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December 4th, 2017 at 2:43 pm

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History of Buddhism – Wikipedia

Posted: December 3, 2017 at 10:49 am

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The history of Buddhism spans from the 5th century BCE to the present; which arose in the eastern part of Ancient India, in and around the ancient Kingdom of Magadha (now in Bihar, India), and is based on the teachings of Siddhrtha Gautama. This makes it one of the oldest religions practiced today. The religion evolved as it spread from the northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent through Central, East, and Southeast Asia. At one time or another, it influenced most of the Asian continent. The history of Buddhism is also characterized by the development of numerous movements, schisms, and schools, among them the Theravda, Mahyna and Vajrayna traditions, with contrasting periods of expansion and retreat.

Siddhrtha Gautama was the historical founder of Buddhism. He was born a Kshatriya warrior prince in Lumbini, Shakya Republic, which was part of the Kosala realm of ancient India.[1] He is also known as the Shakyamuni (literally: "The sage of the Shakya clan").

After an early life of luxury under the protection of his father, uddhodhana, the ruler of Kapilavasthu which later became incorporated into the state of Magadha, Siddhartha entered into contact with the realities of the world and concluded that life was inescapably bound up with suffering and sorrow. Siddhartha renounced his meaningless life of luxury to become an ascetic. He ultimately decided that asceticism couldn't end suffering, and instead chose a middle way, a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification.

Under a fig tree, now known as the Bodhi tree, he vowed never to leave the position until he found Truth. At the age of 35, he attained Enlightenment. He was then known as Gautama Buddha, or simply "The Buddha", which means "the enlightened one", or "the awakened one".

For the remaining 45 years of his life, he traveled the Gangetic Plain of central India (the region of the Ganges/Ganga river and its tributaries), teaching his doctrine and discipline to a diverse range of people. By the time of his death, he had thousands of followers.

The Buddha's reluctance to name a successor or to formalise his doctrine led to the emergence of many movements during the next 400 years: first the schools of Nikaya Buddhism, of which only Theravada remains today, and then the formation of Mahayana and Vajrayana, pan-Buddhist sects based on the acceptance of new scriptures and the revision of older techniques.

Followers of Buddhism, called Buddhists in English, referred to themselves as Sakyan-s or Sakyabhiksu in ancient India.[2][3] Buddhist scholar Donald S. Lopez asserts they also used the term Bauddha,[4] although scholar Richard Cohen asserts that that term was used only by outsiders to describe Buddhists.[5]

Early Buddhism remained centered on 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.

The first Buddhist council was held just after Buddha's Parinirvana, and presided over by Gupta Mahkyapa, one of His most senior disciples, at Rjagha (today's Rajgir) during the 5th century under the noble support of king Ajthaatru. 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). nanda, 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 Tripiaka (Three Baskets), which is preserved only in Pli.

Actual record on the first Buddhist Council did not mention the existence of the Abhidhamma. It existed only after the second Council.

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

The Mauryan Emperor Aoka (273232 BC) converted to Buddhism after his bloody conquest of the territory of Kalinga (modern Odisha) 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. 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 of Sanchi, (near Bhopal, India). It was constructed in the 3rd century BC 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 Aoka (the edicts of Aoka), 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.

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

Some of the edicts of Aoka 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 (261246 BC), Ptolemy II Philadelphos of Egypt (285247 BC), Antigonus Gonatas of Macedonia (276239 BC), Magas (288258 BC) in Cyrenaica (modern Libya), and Alexander II (272255 BC) in Epirus (modern Northwestern Greece).

Furthermore, according to Pli sources, some of Aoka's emissaries were Greek Buddhist monks, indicating close religious exchanges between the two cultures:

Aoka 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:

It is not clear how much these interactions may have been influential, but some authors[citation needed] 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 Pli word "Theravda"[7]), who may have "almost entirely drawn (its) inspiration from the teaching and practices of Buddhist asceticism"[8] and may even have been descendants of Aoka's emissaries to the West.[9] 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 Aoka's Buddhist missionaries.[10]

Buddhist gravestones from the Ptolemaic period have also been found in Alexandria, decorated with depictions of the Dharma wheel.[11] 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".[12]

In the 2nd century AD, the Christian dogmatist, Clement of Alexandria recognized Bactrian Buddhists (ramanas) and Indian gymnosophists for their influence on Greek thought:

Sri Lanka was proselytized by Aoka's son Mahinda and six companions during the 2nd century BC. They converted the King Devanampiya Tissa and many of the nobility. In addition, Aoka's daughter, Saghamitta also established the bhikkhun (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 Mahvihra monastery, a center of Sinhalese orthodoxy, was built. The Pli canon was written down in Sri Lanka during the reign of king Vattagamani (2917 BC), and the Theravda tradition flourished there. Later some great commentators worked there, such as Buddhaghoa (4th5th century) and Dhammapla (5th6th century), and they systemised the traditional commentaries that had been handed down. Although Mahyna Buddhism gained some influence in Sri Lanka at that time, the Theravda 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 BC under the proselytizing of the Indian Emperor Aoka, before the fission between Mahyna and Hinayna 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.

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 Theravda faith expanded in the northern parts of Southeast Asia under Mon influence, until it was progressively displaced by Mahyna Buddhism from around the 6th century AD.

According to the Aokvadna (2nd century AD), Aoka 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.

The Shunga dynasty (18573 BC) was established in 185 BC, about 50 years after Aoka's death. After assassinating King Brhadrata (last of the Mauryan rulers), military commander-in-chief Pushyamitra Shunga took the throne. Buddhist religious scriptures such as the Aokvadna allege that Pushyamitra (an orthodox Brahmin) was hostile towards Buddhists and persecuted the Buddhist faith. Buddhists wrote that he "destroyed hundreds of monasteries and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Monks":[14] 840,000 Buddhist stupas which had been built by Aoka were destroyed, and 100 gold coins were offered for the head of each Buddhist monk.[15] In addition, Buddhist sources allege that a large number of Buddhist monasteries (vihras) were converted to Hindu temples, in places like, but not limited to, Nalanda, Bodhgaya, Sarnath, and Mathura, among many others.

Modern historians, however, dispute this view in the light of literary and archaeological evidence. They opine that following Aoka's sponsorship of Buddhism, it is possible that Buddhist institutions fell on harder times under the Shungas, 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."[16] Another eminent historian, Romila Thapar points to archaeological evidence that "suggests the contrary" to the claim that "Pushyamitra was a fanatical anti-Buddhist" and that he "never actually destroyed 840,000 stupas as claimed by Buddhist works, if any". Thapar stresses that Buddhist accounts are probably hyperbolic renditions of Pushyamitra's attack of the Mauryas, and merely reflect the desperate frustration of the Buddhist religious figures in the face of the possibly irreversible decline in the importance of their religion under the Shungas.[17]

During the period, Buddhist monks deserted the Ganges valley, following either the northern road (uttarapatha) or the southern road (dakinapatha).[18] Conversely, Buddhist artistic creation stopped in the old Magadha area, to reposition itself either in the northwest area of Gandhra and Mathura or in the southeast around Amaravati. Some artistic activity also occurred in central India, as in Bhrhut, to which the Shungas may or may not have contributed.

At the start of the Silk Road in the crossroads between India and China (modern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, and Tajikistan) Greek kingdoms had been in place since the time of the conquests of Alexander the Great around 326 BC and continued for over 300 years: first the Seleucids from around 323 BC, then the Greco-Bactrian kingdom from around 250 BC and finally the Indo-Greek Kingdom, lasting until 10 CE.

The Greco-Bactrian king Demetrius I invaded the Indian Subcontinent in 180 BC, establishing an Indo-Greek kingdom that was to last in parts of Northwest South Asia until the end of the 1st century CE. Buddhism flourished under the Indo-Greek and Greco-Bactrian 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 Shungas (18573 BC).

One of the most famous Indo-Greek kings is Menander (reigned c. 160135 BC). He converted to Buddhism and is presented in the Mahyna tradition as one of the great benefactors of the faith, on a par with king Aoka or the later Kushan king Kanika. 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 Paha around 160 BC between Menander and the Buddhist monk Ngasena, who was himself a student of the Greek Buddhist monk Mahadharmaraksita. Upon Menander's 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.[19] Several of Menander's Indo-Greek successors inscribed "Follower of the Dharma," in the Kharoh script, on their coins, and depicted themselves or their divinities forming the vitarka mudr.

It is also around the time of initial Greek and Buddhist interaction that the first anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha are found, often in realistic Greco-Buddhist style. The former reluctance towards anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha, and the sophisticated development of aniconic symbols to avoid it (even in narrative scenes where other human figures would appear), seem to be connected to one of the Buddhas sayings, reported in the Digha Nikaya, that discouraged representations of himself after the extinction of his body.[20] Probably not feeling bound by these restrictions, and because of "their cult of form, the Greeks were the first to attempt a sculptural representation of the Buddha".[21][pageneeded] In many parts of the Ancient World, the Greeks did develop syncretic divinities, that could become a common religious focus for populations with different traditions: a well-known example is the syncretic God Sarapis, introduced by Ptolemy I in Egypt, which combined aspects of Greek and Egyptian Gods. In India as well, it was only natural for the Greeks to create a single common divinity by combining the image of a Greek God-King (The Sun-God Apollo, or possibly the deified founder of the Indo-Greek Kingdom, Demetrius), with the traditional attributes of the Buddha. Many of the stylistic elements in the representations of the Buddha point to Greek influence: the Greco-Roman toga-like wavy robe covering both shoulders (more exactly, its lighter version, the Greek himation), the contrapposto stance of the upright figures (see: 1st2nd century Gandhara standing Buddhas[22]), the stylicized Mediterranean curly hair and topknot (ushnisha) apparently derived from the style of the Belvedere Apollo (330 BCE),[23] and the measured quality of the faces, all rendered with strong artistic realism (See: Greek art). A large quantity of sculptures combining Buddhist and purely Hellenistic styles and iconography were excavated at the Gandharan site of Hadda.

Several influential Greek Buddhist monks are recorded. Mahadharmaraksita (literally translated as 'Great Teacher/Preserver of the Dharma'), was "a Greek ("Yona") Buddhist head monk", according to the Mahavamsa (Chap. XXIX[24]), who led 30,000 Buddhist monks from "the Greek city of Alasandra" (Alexandria of the Caucasus, around 150km north of today's Kabul in Afghanistan), to Sri Lanka for the dedication of the Great Stupa in Anuradhapura during the rule (165 BC - 135 BC) of King Menander I. Dharmaraksita (Sanskrit), or Dhammarakkhita (Pali) (translation: Protected by the Dharma), was one of the missionaries sent by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka to proselytize the Buddhist faith. He is described as being a Greek (Pali: "Yona", lit. "Ionian") in the Mahavamsa.

A Buddhist gold coin from India was found in northern Afghanistan at the archaeological site of Tillia Tepe, and dated to the 1st century AD. On the reverse, it depicts a lion in the moving position with a nandipada in front of it, with the Kharoh legend "Sih[o] vigatabhay[o]" ("The lion who dispelled fear").

The Mahayana Buddhists symbolized Buddha with animals such as a lion, an elephant, a horse or a bull. A pair of feet was also used. The symbol called nandipada by archaeologists and historians is actually a composite symbol. The symbol at the top symbolizes the "Middle Path", the Buddha dhamma. The circle with a centre symbolizes cakka. Thus, the composite symbol symbolizes dhammacakka, the Buddhist Wheel of the Law. Thus, the symbols on the reverse of the coin jointly symbolize Buddha rolling the dhammacakka. In the "Lion Capital" of Saranath, India, Buddha rolling the dhammacakka is depicted on the wall of the cylinder with lion, elephant, horse and bull rolling the dhammacakkas. On the obverse, an almost naked man only wearing an Hellenistic chlamys and wearing a head-dress rolls a dhammacakka. The legend in Kharoh 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.[25]

The head-dress symbolizes the "Middle Path". Thus, the man with the head-dress is a person who adheres to the Middle Path. (In one of the Indus Valley seals, we find a similar head-dress worn by 9 women.)

Thus, on both sides of the coin, we find Buddha rolling the dhammacakka.

As no scientific study on literary and physical symbolization of Buddha and Buddhism was conducted by the archaeologists and historians, imaginary and false interpretations were only given on coins, seals, Brahmi and other inscriptions and other archaeological finds.

