Isnin, 16 Mei 2011


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 what is now Lumbini, Nepal. This makes it one of the oldest religions practiced today. Starting in the north eastern region of the Indian Subcontinent [1], the religion evolved as it spread through Central Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. At one time or another, it affected most of the Asian continent. The history of Buddhism is also characterized by the development of numerous movements and schisms, among them the Theravāda, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna traditions, with contrasting periods of expansion and retreat.



[edit] Siddhartha Gautama

The Aśoka Chakra, an ancient Indian depiction of the Dharmachakra and depicted on the national flag of India.
Siddhārtha Gautama was the historical founder of Buddhism. He was born as a Kshatriya prince in Lumbini, Nepal in 623 BCE.[1] His particular family of Sakya Kshatriyas were of Brahmin 'lineage' (Sanskrit: gotra) as per their family name "Gautama". 19th century scholars, such as Dr. Eitel, connected it to the Brahmin Rishi Gautama.[2] In many Buddhist texts, Buddha is said to be a descendant of the Brahmin Sage Angirasa.[3] For example, "In the Pāli Mahavagga "Angirasa" (in Pāli Angirasa) occurs as a name of Buddha Gautama who evidently belonged to the Angirasa tribe...".[4] Scholar Edward J. Thomas too connected Buddha with sages Gautama and Angirasa.[5]
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 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 Bimbisāra. The emperor accepted Buddhism as his personal faith and allowed the establishment of many Buddhist vihāras. This eventually led to the renaming of the entire region as Bihār.[6]
At the Deer Park near Vārāṇasī in northern India, Buddha set in motion the 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 Saṅgha, the company of Buddhist monks, and hence, the first formation of the Triple Gem (Buddha, Dharma and Saṅgha) 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 parinirvāṇa in the abandoned jungles of Kuśināra.
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 Pāli, Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan are sectarian variants of a corpus that grew and crystallized during three centuries of oral transmission.[7]

[edit] Early Buddhism

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.

[edit] 1st Buddhist council (5th c. BCE)

The first Buddhist council was held just after Buddha's Parinirvana , and presided over by Venerable Mahākāśyapa, one of His most senior disciples, at Rājagṛha (today's Rajgir) during the 5th century under the noble support of king Ajāthaśatru. 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). Ānanda, 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 Tripiṭaka (Three Baskets), which is preserved only in Pāli.

[edit] 2nd Buddhist council (4th c. BCE)

The second Buddhist council was held at Vaisali following a dispute that had arisen in the Saṅgha 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.

[edit] Aśokan proselytism (c. 261 BCE)

The Maurya Empire under Emperor Aśoka 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 Aśoka (238 BCE), in Brāhmī, sandstone. British Museum.
Great Stupa (3rd century BCE), Sanchi, India.
The Mauryan Emperor Aśoka (273–232 BCE) converted to Buddhism after his bloody conquest of the territory of Kalinga (modern Orissa) 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 (evolution to higher consciousness), unheard of in mankind at the time let alone of any victorious king. 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 BCE 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 Aśoka (the edicts of Aśoka), 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.

[edit] 3rd Buddhist council (c.250 BCE)

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

[edit] Hellenistic world

Some of the edicts of Aśoka 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 BCE), Ptolemy II Philadelphos of Egypt (285–247 BCE), Antigonus Gonatas of Macedonia (276–239 BCE), Magas (288–258 BCE) in Cyrenaica (modern Libya), and Alexander II (272–255 BCE) in Epirus (modern Northwestern Greece).
Buddhist proselytism at the time of king Aśoka (260–218 BCE), according to the edicts of Aśoka.
"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 Aśoka, 13th Rock Edict, S. Dhammika).
Furthermore, according to Pāli sources, some of Aśoka'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 (Aśoka), 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 king Aśoka, from Kandahar. Kabul Museum (click image for full translation).
Aśoka 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 (Aśoka) made known (the doctrine of) piety (Greek:εὐσέβεια, 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[8])
It is not clear how much these interactions may have been influential, but some authors 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 Pāli word "Theravāda"[9]), who may have "almost entirely drawn (its) inspiration from the teaching and practices of Buddhist asceticism"[10] and may even have been descendants of Aśoka's emissaries to the West.[11] 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 Aśoka's Buddhist missionaries.[12]
Buddhist gravestones from the Ptolemaic period have also been found in Alexandria, decorated with depictions of the Dharma wheel.[13] 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".[14]
In the 2nd century CE, the Christian dogmatist, Clement of Alexandria recognized Bactrian Buddhists (śramanas) 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 śramanas among the Bactrians ("Σαρμαναίοι Βάκτρων"); 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 śramanas ("Σαρμάναι"), and others Brahmins ("Βραφμαναι")." Clement of Alexandria "The Stromata, or Miscellanies" Book I, Chapter XV[15]

