Buddhism - Indian History Part I:
I have always been fascinated with the richness of Indian culture, the formation of society. It is more interesting and nice to know as to how we have evolved over time and where we are now. I usually ponder over in the internet and other resources to read about Indian Mideval history.
My major area of interest were to know first hand as to why we consider things that we feel are values, the values that we follow in our daily life, why do we give so much importance to our families and social binding, why we have festivals, why we respect our elders and why we are more adjustable and tolerant ones when compared to other regions.
Before even getting into the above topics which needs a huge research into our history, I want to let you know a bit interesting subject of Buddhism. Why suddenly Buddhism? Cause this is the religion that is founded in India, once it was "THE Religion" in India, almost pushed Hinduism to its extinction, but such a popular religion in the 13th Century, suddenly disappeared from our Subcontinent. The more fascinating thing is that it is still popular in other countries like Srilanka, Japan, Tibet, Thailand, China, where it was spread, but doesn't even have a considerable percentage of people in India where it originated. Don't you think we are missing some thing here?
To know more about it, let see a brief history of Buddhism:
(I have collected the events below from no of sources in the web)
6th Century BC:
Birth Of Buddha and his Early Life:
He was born a prince circa 563 BCE in Lumbinī in the Terai lowlands near the foothills of the Himalayas. At the time, this was part of northern India. It is now part of Nepal, a small country located between India and Tibet. He was a member of the Śăkyas clan. His father, Suddhodana, was king of the clan. His mother was named Maya.
He was given the name Siddhărtha Gautama. Siddhărtha means "one who has achieved his aim." Gautama was his clan name. He was sometimes referred to as Śăkyamuni which means "the sage of the Śăkyas."
Śăkyamuni was raised as a Hindu. His parents assumed that he would succeed his father later in his life. His parents were concerned about a prophecy that astrologers gave at the time of his birth. They predicted that he would become either a universal monarch or a monk who would be a great religious teacher. His parents raised him in a state of luxury in the hope that he would become attached to earthly things and to pleasure. This would make it less likely that he choose the religious life.
At the age of 16, he was married to his wife Yaśodhară. When he was 29, his wife had a son, Răhula. Shortly after his son's birth, some sources say that he took four journeys by chariot. Other sources say he had four visions. During the first trip/vision he was deeply disturbed by seeing an elderly, helpless, frail man. On the second, he saw an emaciated and depressed man suffering from an advanced disease. On the third, he spotted a grieving family carrying the corpse of one of their own to a cremation site. He reflected deeply upon the suffering brought about by old age, illness and death. On his fourth trip/vision, he saw a religious mendicant -- a śramaņa -- who led a reclusive life of meditation, and was calm and serene. The four encounters motivated him to follow the path of the mendicant and find a spiritual solution to the problems brought about by human suffering.
He left his wife, child, luxurious lifestyle, and future role as a leader of his people in order to seek truth. It was an accepted practice at the time for some men to leave their family and lead the life of an ascetic in Hinduism.
Pranayama and Other Meditation forms Pracised by Hindu Saints:
He first tried meditation, which he learned from two teachers. He felt that these were valuable skills. However, meditation could not be extended forever, He eventually had to return to normal waking consciousness and face the unsolved problems relating to birth, sickness, old age and death.
He then joined a group of similarly-minded students of Brahmanism in a forest where he practiced breath control and fasted severely for six years. He is said to have brought himself to the brink of death by only eating a few grains of rice each day. Some sources say that he consumed only a spoonful of bean soup per day. This technique produced a series of physical discomforts. Ultimately, he rejected this path as well. He realized that neither the extremes of the mortification of the flesh or of hedonism would lead to enlightenment. He determined that a better path to achieve the state of Nirvana -- a state of liberation and freedom from suffering -- was to pursue a "Middle Way." This way was largely defined by moderation and meditation.
One night In 535 BCE, at the age of 35, he was seated underneath a large tree -- later known as the Bodhi tree (species Pipal or ficus religiosus). He began to experience some major breakthroughs:
During the first watch of the night, he developed the ability to recall the events of his previous reincarnations in detail.
During the second watch, he was able to see how the good and bad deeds that many living entities performed during their lifetimes led to their subsequent reincarnation into their next life.