Several scholars have suggested that the Prajpramit stras, which are among the earliest Mahyna stras,[26][27] developed among the Mahsghika along the Ka River in the ndhra region of South India.[28]

The earliest Mahyna stras to include the very first versions of the Prajpramit genre, along with texts concerning Akobhya Buddha, which were probably written down in the 1st century BCE in the south of India.[29][30] Guang Xing states, "Several scholars have suggested that the Prajpramit probably developed among the Mahsghikas in southern India, in the ndhra country, on the Ka River."[31]A.K. Warder believes that "the Mahyna originated in the south of India and almost certainly in the ndhra country."[32]

Anthony Barber and Sree Padma note that "historians of Buddhist thought have been aware for quite some time that such pivotally important Mahayana Buddhist thinkers as Ngrjuna, Dignaga, Candrakrti, ryadeva, and Bhavaviveka, among many others, formulated their theories while living in Buddhist communities in ndhra."[33] They note that the ancient Buddhist sites in the lower Ka Valley, including Amaravati, Ngrjunako and Jaggayyapea "can be traced to at least the third century BCE, if not earlier."[34] Akira Hirakawa notes the "evidence suggests that many Early Mahayana scriptures originated in South India."[35]

The Fourth Council is said to have been convened in the reign of the Kashmir emperor Kanika around 100 AD at Jalandhar or in Kashmir. Theravda Buddhism had its own Fourth Council in Sri Lanka about 200 years earlier in which the Pli canon was written down in toto for the first time. Therefore, there were two Fourth Councils: one in Sri Lanka (Theravda), and one in Kashmir (Sarvstivdin).

It is said that for the Fourth Council of Kashmir, Kanika 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 Mah-Vibhsh ("Great Exegesis"), an extensive compendium and reference work on a portion of the Sarvstivdin Abhidharma.

Scholars believe that it was also around this time that a significant change was made in the language of the Sarvstivdin 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 Theravda, 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 Theravdin scriptures (Pli) became a scholarly or elitist language as well, exactly opposite to what the Buddha had explicitly commanded.

From that point on, and in the space of a few centuries, Mahyna was to flourish and spread in the East from India to South-East Asia, and towards the north to Central Asia, China, Korea, and finally to Japan in 538 AD and Tibet in the 7th century.

After the end of the Kushans, Buddhism flourished in India during the dynasty of the Guptas (4th-6th century). Mahyna centers of learning were established, especially at Nland in north-eastern India, which was to become the largest and most influential Buddhist university for many centuries, with famous teachers such as Ngrjuna. The influence of the Gupta style of Buddhist art spread along with the faith from south-east Asia to China.

Indian Buddhism had weakened in the 6th century following the White Hun invasions and Mihirakula's persecution.

Xuanzang reported in his travels across India during the 7th century, of Buddhism being popular in Andhra, Dhanyakataka and Dravida, which area today roughly corresponds to the modern day Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.[36] While reporting many deserted stupas in the area around modern day Nepal and the persecution of Buddhists by Shashanka in the Kingdom of Gauda in modern-day West Bengal, Xuanzang complimented the patronage of Haravardana during the same period. After the Haravardana kingdom, the rise of many small kingdoms that led to the rise of the Rajputs across the gangetic plains and marked the end of Buddhist ruling clans along with a sharp decline in royal patronage until a revival under the Pla Empire in the Bengal region. Here Mahyna Buddhism flourished and spread to Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim between the 7th and the 12th centuries before the Plas collapsed under the assault of the Hindu Sena dynasty. The Plas created many temples and a distinctive school of Buddhist art. Xuanzang noted in his travels that in various regions Buddhism was giving way to Jainism and Hinduism.[37] By the 10th century Buddhism had experienced a sharp decline beyond the Pla realms in Bengal under a resurgent Hinduism and the incorporation in Vaishnavite Hinduism of Buddha as the 9th incarnation of Vishnu.[38]

A milestone in the decline of Indian Buddhism in the North occurred in 1193 when Turkic Islamic raiders under Muhammad Khilji burnt Nland. By the end of the 12th century, following the Islamic conquest of the Buddhist strongholds in Bihar and the loss of political support coupled with social pressures, the practice of Buddhism retreated to the Himalayan foothills in the North and Sri Lanka in the south. Additionally, the influence of Buddhism also waned due to Hinduism's revival movements such as Advaita, the rise of the bhakti movement and the missionary work of Sufis.

Central Asia had been influenced by Buddhism probably almost since the time of the Buddha. According to a legend preserved in Pli, the language of the Theravdin canon, two merchant brothers from Bactria named Tapassu and Bhallika visited the Buddha and became his disciples. They then returned to Bactria and built temples to the Buddha.[39]

Central Asia long played the role of a meeting place between China, India and Persia. During the 2nd century BC, the expansion of the Former Han to the west brought them into contact with the Hellenistic civilizations of Asia, especially the Greco-Bactrian Kingdoms. Thereafter, the expansion of Buddhism to the north led to the formation of Buddhist communities and even Buddhist kingdoms in the oases of Central Asia. Some Silk Road cities consisted almost entirely of Buddhist stupas and monasteries, and it seems that one of their main objectives was to welcome and service travelers between east and west.

The Theravdin traditions first spread among the Iranian tribes before combining with the Mahyna forms during the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC to cover modern-day Pakistan, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. These were the ancient states of Gandhra, Bactria, Margiana and Sogdia, from where it spread to China. Among the first of these states to come under the influence of Buddhism was Bactria as early as the 3rd century BC (see Greco-Buddhism). It was not, however, the exclusive faith of this region. There were also Zoroastrians, Hindus, Nestorian Christians, Jews, Manichaeans, and followers of shamanism, Tengrism, and other indigenous, nonorganized systems of belief.

Various Nikya schools persisted in Central Asia and China until around the 7th century AD. Mahyna started to become dominant during the period, but since the faith had not developed a Nikaya approach, Sarvstivdins and Dharmaguptakas remained the Vinayas of choice in Central Asian monasteries.

Various Buddhist kingdoms rose and prospered in both the Central Asian region and downwards into the Indian sub-continent, such as the Kushan Empire, prior to the White Hun invasion in the 5th century, where under the King Mihirakula they were heavily persecuted.

Buddhism in Central Asia started to decline with the expansion of Islam and the destruction of many stupas in war from the 7th century. The Muslims accorded them the status of dhimmis as "people of the Book", such as Christianity or Judaism, and Al-Biruni wrote of Buddha as prophet "burxan".

Buddhism saw a surge during the reign of Mongols following the invasion of Genghis Khan and the establishment of the Il Khanate and the Chagatai Khanate who brought their Buddhist influence with them during the 13th century; however, within 100 years the Mongols who remained in that region would convert to Islam and spread Islam across all the regions of central Asia. Only the eastern Mongols and the Mongols of the Yuan dynasty would keep Vajrayna Buddhism.

Buddhism expanded westward into the easternmost fringes of Arsacid Parthia, to the area of Merv, in ancient Margiana, today's territory of Turkmenistan. Soviet archeological teams have excavated in Giaur Kala near Merv a Buddhist chapel, a gigantic Buddha statue and a monastery.

Parthians were directly involved in the propagation of Buddhism: An Shigao (c. 148 AD), a Parthian prince, went to China, and is the first known translator of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese.

The eastern part of central Asia (Chinese Turkestan, Tarim Basin, Xinjiang) has revealed extremely rich Buddhist works of art (wall paintings and reliefs in numerous caves, portable paintings on canvas, sculpture, ritual objects), displaying multiple influences from Indian and Hellenistic cultures. Serindian art is highly reminiscent of the Gandhran style, and scriptures in the Gandhri script Kharoh have been found.

Central Asians seem to have played a key role in the transmission of Buddhism to the East. The first translators of Buddhists scriptures into Chinese were Parthian (Ch: Anxi) like An Shigao (c. 148 AD) or An Hsuan, Kushan of Yuezhi ethnicity like Lokaksema (c. 178 AD), Zhi Qian and Zhi Yao or Sogdians like Kang Sengkai. Thirty-seven early translators of Buddhist texts are known, and the majority of them have been identified as Central Asians.

Central Asian and East Asian Buddhist monks appear to have maintained strong exchanges until around the 10th century, as shown by frescoes from the Tarim Basin.

These influences were rapidly absorbed, however, by the vigorous Chinese culture, and a strongly Chinese particularism develops from that point.

According to traditional accounts, Buddhism was introduced in China during the Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) after an emperor dreamed of a flying golden man thought to be the Buddha. Although the archaeological record confirms that Buddhism was introduced sometime during the Han dynasty, it did not flourish in China until the Six Dynasties period (220-589 AD).[43]

The year 67 AD saw Buddhism's official introduction to China with the coming of the two monks Moton and Chufarlan. In 68 AD, under imperial patronage, they established the White Horse Temple (), which still exists today, close to the imperial capital at Luoyang. By the end of the 2nd century, a prosperous community had settled at Pengcheng (modern Xuzhou, Jiangsu).

The first known Mahyna scriptural texts are translations into Chinese by the Kushan monk Lokakema in Luoyang, between 178 and 189 AD. Some of the earliest known Buddhist artifacts found in China are small statues on "money trees", dated c. 200 AD, in typical Gandhran drawing style: "That the imported images accompanying the newly arrived doctrine came from Gandhra is strongly suggested by such early Gandhra characteristics on this "money tree" Buddha as the high unia, vertical arrangement of the hair, moustache, symmetrically looped robe and parallel incisions for the folds of the arms."[44]

In the period between 460-525 AD during the Northern Wei dynasty, the Chinese constructed Yungang Grottoes, and it's an outstanding example of the Chinese stone carvings from the 5th and 6th centuries. All together the site is composed of 252 grottoes with more than 51,000 Buddha statues and statuettes.

Another famous Buddhism Grottoes is Longmen Grottoes which started with the Northern Wei Dynasty in 493 AD. There are as many as 100,000 statues within the 1,400 caves, ranging from an 1 inch (25 mm) to 57 feet (17 m) in height. The area also contains nearly 2,500 stelae and inscriptions, whence the name "Forest of Ancient Stelae", as well as over sixty Buddhist pagodas.

Buddhism flourished during the beginning of the Tang Dynasty (618907). The dynasty was initially characterized by a strong openness to foreign influences and renewed exchanges with Indian culture due to the numerous travels of Chinese Buddhist monks to India from the 4th to the 11th centuries. The Tang capital of Chang'an (today's Xi'an) became an important center for Buddhist thought. From there Buddhism spread to Korea, and Japanese embassies of Kentoshi helped gain footholds in Japan.

However, foreign influences came to be negatively perceived towards the end of the Tang Dynasty. In the year 845, the Tang emperor Wuzong outlawed all "foreign" religions including Christian Nestorianism, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhism in order to support the indigenous Taoism. Throughout his territory, he confiscated Buddhist possessions, destroyed monasteries and temples, and executed Buddhist monks, ending Buddhism's cultural and intellectual dominance.

However, about a hundred years after the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution, Buddhism revived during the Song Dynasty (11271279).

Pure Land and Chan Buddhism, however, continued to prosper for some centuries, the latter giving rise to Japanese Zen. In China, Chan flourished particularly under the Song dynasty (11271279), when its monasteries were great centers of culture and learning.

In the last two thousand years, the Buddhist have built The Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism, they are Mount Wutai, Mount Emei, Mount Jiuhua, Mount Putuo.

Today, China boasts one of the richest collections of Buddhist arts and heritages in the world. UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang in Gansu province, the Longmen Grottoes near Luoyang in Henan province, the Yungang Grottoes near Datong in Shanxi province, and the Dazu Rock Carvings near Chongqing are among the most important and renowned Buddhist sculptural sites. The Leshan Giant Buddha, carved out of a hillside in the 8th century during the Tang Dynasty and looking down on the confluence of three rivers, is still the largest stone Buddha statue in the world.

Buddhism was introduced around 372 AD, when Chinese ambassadors visited the Korean kingdom of Goguryeo, bringing scriptures and images. Buddhism prospered in Korea - in particular Seon (Zen) Buddhism from the 7th century onward. However, with the beginning of the Confucian Yi Dynasty of the Joseon period in 1392, a strong discrimination took place against Buddhism until it was almost completely eradicated, except for a remaining Seon movement.

The Buddhism of Japan was introduced from Three Kingdoms of Korea in the 6th century. The Chinese priest Ganjin offered the system of Vinaya to the Buddhism of Japan in 754. As a result, the Buddhism of Japan has developed rapidly. Saich and Kkai succeeded to a legitimate Buddhism from China in the 9th century.

Being geographically at the end of the Silk Road, Japan was able to preserve many aspects of Buddhism at the very time it was disappearing in India, and being suppressed in Central Asia and China.

The Buddhism quickly became a national religion and thrived, particularly under Shotoku Taishi (Prince Shotoku) during Asuka period (538-794). From 710, numerous temples and monasteries were built in the capital city of Nara, such as the five-story pagoda and Golden Hall of the Hry-ji, or the Kfuku-ji temple. Countless paintings and sculptures were made, often under governmental sponsorship. The creations of Japanese Buddhist art were especially rich between the 8th and 13th centuries during Nara period(710-794), Heian period(794-1185) and Kamakura period(1185-1333).

During Kamakura period, major reformation activities started, namely changing from Buddhism for the imperial court to the Buddhism for the common people. The traditional Buddhism mostly focused on the protection of the country, imperial house or noble families from the ill spirits and salvation of the imperial families, nobles and monks themselves (self-salvation). On the other hand, new sects such as Jodo shu (pure land sect) founded by Honen and Jodo Shinshu (true pure land sect) founded by Shinran, Honen's disciple, emphasized salvation of sinners, common men and women and even criminals such as murderers of parents. Shinran preached the commoners by teaching that saying nembutsu (prayer of Amida Buddha) is a declaration of faith in Amida's salvation. Also for the first time in the history of Buddhism, Shinran started a new sect allowing marriage of monks by initiating his own marriage, which was deemed as taboo from the traditional Buddhism.

