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History of Buddhism after Buddha

The History of Buddhism and Buddhist Philosophy after Buddha

Buddhism after the Buddha. One of the first representations of the Buddha, 1st-2nd century CE, Gandhara.Buddhism spread slowly in India until the powerful Mauryan emperor Asoka converted to it and actively supported it. His promotion led to construction of Buddhist religious sites and missionary efforts that spread the faith into the countries listed at the beginning of the article.

After about 500 CE, Buddhism showed signs of waning in India, becoming nearly extinct after about 1200 CE. This was partially due to Muslim invasions and partially due to Hinduism's revival movements such as Advaita and the rise of the bhakti movement.

Elements of Buddhism have remained within India to the current day: the Bauls of Bengal have a syncretic set of practices with strong emphasis on many Buddhist tantric and philosophic concepts. Other areas of India have never parted from Buddhism, including Ladakh and other areas bordering the Tibetan, Nepali and Bhutanese borders.

Buddhism also remained in the rest of the world although in Central Asia and later Indonesia it was mostly replaced by Islam. In China and Japan, it adopted aspects of the native beliefs of Confucianism, Taoism and Shinto respectively. In Tibet, the Tantric Vajrayana lineage was preserved after it disappeared in India.

History of the schools

Three months after the passing of Gautama Buddha, The First Council was held at Rajagaha by his immediate disciples who had attained Arahantship (Enlightenment). Maha Kassapa, the most respected and elderly monk, presided at the Council. Only two sections the Dhamma and the Vinaya were recited at the First Council. All Arahants unanimously agree that no disciplinary rule laid down by the Buddha should be changed, and no new ones should be introduced. At this point, no conflict about what the Buddha taught is known to have occurred, so the teachings were divided into various parts and each was assigned to an elder and his pupils to commit to memory. These groups of people often cross-checked with each other to ensure that no omissions or additions were made.

At the Second Council, one hundred years later, it was not the dharma that was called into question but the monks' code of rules or vinaya. This resulted in the formation of the Sthaviravadin and Mahasanghika schools. Opinions differ on the cause of the split: the Sthaviravadins described their opponents as lax monks who had ceased to follow all the vinaya rules, while the Mahasanghikas argued that the Buddha had never intended a rigid adherence to all the minor rules. After this initial division, more were to follow. Schism in early Buddhism was typically not on points of doctrine (orthodoxy), but in the area of practice (orthopraxy). So if two schools shared a vinaya, but were in dispute over doctrinal matters, it was likely that they would continue to practice together. However, if one group disputed the vinaya of another, this would often prevent common practice.

In the 3rd century BCE the Third Council was convened under the patronage of Emperor Ashoka, primarily for the purpose of establishing an official orthodoxy. At the council, small groups raised questions about the specifics of the vinaya and the interpretation of doctrine. The chairman of the council, Moggaliputta Tissa, compiled a book called the Kathavatthu, which was meant to refute these arguments. The council sided with Moggaliputta and his version of Buddhism as orthodox; it was then adopted by Emperor Ashoka as his empire's official religion. This school of thought was termed Vibhajjavada (Pali), literally "Teaching of Analysis". The version of the scriptures that had been established at the Third Council, including the vinaya, sutta and the abhidhamma commentaries (collectively known as Tripitaka), was taken to Sri Lanka by Emperor Ashoka's son, the Venerable Mahinda. There it was eventually committed to writing in the Pali language. The Pali Canon remains the only complete set of Nikaya scriptures to survive, although fragments of other versions exist.

Between the 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE, the terms Mahayana and Hinayana were first used in writing, in, for example, the Lotus Sutra.

The Fourth Council was convened by the Kushan emperor Kanishka, around 100 CE at Jalandhar or in Kashmir, and is usually associated with the formal rise of Mahayana Buddhism. Theravada Buddhism does not recognize the authenticity of this council, and it is sometimes called the “council of heretical monks”.

It is said that Kanishka gathered 500 Bhikkhus, headed by Vasumitra, to edit the Tripitaka and make references and remarks. A set of new scriptures were approved, as well as fundamental principles of Mahayana doctrine. The new scriptures, usually in the Gandhari vernacular and the Kharosthi script, were rewritten in the classical language of Sanskrit, to many scholars a turning point in the propagation of Buddhist thought.

During and after the 2nd century, versions of the Mahayana vision became clearly defined in the works of Nagarjuna, Asanga, Shantideva, Ashvagosha, and Vasubandhu.

