Buddhism: Chronology and History


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Buddhism in India Before 1500 BCE
2200-1500 BCE
1500-1000 BCE
1000-500 BCE
563-483 BCE
500-250 BCE
269-232 BCE
Formation of Schools of Indian Buddhism
Buddhism in Ceylon 400-200 BCE
247 BCE
250-210 BCE
3rd Century BCE
4th Century BCE
Buddhism in Vietnam 111 BCE
2nd Century BCE
3rd Century BCE
580 BCE
820 BCE
968-980 CE
Buddhism in Korea 1st Century CE
372-384 CE
528 CE
6th and 7th Centuries CE
935-1392 CE
14th and 15th Centuries CE
Buddhism in China Table of Chinese Dynasties
Centuries Before 1st Century BCE
1st Century BCE-1st Century CE
61-64 CE
2nd Century CE
200-400 CE
420-588 CE
589-617 CE
618-906 CE
Chinese Buddhist Schools and Sects
Buddhism in Japan Chronology of Japanese Historical Periods
538 CE
710-794 CE
794 CE
1192 CE
Buddhism in Tibet Origins of Tibetian Buddhism
Lineage of the Dalai Lama
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Buddhism: A History and Chronology

Buddhism in India

Before 2200 BCE:

- Indus Valley Civilization
- refers to people living in the Indus River Valley in India in the third millenium BCE (c. 2500 BCE)
- significant evidence for the worship of goddesses in conjunction with bull or ram figures
- Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were the principle cities of the region, c. 2500-1250 BCE
- the region was well-organized with evidence of well-developed societies, scholarship, etc.

2200-1500 BCE:

-Indus Valley civilization disappears (due to possible invasion by Aryans arriving c.1500 BCE?)
-Religious oral traditions and hymns began to be collected

1000-500 BCE:
-The Vedas and the religious diversity of Hinduism is rooted in the Indus Valley civilization
-Collection of Expositions, which include Brahmanas and Upanisads, which are also included in the scriptures of Hinduism
-The upanisads are a written composite and philosophical exploration on works orally composed.
-They intend to present the meaning of religious practice and thought up against or in response to the Vedas.
-a few centuries before the life of Buddha, a tradition of Wanderers wanted liberation, and were the early roots of Buddhism.
-Two kinds of Wanderers:

563-483 BCE:

-Life of The Buddha, or Siddhartha Gautama, "The Buddha"
* Buddha is the great teacher from the Buddhist tradition
* his teachings are based in the Vedic tradition
* referred to as the "enlightened one" or "one who has awakened"
-Brief chronology of Siddhartha's life:
* born into the ksatriya varna as son and heir of a local ruler
* accidentally attained a meditational experience in youth
* sneaks out of the palace and finds and old man, a sick man, a corpse, and an ascetic; IE: the Four Passing Sights
* wants to overcome the sickness, suffering, and death in the world that he witnessed in those 4 people
* age 29, Siddhartha renounces the world and begins the path to enlightenment
* when enlightened, Siddhartha, now "The Buddha," experiences the cornerstone of the 4 Noble Truths and the 4 dhyanas
* Buddha dies around 483 BCE
* Note: Siddhartha's birth and death dates are controversial. It is widely held in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia that Siddhartha's life spanned from 624-544 BCE, and in Europe, America, and India from c.566-486 BCE, and further in Japan from 448-368 BCE.

