Timeline of Buddhism

  • 563 BC: Buddha is born in Lumbini, India.
  • 309 BC: Third Buddhist Council convened by Asoka.
  • 300s BC: Oldest Brahmi script (the ancestor of Indic languages) dates from this period.
  • 200s BC: Indian traders regularly visited ports in Arabia, explaining the prevalence of place names in the region with Indian or Buddhist origin. For example, bahar (from the Sanskrit vihara, a Buddhist monastery).
  • 100s BC: Theravada Buddhism is officially introduced to Sri Lanka by the Venerable Mahinda, the son of the emperor Ashoka of India during the reign of king Devanampiya-Tissa.
  • 0s: According to Theravadins, during the reign of King Vatta Gamini in Sri Lanka, the Buddhist monks assembled in Aloka Vihara and wrote down the Tripitaka in Pali.
  • 67: Buddhism officially came to China, with the two monks Moton and Chufarlan.
  • 78-101: According to Mahayana tradition, the Fourth Buddhist council takes place under the Kushana king Kanishka's reign, near Jalandar, Kashmir, India.
  • 100s/200s: Indian and Central Asian Buddhists travel to Vietnam.
  • 148: An Shih Kao, a Parthian prince and Buddhist monk, arrived in China and proceeded to translate many Buddhist works in to Chinese.
  • 320-467: The University at Nalanda grew to support 3-10,000 monks.
  • 399-414: Fa Xian travelled from China to India, then returned to translate Buddhist works in to Chinese.
  • 400s: Earliest evidence of Buddhism in Myanmar (Pali inscriptions). Earliest evidence of Buddhism in Indonesia (statues). Earliest reinterpretations of Pali texts.
  • 402: At the request of Yao Xing, Kumarajiva travels to Changan and translates many Buddhist texts in to Chinese.
  • 403: In China, Hui Yuan argues that Buddhist monks should be exempt from bowing to the emperor.
  • 405: Yao Xing honours Kumarajiva.
  • 500s: Zen adherents enter Vietnam from China. Jataka stories are translated into Persian by order of the Zoroastrian king Khosrau I of Persia.
  • 552: Buddhism was introduced to Japan via Baekje according to Nihonshoki. (Some scholars place this event in 538)
  • 600s: Xuan Zang travelled to India, noting the persecution of Buddhists by Sasanka (king of Gouda, a state in north-west Bengal), before returning to Chang An in China to translate Buddhist scriptures. End of sporadic Buddhist rule in the Sindh.
  • 600s: King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet sent messengers to India to get Buddhist texts.
  • 671: Chinese Buddhist pilgrim I-Ching visited Palembang, the capital of the partly-Buddhist kingdom of Srivijaya, on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. He reported over 1000 buddhist monks in residence.
  • 700s: Buddhist Jataka stories are translated in to Syriac and Arabic as Kalilag and Damnag. An account of Buddha's life was translated in to Greek by St John of Damascus, and widely circulated to Christians as the story of Jalaam and Josaphat. By the 1300s this story of Josaphat had become so popular that he was made a Catholic saint.
  • 700s: Under the reign of King Trisong Deutsen, Buddhism replaces Bonpo as Tibet's main religion.
  • Abt. 760: Borobodur, the famous Indonesian Buddhist structure, begins construction, probably as a non-Buddhist shrine. It was completed as a Buddhist monument in 830 after about 50 years of work.
  • 841-846: Li Yan reigns in China during the Tang Dynasty, one of three Chinese emperors to prohibit Buddhism.
  • 900s: Buddhist temple construction commences at Pagan, Myanmar.
  • 1009: Vietnam's Ly Dynasty began, which was partly brought about by an alliance with the Buddhist monkhood. Ly emperors patronized Mahayana Buddhism, in addition to traditional spirits.
  • 1025: Srivijaya, a partly Buddhist kingdom based on Sumatra, is raided by pirates from the Chola region of southern India. It survives, but declines in importance. Shortly after the raid, the centre of the kingdom moves northward from Palembang to Jambi-Melayu.
  • 1044-1077: In Burma, Pagan's first king Anoratha reigned. He converted the country to Theravada Buddhism with the aid of monks and books from Sri Lanka. He is said to have been converted to Theravada Buddhism by a Mon monk, though other beliefs persisted.
  • 1057: Anawrahta of Myanmar captures Thanton in northern Thailand, strengthening Theravada Buddhism in the country.
  • 1084-1113: In Myanmar, Pagan's second king, Kyanzittha (son of Anawrahta) reigns. He completed the building of the Shwezigon pagoda, a shrine for relics of the Buddha, including a tooth brought from Sri Lanka. Various inscriptions refer to him as an incarnation of Vishnu, a chakravartin, a bodhisattva and dharmaraja.