Around the 1st century, Buddhism spread from India through successive waves of merchants and pilgrims. It reached as far as Arabia to the west, and eastward to southeast Asia, where the first records of Buddhism date from around 400. Mahayana Buddhism established a major regional center in what is today Afghanistan, and from there it spread to China, Korea, Mongolia, and Japan. In 475, the Indian monk Bodhidharma travelled to China and established the Chan (Chinese; Japanese: Zen), school. During the first millennium, monks from China such as Yijing and Xuanzang made pilgrimages to India.

At one time, different Turkic and Tocharian groups along the northern fringe of East Turkestan (modern Xinjiang in western China) adhered to the Theravada school. However, Buddhism there was supplanted by the introduction of Islam around 1000.

Vajrayana also evolved at this stage carried from India to Tibet around 800 by teachers such as Padmasambhava and Atisha. There it initially coexisted with native belief systems such as Bön, but later came to largely supplant or absorb them. An early form of esoteric Vajrayana known as Shingon was also transmitted by the priest Kukai to Japan, where it continues to be practiced.

There is still an active debate as to whether or not Tantrism was initially developed within Buddhism or Hinduism. Buddhist literature tends to predate the later puranic Tantras, and there is some evidence to suggest that the basic structure of tantra depends upon the Mahayana Buddhist philosophical schools. However, it is thought by others that meditative Shiva sects seem to have existed from pre-Vedic times; also, from scriptural citations and study of the Vedas, some say Tantra saw its philosophical basis in the mystical rites and mantras of the Atharva Veda (and later the Hindu Upanishads and Mahayana school of Buddhism).

Buddhist Scriptures

The Buddhist canon of scripture is known in Sanskrit as the Tripi?aka and in Pali as the Tipi?aka. These terms literally mean "three baskets" and refers to the three main divisions of the canon, which are:

The Vinaya Pi?aka, containing disciplinary rules for the Sa?gha of Buddhist monks and nuns, as well as a range of other texts which explain why and how rules were instituted, supporting material, and doctrinal clarification. The Sutta Pi?aka (Pali; Sanskrit: Sutra Pi?aka), containing discourses of the Buddha. The Abhidhamma or commentary Pi?aka, containing a philosophical systematization of the Buddha's teaching, including a detailed analysis of Buddhist psychology. During the first few centuries after Gautama Buddha, his teachings were transmitted orally, but around the 1st Century CE they began to be written down. A given school of Buddhism will generally have its own distinctive canon of texts, which will partially overlap with those of other schools. The most notable set of texts from the early period is the Pali Canon, which was preserved in Sri Lanka by the Theravada school. The sutras it contains are also part of the canon of every other Buddhist sect. Full versions of the original text are now readily available on the internet.

The appearance of the Mahayana tradition brought with it a collection of new texts, composed in Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, many of which were also described as actual sermons of the Buddha. These include the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, the Avata?saka, the Lotus Sutra, the Vimalakirti Sutra, and the ?irvana Sutra. Many of the Mahayana sutras were translated into Tibetan and classical Chinese and are also now read in the West.

The Mahayana canon further expanded after Buddhism was transmitted to China, where the existing texts were translated, and new texts were composed for the purpose of adapting the Indian tradition to the East Asian philosophical mindset. Many of these works are considered by modern scholars to be spurious. Other new texts, such as the Platform Sutra and the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment did not pretend to be of Indian origin, but were widely accepted as valid scriptures on their own merits. Later writings include the Linji Lu of Chan master Linji. In the course of the development of Korean Buddhism and Japanese Buddhism, further important texts were composed. These included, for example, in Korea, some of the writings of Jinul, and in Japan, works such as Dogen's Shobogenzo.

Arguably the most thorough compilation of Mahayana sutras is found in the Tibetan canon. This is split into those texts attributed to be authored by the Buddha (Kanjur), and those texts which are understood to be commentaries by Indian practitioners (Tenjur). Vajrayana practitioners also study distinctive texts such as the Buddhist tantras.

Recently an important archaeological discovery was made, consisting of the earliest known Buddhist manuscripts, recovered from somewhere near ancient Gandhara in northwest Pakistan. These fragments, written on birch bark, are dated to the 1st century and have been compared to the Dead Sea scrolls in importance. Donated to the British Library in 1994, they are now are being studied in a joint project at the University of Washington.

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