500-250 BCE

-period of the 4 Councils of Buddhism
* First Council (after Buddha's death c. 483 BCE)
--location: Rajagrha
--500 monks gathered to compile Siddhartha's teachings (into a sort of canon), establishing a direction for Buddhism after Siddhartha's death
* Second Council (c.383 or 373 BCE)
--location: Vaisali
--questioning of the 10 points
--possible time of the Great Schism according to some sources
* "Second" Second Council, or 2/3 Council (around 346 BCE)
--location: Pataliputra
--first true Great Schism of Buddhism, where the Samgha, or Buddhist order/group split into two separate schools, called Mahasamghikas and Sthaviras
* Third Council (c.250 BCE)
--location: Pataliputra
--schism again occurs to separate a third school called sarastivadins
--Asoka(c. 270-230 BCE) was overseer

269-232 BCE

-Asoka is the third monarch of the Mauryan Dynasty in India
* c.258, Asoka leads a bloody military campaign in the village/region of Kalinga
* the witness of such carnage inspired his conversion to Buddhism
* as a king, he brought India together
* referred to as the pious ruler, establishing a sense of social justice in the region (ie. social service, medical care, humane treatment of the masses)
* became a lay disciple
* ruled over the third council
* sent out missionary efforts to spread Buddhism to other places, i.g: Indian sub-continent, Burma, Sri Lanka, etc.
* Dharma-conquest -- reigned with good moral principles

Nagarjuna (c.150-250 CE):

-associated with the Madhyamika school of Mahayana Buddhism
-advocate of the Middle Way between asceticism and hedonism in Buddhist practice
-remembered for his teachings on emptiness or sunyata
-confusion about the biography of Nagarjuna persists, as texts are attributed to him over a five hundred year period
-his principle work is Mulamadhyamikakariakas, in which he critically examines other schools of Buddhism of his time period

Asanga (c.315-390 CE):

-founder of the yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism
-emphasized the practice of Yoga or meditation (hence, Yogacara)
-the elder brother of the prominent Buddhist philosopher, Vasubandhu
-known for his treatise on The Seventeen Stages of yoga, as instructed by bodhisattva Maitreya
-also, Asanga's Abhidharmasamuccaya attempts to exlicate the elements of phenomenal existence from the perspective of the Yogacara school

Vasubandhu (forth or fifth century CE):

-converted from Abhidharma Buddhism to Mahayana
-followed his brother Asanga in converting from Abhidhgarma Buddhism to Mahayan Buddhism, in particular, the Yogacara school (eventually the Vijnanavada school for Vasubandhu)
-he is connected historically to three distinct persons, and thus his biography is not clear
-later in life he moves from a concentration on Yoga practice to Buddhist theory
-he was the author of Abhidharmakosa, an encyclopedic work on Buddhist doctrines and philosophy
-Author of Vimsatika (20 verses) and Trimsika (30 verses)

Dignaga (c.480-540 CE:)

-the ascribed founder of Buddhist logic
-early on, affiliated with the vatsiputriya school of Abhidhgarma Buddhism, later the Nayaya school
-studied under the great buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu (Vijnana-vada phiosophy)
-thought to have written more than a hundred treatises on logic
-was the first Buddhist thinker to consider seriously the "validity or invalidity" of knowledge

Paramartha (c.498-569 CE):

-a notable biographer, missionary and translater of the Buddhist tradition
-studied at the famous Universtity of Nalanda
-spent a considerable amount of time "on mission" in china
-while in China he sitinguished himself as a translator of Sanskrit scriptures into chinese (translating the equivalent of 275 volumes in Chinese)
-he was largely responsible for the introduction of Vasubandhu's philosophy to China

Dharmapala (c.530-561 CE):

-associated with the yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism
-his most influential work is the Parmattha-dipani
-principally responded to the work of an earlier thinker, that of Buddhagosha
-studied at the famous University of Nalanda, later becoming its abbot
-made significant contributions to the Buddhist discussion of "self" and consciousness from a Yogacara school perspective
-a Chinese pilgrim-monk who travelled to India in search of the roots of the Mahayana buddhist tradition (late Sui and early T'ang dynasties)
-great Buddhist scholar and advisor to the emperor of China
-studied extensively both the Abhidhgarma and Mahayana Buddhist traditions, as well as the contemporary, standard Vedic curriculum
-he contributed significanly to the Chinese Buddhist canon as a translator of Indian texts into chinese (this was well funded bye the Chinese government, as he had excellent connections)
-his work in its more pure form lives on in the Hosso school of Japanese Buddhism

