley, spreading gradually from its ancient heartland. The canonical sources record two councils, where the monastic Sangha established the textual collections based on the Buddha's teachings and settled certain disciplinary problems within the community.

1st Buddhist council (5th century BC)

The first Buddhist council was held just after Buddha's Parinirvana, and presided over by Gupta Mahkyapa, one of His most senior disciples, at Rjagha (today's Rajgir) during the 5th century under the noble support of king Ajthaatru. The objective of the council was to record all of Buddha's teachings into the doctrinal teachings (sutra) and Abhidhamma and to codify the monastic rules (vinaya). nanda, one of the Buddha's main disciples and his cousin, was called upon to recite the discourses and Abhidhamma of the Buddha, and Upali, another disciple, recited the rules of the vinaya. These became the basis of the Tripiaka (Three Baskets), which is preserved only in Pli.

2nd Buddhist council (4th century BC)

The second Buddhist council was held at Vaisali following a dispute that had arisen in the Sagha over a relaxation by some monks of various points of discipline. Eventually it was decided to hold a second council at which the original Vinaya texts that had been preserved at the first Council were cited to show that these relaxations went against the recorded teachings of the Buddha.

Aokan proselytism (c. 261 BC)

Further information: Ashoka the Great and Maurya Empire
The Maurya Empire under Emperor Aoka was the world's first major Buddhist state. It established free hospitals and free education and promoted human rights.
Fragment of the 6th Pillar Edict of Aoka (238 BC), in Brhm, sandstone. British Museum.
Great Stupa (3rd century BCE), Sanchi, India.

The Mauryan Emperor Aoka (273-232 BC) converted to Buddhism after his bloody conquest of the territory of Kalinga (modern Odisha) in eastern India during the Kalinga War. Regretting the horrors and misery brought about by the conflict, the king magnanimously decided to renounce violence, to replace the misery caused by war with respect and dignity for all humanity. He propagated the faith by building stupas and pillars urging, amongst other things, respect of all animal life and enjoining people to follow the Dharma. Perhaps the finest example of these is the Great Stupa in Sanchi, India (near Bhopal). It was constructed in the 3rd century BC and later enlarged. Its carved gates, called toranas, are considered among the finest examples of Buddhist art in India. He also built roads, hospitals, resthouses, universities and irrigation systems around the country. He treated his subjects as equals regardless of their religion, politics or caste.

This period marks the first spread of Buddhism beyond India to other countries. According to the plates and pillars left by Aoka (the edicts of Aoka), emissaries were sent to various countries in order to spread Buddhism, as far south as Sri Lanka and as far west as the Greek kingdoms, in particular the neighboring Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, and possibly even farther to the Mediterranean.

3rd Buddhist council (c. 250 BC)

King Aoka convened the third Buddhist council around 250 BC at Pataliputra (today's Patna). It was held by the monk Moggaliputtatissa. The objective of the council was to purify the Sagha, particularly from non-Buddhist ascetics who had been attracted by the royal patronage. Following the council, Buddhist missionaries were dispatched throughout the known world.

Hellenistic world

Some of the edicts of Aoka describe the efforts made by him to propagate the Buddhist faith throughout the Hellenistic world, which at that time formed an uninterrupted continuum from the borders of India to Greece. The edicts indicate a clear understanding of the political organization in Hellenistic territories: the names and locations of the main Greek monarchs of the time are identified, and they are claimed as recipients of Buddhist proselytism: Antiochus II Theos of the Seleucid Kingdom (261-246 BC), Ptolemy II Philadelphos of Egypt (285-247 BC), Antigonus Gonatas of Macedonia (276-239 BC), Magas (288-258 BCE) in Cyrenaica (modern Libya), and Alexander II (272-255 BC) in Epirus (modern Northwestern Greece).

Buddhist proselytism at the time of Emperor Aoka (260-218 BC), according to the edicts of Aoka.
"The conquest by Dharma has been won here, on the borders, and even six hundred yojanas (5,400-9,600 km) away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni (Sri Lanka)." (Edicts of Aoka, 13th Rock Edict, S. Dhammika).

Furthermore, according to Pli sources, some of Aoka's emissaries were Greek Buddhist monks, indicating close religious exchanges between the two cultures:

"When the thera (elder) Moggaliputta, the illuminator of the religion of the Conqueror (Aoka), had brought the (third) council to an end (...) he sent forth theras, one here and one there: (...) and to Aparantaka (the "Western countries" corresponding to Gujarat and Sindh) he sent the Greek (Yona) named Dhammarakkhita". (Mahavamsa XII).
Bilingual inscription (Greek and Aramaic) by Emperor Aoka, from Kandahar. Kabul Museum (click image for full translation).

Aoka also issued edicts in the Greek language as well as in Aramaic. One of them, found in Kandahar, advocates the adoption of "piety" (using the Greek term eusebeia for Dharma) to the Greek community:

"Ten years (of reign) having been completed, King Piodasses (Aoka) made known (the doctrine of) piety (Greek:, eusebeia) to men; and from this moment he has made men more pious, and everything thrives throughout the whole world."
(Trans. from the Greek original by G.P. Carratelli[9])

It is not clear how much these interactions may have been influential, but some authors[citation needed] have commented that some level of syncretism between Hellenist thought and Buddhism may have started in Hellenic lands at that time. They have pointed to the presence of Buddhist communities in the Hellenistic world around that period, in particular in Alexandria (mentioned by Clement of Alexandria), and to the pre-Christian monastic order of the Therapeutae (possibly a deformation of the Pli word "Theravda"[10]), who may have "almost entirely drawn (its) inspiration from the teaching and practices of Buddhist asceticism"[11] and may even have been descendants of Aoka's emissaries to the West.[12] The philosopher Hegesias of Cyrene, from the city of Cyrene where Magas of Cyrene ruled, is sometimes thought to have been influenced by the teachings of Aoka's Buddhist missionaries.[13]

Buddhist gravestones from the Ptolemaic period have also been found in Alexandria, decorated with depictions of the Dharma wheel.[14] The presence of Buddhists in Alexandria has even drawn the conclusion: "It was later in this very place that some of the most active centers of Christianity were established".[15]

In the 2nd century AD, the Christian dogmatist, Clement of Alexandria recognized Bactrian Buddhists (ramanas) and Indian gymnosophists for their influence on Greek thought:

"Thus philosophy, a thing of the highest utility, flourished in antiquity among the barbarians, shedding its light over the nations. And afterwards it came to Greece. First in its ranks were the prophets of the Egyptians; and the Chaldeans among the Assyrians; and the Druids among the Gauls; and the ramanas among the Bactrians (" '"); and the philosophers of the Celts; and the Magi of the Persians, who foretold the Saviour's birth, and came into the land of Judea guided by a star. The Indian gymnosophists are also in the number, and the other barbarian philosophers. And of these there are two classes, some of them called ramanas (""), and others Brahmins ("'")." Clement of Alexandria "The Stromata, or Miscellanies" Book I, Chapter XV[16]

Expansion to Sri Lanka and Burma

Further information: Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Buddhism in Burma

Sri Lanka was proselytized by Aoka's son Mahinda and six companions during the 2nd century BC. They converted the King Devanampiya Tissa and many of the nobility. In addition, Aoka's daughter, Saghamitta also established the bhikkhun (order for nuns) in Sri Lanka, also bringing with her a sapling of the sacred bodhi tree that was subsequently planted in Anuradhapura. This is when the Mahvihra monastery, a center of Sinhalese orthodoxy, was built. The Pli canon was written down in Sri Lanka during the reign of king Vattagamani (29-17 BC), and the Theravda tradition flourished there. Later some great commentators worked there, such as Buddhaghoa (4th-5th century) and Dhammapla (5th-6th century), and they systemised the traditional commentaries that had been handed down. Although Mahyna Buddhism gained some influence in Sri Lanka at that time, the Theravda ultimately prevailed and Sri Lanka turned out to be the last stronghold of it. From there it would expand again to South-East Asia from the 11th century.

In the areas east of the Indian subcontinent (modern Burma and Thailand), Indian culture strongly influenced the Mons. The Mons are said to have been converted to Buddhism from the 3rd century BC under the proselytizing of the Indian Emperor Aoka, before the fission between Mahyna and Hinayna Buddhism. Early Mon[citation needed] Buddhist temples, such as Peikthano in central Burma, have been dated to between the 1st and the 5th century CE.

Mons Wheel of the Law (Dharmachakra), art of Dvaravati, c. 8th century.

The Buddhist art of the Mons was especially influenced by the Indian art of the Gupta and post-Gupta periods, and their mannerist style spread widely in South-East Asia following the expansion of the Mon kingdom between the 5th and 8th centuries. The Theravda faith expanded in the northern parts of Southeast Asia under Mon influence, until it was progressively displaced by Mahyna Buddhism from around the 6th century AD.

According to the Aokvadna (2nd century AD), Aoka sent a missionary to the north, through the Himalayas, to Khotan in the Tarim Basin, then the land of the Tocharians, speakers of an Indo-European language.

Rise of the Sunga (2nd-1st century BCE)

Further information: Sunga Empire

The Sunga dynasty (185-73 BCE) was established in 185 BCE, about 50 years after Aoka's death. After assassinating King Brhadrata (last of the Mauryan rulers), military commander-in-chief Pusyamitra Sunga took the throne. Buddhist religious scriptures such as the Aokvadna allege that Pusyamitra (an orthodox Brahmin) was hostile towards Buddhists and persecuted the Buddhist faith. Buddhists wrote that he "destroyed hundreds of monasteries and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Monks":[17] 840,000 Buddhist stupas which had been built by Aoka were destroyed, and 100 gold coins were offered for the head of each Buddhist monk.[18] In addition, Buddhist sources allege that a large number of Buddhist monasteries (vihras) were converted to Hindu temples, in places like, but not limited to, Nalanda, Bodhgaya, Sarnath, and Mathura, among many others.

