History of Buddhism in India

Modern version of the Eternal Knot by Charles HuttnerBrief History of Buddhism in India


Please note that various Buddhist schools may differ in details of Buddhist history.

Initially, Buddhism remained one of the many small sects in India. The main breakthrough came when King Asoka (ca. 270-232 BCE) converted to Buddhism. He did not make it a state religion, but supported all ethical religions. He organised the spreading of Buddhism throughout India, but also beyond; most importantly to Shri Lanka. This occurred after the Third Council.


The First Council

Three months after the Buddha's Mahaparinirvana (passing away), his immediate disciples convened a council at Rajagaha. Maha Kassapa, the most respected and senior monk, presided at the Council.
Two very important personalities who specialised in the two areas of the teachings:
- The Dharma: Ananda, the closest constant companion and disciple of the Buddha for 25 years. Endowed with a remarkable memory, Ananda was able to recite what was spoken by the Buddha.
- The Vinaya: Upali remembered all the Vinaya rules.
Only these two sections - the Dharma and the Vinaya - were recited at the First Council (no mention was made of the Abhidharma yet). Though there were no differences of opinion on the Dharma there was some discussion about the Vinaya rules.
Before the Buddha's Parinirvanana, he had told Ananda that if the Sangha wished to amend or modify some minor rules, they could do so. But Ananda forgot to ask the Buddha what the minor rules were. As the members of the Council were unable to agree as to what constituted the minor rules, Maha Kassapa finally ruled that no disciplinary rule laid down by the Buddha should be changed, and no new ones should be introduced. No intrinsic reason was given. Maha Kassapa did say one thing, however: "If we changed the rules, people will say that Ven. Gautama's disciples changed the rules even before his funeral fire has ceased burning."
At the Council, the Dharma was divided into various parts and each part was assigned to an Elder and his pupils to commit to memory. The Dharma was then passed on from teacher to pupil orally. The Dharma was recited daily by groups of people who regularly cross-checked with each other to ensure that no omissions or additions were made.

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It gives me a great pleasure to make a presentation at this august forum attended by some distinguished visitors from the Peoples' Republic of China, including Ms. Mo Ying of Beijing International Book Fair Management Office, writers such as Mr.

Popular Q&A

Brief History of Buddhism in India?

I need a brief history on how Buddhism came into India

Buddha was Indian prince.
His belief system took hold in China first however, because of his philosophical differences with Hindu, who were and still are the most powerful religion in Inda.
Eventually, however, Buddhism began to creep into India because of its rejection of a caste system and its rejection of the severe self-denial required of Hindu mystics. Buddhism preaches moderation in those sorts of things.
In fact, it was while Buddha was on a long fast that he had a realization that he was seeking enlightenment the wrong way and he ended his fast and silence.

What is the impact of Buddhism on India?

Buddhism had a great impact on India. The Buddhists rejected the Caste System, which the Hinduists did not.

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