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The Diffusion and Geographic History of Buddhism until 1500

INTRODUCTION Buddhism is one of the oldest religions in the world. It has a unique history and rich traditions. From its origins until the 1500’s Buddhism was spread to China, Japan, Korea, and other Central Asian countries by monks traveling on the Silk Road. Buddhists also traveled to Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and other Southeast Asian countries by land and by sea. EARLY LIFE OF SIDDHARTHA GAUTAMA Siddhartha Gautama was born around 623 BC to King Suddhodana, a Shakya leader, and Queen Mahamaya, a Koliyan princess. (Plyadassi). Indian tradition dictates that when a child is to be born, the mother is to travel to the land of her father to birth the child. When Gautama was due to come into the world, Queen Mahamaya started her journey to her father’s kingdom, but could not make it and gave birth standing up while holding on to a Sal tree in Lumbini. (Harvey). He was raised in the Kingdom of Kapilvastu, also in the area of modern day Nepal just below the Himalayan Mountains. He was married at age 16 to Yasadhara and had a son named Rahula (Harvey). This marriage was arranged by his father. Gautama spent 29 years luxuriously shielded from religious study and any kind of human suffering. This greatly dissatisfied him and he made the decision to find out what it was like outside the kingdom walls. ASCETIC LIFE

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Shortly thereafter Gautama set out to see exactly what was on the other side. Gautama had contact with four worldly figures. The first encounter was with an old man, who told him all people will eventually grow old. Moved by this, he journeyed on and eventually came across a sick man, a corpse, and a wise man. After experiencing these encounters, it was then Siddhartha Gautama decided that human suffering needed to end. Gautama went back to his family, bid them farewell, and ventured out to seek a monastic way of life. (Harvey 18). Gautama traveled the lands of northern India in search of a way to end human suffering. He started studying deep meditation and at the same time abstained from any worldly indulgences. At the age of thirty five, he was still seeking a full enlightenment. One day, under a Bodhi tree, after 45 days of a daily grain of rice and deep meditation, he eventually found the enlightenment he dutifully sought. From this day on, he was referred to as “The Awakened One”, or simply, Buddha. For the next 45 years, Buddha and his followers traveled the North Indian River Plains, Eastern India, parts of modern day Pakistan, Southern Nepal, and most areas of Bangladesh spreading the teachings and ways to Enlightenment. The Mahaparinibbana Sutta of the Pali canon states that when Buddha reached 80 yrs old, he announced that he will soon be surrendering his humanness. Buddha then ate his final meal, fell ill, and died. (Nanamoli) BUDDHISM IN INDIA

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Soon after the cremation of Buddha, The First Council of Buddhism, met in Rajagrha, a city in what is now the Indian state of Bihar. The purpose of the meeting was to uphold Buddha’s last wishes to follow no leader, but to follow his teachings (Vinaya) and spread the Buddhist wisdom (Dharma). (Prebish) One hundred years following Buddha’s death, the Second Council met in the city of Vaishali, in Bihar, India. There was a disagreement among the monks regarding the Vinaya, as dome of the monks were breaking rules of Vinaya, so the meeting was established in hopes of finding a resolution (Olsen). It was ultimately decided that any monk that went against any of the Buddhist disciplines would be reprimanded. In 3rd Century CE, Emporer Ashoka called the Third Council to be held in Pataliputra, a city in NC India on the Ganges River. There appeared to be an abundance of monks who were monastic simply for the royalty and not for the discipline. The Council met to rid the order of these heretics (Olsen) There were actually two Fourth Buddhist Councils, but it’s the 2nd Fourth Council that was held in Jalandhar in modern day Kashmir. Emperor Kanishka called this council in 1st Century CE to discuss the Sarvastivada School of Buddhism. (Skilton) Buddhism thrived in India under the rule of Emperor Ashoka (273-272 BCE) of the Maurya Empire. During the time of his rule, the kingdom stretched from India, to modern day Afghanistan, sections of Persia, and some of South Asia. (Thapar)

