Buddhism in India

Before 2200 BCE:

  • Indus Valley Civilization
    • Refers to people living in the Indus River Valley in India in the third millenium BCE (c. 2500 BCE)
  • Significant evidence for the worship of goddesses in conjunction with bull or ram figures
  • Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were the principle cities of the region, c. 2500-1250 BCE
  • The region was well-organized with evidence of well-developed societies, scholarship, etc.

2200-1500 BCE:

  • Indus Valley civilization disappears (due to possible invasion by Aryans arriving c.1500 BCE?)
  • Religious oral traditions and hymns began to be collected

1000-500 BCE:

  • The Vedas and the religious diversity of Hinduism is rooted in the Indus Valley civilization
  • Collection of Expositions, which include Brahmanas and Upanisads, which are also included in the scriptures of Hinduism
  • The upanisads are a written composite and philosophical exploration on works orally composed.
  • They intend to present the meaning of religious practice and thought up against or in response to the Vedas.
  • A few centuries before the life of Buddha, a tradition of Wanderers wanted liberation, and were the early roots of Buddhism.
  • Two kinds of Wanderers:
    • Orthodox: Brahmanas
    • Heterodox: Samanas

563-483 BCE:

  • Life of The Buddha, or Siddhartha Gautama, "The Buddha"
    • Buddha is the great teacher from the Buddhist tradition
    • His teachings are based in the Vedic tradition
    • Referred to as the "enlightened one" or "one who has awakened"
  • Brief chronology of Siddhartha's life:
    • Born into the ksatriya varna as son and heir of a local ruler
    • Accidentally attained a meditational experience in youth
    • Sneaks out of the palace and finds and old man, a sick man, a corpse, and an ascetic; IE: the Four Passing Sights
    • Wants to overcome the sickness, suffering, and death in the world that he witnessed in those 4 people
    • Age 29, Siddhartha renounces the world and begins the path to enlightenment
    • When enlightened, Siddhartha, now "The Buddha," experiences the cornerstone of the 4 Noble Truths and the 4 dhyanas
    • Buddha dies around 483 BCE
    • Note: Siddhartha's birth and death dates are controversial. It is widely held in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia that Siddhartha's life spanned from 624-544 BCE, and in Europe, America, and India from c.566-486 BCE, and further in Japan from 448-368 BCE.

500-250 BCE: Period of the 4 Councils of Buddhism

  • First Council (after Buddha's death c. 483 BCE)
    • Location: Rajagrha
    • 500 monks gathered to compile Siddhartha's teachings (into a sort of canon), establishing a direction for Buddhism after Siddhartha's death
  • Second Council (c.383 or 373 BCE)
    • Location: Vaisali
    • Questioning of the 10 points
    • Possible time of the Great Schism according to some sources
  • "Second" Second Council, or 2/3 Council (around 346 BCE)
    • Location: Pataliputra
    • First true Great Schism of Buddhism, where the Samgha, or Buddhist order/group split into two separate schools, called Mahasamghikas and Sthaviras
  • Third Council (c.250 BCE)
    • Location: Pataliputra
    • Schism again occurs to separate a third school called sarastivadins
    • Asoka(c. 270-230 BCE) was overseer

269-232 BCE:

  • Asoka is the third monarch of the Mauryan Dynasty in India
    • c.258, Asoka leads a bloody military campaign in the village/region of Kalinga
    • The witness of such carnage inspired his conversion to Buddhism
    • As a king, he brought India together
    • Referred to as the pious ruler, establishing a sense of social justice in the region (ie. social service, medical care, humane treatment of the masses)
    • Became a lay disciple
    • Ruled over the third council
    • Sent out missionary efforts to spread Buddhism to other places, i.g: Indian sub-continent, Burma, Sri Lanka, etc.
    • Dharma-conquest -- reigned with good moral principles

Nagarjuna (c.150-250 CE):

  • Associated with the Madhyamika school of Mahayana Buddhism
  • Advocate of the Middle Way between asceticism and hedonism in Buddhist practice
  • Remembered for his teachings on emptiness or sunyata
  • Confusion about the biography of Nagarjuna persists, as texts are attributed to him over a five hundred year period
  • His principle work is Mulamadhyamikakariakas, in which he critically examines other schools of Buddhism of his time period

Asanga (c.315-390 CE):

  • Founder of the yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism
  • Emphasized the practice of Yoga or meditation (hence, Yogacara)
  • The elder brother of the prominent Buddhist philosopher, Vasubandhu
  • Known for his treatise on The Seventeen Stages of yoga, as instructed by bodhisattva Maitreya
  • Also, Asanga's Abhidharmasamuccaya attempts to exlicate the elements of phenomenal existence from the perspective of the Yogacara school

Vasubandhu (forth or fifth century CE):

  • Converted from Abhidharma Buddhism to Mahayana
  • Followed his brother Asanga in converting from Abhidhgarma Buddhism to Mahayan Buddhism, in particular, the Yogacara school (eventually the Vijnanavada school for Vasubandhu)
  • He is connected historically to three distinct persons, and thus his biography is not clear
  • Later in life he moves from a concentration on Yoga practice to Buddhist theory
  • He was the author of Abhidharmakosa, an encyclopedic work on Buddhist doctrines and philosophy
  • Author of Vimsatika (20 verses) and Trimsika (30 verses)

Dignaga (c.480-540 CE):

  • The ascribed founder of Buddhist logic
  • Early on, affiliated with the vatsiputriya school of Abhidhgarma Buddhism, later the Nayaya school
  • Studied under the great buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu (Vijnana-vada phiosophy)
  • Thought to have written more than a hundred treatises on logic
  • Was the first Buddhist thinker to consider seriously the "validity or invalidity" of knowledge

Paramartha (c.498-569 CE):

  • Anotable biographer, missionary and translater of the Buddhist tradition
  • Studied at the famous Universtity of Nalanda
  • Spent a considerable amount of time "on mission" in china
  • While in China he sitinguished himself as a translator of Sanskrit scriptures into chinese (translating the equivalent of 275 volumes in Chinese)
  • He was largely responsible for the introduction of Vasubandhu's philosophy to China

Dharmapala (c.530-561 CE):

  • Associated with the yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism
  • His most influential work is the Parmattha-dipani
  • Principally responded to the work of an earlier thinker, that of Buddhagosha
  • Studied at the famous University of Nalanda, later becoming its abbot
  • Made significant contributions to the Buddhist discussion of "self" and consciousness from a Yogacara school perspective
  • A Chinese pilgrim-monk who travelled to India in search of the roots of the Mahayana buddhist tradition (late Sui and early T'ang dynasties)
  • Great Buddhist scholar and advisor to the emperor of China
  • Studied extensively both the Abhidhgarma and Mahayana Buddhist traditions, as well as the contemporary, standard Vedic curriculum
  • He contributed significanly to the Chinese Buddhist canon as a translator of Indian texts into chinese (this was well funded bye the Chinese government, as he had excellent connections)
  • His work in its more pure form lives on in the Hosso school of Japanese Buddhism

Dharmakirti (c.600-660 CE):

  • In early life Dharmakirti studied extensively the scholarship of the Vedas and other buddhist phiosophy
  • He eventually pursued the study of logic, following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Dignaga
  • Was the student of a direct pupil's of Dignaga
  • Widely considered a genius of his time, Dharmakirti's theory of knowledge forced numerous revisions within the works of other thinkers and other traditions
  • Significantly, he challenged the divine infallibility of the Vedas

Formation of Schools of Indian Buddhism