Another development in Kamakura period was Zen, by the introduction of the faith by Dogen and Eisai upon their return from China. Zen is highly philosophical with simplified words reflecting deep thought, but, in the art history, it is mainly characterized by so-called zen art, original paintings (such as ink wash and the Enso) and poetry (especially haikus), striving to express the true essence of the world through impressionistic and unadorned "non-dualistic" representations. The search for enlightenment "in the moment" also led to the development of other important derivative arts such as the Chanoyu tea ceremony or the Ikebana art of flower arrangement. This evolution went as far as considering almost any human activity as an art with a strong spiritual and aesthetic content, first and foremost in those activities related to combat techniques (martial arts).

Buddhism remains active in Japan to this day. Around 80,000 Buddhist temples are preserved and regularly restored.

Buddhism arrived late in Tibet, during the 7th century. The form that predominated, via the south of Tibet, was a blend of mahyna and vajrayna from the universities of the Pla empire of the Bengal region in eastern India.[45]Sarvstivdin influence came from the south west (Kashmir)[46] and the north west (Khotan).[47] Although these practitioners did not succeed in maintaining a presence in Tibet, their texts found their way into the Tibetan Buddhist canon, providing the Tibetans with almost all of their primary sources about the Foundation Vehicle. A subsect of this school, Mlasarvstivda was the source of the Tibetan Vinaya.[48] Chan Buddhism was introduced via east Tibet from China and left its impression, but was rendered of lesser importance by early political events.[49]

From the outset Buddhism was opposed by the native shamanistic Bon religion, which had the support of the aristocracy, but with royal patronage it thrived to a peak under King Rlpachn (817-836). Terminology in translation was standardised around 825, enabling a translation methodology that was highly literal. Despite a reversal in Buddhist influence which began under King Langdarma (836-842), the following centuries saw a colossal effort in collecting available Indian sources, many of which are now extant only in Tibetan translation. Tibetan Buddhism was favored above other religions by the rulers of imperial Chinese and Mongol Yuan Dynasty (12711368).

During the 1st century AD, the trade on the overland Silk Road tended to be restricted by the rise in the Middle-East of the Parthian empire, an unvanquished enemy of Rome, just as Romans were becoming extremely wealthy and their demand for Asian luxury was rising. This demand revived the sea connections between the Mediterranean and China, with India as the intermediary of choice. From that time, through trade connection, commercial settlements, and even political interventions, India started to strongly influence Southeast Asian countries (excluding Vietnam). Trade routes linked India with southern Burma, central and southern Siam, islands of Sumatra and Java, lower Cambodia and Champa, and numerous urbanized coastal settlements were established there.

For more than a thousand years, Indian influence was therefore the major factor that brought a certain level of cultural unity to the various countries of the region. The Pli and Sanskrit languages and the Indian script, together with Theravda and Mahyna Buddhism, Brahmanism, and Hinduism, were transmitted from direct contact and through sacred texts and Indian literature such as the Rmyaa and the Mahbhrata.

From the 5th to the 13th centuries, South-East Asia had very powerful empires and became extremely active in Buddhist architectural and artistic creation. The main Buddhist influence now came directly by sea from the Indian subcontinent, so that these empires essentially followed the Mahyna faith. The Sri Vijaya Empire to the south and the Khmer Empire to the north competed for influence, and their art expressed the rich Mahyna pantheon of the bodhisattvas.

Srivijaya, a maritime empire centered at Palembang on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, adopted Mahyna and Vajrayna Buddhism under a line of rulers named the Sailendras. Yijing described Palembang as a great center of Buddhist learning where the emperor supported over a thousand monks at his court. Yijing also testified to the importance of Buddhism as early as the year 671 and advised future Chinese pilgrims to spend a year or two in Palembang.[50]Atia studied there before travelling to Tibet as a missionary.

As Srivijaya expanded their thalassocracy, Buddhism thrived amongst its people. However, many did not practice pure Buddhism but a new syncretism form of Buddhism that incorporated several different religions such as Hinduism and other indigenous traditions.[51]

Srivijaya spread Buddhist art during its expansion in Southeast Asia. Numerous statues of bodhisattvas from this period are characterized by a very strong refinement and technical sophistication, and are found throughout the region. Extremely rich architectural remains are visible at the temple of Borobudur the largest Buddhist structure in the world, built from around 780 in Java, which has 505 images of the seated Buddha. Srivijaya declined due to conflicts with the Hindu Chola rulers of India, before being destabilized by the Islamic expansion from the 13th century.

Later, from the 9th to the 13th centuries, the Mahyna Buddhist and Hindu Khmer Empire dominated much of the South-East Asian peninsula. Under the Khmer, more than 900 temples were built in Cambodia and in neighboring Thailand. Angkor was at the center of this development, with a temple complex and urban organization able to support around one million urban dwellers. One of the greatest Khmer kings, Jayavarman VII (11811219), built large Mahyna Buddhist structures at Bayon and Angkor Thom.

Buddhism in Vietnam as practiced by the Vietnamese is mainly of Mahyna tradition. Buddhism came from Vietnam as early as the 2nd century AD through the North from Central Asia via India. Vietnamese Buddhism is very similar to Chinese Buddhism and to some extent reflects the structure of Chinese Buddhism after the Song Dynasty. Vietnamese Buddhism also has a symbiotic relationship with Taoism, Chinese spirituality and the native Vietnamese religion.

Various classes of Vajrayana literature developed as a result of royal courts sponsoring both Buddhism and Saivism.[52] The Majusrimulakalpa, which later came to classified under Kriyatantra, states that mantras taught in the Shaiva, Garuda and Vaishnava tantras will be effective if applied by Buddhists since they were all taught originally by Manjushri.[53] The Guhyasiddhi of Padmavajra, a work associated with the Guhyasamaja tradition, prescribes acting as a Shaiva guru and initiating members into Saiva Siddhanta scriptures and mandalas.[54] The Samvara tantra texts adopted the pitha list from the Shaiva text Tantrasadbhava, introducing a copying error where a deity was mistaken for a place.[55]

From the 11th century, the destruction of Buddhism in the Indian mainland by Islamic invasions led to the decline of the Mahyna faith in South-East Asia. Continental routes through the Indian subcontinent being compromised, direct sea routes developed from the Middle-East through Sri Lanka to China, leading to the adoption of the Theravda Buddhism of the Pli canon, introduced to the region around the 11th century from Sri Lanka.

King Anawrahta (10441078); the founder of the Pagan Empire, unified the country and adopted the Theravdin Buddhist faith. This initiated the creation of thousands of Buddhist temples at Pagan, the capital, between the 11th and 13th centuries. Around 2,200 of them are still standing. The power of the Burmese waned with the rise of the Thai, and with the seizure of the capital Pagan by the Mongols in 1287, but Theravda Buddhism remained the main Burmese faith to this day.

The Theravda faith was also adopted by the newly founded ethnic Thai kingdom of Sukhothai around 1260. Theravda Buddhism was further reinforced during the Ayutthaya period (14th18th century), becoming an integral part of Thai society.

In the continental areas, Theravda Buddhism continued to expand into Laos and Cambodia in the 13th century. From the 14th century, however, on the coastal fringes and in the islands of south-east Asia, the influence of Islam proved stronger, expanding into Malaysia, Indonesia, and most of the islands as far as the southern Philippines.

Nevertheless, since Suharto's rise to power in 1966, there has been a remarkable renaissance of Buddhism in Indonesia. This is partly due to the requirements of Suharto's New Order for the people of Indonesia to adopt one of the five official religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism or Buddhism. Today it is estimated there are some 10 million Buddhists in Indonesia. A large part of them are people of Chinese ancestry.

After the Classical encounters between Buddhism and the West recorded in Greco-Buddhist art, information and legends about Buddhism seem to have reached the West sporadically. An account of Buddha's life was translated into Greek by John of Damascus, and widely circulated to Christians as the story of Barlaam and Josaphat. By the 14th century this story of Josaphat had become so popular that he was made a Catholic saint.

The next direct encounter between Europeans and Buddhism happened in Medieval times when the Franciscan friar William of Rubruck was sent on an embassy to the Mongol court of Mongke by the French king Saint Louis in 1253. The contact happened in Cailac (today's Qayaliq in Kazakhstan), and William originally thought they were wayward Christians (Foltz, "Religions of the Silk Road").

In the period after Hulagu, the Mongol Ilkhans increasingly adopted Buddhism. Numerous Buddhist temples dotted the landscape of Persia and Iraq, none of which survived the 14th century. The Buddhist element of the Il-Khanate died with Arghun.[56]

The Kalmyk Khanate was founded in the 17th century with Tibetan Buddhism as its main religion, following the earlier migration of the Oirats from Dzungaria through Central Asia to the steppe around the mouth of the Volga River. During the course of the 18th century, they were absorbed by the Russian Empire.[57] At the end of the Napoleonic wars, Kalmyk cavalry units in Russian service entered Paris.[58]

Interest in Buddhism increased during the colonial era, when Western powers were in a position to witness the faith and its artistic manifestations in detail. The opening of Japan in 1853 created a considerable interest in the arts and culture of Japan, and provided access to one of the most thriving Buddhist cultures in the world.

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History of Buddhism - Wikipedia

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History of Buddhism in India – Wikipedia

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Buddhism is a world religion, which arose in and around the ancient Kingdom of Magadha (now in Bihar, India), and is based on the teachings of Siddhrtha Gautama[note 1] who was deemed a "Buddha" ("Awakened One"[4]). Buddhism spread outside Magadha starting in the Buddha's lifetime.

With the reign of the Buddhist Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, the Buddhist community split into two branches: the Mahsghika and the Sthaviravda, each of which spread throughout India and split into numerous sub-sects.[5] In modern times, two major branches of Buddhism exist: the Theravada in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, and the Mahayana throughout the Himalayas and East Asia.

After peaking after Ashoka in ancient India, the practice of Buddhism and Buddhist monasteries received laity and royal support through the 12th century, but generally declined in the 1st millennium CE, with many of its practices and ideas absorbed into Hinduism. Except for the Himalayan region and south India, Buddhism almost became extinct in India after the arrival of Islam in late 12th century.[6][7][8]

Buddhism remains the primary or a major religion in the Himalayan areas such as Sikkim, Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, the Darjeeling hills in West Bengal, and the Lahaul and Spiti areas of upper Himachal Pradesh. Remains have also been found in Andhra Pradesh, the probable origin of Mahayana Buddhism.[9] Buddhism has been reemerging in India since the past century, due to its adoption by many Indian intellectuals, the migration of Buddhist Tibetan exiles, and the mass conversion of hundreds of thousands of Dalits to Buddhism.[10] According to the 2011 census, Buddhists make up 0.7% of India's population, or 8.4 million individuals.[11][12]Maharashtra state, which account for 77.36% (6.5 million) of all Buddhists in the country.[13]Navayana Buddhists (Converted or Neo-Buddhists) comprise more than 87% of Indian Buddhist community according to 2011 Census of India.[13]

Buddha was born in Lumbini, in Nepal, to a Kapilvastu King of the Shakya Kingdom named Suddhodana. After asceticism and meditation which was a Samana practice, the Buddha discovered the Buddhist Middle Waya path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification.

Siddhrtha 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 Bimbisra. The emperor accepted Buddhism as personal faith and allowed the establishment of many Buddhist "Vihras." This eventually led to the renaming of the entire region as Bihar.[14]

At the Deer Park Water Reservation near Vras in northern India, Buddha set in motion the Wheel of Dharma by delivering his first sermon to the group of five companions with whom he had previously sought enlightenment. They, together with the Buddha, formed the first Sagha, the company of Buddhist monks, and hence, the first formation of Triple Gem (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) was completed.

For the remaining years of his life, the Buddha is said to have traveled in the Gangetic Plain of Northern India and other regions.

Buddha died in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh.[15][16]

Followers of Buddhism, called Buddhists in English, referred to themselves as Saugata.[17] Other terms were Sakyans or Sakyabhiksu in ancient India.[18][19]Sakyaputto was another term used by Buddhists, as well as Ariyasavako[20] and Jinaputto.[21] Buddhist scholar Donald S. Lopez states they also used the term Bauddha.[22] The scholar Richard Cohen in his discussion about the 5th-century Ajanta Caves, states that Bauddha is not attested therein, and was used by outsiders to describe Buddhists, except for occasional use as an adjective.[23]

The Buddha did not appoint any successor, and asked his followers to work toward liberation. The teachings of the Buddha existed only in oral traditions. The Sangha held a number of Buddhist councils in order to reach consensus on matters of Buddhist doctrine and practice.

The Early Buddhist Schools were the various schools in which pre-sectarian Buddhism split in the first few centuries after the passing away of the Buddha (in about the 5th century BCE). The earliest division was between the majority Mahsghika and the minority Sthaviravda. Some existing Buddhist traditions follow the vinayas of early Buddhist schools.