[edit] Expansion to Sri Lanka and Burma

Sri Lanka was proselytized by Aśoka's son Mahinda and six companions during the 2nd century BCE. They converted the king Devanampiya Tissa and many of the nobility. In addition, Aśoka's daughter, Saṅghamitta also established the bhikkhunī (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 Mahāvihāra monastery, a center of Sinhalese orthodoxy, was built. The Pāli canon was written down in Sri Lanka during the reign of king Vattagamani (29–17 BCE), and the Theravāda tradition flourished there. Later some great commentators worked there, such as Buddhaghoṣa (4th–5th century) and Dhammapāla (5th–6th century), and they systemised the traditional commentaries that had been handed down. Although Mahāyāna Buddhism gained some influence in Sri Lanka at that time, the Theravāda 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 BCE under the proselytizing of the Indian Emperor Aśoka, before the fission between Mahāyāna and Hinayāna 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 Theravāda faith expanded in the northern parts of Southeast Asia under Mon influence, until it was progressively displaced by Mahāyāna Buddhism from around the 6th century CE.
According to the Aśokāvadāna (2nd century CE), Aśoka 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.

[edit] Rise of the Sunga (2nd–1st century BCE)

The Sunga dynasty (185–73 BCE) was established in 185 BCE, about 50 years after Aśoka'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 Aśokāvadāna allege that Pusyamitra (an orthodox Brahmin) was hostile towards Buddhists and persecuted the Buddhist faith. Buddhists wrote that he "destroyed monasteries and killed Monks":[16] 84,000 Buddhist stupas which had been built by Aśoka were destroyed (R. Thaper), and 100 gold coins were offered for the head of each Buddhist monk.[17] In addition, Buddhist sources allege that a large number of Buddhist monasteries (vihāras) were converted to Hindu temples, in such places as Nalanda, Bodhgaya, Sarnath, or Mathura.
Following Aśoka'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."[18] Another eminent historian, Romila Thapar points to archaeological evidence that "suggests the contrary" to the claim that Pusyamitra was a fanatical anti-Buddhist and never actually destroyed 84000 stupas as claimed by Buddhist works. Thapar stresses that Buddhist accounts are probably hyperbolic renditions of Pusyamitra's attack of the Mauryas, and merely reflect the frustration of the Buddhist religious figures in the face of the decline in the importance of their religion under the Sungas.[19]
During the period, Buddhist monks deserted the Ganges valley, following either the northern road (uttarapatha) or the southern road (dakṣinapatha).[20] Conversely, Buddhist artistic creation stopped in the old Magadha area, to reposition itself either in the northwest area of Gandhāra and Mathura or in the southeast around Amaravati. Some artistic activity also occurred in central India, as in Bhārhut, to which the Sungas may or may not have contributed.

[edit] Greco-Buddhist interaction (2nd century BCE–1st century CE)

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 Pātaliputra, 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 Mahāyāna tradition as one of the great benefactors of the faith, on a par with king Aśoka or the later Kushan king Kaniśka. 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 Pañha between Menander and the monk Nāgasena 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.[21] Several of Menander's Indo-Greek successors inscribed "Follower of the Dharma," in the Kharoṣṭhī script, on their coins, and depicted themselves or their divinities forming the vitarka mudrā.
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 Mahāyāna, 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."[22]

[edit] Central Asian expansion

The Buddhist gold coin found in Tillia tepe. Tomb IV.
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 with a nandipada, with the Kharoṣṭhī legend "Sih[o] vigatabhay[o]" ("The lion who dispelled fear"). On the obverse, an almost naked man only wearing an Hellenistic chlamys and a petasus hat (an iconography similar to that of Hermes/ Mercury) rolls a Buddhist wheel. The legend in Kharoṣṭhī 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.[23]

[edit] Rise of Mahāyāna (1st century BCE–2nd century CE)

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 Mahāyāna 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.

[edit] The Two Fourth Councils

The Fourth Council is said to have been convened in the reign of the Kushan emperor Kaniṣka around 100 CE at Jalandhar or in Kashmir. Theravāda Buddhism had its own Fourth Council in Sri Lanka about 200 years earlier in which the Pāli canon was written down in toto for the first time. Therefore there were two Fourth Councils: one in Sri Lanka (Theravāda), and one in Kashmir (Sarvāstivādin).
Extent of Buddhism and trade routes in the 1st century CE.
It is said that for the Fourth Council of Kashmir, Kaniṣka 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 Mahā-Vibhāshā ("Great Exegesis"), an extensive compendium and reference work on a portion of the Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma.
Scholars believe that it was also around this time that a significant change was made in the language of the Sarvāstivādin 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 Theravāda, 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 Theravādin scriptures (Pāli) became a scholarly or elitist language as well.


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