Dharmakirti (c.600-660 CE):

-in early life Dharmakirti studied extensively the scholarship of the Vedas and other buddhist phiosophy
-he eventually pursued the study of logic, following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Dignaga
-was the student of a direct pupil's of Dignaga
-widely considered a genius of his time, Dharmakirti's theory of knowledge forced numerous revisions within the works of other thinkers and other traditions
-significantly, he challenged the divine infallibility of the Vedas

Formation of Schools of Indian Buddhism

Buddhism Outside India: Southeast Asia

(Sri Lanka)

247 BCE

-One possible view of Buddhism in spread into Ceylon
-Asoka, emperor of India, sends Mahinda to Ceylon on a missionary trip, who introduces Buddhism to Ceylon

250-210 BCE:

-Second possible view of Buddhism is spread into Ceylon
-Devanampiyatissa leads the conversion of the island

3rd Century CE:

-A sect of Vaitulyavada makes an enterance into Ceylon

4th Century CE:


111 BCE:

-Meu-Po, a Buddhist fugitive from China, propogates Mahayana Sutras in Vietnam

2nd Century CE:

-A-Ham, one of the 2 major Vietnamese sects of Buddhism, begins to take shape

3rd Century CE:

-Mahayana and Abhidhgarma missionaries travel through Vietnam

580 CE:

-Vinitaruci spreads second major Vietnamese Buddhist school, called Thien

820 CE:

-Vo-ngon-Thong continues to develop the Thien school of Buddhism

968-980 CE:

-Dinh Bo-Linh spreads a form of Buddhism known as Amidism


1st Century CE:

-Korea's early development is intimately tied to its relations with China (keeping in mind that the process of development is interactive)
-Earliest form of religion in Korea is called Shamanism
-Chinese colonies spring up in Korea
-Buddhism is transmitted to Korea during the Three Kingdoms Period (c.370-670CE)

372-384 CE:

-Monk Shun-tao from china introduces Buddhism to Korea
-Monk Malanada spreads Buddhism farther in 384 CE
-the first Buddhist monastery erected on Korean soil (c.376)
-broad regional reception and acceptance of Buddhism under the Seradian monk Maranani'a (c.384-onward)

528 CE:

-Monk Ichadon was martyred, and therefore this is the "official" date of introduction
-the last of the Three Kingdoms, that of Silla, embraces Buddhism

6th and 7th Centuries CE:

-in conquering the other two kingdoms, that of Koguryo and Paekehe, Silla found it politically advantageous to support the spread of Buddhism
-Korean monks are sent to China to bring back Buddhist teachings
-the scholastic schools of Chinese Buddhism were introduced into Korea
-ideologies were consolidated and new schools were organized
-Pomnany brings Ch'an (in Korean: "Son") school of Budddhism, taught by Tao-hsin, the fourth patriarch of the Chinese Ch'an school, back to Korea

935-1392 CE:

-called Koryo Period
-Buddhism reaches its peak importance at this time in Korea
-the Koryo School of Buddhism inspires a reconciliation between the Son and scholastic schools
-the unification of these two schools would occupy numerous religious figures over the next centuries

14th and 15th Centuries CE:

-Yi dynasty in power (c.1392)
-Kings were hostile toward Buddhists


Table of Chinese Dynasties

Shang 1766-1125 BCE
Chou 1122-256 BCE
Ch'in 221-206 BCE
Han 206 BCE -220 CE
The Three Kingdoms
Wu 222-280 CE
Wei 220-265 CE
Shu 221-263 CE
Western Chin 265-316 CE
Eastern Chin 317-420 CE
Liu Sung 420-479 CE
Ch'i 479-502 CE
Liang 502-557 CE
Ch'en 557-589 CE
Sui 581-618 CE
T'ang 618-907 CE
Wu-Tai 907-960 CE
Sung North 960-1127 CE
Sung South 1127-1279 CE
Yuan 1280-1368 CE
Ming 1368-1644 CE
Ch'ing 1644-1912 CE