Modern historians, however, dispute this view in the light of literary and archaeological evidence. They opine that following Aoka's sponsorship of Buddhism, it is possible that Buddhist institutions fell on harder times under the Sungas, but no evidence of active persecution has been noted. Etienne Lamotte observes: "To judge from the documents, Pushyamitra must be acquitted through lack of proof."[19] Another eminent historian, Romila Thapar points to archaeological evidence that "suggests the contrary" to the claim that "Pusyamitra was a fanatical anti-Buddhist" and that he "never actually destroyed 840,000 stupas as claimed by Buddhist works, if any". Thapar stresses that Buddhist accounts are probably hyperbolic renditions of Pusyamitra's attack of the Mauryas, and merely reflect the desperate frustration of the Buddhist religious figures in the face of the possibly irreversible decline in the importance of their religion under the Sungas.[20]

During the period, Buddhist monks deserted the Ganges valley, following either the northern road (uttarapatha) or the southern road (dakinapatha).[21] Conversely, Buddhist artistic creation stopped in the old Magadha area, to reposition itself either in the northwest area of Gandhra and Mathura or in the southeast around Amaravati. Some artistic activity also occurred in central India, as in Bhrhut, to which the Sungas may or may not have contributed.

Greco-Buddhist interaction (2nd century BCE-1st century CE)

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Main article: Greco-Buddhism
Silver drachm of Menander I (reigned c. 160-135 BCE).
Obv: Greek legend, BASILEOS SOTEROS MENANDROY lit. "of the Saviour King Menander".

In Bactria (today's northern Afghanistan), the areas west of the Indian subcontinent, neighboring Greek kingdoms had been in place since the time of the conquests of Alexander the Great around 326 BCE: first the Seleucids from around 323 BCE, then the Greco-Bactrian kingdom from around 250 BCE.

A Greco-Buddhist statue, one of the first representations of the Buddha, 1st-2nd century CE, Gandhara.

The Greco-Bactrian king Demetrius I invaded India in 180 BCE as far as Ptaliputra, establishing an Indo-Greek kingdom that was to last in parts of northern India until the end of the 1st century BCE. Buddhism flourished under the Indo-Greek kings, and it has been suggested that their invasion of India was intended to show their support for the Mauryan empire and to protect the Buddhist faith from the alleged religious persecutions of the Sungas (185-73 BCE).

One of the most famous Indo-Greek kings is Menander (reigned c. 160-135 BCE). He apparently converted to Buddhism and is presented in the Mahyna tradition as one of the great benefactors of the faith, on a par with king Aoka or the later Kushan king Kanika. Menander's coins bear the mention of the "saviour king" in Greek; some bear designs of the eight-spoked wheel. Direct cultural exchange is also suggested by the dialogue of the Milinda Paha between Menander and the monk Ngasena around 160 BCE. Upon his death, the honor of sharing his remains was claimed by the cities under his rule, and they were enshrined in stupas, in a parallel with the historic Buddha.[22] Several of Menander's Indo-Greek successors inscribed "Follower of the Dharma," in the Kharoh script, on their coins, and depicted themselves or their divinities forming the vitarka mudr.

A coin of Menander I with an eight-spoked wheel and a palm of victory on the reverse (British Museum).

The interaction between Greek and Buddhist cultures may have had some influence on the evolution of Mahyna, as the faith developed its sophisticated philosophical approach and a man-god treatment of the Buddha somewhat reminiscent of Hellenic gods. It is also around that time that the first anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha are found, often in realistic Greco-Buddhist style: "One might regard the classical influence as including the general idea of representing a man-god in this purely human form, which was of course well familiar in the West, and it is very likely that the example of westerner's treatment of their gods was indeed an important factor in the innovation."[23]

Central Asian expansion

A Buddhist gold coin from India was found in northern Afghanistan at the archaeological site of Tillia Tepe, and dated to the 1st century CE. On the reverse, it depicts a lion in the moving position with a nandipada in front of it, with the Kharoh legend "Sih[o] vigatabhay[o]" ("The lion who dispelled fear").

The Mahayana Buddhists symbolized Buddha with animals such as a lion, an elephant, a horse or a bull. A pair of feet was also used. The symbol called by the archaeologists and historians as "nandipada" is actually a composite symbol. The symbol at the top symbolizes 'the Middle Path,' the Buddha Dhamma. The circle with a centre symbolizes chakra. Thus, the composite symbol symbolizes 'Dhamma Chakra.' Thus, the symbols on the reverse of the coin jointly symbolize Buddha rolling the Dhamma Chakra.In the 'Lion Capital' of Saranath,India, Buddha rolling the Dhamma Chakra is depicted on the wall of the cylinder with lion, elephant, horse and bull rolling the Dhamma Chakras. Buddhism Is One Of The Most Practiced Religions In The World Today. On the obverse, an almost naked man only wearing an Hellenistic chlamys and wearing a head-dress rolls a Buddhist wheel. The legend in Kharoh reads "Dharmacakrapravata[ko]" ("The one who turned the Wheel of the Law"). It has been suggested that this may be an early representation of the Buddha.[24]

The head dress symbolizes 'the Middle Path.' Thus, the man with the head dress is a person who adheres to the Middle Path. In one of the Indus Valley seals also, we find similar head dress worn by 9 women!

Thus, on both sides of the coin, we find Buddha rolling the Dhamma chakra.

As no scientific study on literary and physical symbolization of Buddha and Buddhism was conducted by the archaeologists and historians, imaginary and false interpretations were only given on coins, seals, Brahmi and other inscriptions and other archaeological finds.

Rise of Mahyna (1st century BCE-2nd century CE)

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Further information: Mahayana
Coin of the Kushan emperor Kanishka, with the Buddha on the reverse, and his name "BODDO" in Greek script, minted circa 120 CE.

The rise of Mahyna Buddhism from the 1st century BCE was accompanied by complex political changes in northwestern India. The Indo-Greek kingdoms were gradually overwhelmed, and their culture assimilated by the Indo-Scythians, and then the Yuezhi, who founded the Kushan Empire from around 12 BCE.

The new form of Buddhism was characterized by the idea that all beings have a Buddha-nature and should aspire to Buddhahood, and by a syncretism due to the various cultural influences within northwestern India and the Kushan Empire.

In the Kanishka coin, the composite symbol placed by the side of the enlightened Buddha symbolizes 'the Four Noble Truths that emphasize the Middle Path, the Buddha Dhamma.'

The Two Fourth Councils

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The Fourth Council is said to have been convened in the reign of the Kushan emperor Kanika around 100 CE at Jalandhar or in Kashmir. Theravda Buddhism had its own Fourth Council in Sri Lanka about 200 years earlier in which the Pli canon was written down in toto for the first time. Therefore there were two Fourth Councils: one in Sri Lanka (Theravda), and one in Kashmir (Sarvstivdin).

Extent of Buddhism and trade routes in the 1st century CE.

It is said that for the Fourth Council of Kashmir, Kanika gathered 500 monks headed by Vasumitra, partly, it seems, to compile extensive commentaries on the Abhidharma, although it is possible that some editorial work was carried out upon the existing canon itself. Allegedly during the council there were altogether three hundred thousand verses and over nine million statements compiled, and it took twelve years to complete. The main fruit of this council was the compilation of the vast commentary known as the Mah-Vibhsh ("Great Exegesis"), an extensive compendium and reference work on a portion of the Sarvstivdin Abhidharma.

Scholars believe that it was also around this time that a significant change was made in the language of the Sarvstivdin canon, by converting an earlier Prakrit version into Sanskrit. Although this change was probably effected without significant loss of integrity to the canon, this event was of particular significance since Sanskrit was the sacred language of Brahmanism in India, and was also being used by other thinkers, regardless of their specific religious or philosophical allegiance, thus enabling a far wider audience to gain access to Buddhist ideas and practices. For this reason there was a growing tendency among Buddhist scholars in India thereafter to write their commentaries and treatises in Sanskrit. Many of the early schools, however, such as Theravda, never switched to Sanskrit, partly because Buddha explicitly forbade translation of his discourses into what was an elitist religious language (as Latin was in medieval Europe). He wanted his monks to use a local language instead - a language which could be understood by all. Over time, however, the language of the Theravdin scriptures (Pli) became a scholarly or elitist language as well, exactly opposite to what the Buddha had explicitly commanded.

Mahyna expansion (1st century CE-10th century CE)

Further information: Mahayana
Expansion of Mahyna Buddhism between the 1st and 10th centuries CE.

From that point on, and in the space of a few centuries, Mahyna was to flourish and spread in the East from India to South-East Asia, and towards the north to Central Asia, China, Korea, and finally to Japan in 538 CE and Tibet in the 7th century.


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Further information: History of Buddhism in India

After the end of the Kushans, Buddhism flourished in India during the dynasty of the Guptas (4th-6th century). Mahyna centers of learning were established, especially at Nland in north-eastern India, which was to become the largest and most influential Buddhist university for many centuries, with famous teachers such as Ngrjuna. The influence of the Gupta style of Buddhist art spread along with the faith from south-east Asia to China.

Buddha and Bodhisattvas, 11th century, Pla Empire.

Indian Buddhism had weakened in the 6th century following the White Hun invasions and Mihirkulas persecution.