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The 1st-3rd century CE saw Buddhism flourish in the Kushan Kingdom under Emperor Kanishka. Buddhist art started to spread outside of India, into parts of Asia. It was also at this time that Buddha took on a human form in art. (Skilton) The Pala Buddhist Dynasty ruled for four centuries (750-1120AD) and was the last of the Buddhist stronghold in India. During this era, Buddhism formed many schools and orders, and produced a number of Buddhist scholars. (Singh) The Pala Empire fell in the 12th Century, and Buddhism started to fall right along with it. Muslims started to conquer parts of India and destroyed Buddhist monasteries and other Buddhist significance. By the 19th Century, Buddhism was extinct in India. (Singh) BUDDHISM IN CHINA There are conflicting accounts of how and when Buddhism was established in China. A European account states that Emperor Ashoka sent an Indian monk to China around 256 BCE Chinese reports state that Buddhism was already established by 246 BCE. Also, China reports that Emperor Wu of Han worshiped Golden statues, yet there are no mention of this in Buddhist records. Officially, Buddhism arrived in China in 67 BCE and cropped up near the Haui River in Central China. It probably arrived to the area via the Silk Road that traveled through central Asia. Chinese translations of Buddhist texts were first noted in 148 CE by missionary An Shih Kao. He had Buddhist

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temples built in the West Central city of Luoyang. This helped solidify the religion in central China. In 166 CE, Buddhism was officially announced as a religion in China during the Han Dynasty. Buddhism continued to travel along the Silk Road through Central Asia. This allowed for nearly 98 Buddhist works in different languages to be translated into Chinese. The Chinese Canon still recognizes 52 of these translations. Because of these translations, Buddhism became widespread in the country and a monastic order was established. (Kitagawa) IN 220, the Han Dynasty fell, yet Buddhism continued to thrive. By 514, there were roughly 2 million Buddhists in China, and extravagant temples and monasteries were built to accommodate the masses. (Shaughnessy) The 5th century saw a North and south split of political rule. Buddhism survived the split, yet North China favored the religion more than the South. This is because Taoism and Confucianism was still a heavy influence to the people of southern China. Eventually, ideologies of Buddhism would converge and unite the societies with one religion. The capitol city of Xi’an would be a main forefront in Buddhism. From here, the religion branched out to Korea and made a showing in Japan. (Tanaka) The display of Buddhist art was prominent along the Silk Road in China. The Mogao Caves, or Caves of the Thousand Buddhas in Dunhuang of the Gansu Province boasts some of the most beautiful Buddhist art spanning 1000 years. Additionally, grottoes near Luoyang in Henan Province and Datong in Shanxi Province are also known for their exquisite Buddhist art.

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( Lastly, the Leshan Giant Buddha is a dominant statue of Buddha located at the convergence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers south Sichuan province in China (Digest). The Tang Dynasty witnessed the decline of Buddhism in China. Some 4600 Buddhist monasteries and 40,000 Buddhist temples were ordered to be destroyed by Emperor Wuzong around 845. During this time, roughly 250,000 Buddhist monks and nuns had to forego their monastic life in China. (Adler). Buddhism never fully gained a foothold in ancient China after this. MOVEMENT TO SRI LANKA Buddhism in Sri Lanka has the longest continuous history. It was established here in 2nd century BCE and has been the dominant religion here ever since. (Perera).Emperor Ashoka of India sent his son, Mahinda, on a mission trip to this area with the goal of introducing Buddhism to the cults of the Sri Lankan people. Mahinda traveled to the capital city of Anuraadhapura where people gathered to hear the wisdom of Buddha. After the initial presentation, it was noted that flocks of women gathered to become disciples of the religion (Perera). This started the stronghold of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Emperor Ashoka, upon hearing of this triumph, sent a Bodhi Tree sapling to the people of Sri Lanka. When it arrived in Anuradhapura, it was planted in the Garden of Mahaamegha, where it still thrives today (Perera). Mahinda stayed in Sri Lanka until his death at the age of 79. Some 20 years after his death, the religion of Buddhism was threatened in Sri Lanka. The sacred city of Anuradhapura was taken over by a rogue ruler of south