The Dharmaguptakas made more efforts than any other sect to spread Buddhism outside India, to areas such as Afghanistan, Central Asia, and China, and they had great success in doing so.[26] Therefore, most countries which adopted Buddhism from China, also adopted the Dharmaguptaka vinaya and ordination lineage for bhikus and bhikus.

During the early period of Chinese Buddhism, the Indian Buddhist sects recognized as important, and whose texts were studied, were the Dharmaguptakas, Mahsakas, Kyapyas, Sarvstivdins, and the Mahsghikas.[27] Complete vinayas preserved in the Chinese Buddhist canon include the Mahsaka Vinaya (T. 1421), Mahsghika Vinaya (T. 1425), Dharmaguptaka Vinaya (T. 1428), Sarvstivda Vinaya (T. 1435), and the Mlasarvstivda Vinaya (T. 1442). Also preserved are a set of gamas (Stra Piaka), a complete Sarvstivda Abhidharma Piaka, and many other texts of the early Buddhist schools.

Early Buddhist schools in India often divided modes of Buddhist practice into several "vehicles" (yna). For example, the Vaibhika Sarvstivdins are known to have employed the outlook of Buddhist practice as consisting of the Three Vehicles:[28]

Several scholars have suggested that the Prajpramit stras, which are among the earliest Mahyna stras,[29][30] developed among the Mahsghika along the Ka River in the ndhra region of South India.[31]

The earliest Mahyna stras to include the very first versions of the Prajpramit genre, along with texts concerning Akobhya Buddha, which were probably written down in the 1st century BCE in the south of India.[32][33] Guang Xing states, "Several scholars have suggested that the Prajpramit probably developed among the Mahsghikas in southern India, in the ndhra country, on the Ka River."[34]A.K. Warder believes that "the Mahyna originated in the south of India and almost certainly in the ndhra country."[35]

Anthony Barber and Sree Padma note that "historians of Buddhist thought have been aware for quite some time that such pivotally important Mahayana Buddhist thinkers as Ngrjuna, Dignaga, Candrakrti, ryadeva, and Bhavaviveka, among many others, formulated their theories while living in Buddhist communities in ndhra."[36] They note that the ancient Buddhist sites in the lower Ka Valley, including Amaravati, Ngrjunako and Jaggayyapea "can be traced to at least the third century BCE, if not earlier."[37] Akira Hirakawa notes the "evidence suggests that many Early Mahayana scriptures originated in South India."[38]

Various classes of Vajrayana literature developed as a result of royal courts sponsoring both Buddhism and Saivism.[39] The Majusrimulakalpa, which later came to classified under Kriyatantra, states that mantras taught in the Shaiva, Garuda and Vaishnava tantras will be effective if applied by Buddhists since they were all taught originally by Manjushri.[40] The Guhyasiddhi of Padmavajra, a work associated with the Guhyasamaja tradition, prescribes acting as a Shaiva guru and initiating members into Saiva Siddhanta scriptures and mandalas.[41] The Samvara tantra texts adopted the pitha list from the Shaiva text Tantrasadbhava, introducing a copying error where a deity was mistaken for a place.[42]

"During the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.E. (Before Common Era), commerce and cash became increasingly important in an economy previously dominated by self-sufficient production and bartered exchange. Merchants found Buddhist moral and ethical teachings an attractive alternative to the esoteric rituals of the traditional Brahmin priesthood, which seemed to cater exclusively to Brahmin interests while ignoring those of the new and emerging social classes." [43]

"Furthermore, Buddhism was prominent in communities of merchants, who found it well suited to their needs and who increasingly established commercial links throughout the Mauryan empire."[44]

"Merchants proved to be an efficient vector of the Buddhist faith, as they established diaspora communities in the string of oasis towns-Merv, Bukhara, Samarkand, Kashgar, Khotan, Kuqa, Turpan, Dunhuang - that served as lifeline of the silk roads through central Asia."[45]

The Maurya empire reached its peak at the time of emperor Aoka, who converted to Buddhism after the Battle of Kaliga. This heralded a long period of stability under the Buddhist emperor. The power of the empire was vastambassadors were sent to other countries to propagate Buddhism. Greek envoy Megasthenes describes the wealth of the Mauryan capital. Stupas, pillars and edicts on stone remain at Sanchi, Sarnath and Mathura, indicating the extent of the empire.

Emperor Aoka the Great (304 BCE232 BCE) was the ruler of the Maurya Empire from 273 BCE to 232 BCE.

Aoka reigned over most of India after a series of military campaigns. Emperor Aoka's kingdom stretched from South Asia and beyond, from present-day parts of Afghanistan in the north and Balochistan in the west, to Bengal and Assam in the east, and as far south as Mysore.

According to legend, emperor Aoka was overwhelmed by guilt after the conquest of Kaliga, following which he accepted Buddhism as personal faith with the help of his Brahmin mentors Rdhsvm and Majr. Aoka established monuments marking several significant sites in the life of akyamuni Buddha, and according to Buddhist tradition was closely involved in the preservation and transmission of Buddhism.[46]

Menander was the most famous Bactrian king. He ruled from Taxila and later from Sagala (Sialkot). He rebuilt Taxila (Sirkap) and Pukalavat. He became Buddhist and is remembered in Buddhists records due to his discussions with a great Buddhist philosopher in the book Milinda Paha.

By 90 BC, Parthians took control of eastern Iran and around 50 BC put an end to last remnants of Greek rule in Afghanistan. By around 7 AD, an Indo-Parthian dynasty succeeded in taking control of Gandhra. Parthians continued to support Greek artistic traditions in Gandhara. The start of the Gandhran Greco-Buddhist art is dated to the period between 50 BC and 75 AD.

Kuna under emperor Kanika was known as the Kingdom of Gandhra. The Buddhist art spread outward from Gandhra to other parts of Asia. He greatly encouraged Buddhism. Before Kanika, Buddha was not represented in human form. In Gandhra Mahyna Buddhism flourished and Buddha was represented in human form.

Under the rule of the Pla and Sena kings, large mahvihras flourished in what is now Bihar and Bengal. According to Tibetan sources, five great Mahvihras stood out: Vikramashila, the premier university of the era; Nlanda, past its prime but still illustrious, Somapura, Odantapur, and Jaggadala.[48] The five monasteries formed a network; "all of them were under state supervision" and their existed "a system of co-ordination among them . . it seems from the evidence that the different seats of Buddhist learning that functioned in eastern India under the Pla were regarded together as forming a network, an interlinked group of institutions," and it was common for great scholars to move easily from position to position among them.[49]

According to Damien Keown, the kings of the Pala dynasty (8th to 12th century, Gangetic plains region) were a major supporter of Buddhism, various Buddhist and Hindu arts, and the flow of ideas between India, Tibet and China:[50][51]

During this period [Pala dynasty] Mahayana Buddhism reached its zenith of sophistication, while tantric Buddhism flourished throughout India and surrounding lands. This was also a key period for the consolidation of the epistemological-logical (pramana) school of Buddhist philosophy. Apart from the many foreign pilgrims who came to India at this time, especially from China and Tibet, there was a smaller but important flow of Indian pandits who made their way to Tibet...

Indian ascetics (Skt. ramaa) propagated Buddhism in various regions, including East Asia and Central Asia.

In the Edicts of Ashoka, Ashoka mentions the Hellenistic kings of the period as a recipient of his Buddhist proselytism.[52] The Mahavamsa describes emissaries of Ashoka, such as Dharmaraksita, as leading Greek ("Yona") Buddhist monks, active in Buddhist proselytism.[53]).

Roman Historical accounts describe an embassy sent by the "Indian king Pandion (Pandya?), also named Porus," to Caesar Augustus around the 1st century. The embassy was travelling with a diplomatic letter in Greek, and one of its members was a sramana who burned himself alive in Athens, to demonstrate his faith. The event made a sensation and was described by Nicolaus of Damascus, who met the embassy at Antioch, and related by Strabo (XV,1,73)[54] and Dio Cassius (liv, 9). A tomb was made to the sramana, still visible in the time of Plutarch, which bore the mention:

Lokaksema is the earliest known Buddhist monk to have translated Mahayana Buddhist scriptures into the Chinese language. Gandharan monks Jnanagupta and Prajna contributed through several important translations of Sanskrit sutras into Chinese language.

The Indian dhyana master Buddhabhadra was the founding abbot and patriarch[55] of the Shaolin Temple. Buddhist monk and esoteric master from South India (6th century), Kanchipuram is regarded as the patriarch of the Ti-Lun school. Bodhidharma (c. 6th century) was the Buddhist Bhikkhu traditionally credited as the founder of Zen Buddhism in China.[56]

In 580, Indian monk Vintaruci travelled to Vietnam. This, then, would be the first appearance of Vietnamese Zen, or Thien Buddhism.

Padmasambhava, in Sanskrit meaning "lotus-born", is said to have brought Tantric Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century. In Bhutan and Tibet he is better known as "GuruRinpoche" ("Precious Master") where followers of the Nyingma school regard him as the second Buddha. ntarakita, abbot of Nlanda and founder of the Yogacara-Madhyamaka is said to have helped Padmasambhava establish Buddhism in Tibet.

Indian monk Atia, holder of the mind training (Tib. lojong) teachings, is considered an indirect founder of the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism. Indian monks, such as Vajrabodhi, also travelled to Indonesia to propagate Buddhism.

The decline of Buddhism has been attributed to various factors. Regardless of the religious beliefs of their kings, states usually treated all the important sects relatively even-handedly.[58] This consisted of building monasteries and religious monuments, donating property such as the income of villages for the support of monks, and exempting donated property from taxation. Donations were most often made by private persons such as wealthy merchants and female relatives of the royal family, but there were periods when the state also gave its support and protection. In the case of Buddhism, this support was particularly important because of its high level of organization and the reliance of monks on donations from the laity. State patronage of Buddhism took the form of land grant foundations.[59]

Numerous copper plate inscriptions from India as well as Tibetan and Chinese texts suggest that the patronage of Buddhism and Buddhist monasteries in medieval India was interrupted in periods of war and political change, but broadly continued in Hindu kingdoms from the start of the common era through early 2nd millennium CE.[60][61][62] Modern scholarship and recent translations of Tibetan and Sanskrit Buddhist text archives, preserved in Tibetan monasteries, suggest that through much of 1st millennium CE in medieval India (and Tibet as well as other parts of China), Buddhist monks owned property and were actively involved in trade and other economic activity, after joining a Buddhist monastery.[63][64]

With the Gupta dynasty (~4th to 6th century), the growth in ritualistic Mahayana Buddhism, and the adoption of Buddhist ideas into Hindu schools, the differences between Buddhism and Hinduism blurred, and Vaishnavism, Shaivism and other Hindu traditions became increasingly popular, and Brahmins developed a new relationship with the state.[65] As the system grew, Buddhist monasteries gradually lost control of land revenue. In parallel, the Gupta kings built Buddhist temples such as the one at Kushinagara,[66][67] and monastic universities such as those at Nalanda, as evidenced by records left by three Chinese visitors to India.[68][69][70]

According to Hazra, Buddhism declined in part because of the rise of the Brahmins and their influence in socio-political process.[71] According to Randall Collins, Richard Gombrich and other scholars, Buddhism's rise or decline is not linked to Brahmins or the caste system, since Buddhism was "not a reaction to the caste system", but aimed at the salvation of those who joined its monastic order.[72][73][74]

The 11th century Persian traveller Al-Biruni writes that there was 'cordial hatred' between the Brahmins and Sramana Buddhists.[75] Buddhism was also weakened by rival Hindu philosophies such as Advaita Vedanta, growth in temples and an innovation of the bhakti movement. Advaita Vedanta proponent Adi Shankara is believed to have "defeated Buddhism" and established Hindu supremacy. This rivalry undercut Buddhist patronage and popular support.[76] The period between 400 CE and 1000 CE thus saw gains by the Vedanta school of Hinduism over Buddhism[77] and Buddhism had vanished from Afghanistan and north India by early 11th century. India was now Brahmanic, not Buddhistic; Al-Biruni could never find a Buddhistic book or a Buddhist person in India from whom he could learn.[78]

According to some scholars such as Lars Fogelin, the decline of Buddhism may be related to economic reasons, wherein the Buddhist monasteries with large land grants focussed on non-material pursuits, self-isolation of the monasteries, loss in internal discipline in the sangha, and a failure to efficiently operate the land they owned.[62][79]

Chinese scholars traveling through the region between the 5th and 8th centuries, such as Faxian, Xuanzang, I-ching, Hui-sheng, and Sung-Yun, began to speak of a decline of the Buddhist Sangha, especially in the wake of the Hun invasion from central Asia.[6] Xuanzang, the most famous of Chinese travellers, found millions of monasteries in north-western India reduced to ruins by the Huns.[6][80]

The Muslim conquest of the Indian subcontinent was the first great iconoclastic invasion into South Asia.[81] By the end of twelfth century, Buddhism had mostly disappeared,[6][82] with the destruction of monasteries and stupas in medieval northwest and western India (now Pakistan and north India).[83]