Xuanzang reported in his travels across India during the 7th century, of Buddhism being popular in Andhra, Dhanyakataka, and Dravida, which area today roughly corresponds to the modern day Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.[25] While reporting many deserted stupas in the area around modern day Nepal and the persecution of Buddhists by Ssanka in the Kingdom of Gouda in modern day West Bengal, Xuanzang complimented the patronage of Haravardana during the same period. After the Haravardana kingdom, the rise of many small kingdoms that led to the rise of the Rajputs across the gangetic plains and marked the end of Buddhist ruling clans along with a sharp decline in royal patronage until a revival under the Pla Empire in the Bengal region. Here Mahyna Buddhism flourished and spread to Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim between the 7th and the 12th centuries before the Plas collapsed under the assault of the Hindu Sena dynasty. The Plas created many temples and a distinctive school of Buddhist art. Xuanzang noted in his travels that in various regions Buddhism was giving way to Jainism and Hinduism.[26] By the 10th century Buddhism had experienced a sharp decline beyond the Pla realms in Bengal under a resurgent Hinduism and the incorporation in Vaishnavite Hinduism of Buddha as the 9th incarnation of Vishnu.[27]

A milestone in the decline of Indian Buddhism in the North occurred in 1193 when Turkic Islamic raiders under Muhammad Khilji burnt Nland. By the end of the 12th century, following the Islamic conquest of the Buddhist strongholds in Bihar and the loss of political support coupled with social pressures, the practice of Buddhism retreated to the Himalayan foothills in the North and Sri Lanka in the south. Additionally, the influence of Buddhism also waned due to Hinduism's revival movements such as Advaita, the rise of the bhakti movement and the missionary work of Sufis.

Central and Northern Asia

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Central Asia

Central Asia had been influenced by Buddhism probably almost since the time of the Buddha. According to a legend preserved in Pli, the language of the Theravdin canon, two merchant brothers from Bactria named Tapassu and Bhallika visited the Buddha and became his disciples. They then returned to Bactria and built temples to the Buddha.[28]

Central Asia long played the role of a meeting place between China, India and Persia. During the 2nd century BCE, the expansion of the Former Han to the west brought them into contact with the Hellenistic civilizations of Asia, especially the Greco-Bactrian Kingdoms. Thereafter, the expansion of Buddhism to the north led to the formation of Buddhist communities and even Buddhist kingdoms in the oases of Central Asia. Some Silk Road cities consisted almost entirely of Buddhist stupas and monasteries, and it seems that one of their main objectives was to welcome and service travelers between east and west.

The Theravdin traditions first spread among the Iranian tribes before combining with the Mahyna forms during the 2nd and 3rd centuries BCE to cover modern-day Pakistan, Kashmir, Afghanistan, eastern and coastal Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. These were the ancient states of Gandhra, Bactria, Parthia and Sogdia from where it spread to China. Among the first of these states to come under the influence of Buddhism was Bactria as early as the 3rd century BCE (see Greco-Buddhism). It was not, however, the exclusive faith of this region. There were also Zoroastrians, Hindus, Nestorian Christians, Jews, Manichaeans, and followers of shamanism, Tengrism, and other indigenous, nonorganized systems of belief.

Various Nikya schools persisted in Central Asia and China until around the 7th century CE. Mahyna started to become dominant during the period, but since the faith had not developed a Nikaya approach, Sarvstivdins and Dharmaguptakas remained the Vinayas of choice in Central Asian monasteries.

Various Buddhist kingdoms rose and prospered in both the Central Asian region and downwards into the Indian sub-continent such as the Kushan Empire prior to the White Hun invasion in the 5th century where under the King Mihirkula they were heavily persecuted.

Buddhism in Central Asia started to decline with the expansion of Islam and the destruction of many stupas in war from the 7th century. The Muslims accorded them the status of dhimmis as "people of the Book", such as Christianity or Judaism and Al-Biruni wrote of Buddha as prophet "burxan".

Buddhism saw a surge during the reign of Mongols following the invasion of Genghis Khan and the establishment of the Il Khanate and the Chagatai Khanate who brought their Buddhist influence with them during the 13th century; however, within 100 years the Mongols who remained in that region would convert to Islam and spread Islam across all the regions of central Asia. Only the eastern Mongols and the Mongols of the Yuan dynasty would keep Vajrayna Buddhism.


See also: Parthia

Buddhism expanded westward into Arsacid Parthia, at least to the area of Merv, in ancient Margiana, today's territory of Turkmenistan. Soviet archeological teams have excavated in Giaur Kala near Merv a Buddhist chapel, a gigantic Buddha statue and a monastery.

Parthians were directly involved in the propagation of Buddhism: An Shigao (c. 148 CE), a Parthian prince, went to China, and is the first known translator of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese.

Tarim Basin

Blue-eyed Central Asian and East-Asian Buddhist monks, Bezeklik, Eastern Tarim Basin, China, 9th and 10th centuries.

The eastern part of central Asia (Chinese Turkestan, Tarim Basin, Xinjiang) has revealed extremely rich Buddhist works of art (wall paintings and reliefs in numerous caves, portable paintings on canvas, sculpture, ritual objects), displaying multiple influences from Indian and Hellenistic cultures. Serindian art is highly reminiscent of the Gandhran style, and scriptures in the Gandhri script Kharoh have been found.

Central Asians seem to have played a key role in the transmission of Buddhism to the East. The first translators of Buddhists scriptures into Chinese were Parthian (Ch: Anxi) like An Shigao (c. 148 CE) or An Hsuan, Kushan of Yuezhi ethnicity like Lokaksema (c. 178 CE), Zhi Qian and Zhi Yao or Sogdians (Ch: SuTe/) like Kang Sengkai. Thirty-seven early translators of Buddhist texts are known, and the majority of them have been identified as Central Asians.

Central Asian and East Asian Buddhist monks appear to have maintained strong exchanges until around the 10th century, as shown by frescoes from the Tarim Basin.

These influences were rapidly absorbed, however, by the vigorous Chinese culture, and a strongly Chinese particularism develops from that point.


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Main article: Buddhism in China

According to traditional accounts, Buddhism was introduced in China during the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) after an emperor dreamed of a flying golden man thought to be the Buddha. Although the archaeological record confirms that Buddhism was introduced sometime during the Han dynasty, it did not flourish in China until the Six Dynasties period (220-589 CE).[29]

The year 67 CE saw Buddhism's official introduction to China with the coming of the two monks Moton and Chufarlan. In 68 CE, under imperial patronage, they established the White Horse Temple (), which still exists today, close to the imperial capital at Luoyang. By the end of the 2nd century, a prosperous community had settled at Pengcheng (modern Xuzhou, Jiangsu).

The first known Mahyna scriptural texts are translations into Chinese by the Kushan monk Lokakema in Luoyang, between 178 and 189 CE. Some of the earliest known Buddhist artifacts found in China are small statues on "money trees", dated c. 200 CE, in typical Gandhran drawing style: "That the imported images accompanying the newly arrived doctrine came from Gandhra is strongly suggested by such early Gandhra characteristics on this "money tree" Buddha as the high unia, vertical arrangement of the hair, moustache, symmetrically looped robe and parallel incisions for the folds of the arms."[30]

Maitreya Buddha, Northern Wei, 443 CE.

In the period between 460-525 AD during the Northern Wei dynasty, the Chinese constructed Yungang Grottoes, it's an outstanding example of the Chinese stone carvings from the 5th and 6th centuries. All together the site is composed of 252 grottoes with more than 51,000 Buddha statues and statuettes.

Another famous Buddhism Grottoes is Longmen Grottoes which started with the Northern Wei Dynasty in 493 AD. There are as many as 100,000 statues within the 1,400 caves, ranging from an 1 inch (25 mm) to 57 feet (17 m) in height. The area also contains nearly 2,500 stelae and inscriptions, whence the name "Forest of Ancient Stelae", as well as over sixty Buddhist pagodas.

Buddhism flourished during the beginning of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The dynasty was initially characterized by a strong openness to foreign influences and renewed exchanges with Indian culture due to the numerous travels of Chinese Buddhist monks to India from the 4th to the 11th centuries. The Tang capital of Chang'an (today's Xi'an) became an important center for Buddhist thought. From there Buddhism spread to Korea, and Japanese embassies of Kentoshi helped gain footholds in Japan.

However, foreign influences came to be negatively perceived towards the end of the Tang Dynasty. In the year 845, the Tang emperor Wuzong outlawed all "foreign" religions including Christian Nestorianism, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhism in order to support the indigenous Taoism. Throughout his territory, he confiscated Buddhist possessions, destroyed monasteries and temples, and executed Buddhist monks, ending Buddhism's cultural and intellectual dominance.

However, about a hundred years after the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution, Buddhism revived during the Song Dynasty (1127-1279).

Pure Land and Chan Buddhism, however, continued to prosper for some centuries, the latter giving rise to Japanese Zen. In China, Chan flourished particularly under the Song dynasty (1127-1279), when its monasteries were great centers of culture and learning.

In the last two thousand years, the Buddhist have build The Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism, they are Mount Wutai, Mount Emei, Mount Jiuhua, Mount Putuo.

Today, China boasts one of the richest collections of Buddhist arts and heritages in the world. UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang in Gansu province, the Longmen Grottoes near Luoyang in Henan province, the Yungang Grottoes near Datong in Shanxi province, and the Dazu Rock Carvings near Chongqing are among the most important and renowned Buddhist sculptural sites. The Leshan Giant Buddha, carved out of a hillside in the 8th century during the Tang Dynasty and looking down on the confluence of three rivers, is still the largest stone Buddha statue in the world.


Main article: Buddhism in Korea

Buddhism was introduced around 372 CE, when Chinese ambassadors visited the Korean kingdom of Goguryeo, bringing scriptures and images. Buddhism prospered in Korea - in particular Seon (Zen) Buddhism from the 7th century onward. However, with the beginning of the Confucian Yi Dynasty of the Joseon period in 1392, a strong discrimination took place against Buddhism until it was almost completely eradicated, except for a remaining Seon movement.


Tile with seated Buddha, Nara Prefecture, Asuka period, 7th century. Tokyo National Museum.
Main article: Buddhism in Japan
See also: Japanese Art and Zen

The Buddhism of Japan was introduced from Three Kingdoms of Korea in the 6th century. The Chinese priest Ganjin offered the system of Vinaya to the Buddhism of Japan in 754. As a result, the Buddhism of Japan has developed rapidly. Saich and Kkai succeeded to a legitimate Buddhism from China in the 9th century.