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India. He and his group did not hold Buddhist beliefs, thus, creating strife in the country (Perera) . This went on for nearly 44 years, yet the people of Sri Lanka never relinquished their Buddhist faith. Twenty years later, the rogue rulers were overthrown, and once again, Buddhism was allowed to thrive (Ratnasinghe). During the reign of Vattagamani Abhaya (103-77 BC), Buddhism again, saw controversy in Sri Lanka. Shortly after he took over the throne, Tiya, a Brahman from Ruhuna, South Lanka, revolted yet was defeated. Also during this time, a great famine caused monks and other Buddhist figures to die of starvation. This caused desertions of monasteries and a wave of Buddhist refugee monks traveled to India (Perera). The 5th century also saw a decline in Buddhism after several centuries of relative stability. Continuous warfare in the country did not allow for rulers to concentrate on Buddhism, therefore, it was mostly neglected by officials. This period of unrest lasted until about 1070 (Perera) . Vijayabaahu I became the ruler of Sri Lanka in 1070, moved the capitol to Polonnaruwa, and restored the ruined Buddhist monasteries and temples. From 1153-1186, King Paraakramabaahu the Great took over when Vijayabaahu I died (Perera). He set forth to restore the ancient capital of Anuraadhapura which was overgrown with trees. He also restored monuments and temples that were left to ruin. He also united the entire country under one single order of Buddhism (Perera). Buddhism continued to rise and decline in Sri Lanka until 1500, but never faltered completely.

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ARRIVAL OF BUDDHISM IN JAPAN When Buddhism arrived in Japan in 538 by way of Korean Buddhist monks, Shinto was already an established religion in the country. Most clans in Japan rejected the introduction of Buddhism, but with the help of the highly influential Soga clan, the religion took hold (Matsunami). During the reign of Empress Suiko (554-628 AD) and Prince Shotoku, Buddhism was recognized as the official religion of Japan. They believed that the only way to peace and unity in the country was through the beliefs of Buddhism (Matsunami). Because of the Prince’s devotion, the rulers ordered Buddhist temples to be built throughout Japan, the most famous being the Horyu-ji Temple near Nara, Japan (Matsunami). Even after the death of Prince Shotoku, Buddhism continued to flourish during the Nara Period (710-784 AD). Emperor Shomu ordered national temples of Buddhism to be built in ever province of Japan. These are known as kokubunji and were not only used for worship, but served as cultural centers for the provinces. In 784, the Buddhist capital of Japan moved from Nara to Kyoto. It was here that the order of Tendai Buddhism was introduced and Buddhism and Shinto ultimately combined. Around 805 AD the Shingon school of Buddhism was also developed on Mount Koya, just south of modern day Osaka (Matsunami). Throughout this period, Buddhism was mainly confined to nobles, monks, artists, and scholars. During the Kamakura Period (1192-1333 AD), Buddhism was finally spread amongst the lower class of citizens. Five more schools of Buddhism were also developed in Kamakura (Matsunami).

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Buddhism continued to flourish throughout the ancient period and witnessed the establishment of powerful Buddhist institutions and Zen Temples throughout Japan. Mount Hiei and Mount Koya because centrally dominant locations for Japanese Buddhism (Matsunami). DEVELOPMENT OF BUDDHISM IN KOREA Korea was divided into three kingdoms at the time Buddhism was introduced. These kingdoms were Koguryo in the north, Packche was in the southwest, and Silla in the southeast. Buddhism first entered Korea through the Koguryo Kingdom by way of China. Around the year 372, a Chinese monk was invited to visit the kingdom. Upon his visit, he brought Chinese Buddhist texts and written principles to the kingdom. These texts were of great interest to the people of Koguryo as the philosophies paralleled those of their current Shamanism beliefs. From the Koguryo kingdom, Buddhism traveled to Packche, in the southwest. Buddhism was well received in this region; so much so that Korean monks traveled to Japan to spread the philosophy. Buddhism is now traveling to the Kingdom of Silla. It was here that Buddhism took its strongest hold in the country. It became the official religion of the Silla. The famous monk, Won-Hyo came from this area. Around the year 668, the Kingdom of Silla conquered Koguryo and Packche. The unification transition of the three kingdoms was eased by the peaceful philosophy of the religion. Buddhism also strongly unified the people of Korea. They embraced the Philosophy of “One Mind” as taught by Won-Hyo.