Centuries Before 1st Century BCE:

-Taoism and Confucianism are existing religions in China

1st Century BCE - 1st Century CE:

-Buddhism begins to enter China along trade routes
-Buddhism was often mistaken for a simple form of Taoism
-Mahayana was preferred over Abhidhgarma

61-64 CE:

-Emperor Ming sends embassy to import Buddhism into China

2nd Century CE:

-Emperor Huan mentioned to worship Buddha
-Monks arrived in China to produce texts and translations

200-400 CE:

-Buddhism officially introduced at 219 CE
-Buddhism adapts to China, and to taoist religion, from 220-419 CE
-Sun-Lun school in China-founded by Kumarujiva (343-413) - was a master of translation, translating many influential Mahayana texts into Chinese

420-588 CE:

-Buddhism divides into sects.
-the death of Bodhidharma, first Chinese Ch'an patriarch (c.527 CE)


-Hsuan-i, or hidden significance commentaries are written revelaing the characteristics of each sect
-known as the period of consolidation of Buddhism in China

618-906 CE:

-In 845, Taoist Emperor Wu-tsung sends Buddhism into a decline
-The scholastic sects of Buddhism disappeared during this time-"official" representation of Buddhism
-After the death of Wu-tsung, the popular sects of Buddhism were revived
-A new school called chen-yen was started as well


-printing of the Buddhist canon begins (c.972 CE)
-the popular schools of Chinese Buddhism continued on through this period
-a Buddhist revival occured from 1890-1947, led by T'ai-hsu
-in 1949, Buddhism was suppressed by Communist leaders

-Both Honen and Shinran were Japanese
Chu-she -founded by Paramartha in 6th century CE
-organized by Hsuan-tsang from 596-664 CE
-corresponds to the Indian school Abhiharma
Fa-hsiang -founded by Paramartha
-organized by Hsuan-tsang and K'uei-chi from 632-682 CE
-corresponds to Indian school Yogacara
San-lun -founded by Kumarajiva, who lived from 344-413 CE
-organized by Tao-sheng from 360-434 CE
-corresponds to Indian school Madhyamika
Chen-yen -founded by subhakarsimba
-corresponds to Indian word 'mantra', which means 'true word'
-founded between 618-906 CE
A-pi-to-mo -founded during the Liang Dynasty
She-lun -founded during the Liang Dynasty
San-Lun -founded between 344-413 CE
Lu -founded during the T'ang Dynasty
A-pi-ta-mo -founded in 645
Ch'eng-shih T'ien-t'ai -founder: Hui-ssu (515-576 CE)
-no corresponding Indian school
-organizer: Chih-i (538-597 CE)
Hua-yen -founder: Tu-shun (557-640 CE)
-organizer: Fa-tsang (643-712 CE)
-no corresponding Indian school
Ch'an -founder: Bodhidharma (470-520 CE?)
-Bodhidharma: first Chinese patriarch
-Indian correspondence: dhyana, the word for meditation
-divided into 2 schools that later reunited under the Ming Dynasty
Lin-chi -founded by Lin-chi I-hsuan (867 CE)
-taken to Japan by Eisai (1141-1215 CE)
-known in Japan as Rinzai Zen
Ts'ao-tung -founded by Tung-shan Liang-Chich (807-869 CE) and Ts'ao-shan Pan-chi (840-901 CE)
-taken to Japan by Dogen (1200-1253 CE)
-known in Japan as Soto Zen
Ching-t'u -founder: Hui-yuan (334-416 CE)
-organizer: T'an-luan (476-542 CE)
-2 sects in Japan:
 *Jodo Shu: - pure land Buddhism started by Honen (1133-1212 CE)
 *Jodo Shinshu - true pure land Buddhism started by Shinran (1173-1262 CE)