In the northwestern parts of medieval India, the Himalayan regions, as well regions bordering central Asia, Buddhism once facilitated trade relations, states Lars Fogelin. With the Islamic invasion and expansion, and central Asians adopting Islam, the trade route-derived financial support sources and the economic foundations of Buddhist monasteries declined, on which the survival and growth of Buddhism was based.[79][84] The arrival of Islam removed the royal patronage to the monastic tradition of Buddhism, and the replacement of Buddhists in long-distance trade by the Muslims eroded the related sources of patronage.[83][84]

In the Gangetic plains, Orissa, northeast and the southern regions of India, Buddhism survived through the early centuries of the 2nd millennium CE.[79] The Islamic invasion plundered wealth and destroyed Buddhist images,[85] and consequent take over of land holdings of Buddhist monasteries removed one source of necessary support for the Buddhists, while the economic upheaval and new taxes on laity sapped the laity support of Buddhist monks.[79]

Monasteries and institutions such as Nalanda were abandoned by Buddhist monks around 1200 CE, who flee to escape the invading Muslim army, after which the site decayed over the Islamic rule in India that followed.[86][87]

The last empire to support Buddhism, the Pala dynasty, fell in the 12th century, and Muslim invaders destroyed monasteries and monuments.[6] According to Randall Collins, Buddhism was already declining in India before the 12th century, but with the pillage by Muslim invaders it nearly became extinct in India in the 1200s.[7] In the 13th century, states Craig Lockard, Buddhist monks in India escaped to Tibet to escape Islamic persecution;[88] while the monks in western India, states Peter Harvey, escaped persecution by moving to south Indian Hindu kingdoms that were able to resist the Muslim power.[8]

Many Indian Buddhists fled south. It is known that Buddhists continued to exist in India even after the 14th century from texts such as the Chaitanya Charitamrita. This text outlines an episode in the life of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (14861533), a Vaisnava saint, who was said to have entered into a debate with Buddhists in Tamil Nadu.[89]

The Tibetan Taranatha (15751634) wrote a history of Indian Buddhism, which mentions Buddhism as having survived in some pockets of India during his time.[90]

Buddhism also survived to the modern era in the Himalayan regions such as Ladakh, with close ties to Tibet.[91] A unique tradition survives in Nepal's Newar Buddhism.

Some scholars suggest that a part of the decline of Buddhist monasteries was because it was detached from everyday life in India and did not participate in the ritual social aspects such as the rites of passage (marriage, funeral, birth of child) like other religions.[83]

A revival of Buddhism began in India in 1891, when the Sri Lankan Buddhist leader Anagarika Dharmapala founded the Maha Bodhi Society.[92] Its activities expanded to involve the promotion of Buddhism in India. In June 1892, a meeting of Buddhists took place at Darjeeling. Dharmapala spoke to Tibetan Buddhists and presented a relic of the Buddha to be sent to the Dalai Lama.

Dharmapla built many vihras and temples in India, including the one at Sarnath, the place of Buddha's first sermon. He died in 1933, the same year he was ordained a bhikkhu.[93]

The 14th Dalai Lama departed Tibet in 1959, when Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru offered to permit him and his followers to establish a "government-in-exile" in Dharamsala. Tibetan exiles have settled in the town, numbering several thousand. Many of these exiles live in Upper Dharamsala, or McLeod Ganj, where they established monasteries, temples and schools. The town is sometimes known as "Little Lhasa", after the Tibetan capital city, and has become one of the centers of Buddhism in the world. Many settlements for Tibetan refugee communities came up across many parts of India on the lands offered by the Government of India. Some of the biggest Tibetan settlements in exile are in the state of Karnataka. The Dalai Lama's brother, Gyalo Thondup, himself lives in Kalimpong and his wife established the Tibetan Refugee Centre in Darjeeling [1]. The 17th Karmapa also arrived in India in 2000 and continues education and has taken traditional role to head Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism and every year leads the Kagyu Monlam in Bodh Gaya attended by thousands of monks and followers. Palpung Sherabling monastery seat of the 12th Tai Situpa located in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh is the largest Kagyu monastery in India and has become an important centre of Tibetan Buddhism. Penor Rinpoche, the head of Nyingma, the ancient school of Tibetan Buddhism re-established a Nyingma monastery in Bylakuppe, Mysore. This is the largest Nyingma monastery today. Monks from Himalayan regions of India, Nepal, Bhutan and from Tibet join this monastery for their higher education. Penor Rinpoche also founded Thubten Lekshey Ling, a dharma center for lay practitioners in Bangalore. Vajrayana Buddhism and Dzogchen (maha-sandhi) meditation again became accessible to aspirants in India after that.

A Buddhist revivalist movement among Dalit Indians was initiated in 1890s by socialist leaders such as Iyothee Thass, Bhagya Reddy Varma, and Damodar Dharmananda Kosambi.[citation needed] In the 1950s, B. R. Ambedkar turned his attention to Buddhism and travelled to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to attend a convention of Buddhist scholars and monks. While dedicating a new Buddhist vihara near Pune, Ambedkar announced that he was writing a book on Buddhism, and that as soon as it was finished, he planned to make a formal conversion to the religion. He twice visited Burma in 1954; the second time in order to attend the third conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Rangoon. In 1955, he founded the Bharatiya Bauddha Mahasabha, or the Buddhist Society of India. He completed his final work, The Buddha and His Dhamma, in 1956. It was published posthumously.[citation needed]

After meetings with the Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Hammalawa Saddhatissa, Ambedkar organised a formal public ceremony for himself and his supporters in Nagpur on 14 October 1956. Accepting the Three Refuges and Five Precepts from a Buddhist monk in the traditional manner, Ambedkar completed his own conversion. He then proceeded to convert an estimated 500,000 of his supporters who were gathered around him. Taking the 22 Vows, Ambedkar and his supporters explicitly condemned and rejected Hinduism and Hindu philosophy. This was the world's biggest mass religious conversion; it is celebrated by Buddhists every year at Nagpur, when 1-1.5million Buddhists gather every year for the ceremony. He then travelled to Kathmandu in Nepal to attend the Fourth World Buddhist Conference. Ambedkar died soon after conversion on 6 December 1956.

Most of the Ambedkarite Buddhists belong his own former Mahar caste. The new converts treat Ambedkar himself as a deity. Although they have renounced Hinduism in practice, a community survey showed adherence to many practices of the old faith including endogamy, worshipping the traditional family deity etc.[94]

The Buddhist meditation tradition of Vipassana meditation is growing in popularity in India. Many institutionsboth government and private sectornow offer courses for their employees.[95] This form is mainly practiced by the elite and middle class Indians. This movement has spread to many other countries in Europe, America and Asia.

According to the 2011 Census of India there are 8.4 million Buddhists in India but Buddhist leaders claim there are about 50 to 60 million Buddhists in India.[96] Maharashtra has the highest number of Buddhists in India, with 77.36% of the total population. Almost 90 per cent of Navayana or Neo-Buddhists live in the state.

In the 1951 census of India, 1.81 lakh (0.05%) respondents said they were Buddhist. The 1961 census, taken after Ambedkar adopted Buddhism with his millions of followers in 1956, showed an increased to 3.2 million (0.74%).

Living Religions, seventh edition, by Mary Pat Fisher

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History of Buddhism in India - Wikipedia

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November 29th, 2017 at 3:44 pm

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What is Buddhism? – KMC New York

Posted: November 21, 2017 at 3:44 am

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Buddhism is Buddhas teachings and the inner experiences or realizations of these teachings.

These have a timeless and universal relevance and can be practiced by anyone in any culture, regardless of race, gender, or age.


By practicing Buddhas teachings, or Dharma, we protect ourself from suffering and problems. All the problems we experience during daily life originate in ignorance, and the method for eliminating ignorance is to practice Dharma.

Practicing Dharma is the supreme method for improving the quality of our human life because the quality of life depends not upon external development or material progress, but upon the inner development of peace and happiness.


Buddha first gave his teachings over two and half thousand years ago. Since that time they have been preserved in a pure form and passed down from Teacher to disciple in an unbroken lineage that is still alive today.

Thanks to the kindness of these previous Teachers, we are able to listen to and practice exactly the same Dharma as Buddha originally taught.

Use the menu to find out more.

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What is Buddhism? - KMC New York

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November 21st, 2017 at 3:44 am

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Buddhism | Answers in Genesis

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Some say if you compare the Sermon on the Mount, Buddhas Dhammapada, Lao-tzus Tao-te-ching, Confucius Analects, the Bhagavad Gita, the Proverbs of Solomon, and the Dialogues of Plato, you will find it: a real, profound, and strong agreement. Yes, but this is ethics, not religion.... Ethics may be the first step in religion but it is not the last. As C.S. Lewis says, The road to the Promised Land runs past Mount Sinai.Peter Kreeft1

About six centuries before Jesus walked the earth, a young Hindu prince is said to have escaped the trappings of materialism and found the path to enlightenment. Now known as the Buddhathe enlightened onehe left behind a formula to help others trace the same nirvanic path. These teachings have been distilled in the belief system known as Buddhism, a humanistic and essentially monistic religion.2 As one of historys oldest surviving global religions,3 it is one of todays fastest growing faiths, and currently boasts almost half a billion adherents worldwide. This makes it one of the largest blocks of people groups unreached with the gospel.

In countries like Thailand, Tibet, Bhutan, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka, over 60 percent of the populace could be described as folk Buddhists. Thailand is 95 percent Buddhist, with Myanmar and Cambodia about 90 percent. But Buddhism is not just for the Far East anymore, as the United States has become a prime mission field for Buddhism, gradually achieving mainstream acceptance. Probably the most attractive of all the non-Christian religions to the Western mind,4 notes J.N.D. Anderson, America now has two million homegrown Buddhists. Though it took millennia for Buddhism to be established in Asia, it has taken deep root in Western countries in a fraction of that timeperhaps due to compatibility with the naturalistic evolutionary worldview that now permeates the Western World.

If Gautama Buddha or his earliest disciples ever wrote down his teachings, such has perished, meaning no one has been able to claim with high confidence exactly what he taught. In fact, written records about Siddhartha dont appear until at least four hundred years after his death. Before this we have only scattered Sanskrit accounts and oral tradition. Thus a pale of historical uncertainty has resulted, with Buddhist scholars even conceding that falsehoods have leached into most biographical accounts about the Buddha, not to mention outlandish embellishments. For example, one account says that within seconds of birth, he stood, walked, and scanned in all directions before nobly claiming that he was the foremost being in the world, and that this would be his last rebirth. During his quest for enlightenment he is said to have survived on one grain of rice daily for a few years. The last two years before his awakening, he completely abstained from food or water.5

Roughly 2,500 years ago in Kapilavastu at the foothills of the Himalayas, a young aristocrat named Siddhartha Gautama was born in the lap of luxury. His father carefully insulated his heir from the real world beyond the palace walls, and allegedly gave him three palaces and 40,000 dancing girls.6 However, Siddhartha inadvertently caught glimpses here and there beyond the royal walls. The following sights in particular gripped Gautamas heart: 1) a crippled man, 2) a leper, 3) a rotting corpse, and 4) a pious ascetic. These later came to be known as the Four Passing Sights, which so moved him that he renounced his life of comfort and luxury to pursue enlightenment. This Great Renunciation, as Buddhists call it, included Gautama abandoning his wife and child, for distractions7 such as these would impede his quest to untie the Gordian knot of pain, sickness, old age, and death. The driving motivation of Buddhisms founder was to pinpoint the origin of pain and suffering and to propose a solution.8

As with many Hindus (the culture and worldview he was born into), Gautama found the standard Indian theodicy9 for pain and death to be dreadful and deeply unsatisfying. Legend has it that six or seven years after his Great Renunciation, his long search paid off. Tranquilly seated in the lotus position under a fig tree (later commemorated as the Bodhi tree10), Gautama meditated for a long time.11 Freed from distractions, he persevered, he was able to recall his previous lives and learn the cycles of birth, death, and rebirth. The rubrics of Buddhist dharma were then revealed to him, and he attained ultimate bliss,12 becoming the enlightened onehereafter simply the Buddha.

In the wake of attaining nirvana, the Buddha began traveling itinerantly with five companions, sharing with them the insights learned under the tree of wisdom. His first teaching was the Sermon at Benares, which included The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path. These two groups of dharma, if followed while navigating The Middle Way, will guide imperfect aspirants to escape from the cycle of reincarnation and attain enlightenment.13 The Buddha did retain some of his former Hinduism, but added nuance to reincarnation and a few other precepts. In fact, he simply hoped to be a force of reform within Hinduism.

Ever since the Four Passing Sights, Gautamas Great Renunciation was fueled by a hunger to find an answer for the pain and suffering in life. When it came to solving the problem of evil, the Buddha took a very different path from Hinduism. The latter saw evil as maya (illusion), while the Buddha taught that evil is not only real, but that it can be overcome by methodically removing desirethe source of all suffering.14 Eliminate this craving and you eliminate suffering. Such gives birth to the stereotypical view Westerners have of monks seated yoga-like and seeking complete detachment from the world. Through discipline and patient determination all passions can be blown out.