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Buddhism grew strong during this period and many branches of the religion were studied. Meditation was also introduced. During this time, nine Buddhist schools were developed, and were referred to as the Nine Mountains of Zen. The Koryo Dynasty took over the Silla’s at this time (935-1392). Buddhism also remained the national religion. A famous monk of these times was Ui-Chon. He brought in two more thoughts of Buddhism: Zen and Textual. (This entire section was taken strictly from my lecture notes from Pynn Lecture) INFLUENCE OF BUDDHISM IN SOUTHEAST ASIA The exact dates of the Buddhist introduction to the country of Vietnam are relatively unknown, yet it is speculated that it first entered Vietnam at the end of the 1st century. By the 2nd century, it had become fully established. It was brought over by Indian and Central Asian monks by both land and sea ( Buddhism was recognized as an official religion in Vietnam during the Dinh Dynasty (968-980). It remained official throughout the Ly Dynasty (1009-1225) and into the early parts of the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400). During the Tran Dynasty, Buddhism intermingled with Confucianism and had its ups and downs throughout ancient Vietnam history (Anson). Reports that Buddhism was in Cambodia go back as far as 100 BC. Documents show that the Funan Kingdom (100 BC-500 AD) made contact with Buddhist missionaries in the area of present day Mekong Delta, yet an

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exact date is not known. Later on, between 500-700 AD, civilizations near the Mekong and Sap Rivers in Chenla were influenced by Theravada Buddhists from Thailand. (Santi). Buddhism and Hinduism were worshipped simultaneously throughout the times in ancient Cambodia. The Sailendra Dynasty was headed by Buddhist and during this time elaborate temples were built. King Suryavarman II oversaw the construction of the now sacred Angkor Wat Temple in Angkor, Cambodia. Its purpose is to symbolize Mount Meru, or the Center of the Buddhist Universe. The main school of Buddhism practiced during this time was Mahayana (Santi). Due to the country of Laos being landlocked between Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, etc, both Buddhism and Hinduism brought influence to the country ( Although introduced by the Kingdom of Dvaravati during the 7th and 8th centuries, it was the Nan-chao Kingdom that reinforced the practice of Buddhism in Laos. The Northern Laotian Kingdom of Luang Prabang influenced the change from Theravada Buddhism to Mahayana Buddhism during the 11th and 12th centuries ( Burma (Myanmar) has a strong history of Buddhism. Sacred texts were brought to Burma by monks of the Indian Emperor Ashoka. The religion remained unscathed for several centuries in Burma. In 1057, a newly converted King Anawrahta of Bagan conquered the city of Thaton in hopes of acquiring the Buddhist canon, Tipitaka (Bischoff). As different Dynasties took over, Buddhism continued as the primary religion in this area. Buddhism reached Thailand in the form of Theravada Buddhism in 6th century AD, but was not recognized as an official religion of the country until

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the 13th Century. Many historians though, report that Emperor Ashoka brought Buddhism to Thailand around 228 BC by way of one of his monks. Officially, the city of Nakon Pathom was the first in Thailand to sponsor the religion (Kusalasaya). Buddhism remained constant throughout the ancient history of Thailand and gained influences from Burma, China, and Cambodia (Kusalasaya). CONCLUSION Despite the advancements and retreats of Buddhism throughout ancient history, it remained (and still does) a strong religion in Asian countries. Many schools of thought were introduced, discarded, and manipulated, yet one thing remains the forefront of Buddhist thought: Enlightenment and end of human suffering. Luckily, this was important to the ancient rulers of Asia as they believed this was the only way to bring peace and unity to their Kingdoms.

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Buddha’s Spiritual Path

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