Chronology of Japanese Historical Periods:
Jomon, Yayoi, and Kofun (prehistoric and protohistoric up to 6th century CE)
Taika 645-710
Nara 710-784
Heian 794-1185
Kamakura 1185-1333
Muromachi 1333-1568
Momoyama 1568-1600
Tokugawa 1600-1867
Meiji 1868-1911
Taisho 1912-1925
Showa 1926-1945
Postwar 1945-Present

538 CE:

-official introduction date of Buddhism into Japan
-Korean religious figures visit Japan during the 6th century with envoys spreading Buddhism in order to obtain peace with Japan
-distinguishable beginning for Buddhism in Japan (c.552 CE)
-prince regent Shotoku (died 621) helped with the early development of Japanese Buddhism by writing commentaries of scriptures
-Buddhism is declared the state religion of Japan (c.594 CE)

710-794 CE:

-known as Nara Period
-a new phase in the development of Japanese Buddhism
-Nara Buddhism: a combination of 6 academic schools from China, sprung up during this period
-6 schools of Nara Buddhism:
-Emperor Shomu, Empress Shotoku, and Hosso monk Gyogi, aided in the growth of Buddhism at this time
-the Taiho reforms of 702 CE caused some resistance to Buddhism

794 CE:

-beginning of the Heian Period in Japan
-capital of Japan is changed to Kyoto (794)
-ruler at time is Emperor Kammu
-the "high water mark" of Japanese Buddhism
-2 schools came from China: --1. Tendai (T'ien-T'ai) -- brought by Saicho (767-822 CE)
--2. Shingon (Chen-yen) -- brought by Kukai (774-835 CE)
-esoteric Buddhism (mikkyo)
-these 2 schools did clash along with the success they both found in this time period

1192 CE:

-beginning of Kamakura Period
-power held by a group of Samurai
-new schools of Buddhism begin that are strictly Japanese:

Pure Land (Jodo) Honen (1133-1212 CE) _
True Pure Land (Jodo Shinshu) Shinran (1173-1263) Shinran was a disciple of Honen
Nichiren Nichiren (1222-1282 CE) Sokagakki school founded after 1945 defeat of Japan by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi as Nichiren spinoff
Rinzai Zen (Lin-ch'i) Eisai _
Soto Zen (Ts'ao-tung) Dogen (1200-1253 CE) _


Origins of Tibetan Buddhism

-two origins: --1. Indian Buddhism coming from Gupta Dynasty
--2. Native religions of Tibet
-Indian Buddhism was spread to Tibet in 2 ways:
--1. scholars (Santarakshita) of monastic universities bringing it back
--2. wandering Tantric saints introducing it (Padma Sambhava)
----Tantric Buddhism was also influenced by Tantric Hinduism -most of Buddhist transmission occurred during the 8th century CE
-Buddhism declared the state religion of Tibet (791 CE)
-4 main sects, which are lineages of transmission from masters to diciples exist in Tibetan Buddhism
-two major sects include:
--1. rNying-ma - introduced in the 7th and 8th centuries CE
--2. dGe-lugs - introduced by Tsung-kha-pa (1357-1419 CE)
-based upon Bon, Mahayana, and Tantra
-bases itself on the "four baskets":
-four nine vehicles of Buddhism:


Gedun Truppa 1391-1475 CE
Gedun Gyatso 1475-1542
Sonam Gyatso 1543-1588
Yonten Gyatso 1589-1617
Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso 1617-1682
Tsangyang Gyatso 1683-1706
Kesang Gyatso 1708-1757
Jampel Gyatso 1758-1804
Luntok Gyatso 1806-1815
Tsultrim Gyatso 1816-1837
Khendrup Gyatso 1838-1856
Trinley Gyatso 1856-1875
Thupten Gyatso 1876-1933
Tenzin Gyatso 1935-Present