In a monastery in NW China, one monk among many trying to follow the precepts of the Buddha. (Photo: Thane Ury)

For the last 45 years of his life, the Buddha pointed encumbered seekers toward the way of liberation from the cycle of birth and death. The timing could not have been better, as his method came in a period when there was a huge discontent with the drudgery and vagaries of Hinduism. The Buddhas teachings seemed logical, elegant, and appealingespecially with the suffering classand so his views progressively gained traction. For the next few centuries Buddhism spread widely in East Asia, across China, and over to Japan and Korea. The desire for some viable, but god-free, answer to the problem of pain and suffering, partially explains why many moderns adopt the Buddhist path.

For all the superficial similarities some may propose between classical expressions of both Buddhism and Christianity, when it comes to theodicy any notion of a concord implodes immediately. For most of the time prior to the advent of Charles Lyells uniformitarianism, traditional Christianity applied a normative reading to the opening chapters of Genesis; i.e., tending toward accepting the creation and Flood narratives at face value. This meant that Christianitys dominant theodicy for its first 18 centuries was that it was the original disobedience of a historical Adam and Eve that ushered in both moral and natural evils. When our imago dei, was fractured, perfect communion with God was lost, and all sufferings and relational dysfunctionalities flowed from this breach. E.L. Mascall succinctly explains:

It is perhaps not surprising that evolutionary thinking finds greater unity with Buddhism in particular and Eastern thought in general, but exploring this is beyond the scope of this present chapter.

Entering Zen is like stepping through Alices looking glass. One finds oneself in a topsy-turvy wonderland where everything seems quite madcharmingly mad for the most part, but mad all the same. It is a world of bewildering dialogues, obscure conundrums, stunning paradoxes, flagrant contradictions, and abrupt non sequiturs, all carried off in the most urbane, cheerful, and innocent style imaginable.Huston Smith16

Through two and a half shaky millennia, Buddhas philosophy has not only survived but it has flourished.17 And although it is the majority or state religion in a dozen countries, it has remained anything but monochromatic in the 21st century. Variant forms and sects abound, with at least 238 distinct ethnolinguistic Buddhist people groups.18 Theravada (or Hinayana) and Mahayana are the two major sects of Buddhism and are actually quite different from one another.

Theravada (The Teaching of the Elders), about 38 percent of all Buddhists, has remained the school truest to original Buddhism, and is more conservative. It tends to be more dominant in China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Taiwan, and Tibet. It is also called Southern Buddhism and holds that only monks can reach nirvana. This school is deeply monastic, seeing meditation as the main key to salvation and quite inwardly focused.

Mahayana (The Greater Vehicle) is more popular at 56 percent, and more liberal than Theravada, and dominates in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Thailand. It is also called Northern Buddhism, and contends that even the laity can reach enlightenment. Meditation is vital for this school, but puts more emphasis on selflessness and altruism (i.e., helping others in order to help yourself ) to attain salvation (in their belief system); and thus is more outwardly focused than Theravada Buddhism. Additionally, about 700 years after Buddha died, this school had a tendency to see him as a divine. They also have many tantric and occult-like practices.

The Vajrayana school (The Diamond Vehicle, aka Lamaism or Tantra) is a third, much smaller group at 6 percent, and prevalent in Tibet. It would hardly bear mention were it not for its most famous representative, the exiled Dalai Lama. But all factions of Buddhism can be traced back to this triad of the Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana schools. While each has distinctive dogma, all embrace what we will call mere Buddhism.

Other variants bear brief mention. Zen Buddhism is a spinoff of Mahayana Buddhism, concentrated in Japan. Generally, Zen is a non-doctrinaire road to transcendence, is extremely esoteric, and believes enlightenment is attained by chanting rote phrases, names, or texts. It is not preoccupied with logic and is the most philosophical school. Zen is characterized by an emphasis on detachment from ones desires, seeking to attain extinction (parinirvana), with the distinct nuance of experiencing satori (the sudden awareness of ones absolute Buddha nature, accompanied by inner joy and harmony).

Pure Land Buddhism (aka Amidism) splintered off of the Mahayana school as well. Pure Landers regard the personality Amitabha Buddha as a savior through whose merits one can achieve nirvana. Pure Land targets the layperson. Engaging in something as simple as a mechanistic chanting of Praise to Amitabha Buddha (the nembutsu) can clear the way to be reborn in the paradise called Pure Land. This is a mythical place created by Amitabha where pursuing enlightenment takes less effort.

Last, Nichiren Buddhists are very mystical and stress that they represent true Buddhism. This school is enticing because of its emphasis on materialism, basically being an Eastern expression of prosperity theologya view thoroughly at odds with the Buddha. Devotees follow scriptures like The Lotus Sutra and teach that by chanting before the Gohonzon (a scroll or box with the names of key religious figures in the Lotus Sutra), one can bring his life into balance, achieving health and wealth. This sect is also unique in that it seeks to refute other schools and proselytize.

The above distinctions in the Buddhist family tree are crucial for apologists hoping to penetrate hearts from each offshoot. But with so many schismsand the blurring within eachclassification will remain exceedingly difficult.19 Try to imagine, for example, being invited to chart the common Christian ground of a Pentecostal in the Appalachians, with those of a Filipino Roman Catholic, or a Nigerian Seventh-day Adventist. Since an equally wide swath exists with Gautamas heritors today, we must join leading missiologists and think more in terms of Buddhisms on a vast spectrum. Our evangelistic tack with a saffron-robed Buddhist in Qinghai will be quite different than that Buddhist in the pew in Ulaanbaatar. Zen Buddhism in Japan and Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet feel similar, but look very different. And a Nepali villager may never have been taught Buddhas Four Noble Truths, but if you showed them to her shed likely say she shares such convictions.

Contra Kiplings poem, through Buddhism the twain have met indeed. And in America it is the list of high-profile converts that has given it some major street cred.20 Sports personalities like Tiger Woods, David Beckham, and Phil Jackson (former NBA coach) have turned their hearts East, as have Jerry Brown (governor of California) and luminaries like the late Steve Jobs and Rosa Parks. While not a convert, Bill Clinton has adopted a vegan diet and hired a Buddhist monk to tutor him on proper meditation technique. And the Dalai Lama, the figurehead of an oppressed people group, is treated like a rock star in America, having been invited to the White House, the UN, and wining and dining with the cultural elite.

Los Angeles has been called the most diverse Buddhist city in the world. Complementing this is a list of Hollywood elites who have embraced Buddhist principles, including Richard Gere,21 Keanu Reeves, Tina Turner, and Harrison Ford.22 Iconic director George Lucas was very transparent that his agenda for the Star Wars series was to introduce Buddhism to the West.23 The Force symbolizes the impersonal energy of Eastern mysticism.24

Authors like Thomas Merton, D.Z. Suzuki, Alan Watts, and popular movies like Seven Years in Tibet, The Little Buddha, and Whats Love Got to Do with It? have all contributed to the romanticizing, allure, and mainstreaming of Buddhist-type thinking. Even TV, movies, and music have been adopting subtle Buddhist elements, like the TV series Lost (think Dharma initiative), Point Break (with Bodhia lead character) and the band Nirvana.

A full assessment of the Buddhistic worldviews popularity is beyond the scope of this chapter, but a few suggestions for its appeal can be posited. Becoming disillusioned with ones own religious background, Western culture in general, or the rat race of American society, have all contributed to hearts turning East.

In all of Gods image bearers is a longing soul, like this woman searching for truth at a Buddhist temple. (Photo: Thane Ury)

Buddhisms rubrics of tolerance, wisdom, compassion, lovingkindness, nonviolence, and personal transformation have also no doubt enticed spiritually awakened and hungry souls. With so many varieties to choose from, Buddhism has enough flavors to accommodate the palates of any individual, even the raging atheist. Consider further that in our sensate world of chaos, materialism, and the erotic, Buddhisms combo of inner tranquility, enlightenment, and easy-believism are an irresistible escape hatch. Our society has also accepted meditation and yoga as great stress relievers, with little regard that these have become gateway disciplines to a deeper exploration of Gautamas path.25

Others are no doubt uncritically enamored by the idea of reincarnation, conditioned perhaps by countless wholesome portrayals in modern films.26 At a superficial level, some may think reincarnations gives them endless chances to get things right. Hollywood, academia, the media, and the social elites all too often give Buddhism a free pass from critical assessment simply because they love its non-judgmental, non-theistic, and non-violent emphases. In addition to appearing hyper-tolerant, Buddhism offers a guilt-free ethical framework with no external god to whom we are accountable. Such is not too far from the flaccid convictions of liberal Christianitya view paying lip service to a wrath-free deity, whose ecumenical arc has no room for sin, a Christ on a Cross, the exclusive truth claims of a risen Savior, or any suggestion of a final and lasting judgment.27

Islam has the Quran, Christianity has the Bible, but Buddhism has no absolute canonical authority binding on all its splinter groups. That being stated, a key textual authority providing some uniformity for most Buddhists is found in the Pali Canona collection of writings 11 times larger than the Christian Scriptures! The Pali Canon is divided into three partseach called pitaka or basketand thus has come to be known as the Tripitaka.

Opinions vary within Buddhism regarding the authority of these writings.

Some claim the whole Pali Canon is binding. Others contend that no basket can relay rationally warranted beliefs, so the Buddhist canon carries no binding authority. Additional thinkers hold that the enlightened Gautama provided reliable knowledge through his lectures, but no Buddhist texts are authoritative.28

While there is no god in Buddhism, the thoughts and teachings of the Buddha (written centuries after his death) are generally taken as an underlying authority to guide Buddhists. But really, at base, a traditional Buddhist takes himself as an authority, as he must work out his own salvation. The Buddhist ordo salutis is very self-oriented.29 Regardless, the authorities listed here are man. Man is ultimately seen as the absolute authority on Buddhist teachings. This is actually arbitrary, creating a system that allows all things to be true while nothing is truea state that cannot logically sustain its own weight.

Last, while Buddhas image is often worshiped by some of his followers around the globe, he never considered himself a god or even a revelation from a god. He never even intended to start a new religion, but originally hoped to be a force for reform within Hinduism.

Many in the West wrongly associate the portly statues of Budai (left) with the founder of Buddhism (right). (Photo on left: Creative Commons; photo on right: Umanee Thonrat, Shutterstock)

Two major misconceptions linger in the West. The first is that Buddha is the name of a god. But Buddha is just a title that means enlightened/awakened one or teacher. Anyone who has grasped the nature of ultimate reality or has been enlightened is a Buddha, and thus, in Buddhism, there are many Buddhas. The second erroneous view is thinking that the corpulent, laughing figurine popular in many Chinese restaurants is the Gautama Buddha of history. But this is actually Budai, a tenth-century quirky Chinese Zen monk, who carried a stick with a bag on it. The Buddha fasted regularly and walked thousands of miles, so a chubby Buddha statue is about as plausible as a chubby Jesus.

There are several common beliefs that all Buddhists embrace. Front and center are the Three Jewels in which all Buddhists find refuge, reassurance, and dignity. They are the Buddha (the yellow jewel), the teachings (the blue jewel, or dharma), and the monastic order (the red jewel, or sangha). One can hear these three gems in the following popular mantra that Buddhist monks chant through the day:

Buddham Saranam Gachchami [I take shelter in Buddha]

Dhammam Saranam Gachchami [I take shelter in dharma]

Samgham Saranam Gachchami [I take shelter in community with monks]

Then we have The Four Noble Truths, which essentially retraces Gautama Buddhas own road toward enlightenment. They are as follows:

This Eightfold Path is key to the cessation of suffering and is congruent with ones move toward enlightenment. The eight steps are:

One cannot help but ask who defines right. If it is just a man, like a monk, Buddha, or anyone else, why presume that they have all knowledge to know the true nature of reality? To know absolute right, one must have absolute knowledge, which no man has. The only one in a position of knowing absolute right (and absolute wrong) is an all-knowing God, not a man. Yet Buddhism has no all-knowing God nor a revelation to man. When men merely have the opinion that something is right or wrong, then it is merely an opinion, a form of arbitrariness.

Several Buddhist tenets are familiar, at least in name, to non-Buddhists in the West. These include karma, reincarnation, the transmigration of the soul, nirvana, and dependent organization.

As noted above under the umbrella of Buddhism, while the Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana strands share common ground, they also have doctrinal convictions that totally clash with each other. This holds true for a Buddhist perspective on origins, which is anything but lock step. Yet even allowing for variations, a few precepts remain uniform across their spectrum. Since Buddhism holds that there is no god, no schools can accommodate a supreme creator.