Being geographically at the end of the Silk Road, Japan was able to preserve many aspects of Buddhism at the very time it was disappearing in India, and being suppressed in Central Asia and China.

From 710 CE numerous temples and monasteries were built in the capital city of Nara, such as the five-story pagoda and Golden Hall of the Hry-ji, or the Kfuku-ji temple. Countless paintings and sculptures were made, often under governmental sponsorship. The creations of Japanese Buddhist art were especially rich between the 8th and 13th centuries during the periods of Nara, Heian and Kamakura.

From the 12th and 13th centuries, a further development was Zen art, following the introduction of the faith by Dogen and Eisai upon their return from China. Zen art is mainly characterized by original paintings (such as ink wash and the Enso) and poetry (especially haikus), striving to express the true essence of the world through impressionistic and unadorned "non-dualistic" representations. The search for enlightenment "in the moment" also led to the development of other important derivative arts such as the Chanoyu tea ceremony or the Ikebana art of flower arrangement. This evolution went as far as considering almost any human activity as an art with a strong spiritual and aesthetic content, first and foremost in those activities related to combat techniques (martial arts).

Buddhism remains very active in Japan to this day. Around 80,000 Buddhist temples are preserved and regularly restored.


Buddhism arrived late in Tibet, during the 7th century CE. The form that predominated, via the south of Tibet, was a blend of mahyna and vajrayna from the universities of the Pla empire of north India.[31] Sarvstivdin influence came from the south west (Kashmir)[32] and the north west (Khotan).[33] Although these practitioners did not succeed in maintaining a presence in Tibet, their texts found their way into the Tibetan Buddhist canon, providing the Tibetans with almost all of their primary sources about the Foundation Vehicle. A subsect of this school, Mlasarvstivda was the source of the Tibetan Vinaya.[34] Chan Buddhism was introduced via east Tibet from China and left its impression, but was rendered of lesser importance by early political events.[35]

From the outset Buddhism was opposed by the native shamanistic Bon religion, which had the support of the aristocracy, but with royal patronage it thrived to a peak under King Rlpachn (817-836). Terminology in translation was standardised around 825, enabling a translation methodology that was highly literal. Despite a reversal in Buddhist influence which began under King Langdarma (836-842), the following centuries saw a colossal effort in collecting available Indian sources, many of which are now extant only in Tibetan translation.

Tibetan Buddhism exerted a strong influence from the 11th century CE among the peoples of Central Asia, especially in Mongolia and Manchuria. It was adopted as an official state religion by the Mongol Yuan dynasty and the Manchu Qing dynasty that ruled China.

Southeast Asia

Further information: Indianized kingdom
Statue of the Bodhisattva Lokesvara, Cambodia, 12th century.
Cambodian Buddha, 14th century.

During the 1st century CE, the trade on the overland Silk Road tended to be restricted by the rise in the Middle-East of the Parthian empire, an unvanquished enemy of Rome, just as Romans were becoming extremely wealthy and their demand for Asian luxury was rising. This demand revived the sea connections between the Mediterranean and China, with India as the intermediary of choice. From that time, through trade connection, commercial settlements, and even political interventions, India started to strongly influence Southeast Asian countries (excluding Vietnam). Trade routes linked India with southern Burma, central and southern Siam, lower Cambodia and Champa, and numerous urbanized coastal settlements were established there.

For more than a thousand years, Indian influence was therefore the major factor that brought a certain level of cultural unity to the various countries of the region. The Pli and Sanskrit languages and the Indian script, together with Theravda and Mahyna Buddhism, Brahmanism, and Hinduism, were transmitted from direct contact and through sacred texts and Indian literature such as the Rmyaa and the Mahbhrata.

From the 5th to the 13th centuries, South-East Asia had very powerful empires and became extremely active in Buddhist architectural and artistic creation. The main Buddhist influence now came directly by sea from the Indian subcontinent, so that these empires essentially followed the Mahyna faith. The Sri Vijaya Empire to the south and the Khmer Empire to the north competed for influence, and their art expressed the rich Mahyna pantheon of the bodhisattvas.

The graceful golden statue of Avalokitevara in Malayu-Srivijayan style, Jambi, Indonesia.

Srivijayan Empire (7th-13th century)

Further information: Srivijaya

Srivijaya, a maritime empire centered at Palembang on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, adopted Mahyna and Vajrayna Buddhism under a line of rulers named the Sailendras. Yijing described Palembang as a great centre of Buddhist learning where the emperor supported over a thousand monks at his court. Yijing also testified to the importance of Buddhism as early as the year 671 and advised future Chinese pilgrims to spend a year or two in Palembang.[36] Atia studied there before travelling to Tibet as a missionary.

As Srivijaya expanded their thalassocracy, Buddhism thrived amongst its people. However, many did not practice pure Buddhism but a new syncretism form of Buddhism that incorporated several different religions such as Hinduism and other indigenous traditions.[37]

Srivijaya spread Buddhist art during its expansion in Southeast Asia. Numerous statues of bodhisattvas from this period are characterized by a very strong refinement and technical sophistication, and are found throughout the region. Extremely rich architectural remains are visible at the temple of Borobudur the largest Buddhist structure in the world, built from around 780 CE in Java, which has 505 images of the seated Buddha. Srivijaya declined due to conflicts with the Chola rulers of India, before being destabilized by the Islamic expansion from the 13th century.

Khmer Empire (9th-13th centuries)

Further information: Khmer Empire

Later, from the 9th to the 13th centuries, the Mahyna Buddhist and Hindu Khmer Empire dominated much of the South-East Asian peninsula. Under the Khmer, more than 900 temples were built in Cambodia and in neighboring Thailand. Angkor was at the center of this development, with a temple complex and urban organization able to support around one million urban dwellers. One of the greatest Khmer kings, Jayavarman VII (1181-1219), built large Mahyna Buddhist structures at Bayon and Angkor Thom.


Main article: Buddhism in Vietnam

Buddhism in Vietnam as practiced by the Vietnamese is mainly of Mahyna tradition. Buddhism came from Vietnam as early as the 2nd century CE through the North from Central Asia via India. Vietnamese Buddhism is very similar to Chinese buddhism and to some extent reflects the structure of Chinese Buddhism after the Song Dynasty. Vietnamese Buddhism also has a symbiotic relationship with Taoism, Chinese spirituality and the native Vietnamese religion.

Emergence of the Vajrayna (5th century)

Main article: Vajrayana

Vajrayna Buddhism, also called tantric Buddhism, first emerged in eastern India between the 5th and 7th centuries CE. It is sometimes considered a sub-school of Mahyna and sometimes a third major "vehicle" (yna) of Buddhism in its own right. The Vajrayna is an extension of Mahyna Buddhism in that it does not offer new philosophical perspectives, but rather introduces additional techniques (upaya, or 'skilful means'), including the use of visualizations and other yogic practices. Many of the practices of tantric Buddhism are common with Hindu tantricism: the usage of mantras, yoga and the burning of sacrificial offerings.

Early Vajrayna practitioners were forest-dwelling mahasiddhas who lived on the margins of society, but by the 9th century Vajrayna had won acceptance at major Mahyna monastic universities such as Nland and Vikramala. Along with much of the rest of Indian Buddhism, the Vajrayna was eclipsed in the wake of the late 12th-century Muslim invasions. It has persisted in Tibet, where it was wholly transplanted from the 7th to 12th centuries, and on a limited basis in Japan as well where it evolved into Shingon Buddhism.

Theravda Renaissance (starting in the 11th century CE)

Further information: Theravada
Expansion of Theravda Buddhism from the 11th century CE.

From the 11th century, the destruction of Buddhism in the Indian mainland by Islamic invasions led to the decline of the Mahyna faith in South-East Asia. Continental routes through the Indian subcontinent being compromised, direct sea routes developed from the Middle-East through Sri Lanka to China, leading to the adoption of the Theravda Buddhism of the Pli canon, introduced to the region around the 11th century CE from Sri Lanka.

King Anawrahta (1044-1078); the founder of the Pagan Empire, unified the country and adopted the Theravdin Buddhist faith. This initiated the creation of thousands of Buddhist temples at Pagan, the capital, between the 11th and 13th centuries. Around 2,200 of them are still standing. The power of the Burmese waned with the rise of the Thai, and with the seizure of the capital Pagan by the Mongols in 1287, but Theravda Buddhism remained the main Burmese faith to this day.

The Theravda faith was also adopted by the newly founded ethnic Thai kingdom of Sukhothai around 1260. Theravda Buddhism was further reinforced during the Ayutthaya period (14th-18th century), becoming an integral part of Thai society.

In the continental areas, Theravda Buddhism continued to expand into Laos and Cambodia in the 13th century. From the 14th century, however, on the coastal fringes and in the islands of south-east Asia, the influence of Islam proved stronger, expanding into Malaysia, Indonesia, and most of the islands as far as the southern Philippines.

Nevertheless, since Suharto's rise to power in 1966, there has been a remarkable renaissance of Buddhism in Indonesia. This is partly due to the requirements of Suharto's New Order for the people of Indonesia to adopt one of the five official religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism or Buddhism. Today it is estimated there are some 10 million Buddhists in Indonesia. A large part of them are people of Chinese ancestry.

Expansion of Buddhism to the West

Further information: Western Buddhism
Saint Josaphat preaching Christianity. 12th-century Greek manuscript.

After the Classical encounters between Buddhism and the West recorded in Greco-Buddhist art, information and legends about Buddhism seem to have reached the West sporadically. An account of Buddha's life was translated into Greek by John of Damascus, and widely circulated to Christians as the story of Barlaam and Josaphat. By the 14th century this story of Josaphat had become so popular that he was made a Catholic saint.

