The Buddhism in India

India is the land where Buddhism originated. Lord Buddha was an Indian prince who abandoned all materialistic pleasures to find the real truth of life. His teachings today have immense significance. A whole lot of people wish to know not only about his life but also about the status of Buddhism in the country of its origin in past as well as present. Here, through this text, we have tried to trace for you the development, fall and revival of Buddhism in India, from the beginning till date. But before that, we have provided you a list of most important Buddhist attractions states, cities, monasteries, temples, monuments, caves and festivals - of India. Details of them is essential to understand the developemnt of Buddhism in India more accurately. The Indian sub-continent witnessed the rise of Buddha and then His thoughts in the later half of the 6th century BCE and the first half of the 5th century BCE. It was after 528 BCE, the year of His enlightenment, that He started preaching the doctrine of Dharma to His disciples. During His lifetime only, a large number of people had turned into His disciples, and after His death, when His chief disciple, Ananda wrote down the teachings of the Buddha into a Pali canon, Tripitaka (three baskets), it was warmly accepted by more and more people from parts of India, Pakistan and Kandhar (modern Afghanistan). Ashoka And The Spread of Buddhism However, the growth and spread of Buddhism had not taken a speed even after two Buddhist Councils in 483 BCE(Rajriha) and 383 BCE(Vaishali), till the arrival of the Indian emperor, Ashoka into the scene. It was Ashoka who gave state patronage to Buddhism and sent Buddhist missionaries to different parts of the southeast Asia and the world respectively. He also convened the third Buddhist council in 250 BCE, in which he tried for the purification of the Buddhist movement by reconciling different schools of Buddhism with different thoughts, mainly Sthaviravadins(with orthodox view) and Mahasanghikas(with liberal view).

The Persecution After the fatal Kalinga war, Ashoka converted into Buddhism and then Buddhism reached its saturation point in India. But, the situation changed after his death when Buddhism had to go through a period of despotism during the reign of PushyamitraSunga(183-147 BCE) and his successors.

The Boom After a phase of religious persecution, Buddhism again received the royal patronage in the reign of Kanishka, which continued on till 6th and 7th century BCE. Kanishka convened the fourth Buddhist council around 100 CE in Kashmir or Jalandhar. It was from this moment that Buddhism remained the most influential religion in India till 7th to 8th century CE AD, thereby inspiring great works of art, literature and philosophy and profoundly influencing the character of the Indian people.

The Schools of Buddhism Lord Buddha is said to have handed over the task of recovering and explicating the perfection of wisdom texts to Nagarjuna, who completed the task brilliantly. He has also been credited for the foundation of Madhyamaka or the middle way school of Buddhist philosophy with an emphasis on the doctrine of emptiness. It was Nagarjuna's philosophy that is connected with the emergence of Mahayana. Approximately two centuries after Nagarjuna, a new Mahayana school arose in India, known as the Yogachara or the Yogic Practice School, which gave an emphasis on meditative practices. From around the 4th century CE, a new school of thought, Vajrayana or Tantrayana Buddhism started to develop in India as a part of the Mahayana tradition, which smphasised on tantric practices. All these schools of Buddhism had their own thoughts, own practices and different line of followers.

The Nalanda University

the intermingling of Tantrayana into Hinduism. in order to inform everyone about his new political and ruling philosophy. who created the first pan-Indian empire. he got edicts (proclamation) inscribed on stone pillars and placed them throughout his kingdom. Here.In the 5th century CE. The main reason for the spread of Buddhism into Southeast Asia was the support of the emperor Ashoka himself. Buddhism was unable to adapt to the changing social and political circumstances and lacked the strength to overcome these difficulties. It further got a jolt when the Turks sacked the great north Indian monastic universities and killed many prominent monks in between 10th to 13th century CE. The Downfall The patronage and fame that Buddism had been receiving was soon to be replaced by ignorance due to the revival of Hinduism in India. a new Buddhist monastic university was established in Nalanda. It was Nalandauniversity. The Revival During the British colonial rule in the early 20th century. Buddhism was spread by Ashoka(BCE 270 .000 . After this. The spread of Buddhism had been successful in India partly due to the reason that at that time Hinduism had developed into a staunch practice and was not approachable for the common men.BCE 232). Ashoka not only helped in spreading the religion within India but outside India as well.79 per cent of the total population. Myanmar (Previous Burma). which had a famous Buddhist scholar Bodhidharma. which made people incline towards Hinduism. he began to implement Buddhist principles in the administration of his kingdom and named the new code of conduct 'Dhamma'. which rose to 6. especially for those belonging to lower classes.70 per cent of the total population.internal corruption. thereby constituting 0.387. Dammapara of Sri Lanka founded the Mahabodhi society to reinforce control over the Buddhist shrine in Gaya. came to be known as Zen Buddhism. which are present even today. where it was named as Ca'an Buddhism and from China when moved further to Japan. to Sri Lanka. the luxurious life of the monks and ultimately.000 untouchable supporters. BhimRaoAmbedkar held a conversion ceremony. whereas Buddhism did not believe in such things and was easily approachable. Teams of missionaries were sent by him all over the Indian sub-continent. Buddhism could survive only in small remnants of Buddhist communities in the Himalayan region. the total number of the Buddhists in India rose to 7. India. The revival movement got strengthened when in 1956 at Nagpur in the Indian state of Maharashtra. a large section of people. a great Indian political leader. During this period. who took Buddhism to China. The Spread of Buddhism Outside India During the third century BCE. India. The total number of the Buddhists in India in 1981 was 4. while according to the census of 2001. which soon became the largest and most influential Buddhist centre for learning.000 million. and along with his 500. Buddhism again witnessed a comeback to its motherland.0. Dalai Lama from Tibet to India along with his thousands of supporters further gave an impetus to the strengthening of the Buddhist movement in India. India and gained momentum by a combination of European antiquarian and philosophical interest and the dedicated activities of a few Indian devotees. the arrival of Islam in India. But the revival of Hinduism in India in the 8th century CE soon brought back the glorious days of Hinduism. thousands of Indian monks travelled all over Asia spreading the Buddhist thoughts and Indian culture while thousands of people from other countries came to India to study in the Nalanda and Vikramshila University. In 1891. and other .e. the third and the most powerful Mauryan emperor.000 in 1991 .720. i. and so. who earlier followed Buddhism turned towards Hinduism.80 per cent of the total Indian population.955. conducted by the Indian government. Dr. After the battle of Kalinga.0. Ashoka felt immense grief due to the huge loss of lives during the war and thus decided to follow the path of Buddhism. The arrival of the exiled Buddhist religious leader. Various other reasons further caused tragic decline of Buddhism . converted to Buddhism.