Given Gautama Buddhas opposition to key features of Indias Brahmanism, its not surprising that he never was even remotely concerned with accounting for the order in our world34 or any notion of a first cause. For us to be concerned with the origins of the cosmos (or other unconjecturables) is a distraction, as Buddha attempted to demonstrate in his famous parable of the poisoned arrow. Picture a man, he asks, shot with a poison arrow. He could alleviate his suffering by simply removing the arrow. But would it not be odd if the wounded refused to have the arrow removed until a number of queries were answered first, questions like the archers identity, details of the bowpersons family tree, and plotting the arrows trajectory, aerodynamic integrity, color, weight, composite material, and whether this was volitional or accidental (a hunters arrow intended for small game?), etc. Buddhas point was that just as suffering would not be alleviated in the least by such conjectures, neither will cosmological contemplations do anything to address our current sufferings. Since the Buddhas main goal was the elimination of suffering (pulling out the poison arrow), speculations on the origins of the cosmos are relegated to the dustbin of uselessness.35

Since the Buddha is not known to have ever speculated on human origins, it is warranted to infer that he didnt see such as basic to proper spirituality. This is not surprising because his opinion was that most theological issues were unedifying and unworthy of reflection. Paradoxically enough, for one whose majority platform was built on illusion, it is ironic that the idea of discussing origins involved too much metaphysical speculation for the Buddha.

Thus, on the Buddhist view there is no other option except to believe the universe arose through random and impersonal natural laws. Further, the Buddhist quest to raise cosmic consciousness has even been called spiritual evolution, a mantle the New Age movement has been all too happy to pick up.

We generally find crude evolution-like (Chain of Being) underpinnings in all major Asian worldviews. This is true of Confucianism, Taoism, and Hinduism. But the Buddhistic cosmogony is unlike other major non-Christian religions in that it has no creation myth.37 Wayne House distills the Buddhist creational view as follows.

A Buddhist believes the cosmos is fragmentary and impermanent, and that in a sense, he continually creates and recreates his world through karma. We can clearly see that the Buddhist idea of origins is multi-layered, not prone to falsification, and thus has precious little to bring to the empirical table in the contemporary discussion on origins.

All Buddhists believe if they follow the Eightfold Path they can achieve liberation from the hamster-wheel of birth, death, and reincarnation. The great yearning is release from this world of maya (illusion), detachment from craving, and that perfect state bliss (nirvana), where pain and suffering are no more (cf. Revelation 21:4). Nirvana is the final state of nothingness for Buddhists. They dont hold to any type or heaven or believe in any type of eternity whatsoever. In other words, their goal is a form of final death with vain hopes that there is nothing beyond this death.

Beijing hell mural (Photo: Thane Ury)

The idea of hell is also foreign for most of Buddhism, but is allowed for in certain strains of their worldview. I grew up in Asia, and vividly remember as a boy seeing murals on the wall of a Buddhist templegrotesque frescos of the horrors that awaited some Buddhists.40 Like Dantes Inferno, the images stuck to the canvas of my mind for years, and Ive seen similar gruesome vignettes in my nearly 40 trips to China. Those depictions capture the fate for truly wicked souls. The silver lining for these Buddhists is that theres a purgatory-like limit to this purging, meaning one will eventually be freed to return to the cycle of birth, death, and reincarnation on the path toward nirvana.

Consider the psychological effect of such fatalistic indoctrination. If ones whole existence is determined and the benefits of our current actions are not realized until some successive stage, hopelessness seems assured. Something of this despair can perhaps be seen empirically. Buddhist-dominant countries tend to have very high suicide rates. In fact, J. Warner Wallace has noted that the the top twenty most suicidal countries are almost all countries with strong Buddhist or Communist (atheist) histories.41 In Buddhist countries, the suicide rate is about 18 in 100,000 annually. In Thailand there is a suicide every two hours, and in China there is a suicide every two minutes.

While every biblically grounded Christian holds to the divinity of Jesus, Buddhists of any variety deny that Jesus was divine. They do not deny, however, that he is a pivotal person in history. Interestingly, since Buddhists believe the Buddha had a miraculous birth, they have few quibbles with Jesus miraculous birth. They deeply admire his social teachings and particularly his selfless work on behalf on others, but a deity he was not. Instead, he is to be revered as a bodhisattva, who allegedly postponed nirvana for the sake of others.43 Terry Muck even points out that high-level Buddhists show far greater respect for the historical Jesus than liberal exegetes of the Jesus Seminar.44 But even if the honor these Buddhist leaders accord Jesus as a great teacher seems genuine, fans of C.S. Lewis will wonder how these doyens might respond to the trilemma. Lewis wrote:

When it comes to dovetailing Christian theism and Buddhism, there has been no shortage of thinkers like Thomas Merton (Trappist monk) and Thich Nhat Hanh (Buddhist monk)46who are among many who have become apologists for such syncretism. And at first glance, superficial parallels between Buddhism and Christianity are abundant. For example, Buddha taught that self is the most deceitful of delusions, and Christianity seems to find agreement in Pauls writings,47 but such agreement is superficial, for self is referred to in very different ways. Buddhists have no concept of the sin nature to which Paul is pointing.

Another obvious similarity is the prospect of ultimate peace promised by both religions. But again, the Buddhist brand of peace is unlike Christianity because it is works-based, where one attains peace through mere meditation. Christianity, on the contrary, contends that real peace only comes through being made new creations in accepting Jesus, the Prince of Peace, as Savior.

Many suggest that Jesus and the Buddha wore comparable halos, and few would disagree that the similarity between their lives is indeed interesting. Consider that each was a monastic leader who ...

Yet, as interesting as these parallels are, the fundamental and irreconcilable contrasts between the two faith systems are quite stark, as highlighted in the following table.

No additional antidote is needed to vanquish futile attempts by creative inclusivists who propose a compatibility between the Buddhist and Christian traditions. The core teachings are hopelessly irreconcilable, and yet the politically correct tractor beam of modern pluralism and forced neutrality is relentless. Many in the Christian church have gone along for fear of being labeled Buddhaphobic, or similar epithets.

In fact, the motivation behind the production of the volume you are now holding will be judged by many as bigoted and intolerant. It is not because of material presented here (which is written in an honest fashion), but because of intolerant and bigoted positions of those projecting their intolerant and bigoted position toward Christianity. But such is the risk of lovingly and thoroughly assessing the truth claims and congruity of Christianitys contemporary rivals to which we are called (2 Corinthians 10:45; 1 Peter 3:15, etc.). The perspicuity of John 14:6 does not cease to exist just because it is ignoredJesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Ecumenical bartering to dissolve the sharp distinctions listed above can only be done at the high price of abandoning true truth. Additionally, to trivialize the vast chasm between the teachings of the Buddha and those of Jesus is to do a great injustice to the intent of both men. Any promise of a pluralistic potluck reveals a substantial ignorance of both systems as classically understood and of the milieus in which they were birthed.

For most of Asia the rhythm has hardened into a recurrence.

Buddhism resembles more of a mystical construct than a tightly formed philosophy with a healthy respect for logic and empirical data. Gautama Buddha himself saw theological reflection as mere speculation, unedifying, and not conducive to attaining spiritual liberation. It is nothing short of painful irony that his view itself would be hard to exceed in its metaphysically conjectural scope.

Christianity of course is also a faith. But it is a faith that is said to rest on historical events. In fact, given the centrality of the Christs Resurrection, it can truly be said that the Christian faith stands or falls on a single historical event that is claimed to have taken place in space and time (1 Corinthians 15:1219). In strong contrast, traditional Buddhists place little to no emphasis on objective data. Ultimate reality is indescribable, indefinable, unknowable, deep things that can only be met with noble silence.

Those who give credence to things like the law of non-contradiction may find encounters with Buddhists quite frustrating. Reasoned arguments and logic will not typically fall on fertile soil, as Tripitaka faithful Buddhists seem relegated to mere subjectivism and experientialism at every turn.

But picture a monk looking both ways before crossing a busy Bangkok street to beg for alms; the incongruity of how his meta-rational convictions fits with (1) avoiding being run over, and (2) dependence on others, is perhaps not even realized much less explained. To the average Westerner such irreconcilable contradictions seem pervasive throughout Buddhist dharma. Non-Buddhists, for example, might note the following conundrums:

The list could go on, but one last glaring fallacy bears mention. Buddhism advocates selflessness and liberation from craving. And yet the whole goal of attaining nirvana ironically appears to be the ultimate form of selfishness, since it is a completely self-centered experience. Johnson summarizes the contradiction clearly.

Illogical thinking, of course, is not the exclusive domain of Buddhists, as such manifests itself at some level with all views opposing biblical truth. Nor is it implied that those who pride themselves in logic are automatically superior or logical, much less correct. But with Buddhism (and Taoism also) contradiction actually seems essential to the system, and thus is not only tolerable but even somewhat of a badge of honor. All this comes as no surprise; being the logical outcome of a worldview that teaches that reality is just an illusion. Since any rules of reasoning, whatever they may be for each individual, are part of a reality that is illusory, then such rigid laws cannot exist, much less be codified in an ethereal worldview.

Intra-faith dialogues with diehard Buddhists will have no shared appreciation of the logical and linear reasoning that Westerners take for granted. In fact, it will be extremely difficult to fathom why Buddhists themselves fail to see logical contradictions within their framework, their holy books,57 their practice, or why the law of non-contradiction is not taken as a universal truism. Greg Bahnsen suggests that if someone denies the law of non-contradiction, you could just respond, Oh, so you dont deny it. When they counter with, No, I do deny it, then you can simply respond, Yes, but if you deny it, then you also dont deny it. Since they have given up the law of non-contradiction, then they cant appeal to that law when you contradict their position. The force of Bahnsens words is hard to escape.

Having been introduced to mere Buddhism, you can see that this religion is every bit as diverse as Christianity (this happens when a religion has been around for a long time), and as such, just about every assertion and assessment in this chapter could be endlessly qualified. The same holds true for strategies in sharing Christ with Buddhists. There is no cookie-cutter approach. What may have been fruitful for the Tang dynasty Nestorians will prove sterile 1,300 years later in Marin County.

We all know how daunting it can be to share Christ with family and friends, but getting to Calvary with Buddhists can be even more overwhelming, especially when tacking on cultural and language barriers. Yet be encouraged, as God has helped many just like you to handle these hurdles. A powerful and proven mix involves three things: a little preparation, courageously stepping out in faith, and knowing that God is with you! You will learn, grow, and gain confidence with each encounter. Additionally, previous evangelism by others has plowed the way for you, just as you may be tilling the ground for others or watering what they planted (1 Corinthians 3:58). Centuries of prayer cover precedes you too.

Some have long ministered in the Buddhist world. When they share methods that have proved fruitful, and others that have flopped, we should listen. The following common sense suggestions can be adapted according to context.

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Buddhism | Answers in Genesis

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Buddhist Memphis – MEDITATION

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"Rain Retreat" Week 2: the Monastics (Monks & Nuns) hold their "Rain Retreat" August 9th - August 23rd, 2015.Sunday, August 16th Vietnamese "Rain Retreat" (2nd Sunday) continues through Sunday, August 23rd "Parents' Day," ("Vu Lan"). "Rain Retreat" got it's name because in Asia it occurs during the rainy season between "Buddha's Birthday" and "Parents Day." On Sunday, August 23, 2015, Quan Am Monastery will celebrate "Parent's Day" (also known as "Ancestors' Day) on Sunday, August 23, 2015. For more info on "Parents' Day" Call (901) 679-4528 or see below:

If one's ancestors or parents are living, then the family member wears a red rose. Offerings are intended to assist the ancestors in their spiritual journey in this world. If the ancestors (or parents) are deceased, then the family member wears a white rose. Our intention is for our offerings to help deceased relatives in their journey to higher realms. In addition to the annual celebration, which is determined by the Lunar calendar, offerings and practices are done by family members during important traditional or religious celebrations, the starting of a new business, or even when a family member needs guidance or counsel. Quan Am Monastery will celebrate "Ancestors' Day" starting at 10am on Sunday, August 23, 2015. Everyone is invited to attend! Stay afterwards for a light "veggie" lunch on the porch outside the Temple or dine inside the house.In Vietnam, the anniversary of a loved ones death holds significance and is an important occasion. Family members gather for a banquet in memory of the deceased. Pictures with the names of the loved ones are on the ancestor altar. Offerings consist of favorite foods, which are prepared for the altar, fruit and incense.Respect for ancestors goes across all sectors of Vietnamese culture. Having an ancestor altar in the home or business is a common practice of all Vietnamese, regardless of religious affiliation (Buddhist or Christian).For more information or questions: Call(901) 679-4528 or Email:

Yoga Class 5:45pm every Tuesday - weekly. Everyone invited! Young & Old! Everyone enjoys this class. Suggested donation: $10 Adults; $7 Students;$7 Special Discount for Cooper Young Community Association members, upon presentation of card.

6pm Friday Meditation & Dharma Talk - WEEKLYRelax after work ~ Bring a friend. 10 min. from U of M. 12 min. from Midtown/East MemphisCall (901) 679-4528 to RSVP and for infoon what to wear.Bring any questions you may have. It's a good time to ask and for discussion. (You're invited to stay for light snacks afterwards. Get acquainted. Discuss Buddhism.) If you are running late, no worries. Just grab a cushion and join in. Cushions and chairs are available at the Monastery. Dress modest, lightweight, loose clothing & "Slip-On" shoes and Socks!Chant books in English - Just read along. Sessions are broken up into: 1) Chanting the "Heart Sutra" in English 2) "Silent Sitting Meditation" 3) Dharma Talk

Family Friendly Day Retreat Sunday, August 2, 2015 ~ Learn to Meditate.