The next direct encounter between Europeans and Buddhism happened in Medieval times when the Franciscan friar William of Rubruck was sent on an embassy to the Mongol court of Mongke by the French king Saint Louis in 1253. The contact happened in Cailac (today's Qayaliq in Kazakhstan), and William originally thought they were wayward Christians (Foltz, "Religions of the Silk Road").

In the period after Hulagu, the Mongol Ilkhans increasingly adopted Buddhism. Numerous Buddhist temples dotted the landscape of Persia and Iraq, none of which survived the 14th century. The Buddhist element of the Il-Khanate died with Arghun.[38]

The Kalmyk Khanate was founded in the 17th century with Tibetan Buddhism as its main religion, following the earlier migration of the Oirats from Dzungaria through Central Asia to the steppe around the mouth of the Volga River. During the course of the 18th century, they were absorbed by the Russian Empire.[39] At the end of the Napoleonic wars, Kalmyk cavalry units in Russian service entered Paris.[40] Kalmykia is remarkable for being the only state in Europe where the dominant religion is Buddhism.

Interest in Buddhism increased during the colonial era, when Western powers were in a position to witness the faith and its artistic manifestations in detail. The opening of Japan in 1853 created a considerable interest in the arts and culture of Japan, and provided access to one of the most thriving Buddhist cultures in the world.

Buddhism started to enjoy a strong interest from the general population in the West following the turbulence of the 20th century. In the wake of the 1959 Tibetan uprising, a Tibetan diaspora has made Tibetan Buddhism in particular more widely accessible to the rest of the world. It has since spread to many Western countries, where the tradition has gained popularity. Among its prominent exponents is the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. The number of its adherents is estimated to be between ten and twenty million.[41]

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History of Buddhism in India

The Mahabodhi Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the four holy sites related to the life of the Lord Buddha, and particularly to the attainment of Enlightenment. The first temple was built by The Indian Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century BC, and the present temple dates from the 5th century or 6th century AD. It is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely in brick, still standing in India, from the late Gupta period.[1]
Mahabodhi Temple before restoration, Bodh Gaya, 1780s'
Rock-cut Lord --Buddha-- Statue at Bojjanakonda near Anakapalle of Visakhapatnam dist in AP
Ancient Buddhist monasteries near Dhamekh Stupa Monument Site, Sarnath
Devotees performing puja at one of the Buddhist caves in Ellora Caves.

Buddhism is a world religion, which arose in and around ancient Kingdom of Magadha (now in Bihar, India), and is based on the teachings of Siddhrtha Gautama[note 1] who was deemed a "Buddha" ("Awakened One"[3]). Buddhism spread outside of Magadha starting in the Buddha's lifetime.

With the reign of the Buddhist Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, the Buddhist community split into two branches: the Mahsghika and the Sthaviravda, each of which spread throughout India and split into numerous sub-sects.[4] In modern times, two major branches of Buddhism exist: the Theravda in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, and the Mahyna throughout the Himalayas and East Asia.

The practice of Buddhism as a distinct and organized religion declined from the land of its origin in around 13th century, but not without leaving a significant impact. Hindus continued to absorb Buddhist practices and teachings, such as Ahis and the renunciation of the material world. Buddhist practice is most common in Himalayan areas like Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. Buddhism has been reemerging in India since the past century, due to its adoption by many Indian intellectuals, the migration of Buddhist Tibetan exiles, and the mass conversion of hundreds of thousands of Hindu Dalits.[5]

Siddhrtha Gautama

After asceticism and meditation which was a Samana practice, the Buddha discovered the Buddhist Middle Way"a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification.

Siddhrtha Gautama attained enlightenment sitting under a pipal tree, now known as the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India. Gautama, from then on, was known as "The Perfectly Self-Awakened One," the Samyaksambuddha. Buddha found patronage in the ruler of Magadha, emperor Bimbisra. The emperor accepted Buddhism as personal faith and allowed the establishment of many Buddhist "Vihras." This eventually led to the renaming of the entire region as Bihar.[6]

At the Deer Park Water Reservation near Vras in northern India, Buddha set in motion the Wheel of Dharma by delivering his first sermon to the group of five companions with whom he had previously sought enlightenment. They, together with the Buddha, formed the first Sagha, the company of Buddhist monks, and hence, the first formation of Triple Gem (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) was completed.

For the remaining years of his life, the Buddha is said to have traveled in the Gangetic Plain of Northern India and other regions.

Buddha attained Parinirvana in the abandoned jungles of Kuinra.


Followers of Buddhism, called Buddhists in English, referred to themselves as Saugata.[7] Other terms were Sakyans or Sakyabhiksu in ancient India.[8][9] Sakyaputto was another term used by Buddhists, as well as Ariyasavako[10] and Jinaputto.[11] Buddhist scholar Donald S. Lopez asserts they also used the term Bauddha,[12] although scholar Richard Cohen asserts that that term was used only by outsiders to describe Buddhists.[13]

Buddhist movements

The Sattapanni caves of Rajgir served as the location for the First Buddhist Council.
The Northern gateway to the great Stupa of Sanchi.
Shanti Stupa at Dhauligiri, Orissa
Gurubhaktulakonda Buddhist Monastery Remnants at Ramatheertham

The Buddha did not appoint any successor, and asked his followers to work toward liberation. The teachings of the Buddha existed only in oral traditions. The Sangha held a number of Buddhist councils in order to reach consenseus on matters of Buddhist doctrine and practice.

  1. Mahkyapa, a disciple of the Buddha, presided over the first Buddhist council held at Rjagha. Its purpose was to recite and agree on the Buddha's actual teachings and on monastic discipline. Some scholars consider this council fictitious.[14]
  2. The Second Buddhist Council is said to have taken place at Vail. Its purpose was to deal with questionable monastic practices like the use of money, the drinking of palm wine, and other irregularities; the council declared these practices unlawful.
  3. What is commonly called the Third Buddhist Council was held at Paliputra, and was allegedly called by Emperor Aoka in the 3rd century BCE. Organized by the monk Moggaliputta Tissa, it was held in order to rid the sangha of the large number of monks who had joined the order because of its royal patronage. Most scholars now believe this council was exclusively Theravada, and that the dispatch of missionaries to various countries at about this time was nothing to do with it.
  4. What is often called the Fourth Buddhist council is generally believed to have been held under the patronage of Emperor Kanika at Jlandhar in Kashmir, though the late Monseigneur Professor Lamotte considered it fictitious.[15] It is generally believed to have been a council of the Sarvastivda school.

Early Buddhism Schools

The Early Buddhist Schools were the various schools in which pre-sectarian Buddhism split in the first few centuries after the passing away of the Buddha (in about the 5th century BCE). The earliest division was between the majority Mahsghika and the minority Sthaviravda. Some existing Buddhist traditions follow the vinayas of early Buddhist schools.

The Dharmaguptakas made more efforts than any other sect to spread Buddhism outside India, to areas such as Iran, Central Asia, and China, and they had great success in doing so.[16] Therefore, most countries which adopted Buddhism from China, also adopted the Dharmaguptaka vinaya and ordination lineage for bhikus and bhikus.

During the early period of Chinese Buddhism, the Indian Buddhist sects recognized as important, and whose texts were studied, were the Dharmaguptakas, Mahsakas, Kyapyas, Sarvstivdins, and the Mahsghikas.[17] Complete vinayas preserved in the Chinese Buddhist canon include the Mahsaka Vinaya (T. 1421), Mahsghika Vinaya (T. 1425), Dharmaguptaka Vinaya (T. 1428), Sarvstivda Vinaya (T. 1435), and the Mlasarvstivda Vinaya (T. 1442). Also preserved are a set of gamas (Stra Piaka), a complete Sarvstivda Abhidharma Piaka, and many other texts of the early Buddhist schools.


Main article: Mahyna

The Mahyna tradition of Buddhism popularized the concept of a bodhisattva ("enlightenment being") and the worship of the bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas such as Majur, Avalokitevara, and Maitreya were highly esteemed in Indian Mahyna practice. Mahyna Buddhism advocates the path of a bodhisattva practicing the pramits, or "perfections," culminating with Prajpramit, the perfection of wisdom. Mahyna Buddhism developed in India.

Paul Williams has also noted that the Mahyna never had nor ever attempted to have a separate Vinaya or ordination lineage from the early Buddhist schools, and therefore each bhiku or bhiku adhering to the Mahyna formally belonged to one of the early Buddhist schools. Membership in these nikyas, or monastic sects, continues today with the Dharmaguptaka nikya in East Asia, and the Mlasarvstivda nikya in Tibetan Buddhism. Paul Harrison clarifies that while monastic Mahynists belonged to a nikya, not all members of a nikya were Mahynists.[18] From Chinese monks visiting India, we now know that both Mahyna and non-Mahyna monks in India often lived in the same monasteries side by side.[19]

The Chinese monk Yijing who visited India in the 7th century CE, distinguishes Mahyna as follows:[20]

Both adopt one and the same Vinaya, and they have in common the prohibitions of the five offences, and also the practice of the Four Noble Truths. Those who venerate the bodhisattvas and read the Mahyna stras are called the Mahynists, while those who do not perform these are called the Hnaynists.

Mahyna Buddhism includes the following Indian schools:


Main article: Vajrayna

A form of Indian Buddhism that emerged in the 4th century and later spread to China (Tangmi), Japan (Shingon), Tibet, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and other countries. It remains widespread in Tibetan Buddhism, and in Nepal, Bhutan, and Mongolia.[21]

This school emerged from forest meditation traditions in northern India, in which the entire emphasis of teachings was on practice, using skillful means to attain the goal of enlightenment in one's present lifetime.[citation needed] This form is also known as Vajrayna (The Diamond Vehicle). Tantrism is an esoteric tradition. Its initiation ceremonies involve entry into a mandala, a mystic circle or symbolic map of the spiritual universe. Also central to Tantrism is the use of mudras and mantras.