During the third watch, he learned that he had progressed beyond "spiritual defilements," craving, desire, hatred, hunger, thirst, exhaustion, fear, doubt, and delusions. He had attained nirvana. He would never again be reincarnated into a future life.
He had attained enlightenment! "He became a savior, deliverer, and redeemer." The events under the Bodhi tree are often described in mythological terms in Buddhist literature and art. His experiences are portrayed as a battle with Măra, the Buddhist equivalent of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic Satan.
5th Century BC:
First Buddhist Council at Rajagaha (486) after the Parinirvana*, under the patronage of King Ajatasattu.
Parinirvana – Death of Buddha.
4th Century BC:
Second Buddhist Council at Vesali (386) about 100 year after the Parinirvana. First schism of the Sangha occurs in which the Mahasanghika school parts ways with the Sthaviravadins and the Theravadins.
Non-canonical Buddhist Council at Pataliputra (367)
3rd Century BC
Reign of Indian Emperor Asoka (272-231) who converts and establishes the Buddha's Dharma on a national level for the first time. Third Buddhist Council at Pataliputra (250) under the patronage of Emperor Asoka about 200 years after the Parinirvana.
The modern Pali Tipitaka now essentially complete.
Asoka's son and missionary Ven. Mahinda established Buddhism in Sri Lanka (247)
2nd Century BC
The beginnings of Mahayana Buddhism (20O).
Composition of Prajnaparamita literature. Historical record has it that two Buddhist missionaries from India in 68 AD, arrived at the court of Emperor Ming (58-75) of the Han Dynasty. They enjoyed imperial favour and stayed on to translate various Buddhist Texts, one of which, The 'Sutra of Forty-two Sections' continues to be popular even today.
1st Century BC Buddist Year 444
The entire scriptural canon of the Theravada School was committed to writing on palm leaves in Pali at the Aloka Cave, near Matale, Sri Lanka (35-32) . The Milinda-pańha or Questions of King Milinda to Ven. Nagasena.
1st Century CE Buddist Year 544
King Kaniska (78-101) convened the Fourth Buddhist Council at Jalandhar or in Kashmir around 100 C.E. (Not recognized by the Theravadins).
Buddhism established in Cambodia 100 C.E and in Vietnam 150 C.E.
• Composition of Lotus Sutra & other Mahayana Buddhist texts.
• Buddhism enters Central Asia and China.
• The Buddha first represented in art in human form.
3rd Century CE
Expansion of Buddhism to Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
The Yogacara (meditation) school was founded by Maitreyanatha (3rd century).
Buddhist influence in Persia spreads through trade.
4th Century CE
• Asanga (310-390) and his brother Vasubandhu (420-500) prominent teachers of the Yogacara school of Buddhism.
• Development of Vajrayana Buddhism in India.
• Translation of Buddhist texts into Chinese by Kumarajiva (344-
413) and Hui-yüan (334-416).
• Buddhism enters Korea (372).
5th Century CE
• Buddhist monastic university founded at Nalanda, India.
• Buddhaghosa composes the Visuddhimagga and major commentaries in Sri Lanka.
• Buddhism established in Burma and Korea.
• Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hsien visits India (399-414).
• Amitabha (Amida) Pure Land sect emerges in China.
• Sri lankan Theravadin nuns introduce full ordination lineage into China (433).
• Mahayana Buddhism was introduced into Java, Sumatra, Borneo
6th Century BE
• Bodhidharma founder of Ch'an (Zen) arrives in China from
• Sui Dynasty in Chinese History (589-617) beginning of Golden Age of Chinese Buddhism.
• Development of T'ien-tai, Hua-yen, Pure Land, and Ch'an
schools of Chinese Buddhism.
• Buddhism enters Japan (538) becomes state religion (594).
• Buddhism flourishing in Indonesia.
• Jataka Tales translated into Persian by King Khusru (531-579).
10th and 11th Century BE
These centuries are very important as they give the declination of Buddism in Central Asia (in 10th century) and by 11th century Buddhism declines in India.
The Declination of Buddhism is due to revitalization of Hindusim in India by three successive great Hindu Saints Sri Shankara, Sri Ramanuja and Sri Madhava.
These three saints virtually bought back Hinduism to India and removed the Buddhist dominance in the India.
Now that we have some breif history of Buddhism in India, i shall elaborate on the basic principles of this great religion on my next post.