RECAP: Vegan Pot Luck Dinner & Movie was great Saturday July 25th! There was Lasagna stuffed with Vegan Cheese; Vegan Chicken & Dumplings; 3 huge bowls of Green Salad; Fabulous! Organic Tofu Vegan "Deviled Eggs" prepared by a Vegan Chef & Food Scientist; Organic Watermelon & Vegan Banana Bread. Great company and everyone enjoyed each other. And we did a brief tour of the Temple and saw the harvest from the Monastery Garden. Enjoyed the "Vegucated" movie together. Highly enjoyable evening!

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What are the main beliefs of Buddhism? |

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Buddhists believe in reincarnation meaning that they believe that people are reborn again after dying. They believe that people continually go through the cycle of birth, living, death and rebirth.

The three trainings or practices in Buddhism are sila, samadhi and prajna. Sila is the practice of virtue, morality and good conduct. Sila is the classic "golden rule" of Christianity, do unto others as you would wish them to do unto you. Samadhi is the mental development of the person and refers to concentration and meditation. Buddhists believe that developing one's mind is the best way to lead to personal freedom. Prajna is the discernment or enlightenment where wisdom emerges into a person's calm and pure mind.

The four noble truths of Buddhism explore human suffering. The first is Dukkha, which is that suffering exists. It states that suffering is universal and everyone will feel suffering. The second is Samudaya, which is that there is a cause for the suffering that everyone experiences. Buddhists believe that the desire to have and control things is what leads to suffering. The third is Nirodha, which is that there is an end to suffering. Buddhists believe that in achieving Nirvana then the mind is free to experience complete freedom and non-attachment. The fourth is Magga, which is that the eightfold path is the way to end suffering.

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Buddhism Practices | Buddhism Beliefs

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Buddhism has changed and adapted to every culture it encountered after it began in the north of India. As such, Buddhism practices change depending upon the tradition and society. Tolerance is a key Buddhist virtue, whilst maintaining integrity to ones core beliefs. Some rituals are important if only to define ones motivation and give expression and definition to ones religion. There is even a growing western Buddhism, which can be said to encourage environmental acts, respect for human rights, and social equality. However, below we will outline some of the more well known Buddhism practices from traditionally Buddhist cultures.

Most Buddhist practices have the central aim of avoiding future karmic problems (by avoiding harming others), karmic benefit (through helping others), as well as various practices and ritualized activities that focus the mind, help to purify it and to assist in ones attainment of enlightenment and ridding of suffering for oneself and others.


Perhaps the key Buddhist practice, it is central to most traditions, and the only means to enlightenment for some. An excellent introduction to Buddhist meditation practices is available at (coming soon). The benefits of meditation are many, including physical and mental health, relaxation, improved relaxation and mental ability, and happiness. It is primarily the ability to understand and control the mind and its use for practices that lead to enlightenment that is considered the most important.


The position of prayer in Buddhism varies from tradition to tradition. A Buddhist solution to this may be to try each approach, and see which not only makes intellectual sense, but which leads to a better understanding of oneself and benefits to ones well being.

In Tibet particularly, prayer to various deities (influenced by the indigenous religion Bon, as well as various Indian practices) featured prominently, with prayer focusing the mind. With the merit of a prayer affecting ones future reality, and the number of times a prayer is said being important, Tibetans have developed machinery to magnify the quantity of prayers. Prayer wheels can contain a prayer written down many thousands of times turning a wheel thus has a magnified physical or mental effect. Similarly, prayer flags activate their written prayers with each flapping of the wind, sending their good wishes far and wide.

In contrast, Therevada emphasizes the fact that Buddhism does not posit the existence of a separate creator god, and that the Buddha himself discouraged his own worship. Indeed, Therevada believes the Buddha is outside of any call of prayer and it is wrong practice to pray to the Buddha (Tibetan Buddhism, by contrast, equates enlightenment with a heightened, intimate awareness of all beings). In both traditions, various rituals allows one to reflect on the qualities of the Buddha, and all of these practices are mutually reinforcing in internalizing true Buddhist beliefs.

Rituals have a cumulative affect of training ones mind and systematizing ones practice. The act of bowing and prostrating is a challenge to ones egoism itself and may be beneficial merely on that level.


Chanting is a common sound in Buddhist communities from Zen monasteries in Japan, to communities in Laos, Thailand, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Originating in India, where writing was rare, chanting enabled important texts to be passed from person to person. Later, the ritual of chanting was found to be a useful way to focus the mind, and remember and internalize key Buddhist ideas. In some communities it may even be said to have a protective aspect, with Buddhists chanting during important life events, or during or before times of danger or otherwise personal importance.

As with all of these rituals, the benefit is seen as less the result of an external agent, and more in the personal effort and resulting benefits from focusing ones good intentions, motivations, and purifying the mind from wrong views and understandings.


Many Buddhists are vegetarian, however it must be said that the Buddha himself did not prohibit the eating of meat. Many monasteries still serve meat today, and in Tibet, a high protein and fat diet was important in such a cold, often snow-covered environment. Buddhism acknowledges that rigid rules are often counterproductive, individual medical situations mean that vegetarianism may not always be the best course of action for ones spiritual practice. However one is not immune from the karmic consequences of eating meat, particularly if it is killed for you. Some choose to eat only ethically raised and well treated animals, offer prayers and thanks to the deceased creature, or limit meat eating to a minimum. As always, Buddhas teachings leave ultimate responsibility with the individual, and so do not remove the obligation of finding ones own answer to the wisest course of action for a person to follow.

Coming soon, an outline of other Buddhist practices, including symbolic hand gestures or Mudras, the reciting of Mantras or sacred sounds, making offerings, lighting incense and candles, making pilgrimage, and other practices surrounding the Buddha and various teachers and deities. There is also set Buddhism Marriage and funeral practices, however these are later inventions, culturally dependent and not traceable back to the time of the Buddha.

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November 11th, 2017 at 11:47 am

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How to Practice Tibetan Buddhism: 10 Steps (with Pictures)

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Tibetan Buddhism is a very complete form of Buddhism containing a subtle and advanced philosophy, clear step by step instructions for meditation, devotional exercises and physical meditations that work like Tai Chi, as well as much more.


Read as many of the Dalai Lama's books as possible. The most essential are "Essential Teachings," "The World of Tibetan Buddhism," "Mind of Clear Light," "The Art of Happiness," "An Open Heart," "How to Practice," and "The Path To Enlightenment." The Dalai Lama is one of the most scholarly, most humble and best Buddhist practitioners in the world, at least among those that are widely known.




Realize that higher teachings are worthless if you can't even practice the most basic teachings, such as ethics (avoiding the ten non-virtuous actions). So you should start with ethics and do your best to start with the most basic teachings first and master them, or at least get a good grounding with them, before moving on to higher teachings.


Think of Tibetan Buddhism as being like a pyramid. It starts with the foundation of the Hinayana for a stable base, then it builds on the Hinayana with the altruistic motivation of the Mahayana and its practice of the Six Paramitas, then it builds on the base of the Hinayana and Mahayana with the Vajrayana which is the pinnacle of Tibetan Buddhism and the main daily practice of serious Tibetan Buddhist practitioners. The way this works is similar to how the realization of impermanence, suffering, and no-self (wisdom) in Hinayana Buddhism is dependent on achievement of concentration which is itself dependent upon the practice of morality (keeping of the precepts).


Know that Tibetan Buddhism contains teachings for people of all different kinds of dispositions, it has advanced philosophical teachings for those of an intellectual bent, it has more mystical experiential meditative teachings for those of a more Zen-like orientation, and it has energy practices (in Vajrayana) for moving wind (prana, chi, ki) for health and mental clarity and spiritual realization, this is like Tai Chi and Hindu yoga (for those who want a Buddhist practice with emphasis on the health of the physical body). Tibetan Buddhism also deals with the subtle drops as well as prana in the practice of Vajrayana. This makes it similar in some respects to Hindu yoga which also deals with the drops (Bindu). No matter what kind of person you are, it is likely that there are teachings in Tibetan Buddhism that would be suited for your type of personality or mental/emotional/physical/spiritual orientation. Also, the different deities (Buddhas and Bodhisattvas) are for people with different types of spiritual inclinations or personalities. For those who are intellectual, the teachings of Manjushri are very appropriate; for those who aren't very intellectual but are very kind and compassionate, the practice of Avalokiteshvara would be very good; for women, practice of the deity Tara (a female deity) would be good; and for those interested in power, Vajrapani (who represents of the power of the buddhas) might be a good deity.


Learn about the Lamrim and practice the basics first.


Make a strong and sustained effort to learn about and generate Bodhicitta in your mind and heart, Bodhicitta is one of the most important aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, (although not a distinguishing aspects, as all Mahayana Buddhists are defined as such by possessing Bodhicitta). Tibetan Buddhism has a more clear definition of Bodhicitta than other forms of Mahayana, and Tibetan Buddhism also has more clearly defined and developed techniques for developing Bodhicitta than other forms of Mahayana.


Practice the Tonglen everyday to develop compassion and create positive karma


Find a Tibetan Lama or Rinpoche to teach you even further than you could by yourself, especially if you want certain empowerments. You should try to get a teaching from the Karmapa or the Dalai Lama.

How do I cultivate compassion and forgiveness?

wikiHow Contributor

Begin by showing compassion and forgiveness with yourself. Let yourself off the hook.

Can I practice Tibetan Buddhism without understanding it?

wikiHow Contributor

Practice comes from a desire to attain something. As you practice, you will refine your understanding. That refined understanding then refines your practice. That's good enough! But for your practice to become really effective, you should find a teacher. Not just any teacher, but a teacher that elevates you and speaks to your inner sense.

How would I practice the tantric aspects of Vajrayana?

wikiHow Contributor

You must have a teacher to practice the Vajrayana; it is the highest level of Buddhist teachings. There are many who claim that they are able to impart such knowledge, so be selective in who you choose to teach you.

I know that chants and mantras have to be recited in Tibetan, but what about prayers? Can they be recited in English only?


Yes. Mantras are generally from Sanskrit. Many have been "Tibetanized," but even those are similarly pronounced to their original Sanskrit. Watch someone you respect on video, like the Dalai Lama, or any teacher who touches you. Follow their lead. Chants are less rigorous, and English is fine. The trouble with English is that it's clunky compared to the elegance of Tibetan, so it doesn't chant well.

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Japanese Buddhism – Japan Guide

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Buddhism originated in India in the 6th century BC. It consists of the teachings of the Buddha, Gautama Siddhartha. Of the main branches of Buddhism, it is the Mahayana or "Greater Vehicle" Buddhism which found its way to Japan.

Buddhism was imported to Japan via China and Korea in the form of a present from the friendly Korean kingdom of Kudara (Paikche) in the 6th century. While Buddhism was welcomed by the ruling nobles as Japan's new state religion, it did not initially spread among the common people due to its complex theories.

There were also a few initial conflicts with Shinto, Japan's native religion. The two religions were soon able to co-exist and even complement each other.

During the Nara Period, the great Buddhist monasteries in the capital Nara, such as Todaiji, gained strong political influence and were one of the reasons for the government to move the capital to Nagaoka in 784 and then to Kyoto in 794. Nevertheless, the problem of politically ambitious and militant monasteries remained a main issue for the governments over many centuries of Japanese history.

During the early Heian Period, two new Buddhist sects were introduced from China: the Tendai sect in 805 by Saicho and the Shingon sect in 806 by Kukai. More sects later branched off the Tendai sect. Among these, the most important ones are mentioned below:

In 1175, the Jodo sect (Pure Land sect) was founded by Honen. It found followers among all different social classes since its theories were simple and based on the principle that everybody can achieve salvation by strongly believing in the Buddha Amida. In 1224, the Jodo-Shinshu (True Pure Land sect) was founded by Honen's successor Shinran. The Jodo sects continue to have millions of followers today.

In 1191, the Zen sect was introduced from China. Its complicated theories were popular particularly among the members of the military class. According to Zen teachings, one can achieve self enlightenment through meditation and discipline. At present, Zen seems to enjoy a greater popularity overseas than within Japan.

The Lotus Hokke or Nichiren sect, was founded by Nichiren in 1253. The sect was exceptional due to its intolerant stance towards other Buddhist sects. Nichiren Buddhism still has many millions of followers today, and several "new religions" are based on Nichiren's teachings.

Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi fought the militant Buddhist monasteries (especially the Jodo sects) at the end of the 16th century and practically extinguished Buddhist influence on the political sector.

Buddhist institutions were attacked again in the early years of the Meiji Period, when the new Meiji government favored Shinto as the state religion and tried to separate and emancipate it from Buddhism.

Nowadays about 90 million people consider themselves Buddhists in Japan. However, the religion does not directly affect the everyday life of the average Japanese very strongly. Funerals are usually carried out in a Buddhist way, and many households keep a small house altar in order to pay respect to their ancestors.

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