A lesser known route of transmission is that which went through the valley of Kathmandu, situated in present-day Nepal. The valley, forms the cradle of the Nepali state today, and since the farthest point in historical time, has found itself under the cultural influence of the South Asian Hindu (and also Buddhist) civilization. However, being a distant outpost of Hinduism (and Buddhism), it was spared from the ravages of later Muslim conquests and social upheavals. Even after Buddhism died in the heartland, it survived in Kathmandu valley. Monastic records in the numerous monasteries show that until the mid-medieval period in Nepalese history, Tibetan students regularly came there for learning Buddhism from the local spiritual masters. The Tibetan religious scripts Lantsha and Vartu are variants of the Rajan system used by the Newars of Kathmandu. However, due to numerous social, economic and political factors, Buddhist monasticism in the valley died. By then Tibetan Buddhism had already gained prominence in the region. Today, in the urban centres of Kathmandu valley, we still find Indian Mahayana Buddhism, modified through mixing with Vajrayna, practiced by the local Buddhist Newar population.[22]

Strengthening of Buddhism in India

The Early Spread of Buddhism

"During the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.E., commerce and cash became increasingly important in an economy previously dominated by self-sufficient production and bartered exchange. Merchants found Buddhist moral and ethical teachings an attractive alternative to the esoteric rituals of the traditional brahmin priesthood, which seemed to cater exclusively to brahmin interests while ignoring those of the new and emerging social classes." [23]

"Furthermore, Buddhism was prominent in communities of merchants, who found it well suited to their needs and who increasingly established commercial links throughout the Mauryan empire."[24]

"Merchants proved to be an efficient vector of the Buddhist faith, as they established diaspora communities in the string of oasis towns-Merv, Bukhara, Samarkand, Kashgar, Khotan, Kuqa, Turpan, Dunhuang - that served as lifeline of the silk roads through central Asia."[25]

Ahoka and the Mauryan Empire

Further information: Asoka the great and Mauryan empire

The Maurya empire reached its peak at the time of emperor Ahoka, who converted to Buddhism under the influence of his Buddhist wife and Empress consort Devi after the Battle of Kaliga. This heralded a long period of stability under the Buddhist emperor. The power of the empire was vast"ambassadors were sent to other countries to propagate Buddhism. Greek envoy Megasthenes describes the wealth of the Mauryan capital. Stupas, pillars and edicts on stone remain at Sanchi, Sarnath and Mathura, indicating the extent of the empire.

Emperor Aoka the Great (304 BCE-232 BCE) was the ruler of the Maurya Empire from 273 BCE to 232 BCE.

Buddhist proselytism at the time of king Asoka (260-218 BCE), according to his Edicts.

Aoka reigned over most of India after a series of military campaigns. Emperor Aoka's kingdom stretched from South Asia and beyond, from present-day Afghanistan and parts of Persia in the west, to Bengal and Assam in the east, and as far south as Mysore.

According to legend, emperor Aoka was overwhelmed by guilt after the conquest of Kaliga, following which he accepted Buddhism as personal faith with the help of his Brahmin mentors Rdhsvm and Majr. Aoka established monuments marking several significant sites in the life of akyamuni Buddha, and according to Buddhist tradition was closely involved in the preservation and transmission of Buddhism.[26] He used his position to propagate the relatively new philosophy to new heights, as far as ancient Rome and Egypt.

Graeco-Bactrians, Sakas and Indo-Parthians

Menander was the most famous bactrian king. He ruled from Taxila and later from Sagala (Sialkot). He rebuilt Taxila (Sirkap) and Pukalavat. He became Buddhist and is remembered in Buddhists records due to his discussions with a great Buddhist philosopher in the book Milinda Paha.

The Buddhist gods Pancika (left) and Hrt (right), 3rd century AD, Takht-i Bahi, Gandhra, British Museum.

By 90 BC, Parthians took control of eastern Iran and around 50 BC put an end to last remnants of Greek rule in Afghanistan. By around 7 AD, an Indo-Parthian dynasty succeeded in taking control of Gandhra. Parthians continued to support Greek artistic traditions in Gandhara. The start of the Gandhran Greco-Buddhist art is dated to the period between 50 BC and 75 AD.

Kuna Empire

Kuna under emperor Kanika was known as the Kingdom of Gandhra. The Buddhist art spread outward from Gandhra to other parts of Asia. He greatly encouraged Buddhism. Before Kanika, Buddha was not represented in human form. In Gandhra Mahyna Buddhism flourished and Buddha was represented in human form.

The Pla and Sena era

Under the rule of the Pla and Sena kings, large mahvihras flourished in what is now Bihar and Bengal. According to Tibetan sources, five great Mahvihras stood out: Vikramala, the premier university of the era; Nlanda, past its prime but still illustrious, Somapura, Odantapur, and Jaggadala.[27] The five monasteries formed a network; "all of them were under state supervision" and their existed "a system of co-ordination among them . . it seems from the evidence that the different seats of Buddhist learning that functioned in eastern India under the Pla were regarded together as forming a network, an interlinked group of institutions," and it was common for great scholars to move easily from position to position among them.[28]

Dharma masters

Bodhidharma, woodblock print by Yoshitoshi, 1887

Indian ascetics (Skt. ramaa) propagated Buddhism in various regions, including East Asia and Central Asia.

In the Edicts of Aoka, Aoka mentions the Hellenistic kings of the period as a recipient of his Buddhist proselytism.[29] Emissaries of Ashoka, such as Dharmaraksita, are described in Pali sources as leading Greek ("Yona") Buddhist monks, active in Buddhist proselytism (the Mahavamsa, XII[30]).

Roman Historical accounts describe an embassy sent by the "Indian king Pandion (Pandya?), also named Porus," to Caesar Augustus around the 1st century. The embassy was travelling with a diplomatic letter in Greek, and one of its members was a sramana who burned himself alive in Athens to demonstrate his faith. The event made a sensation and was described by Nicolaus of Damascus, who met the embassy at Antioch, and related by Strabo (XV,1,73)[31] and Dio Cassius (liv, 9). A tomb was made to the sramana, still visible in the time of Plutarch, which bore the mention:

("The sramana master from Barygaza in India")

Lokaksema is the earliest known Buddhist monk to have translated Mahayana Buddhist scriptures into the Chinese language. Gandharan monks Jnanagupta and Prajna contributed through several important translations of Sanskrit sutras into Chinese language.

The Indian dhyana master Buddhabhadra was the founding abbot and patriarch[32] of the Shaolin Temple.[33] Buddhist monk and esoteric master from SouthIndia (6th century), Kanchipuram is regarded as the patriarch of the Ti-Lun school. Bodhidharma (c. 6th century) was the Buddhist Bhikkhu traditionally credited as the founder of Zen Buddhism in China.[34]

In 580, Indian monk Vintaruci travelled to Vietnam. This, then, would be the first appearance of Vietnamese Zen, or Thien Buddhism.

Guru Rinpoche, the patron saint of Sikkim. The 118 foot statue in Namchi, South Sikkim, is the tallest statue of the saint in the world.

Padmasambhava, in Sanskrit meaning "lotus-born", is said to have brought Tantric Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century. In Bhutan and Tibet he is better known as "Guru Rinpoche" ("Precious Master") where followers of the Nyingma school regard him as the second Buddha. ntarakita, abbot of Nlanda and founder of the Yogacara-Madhyamaka is said to have helped Padmasambhava establish Buddhism in Tibet.

Indian monk Atia, holder of the mind training (Tib. lojong) teachings, is considered an indirect founder of the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism. Indian monks, such as Vajrabodhi, also travelled to Indonesia to propagate Buddhism.

Decline of Buddhism in India

Further information: Decline of Buddhism in India
General Ikhtiar Uddin Muhammad Bin Bakhtiyar Khilji sacked the great Buddhist shrines at Nlanda.[35]

The decline of Buddhism has been attributed to various reasons. Regardless of the religious beliefs of their kings, states usually patronized all the important sects relatively even-handedly.[36] This consisted of building monasteries and religious monuments, donating property such as the income of villages for the support of monks, and protecting previously donated property by leaving them exempt from taxation. Donations were most often made by private persons such as wealthy merchants and female relatives of the royal family, but this correlated with periods in which the state also gave its support and protection. In the case of Buddhism, this support was particularly important because of its high level of institutional organization and the dependence of monks on donations from the laity. State patronage of Buddhism took the form of massive propertied foundations.[37]

The gradual expansion in the scope and authority of caste regulations shifted political and economic power to the local arena, reversing the trend of centralization.[38] The caste system gradually expanded into secular life as a regulative code of social and economic transactions.[38]

Brahmans developed a new relationship with the state. It became the duty of political officials to enforce the caste regulations written by Brahmans.[38] Caste regulations grew over a long period of time. As they did, states gradually lost control of landed revenue. A key transition was the downfall of the Guptas. Indian social structure developed in a manner opposite to that of China or Rome, where administration of law was dominated by government officials. Instead, Brahmans became hereditary monopolists of the law in a series of weak, ephemeral states.[39]

Brahmans came to regulate more and more aspects of public life, and collected fees for the performance of their rituals.[38] Caste law, administered by Brahmans, was built up to control all local economic production and much of its distribution.[40] The transformation of Brahman priests to linchpins of the caste system transformed the functioning property system.[38] The political ascendancy of Hinduism and its displacement of Buddhism's political and social base came by this indirect route.[39] Orthodox Brahmins were now capable of cutting off the flow of material resources upon which institutional Buddhism depended. Parallel developments that led to the decrease in the influence of Buddhism were the institution of rival Hindu temples, which were an innovation of the bhakti movement, and eventually orders of Hindu monks. These undercut Buddhist patronage and popular support.[41]

A continuing decline occurred after the fall of the last Empire supportive of Buddhism: the Pala dynasty in the 12th century. This continued with the later destruction of monasteries by Muslim invaders[42] and their mission to spread Islam in the region.[43]