CE 622) propagated Buddhism. Buddhism traveled further towards Korea and Japan. who his arrival asserted that Shantarakshita's efforts had been ruined by the demons of the country. and from China. Buddhism gained its own identity. Besides these.neighbouringareas so as to send the message of Buddhism. As per Nihonshoki in 552 CE. which ended when the devout Buddhist king Relbachen (815-836) was assassinated. he had to leave. Tibetan historians consider this to be the beginning of the 'second dissemination' of Buddhism in Tibet. which later became the capital of the Han dynasty. This marked the beginning of the "first dissemination" of Buddhism to Tibet. From the Central Asian kingdom of Kusha.CE 798). But before Shantarakshita left. During the next three decades. But when the emperor Yomei (CE 585 . the Sri Lankan script. he also wrote commentaries on three Buddhist texts. the Japanese began to travel to China in order to learn from the Buddhist teachers there. the Korean state of Paekche sent Buddhist texts and images to Japan so as to convince the Japanese emperor to become an ally in its war with the neighboring state of Silla. The missionaries sent by Ashoka to the other countries were well received by them and the conversions took place easily because of the influence and the personal power Ashoka exercised. in later times he was viewed in Japan as an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Bodhi Dharma. Atisha was so successful in bringing the dharma to Tibet that Buddhism quickly became the dominant religious tradition in the country The spread of Buddhism in western countries Buddhism is acquiring a grip in Western countries today. who were influenced by the teachings. in 148 BC.1054 CE). began translating Indian Buddhist texts into Chinese in Lo-yang. This mission turned out to be so successful that the king of Sri Lanka himself became a Buddhist. In the initial stages. traveled to Tibet. An Shih-kao and a number of other monks (mostly from Central Asia) translated about thirty Buddhist texts. he persuaded the king to invite the tantric adept Padmasambhava. thereby resulting in the Ch'an school of Buddhism in China. and a number of indigenous Buddhist schools developed in Japan. which ended in 1042 CE. The spread of Buddhism in Japan and Korea In the centuries that followed. and Mahindra then supervised the translation of the Theravada canon (written in the Pali language) into Sinhala. Japanese inclination towards Buddhism was majorly related to the magical powers of Buddha and Buddhist monks. The spread of Buddhism in Tibet The Indian scholar. Prince Shotoku (CE 574 . Shantarakshita went to Tibet during the reign of the Tibetan king TrisongDetsen (CE 740 . He also helped in finding a monastery named Mahavihara. The spread of Buddhism in Sri Lanka Ashoka¶s most successful missions were headed by his son Mahindra. which further led to the beginning of an interregnum period for Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhism and Chinese Taoism intermingled with one another. Padmasambhava defeated all the demons in a personal combat which impressed the king and his court who then invited Shantarakshita again and the first monastery in Tibet was built at Samye. who travelled to Sri Lanka along with four other monks and a novice. Yomei's son. but due to the opposition from some of the king's ministers.000 years. The spread of Buddhism in China China recorded contact with Buddhism with the arrival of a Buddhist scholar. who travelled from India to China along with other monks in 475 CE. a monk named An Shih-kao. built various Buddhist temples and sent Japanese monks to travel to China for further studies on Buddhism. when Atisha (982 CE . which became the main supporter of the Theravadin orthodoxy in Sri Lanka for over 1. where a number of prominent Buddhist teachers have .CE 587) adopted Buddhism. Bodhi Dharma introduced the teachings of the Buddha to the Chinese. Undoubtedly. one of the directors of the monastic university of Nalanda.

ThichNhatHanh. Besides these. which was patronised by some of the Indian emperors and was spread to different parts of the Indian sub continent and subsequently the world. The Dalai Lama. but is still relevant in our lives as well. .established successful centres in Europe and North America. the Buddhist philosophy. a number of Zen masters (Roshi). and Theravada meditation teachers have been successful in spreading Buddhist teachings outside Asia. The glory of Buddhism owes to the teachings of Buddha which were important not only in the contemporary world. is still in pace of its rhythm. who have a zeal for the Buddhist teachings based on mediation and purification. In other words. books and articles on Buddhism are becoming a huge hit with the westerners. Sogyal Rinpoche.