Influence of Hinduism

It has been asserted, simplistically and without much historical evidence, that Hinduism became a more "intelligible and satisfying road to faith for many ordinary worshippers" than it had been because it now included not only an appeal to a personal god, but had also seen the development of an emotional facet with the composition of devotional hymns.[44]

The period between the 400 CE and 1000 CE saw gains by Brahmanism and local cults at the expense of Buddhism.[44]

The White Hun invasions

Chinese scholars traveling through the region between the 5th and 8th centuries, such as Faxian, Xuanzang, I-ching, Hui-sheng, and Sung-Yun, began to speak of a decline of the Buddhist Sangha, especially in the wake of the White Hun invasion.[42]

Turkish Muslim Conquerors

The Muslim conquest of the Indian subcontinent was the first great iconoclastic invasion into South Asia.[45] The resulting occasional and sporadic destruction of temples did not affect Hinduism, but for Buddhism the destruction of the stupas has been attributed with a rapid and almost total disappearance from North India.[46] Additionally, more academic forms of Indian Buddhism relied on patronage by kings and merchants and this change in rulership coupled with the economic integration with the Islamic world and thus the growing domination of long-distance trade by the Muslim merchant class eroded these sources of patronage resulting in an absorption into either Hinduism or Islam.[46]

Causes within the Buddhist tradition of the time

By the time the Muslims began conquering northern India in the 12th century under the Ghurids, the number of monasteries had severely declined.[43][46] Buddhism, which once had spread across the face of India, was a vital force confined to an ever-shrinking number of monasteries in the areas of its origins.[43][46] Scholars believe that the monasteries at the time became detached from everyday life in India and that Indian Buddhism had no rituals or priests with the laymen relying on Brahmin priests for marriages and funerals.[43][46]

Revival of Buddhism in India

Anagarika Dharmapala and the Maha Bodhi Society

A revival of Buddhism began in India in 1891, when the Sri Lankan Buddhist leader Anagarika Dharmapala founded the Maha Bodhi Society.[47] Its activities expanded to involve the promotion of Buddhism in India. In June 1892, a meeting of Buddhists took place at Darjeeling. Dharmapala spoke to Tibetan Buddhists and presented a relic of the Buddha to be sent to the Dalai Lama.

Dharmapla built many vihras and temples in India, including the one at Sarnath, the place of Buddha's first sermon. He died in 1933, the same year he was ordained a bhikkhu.[48]

Mahabodhi Temple after restoration, Bodh Gaya

Bengal Buddhist Association

In 1892, Kripasaran Mahasthavir founded the Bengal Buddhist Association (Bauddha Dharmankur Sabha) in Calcutta.[49] Kripasaran (1865-1926) was instrumental in uniting the Buddhist community of Bengal and North East India. He built other branches of the Bengal Buddhist Association at Shimla (1907), Lucknow (1907), Dibrugarh (1908), Ranchi (1915), Shillong (1918), Darjeeling (1919), Tatanagar Jamshedpur (1922), as well as in Sakpura, Satbaria, Noapara, Uninepura, Chittagong Region in present day Bangladesh.

Tibetan Buddhism

The 14th Dalai Lama departed Tibet in 1959, when Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru offered to permit him and his followers to establish a "government-in-exile" in Dharamsala. Tibetan exiles have settled in the town, numbering several thousand. Many of these exiles live in Upper Dharamsala, or McLeod Ganj, where they established monasteries, temples and schools. The town is sometimes known as "Little Lhasa", after the Tibetan capital city, and has become one of the centers of Buddhism in the world. Many settlements for Tibetan refugee communities came up across many parts of India on the lands offered by the Government of India. Some of the biggest Tibetan settlements in exile are in the state of Karnataka. His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, the head of Nyingma, the ancient school of Tibetan Buddhism re-established a Nyingma monastery in Bylakuppe, Mysore. This is the largest Nyingma monastery today. Monks from Himalayan regions of India, Nepal, Bhutan and from Tibet join this monastery for their higher education. HH Penor Rinpoche also founded Thubten Lekshey Ling, a dharma center for lay practitioners in Bangalore. Vajrayana Buddhism and Dzogchen (maha-sandhi) meditation again became accessible to aspirants in India after that.

Neo Buddhist movement (Conversion of downtrodden)

Map of minority religions of India, showing Buddhist regions and minorities. The downtrodden who went back to Buddhist becoming Buddhist in 1956 are the Buddhists who are concentrated in the state of Maharashtra.

A Buddhist revivalist movement among Dalit Indians was initiated in 1890s by socialist leaders such as Iyothee Thass, Bagya Reddy varma of Hyderabad, and Damodar Dharmananda Kosambi. In the 1950s, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar turned his attention to Buddhism and travelled to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to attend a convention of Buddhist scholars and monks. While dedicating a new Buddhist vihara near Pune, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar announced that he was writing a book on Buddhism, and that as soon as it was finished, he planned to make a formal conversion to Buddhism. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar twice visited Burma in 1954; the second time in order to attend the third conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Rangoon. In 1955, he founded the Bharatiya Bauddha Mahasabha, or the Buddhist Society of India. He completed his final work, The Buddha and His Dhamma, in 1956. It was published posthumously.

After meetings with the Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Hammalawa Saddhatissa, Ambedkar organised a formal public ceremony for himself and his supporters in Nagpur on 14 October 1956. Accepting the Three Refuges and Five Precepts from a Buddhist monk in the traditional manner, Ambedkar completed his own conversion. He then proceeded to convert an estimated 500,000 of his supporters who were gathered around him. Taking the 22 Vows, Ambedkar and his supporters explicitly condemned and rejected Hinduism and Hindu philosophy.This was the world's biggest mass religious conversion; it is celebrated by Buddhists every year at Nagpur; 1-1.5 million Buddhists gather there every year for the ceremony. He then traveled to Kathmandu in Nepal to attend the Fourth World Buddhist Conference. His final manuscript, The Buddha or Karl Marx, remains unfinished; he died on 6 December 1956.

Vipassana movement

The Buddhist meditation tradition of Vipassana meditation is growing in popularity in India. Many institutions"both government and private sector"now offer courses for their employees.[50] This form is mainly practiced by the elite and middle class Indians. This movement has spread to many other countries in Europe, America and Asia.

Edited by RoseFairy - 09 September 2013 at 11:26pm

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RoseFairy IF-Dazzler

Joined: 24 September 2010
Posts: 4147

Posted: 09 September 2013 at 11:34pm | IP Logged

Is Buddhism a religion?

There are differences of opinion on the question of whether or not Buddhism should be considered a religion. Many sources commonly refer to Buddhism as a religion. For example:

  • Peter Harvey states: "The English term 'Buddhism' correctly indicates that the religion is characterized by devotion to 'the Buddha', 'Buddhas', or 'buddhahood'."[239]
  • Joseph Goldstein states: "Although there are many difference among the various religions of the world, and among the various schools of Buddhism itself, there is also a great deal in common..."[240]

Other sources note that the answer to this question depends upon how religion is defined. For example:

  • Surya Das states: "For Buddhism is less a theology or religion than a promise that certain meditative practices and mind trainings can effectively show us how to awaken our Buddha-nature and liberate us from suffering and confusion."[241]
  • B. Alan Wallace states: "When we in the West first engage with Buddhism, it is almost inevitable that we bring out one of our familiar stereotypes and apply it to Buddhism, calling it simply a 'religion.'... But Buddhism has never been simply a religion as we define it in the West. From the very beginning it has also had philosophical elements, as well as empirical and rational elements that may invite the term 'science.'"[242]
  • Rupert Gethin states: "I am not concerned here to pronounce on a question that is sometimes asked of Buddhism: is it a religion? Obviously it depends on how one defines a religion'. What is certain, however, is that Buddhism does not involve belief in a creator God who has control over human destiny, nor does it seek to define itself by reference to a creed; as Edward Conze has pointed out, it took over 2,000 years and a couple of Western converts to Buddhism to provide it with a creed. On the other hand, Buddhism views activities that would be generally understood as religious"such as devotional practices and rituals"as a legitimate, useful, and even essential part of the practice and training that leads to the cessation of suffering.[243] Gethin points out that some key differences between Buddhism and conventionally considered Western religions are that Buddhism does not assert a belief in a creator god, nor does it define itself by a particular creed. On the other hand, Gethin notes, Buddhist practice often includes devotional practices and ritual, which are typically associated with religious belief.[243]
  • Damien Keown states: "Problems [...] confront us as soon as we try to define what Buddhism is. Is it a religion? A philosophy? A way of life? A code of ethics? It is not easy to classify Buddhism as any of these things, and it challenges us to rethink some of these categories. What, for example, do we mean by religion'? Most people would say that religion has something to do with belief in God. [...] If belief in God in this sense is the essence of religion, then Buddhism cannot be a religion. [...] Some have suggested that a new category - that of the non-theistic' religion - is needed to encompass Buddhism. Another possibility is that our original definition is simply too narrow.[244]
  • The Dalai Lama states: "From one viewpoint, Buddhism is a religion, from another viewpoint Buddhism is a science of mind and not a religion. Buddhism can be a bridge between these two sides. Therefore, with this conviction I try to have closer ties with scientists, mainly in the fields of cosmology, psychology, neurobiology and physics. In these fields there are insights to share, and to a certain extent we can work together."[245]
  • Ilkka Pyysiinen states: "There are thus great difficulties involved in conceptualizing religion as belief in god(s), superhuman agents, etc., although we intuitively think that some such beings, nevertheless, are essential in religion. As is well-known, Buddhism is the favorite example of scholars who have argued that we should find some other way of defining religion than the one based on the idea of belief in gods or superhuman beings." and "Buddhism does not have to be the problematic touchstone for a global concept of religion."[246]
  • Martin Southwold states: "It is argued that Buddhism, though non-theistic, resembles other religions in depending on mystical notions; it is shown how this contributes to understanding the social functions of religions."[247]
  • Walpola Rahula states: "The question has often been asked: Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy? It does not matter what you call it. Buddhism remains what it is whatever label you may put on it. The label is immaterial. Even the label 'Buddhism' which we give to the teaching of the Buddha is of little importance. The name one gives it is inessential. What's in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet. In the same way Truth needs no label: it is neither Buddhist, Christian, Hindu nor Moslem. It is not the monopoly of anybody. Sectarian labels are a hindrance to the independent understanding of Truth, and they produce harmful prejudices in men's minds."[248]
  • Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche states: "If you are interested in 'meeting the Buddha' and following his example, then you should realize that the path the Buddha taught is primarily a study of your own mind and a system for training your mind. This path is spiritual, not religious. Its goal is self-knowledge, not salvation; freedom, not heaven. And it is deeply personal."[249]

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RoseFairy IF-Dazzler

Joined: 24 September 2010
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Posted: 09 September 2013 at 11:37pm | IP Logged


For the character in Journey to the West, see Xuanzang (fictional character).
Translations of
English: Three Baskets
Pali: Tipitaka
[pda" b]
(pinyin: snzng)
Japanese: "
(rmaji: sanz)
Khmer: -''"
(RR: samjang)
Sinhala: ''
Vietnamese: Tam tng

Dharma Wheel.svg

Tripiaka (Pali: Tipitaka) is a Sanskrit word meaning Three Baskets. It is the traditional term used by Buddhist traditions to describe their various canons of scriptures.[1] The expression Three Baskets originally referred to three receptacles containing the scrolls on which the Buddhist scriptures were originally preserved.[citation needed] Hence, the Tripiaka traditionally contains three "baskets" of teachings: a Stra Piaka (Sanskrit; Pali: Sutta Pitaka), a Vinaya Piaka (Sanskrit & Pali) and an Abhidharma Piaka (Sanskrit; Pali: Abhidhamma Piaka).

The three categories

Tripitaka is the three main categories of texts that make up the Buddhist canon.


Main articles: Mahayana sutras and Sutta Pitaka

These are mainly teachings and sermons of Buddha originally transcribed in Sanskrit or Pali. They may contain descriptions of Buddha and parables which may help lead to enlightenment of the reader.


Main article: Abhidharma

Philosophical and psychological discourse and interpretation of Buddhist doctrine.


Main article: Vinaya

Rules and regulation of monastic life that range from dress code and dietary rules to prohibition in personal conduct.

In Indian Buddhist schools

Each of the Early Buddhist Schools likely had their own recensions of the Tripiaka. According to some sources, there were some Indian schools of Buddhism that had five or seven piakas.[2]


The Mahsghika Vinaya was translated by Buddhabhadra and Faxian in 416 CE, and is preserved in Chinese translation (Taish Tripiaka 1425).

The 6th century CE Indian monk Paramrtha wrote that 200 years after the parinirva of the Buddha, much of the Mahsghika school moved north of Rjagha, and were divided over whether the Mahyna teachings should be incorporated formally into their Tripiaka. According to this account, they split into three groups based upon the relative manner and degree to which they accepted the authority of these Mahyna texts.[3] Paramrtha states that the Gokulika sect did not accept the Mahyna stras as buddhavacana ("words of the Buddha"), while the Lokottaravda sect and the Ekavyvahrika sect did accept the Mahyna stras as buddhavacana.[4] Also in the 6th century CE, Avalokitavrata writes of the Mahsghikas using a "Great gama Piaka," which is then associated with Mahyna stras such as the Prajparamit and the Daabhmika Stra.[5]

According to some sources, abhidharma was not accepted as canonical by the Mahsghika school.[6] The Theravdin Dpavasa, for example, records that the Mahsghikas had no abhidharma.[7] However, other sources indicate that there were such collections of abhidharma, and the Chinese pilgrims Faxian and Xuanzang both mention Mahsghika abhidharma. On the basis of textual evidence as well as inscriptions at Ngrjunako, Joseph Walser concludes that at least some Mahsghika sects probably had an abhidharma collection, and that it likely contained five or six books.[8]


The Caitikas included a number of sub-sects including the Prvaailas, Aparaailas, Siddhrthikas, and Rjagirikas. In the 6th century CE, Avalokitavrata writes that Mahyna stras such as the Prajparamit and others are chanted by the Aparaailas and the Prvaailas.[9] Also in the 6th century CE, Bhvaviveka speaks of the Siddhrthikas using a Vidydhra Piaka, and the Prvaailas and Aparaailas both using a Bodhisattva Piaka, implying collections of Mahyna texts within these Caitika schools.[10]


The Bahurutya school is said to have included a Bodhisattva Piaka in their canon. The Satyasiddhi stra, also called the Tattvasiddhi stra, is an extant abhidharma from the Bahurutya school. This abhidharma was translated into Chinese in sixteen fascicles (Taish Tripiaka 1646).[11] Its authorship is attributed to Harivarman, a third-century monk from central India. Paramrtha cites this Bahurutya abhidharma as containing a combination of Hnayna and Mahyna doctrines, and Joseph Walser agrees that this assessment is correct.[12]


The Prajaptivdins held that the Buddha's teachings in the various piakas were nominal (Skt. prajapti), conventional (Skt. savti), and causal (Skt. hetuphala).[13] Therefore all teachings were viewed by the Prajaptivdins as being of provisional importance, since they cannot contain the ultimate truth.[14] It has been observed that this view of the Buddha's teachings is very close to the fully developed position of the Mahyna stras.[15][16]


Scholars at present have "a nearly complete collection of stras from the Sarvstivda school"[17] thanks to a recent discovery in Afghanistan of roughly two-thirds of Drgha gama in Sanskrit. The Madhyama gama (Taish Tripiaka 26) was translated by Gautama Saghadeva, and is available in Chinese. The Sayukta gama (Taish Tripiaka 99) was translated by Guabhadra, also available in Chinese translation. The Sarvstivda is therefore the only early school besides the Theravada for which we have a roughly complete Stra Piaka. The Srvstivda Vinaya Piaka is also extant in Chinese translation, as are the seven books of the Sarvstivda Abhidharma Piaka. There is also the encyclopedic Abhidharma Mahvibha stra (Taish Tripiaka 1545), which was held as canonical by the Vaibhika Sarvstivdins of northwest India.


Portions of the Mlasrvstivda Tripiaka survive in Tibetan translation and Nepalese manuscripts.[18] The relationship of the Mlasrvstivda school to Sarvstivda school is indeterminate; their vinayas certainly differed but it is not clear that their Stra Piaka did. The Gilgit manuscripts may contain gamas from the Mlasrvstivda school in Sanskrit.[19] The Mlasrvstivda Vinaya Piaka survives in Tibetan translation. The Gilgit manuscripts also contain vinaya texts from the Mlasrvstivda school in Sanskrit.[20]


A complete version of the Drgha gama (Taish Tripiaka 1) of the Dharmaguptaka school was translated into Chinese by Buddhayaas and Zhu Fonian () in the Later Qin dynasty, dated to 413 CE. It contains 30 stras in contrast to the 34 suttas of the Theravadin Dgha Nikya. A.K. Warder also associates the extant Ekottara gama (Taish Tripiaka 125) with the Dharmaguptaka school, due to the number of rules for monks and nuns, which corresponds to the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya.[21] The Dharmaguptaka Vinaya is also extant in Chinese translation (Taish Tripiaka 1428), and Buddhist monks and nuns in East Asia adhere to the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya.

The Dharmaguptaka Tripiaka is said to have contained a total of five piakas.[22] These included a Bodhisattva Piaka and a Mantra Piaka (Ch. ''), also sometimes called a Dhra Piaka.[23] According to the 5th century Dharmaguptaka monk Buddhayaas, the translator of the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya into Chinese, the Dharmaguptaka school had assimilated the Mahyna Tripiaka (Ch. ).[24]


The Mahsaka Vinaya is preserved in Chinese translation (Taish Tripiaka 1421), translated by Buddhajva and Zhu Daosheng in 424 CE.


Small portions of the Tipiaka of the Kyapya school survive in Chinese translation. An incomplete Chinese translation of the Sayukta gama of the Kyapya school by an unknown translator circa the Three Qin () period (352-431 CE) survives.[25]

In the Theravada school

The complete Tripiaka set of the Theravda school is written and preserved in Pali in the Pali Canon. Buddhists of the Theravda school use the Pali variant Tipitaka to refer what is commonly known in English as the Pali Canon.

In Mahyna schools

The term Tripiaka had tended to become synonymous with Buddhist scriptures, and thus continued to be used for the Chinese and Tibetan collections, although their general divisions do not match a strict division into three piakas.[26] In the Chinese tradition, the texts are classified in a variety of ways,[27] most of which have in fact four or even more piakas or other divisions.

As a title

The Chinese form of Tripiaka, "snzng" (), was sometimes used as an honorary title for a Buddhist monk who has mastered the teachings of the Tripiaka. In Chinese culture this is notable in the case of the Tang Dynasty monk Xuanzang, whose pilgrimage to India to study and bring Buddhist text back to China was portrayed in the novel Journey to the West as "Tang Sanzang" (Tang Dynasty Tripiaka Master). Due to the popularity of the novel, the term "snzng" is often erroneously understood as a name of the monk Xuanzang. One such screen version of this is the popular 1979 Monkey (TV series).

The modern Indian scholar Rahul Sankrityayan is sometimes referred to as Tripitakacharya in reflection of his familiarity with the Tripiaka.

Edited by RoseFairy - 10 September 2013 at 3:02am

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Ms.S.K. IF-Addictz

Joined: 04 September 2005
Posts: 55239

Posted: 10 September 2013 at 1:29am | IP Logged
@rosefairy.  thanks for sharing and the indepth research you have done Hug
I knew a bit of history on Buddha but now becoming more knowledgeable thanks to you and the show

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