  • 1113: Alaungsithu reigned in Pagan, Myanmar, until his son Narathu smothered him to death and assumed the throne.
  • 1133-1212: Honen Shonin establishes Pure Land Buddhism as an independent sect in Japan.
  • 1181: The self-styled bodhisattva Jayavarman VII, a devout follower of Mahayana Buddhism (though he also patronised Hinduism), assumes control of the Khmer kingdom. He constructs the Bayon, the most prominent Buddhist structure in the Angkor temple complex. This set the stage for the later conversion of the Khmer people to Theravada Buddhism.
  • 1190: In Myanmar, Anawrahta's lineage regains control with the assistance of Sri Lanka. Pagan has been in anarchy. The new regime reforms Burmese Buddhism on Sri Lankan Theravada models.
  • Late 1100s: The great Buddhist educational centre at Nalanda, where various subjects were taught such as Buddhism, Logic, Philosophy, Law, Medicine, Grammar, Yoga, Alchemy and Astrology, was destroyed. It is generally believed that it was razed by the Turks. Nalanda was supported by kings of several dynasties and had served as a great international centre of learning.
  • 1200s: Theravada overtakes Mahayana - previously practised alongside Hinduism - as the dominant form of Buddhism in Cambodia. Thailand and Sri Lanka were influences in this change. In Persia, the historian Rashid al-Din records some eleven Buddhist texts circulating in Arabic translation, amongst which the Sukhavati-vyuha and Karanda-vyuha Sutras are recognizable. Portions of the Samyutta and Anguttara-Nikayas, along with parts of the Maitreya-vyakarana, have also been identified in this collection.
  • Abt. 1238: The Thai Kingdom of Sukothai is established, with Theravada Buddhism as the state religion.
  • 1277: Burma's Pagan empire begins to disintegrate after being defeated by Kublai Khan at Ngasaungsyan, near the Chinese border. The Khan ordered the invasion after the Burmese refused to pay tribute.
  • 1287: The Theravada kingdom at Pagan, Myanmar falls to the Mongols, and is overshadowed by the Shan capital at Ava.
  • Abt. 1279-1298: Sukothai's third and most famous ruler, Ramkhamhaeng (Rama the Bold), reigned and made vassals of Laos, much of modern Thailand, Pegu (Burma), and parts of the Malay Peninsula, thus giving rise to Sukhothai artistic tradition. After Ramkhamhaeng's death, Sukothai lost control of its territories as its vassals became independent.
  • 1295: Mongol leader Ghazan Khan is converted to Islam, ending a line of Tantric Buddhist leaders.
  • 1305-1316: Buddhists in Persia attempt to convert Uldjaitu Khan.
  • 1351: In Thailand, U Thong, possibly the son of a Chinese merchant family, established Ayutthaya as his capital and took the name of Ramathibodi.
  • 1391-1474: Gyalwa Gendun Drubpa, first Dalai Lama of Tibet.
  • 1405-1431: The Chinese eunuch admiral Zheng He made seven voyages in this period, through South-East Asia, India, the Persian Gulf, East Africa, and Egypt. At the time, Buddhism was well-established in China, so visited peoples may have had exposure to Chinese Buddhism.
  • 1578: Altan Khan of the Tümed gave the title of Dalai Lama to Sonam Gyatso (the third Dalai Lama).
  • 1600s & 1700s: When Vietnam divided during this period, the Nguyen rulers of the south chose to support Mahayana Buddhism as an integrative ideology for the ethnically plural society of their kingdom, which was also populated by Chams and other minorities.
  • 1614: The Toyotomi family rebuilt a great image of Buddha at the Temple of Hōkōji in Kyōtō.
  • 1615: The Oyirad Mongols converted to the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism.
  • 1635: Zanabazar, the first Jebtsundamba Khutughtu, was born as a great-grandson of Abadai Khan of the Khalkha.
  • 1642: Güüshi Khan of the Khoshuud donated the sovereignty of Tibet to the fifth Dalai Lama.
  • 1766-67: In Thailand, many Buddhist texts are destroyed as the Burmese invade Ayutthaya.
  • 1800s: In Thailand, King Mongkut - himself a former monk - conducted a campaign to reform and modernise the monkhood, a movement that has continued in the present century under the inspiration of several great ascetic monks from the north-east of the country.
  • 1802-20: Nguyen Anh comes to the throne of the first united Vietnam - he succeeds by quelling the Tayson rebellion in south Vietnam with help from Rama I in Bangkok, then took over the north from the remaining Trinh. After coming to power, he created a Confucianist orthodox state and was eager to limit the competing influence of Buddhism. He forbade adult men to attend Buddhist ceremonies.
  • 1820-41: Minh Mang reigns in Vietnam, further restricting Buddhism. He insists that all monks be assigned to cloisters and carry identification documents. He also placed new restrictions on printed material. He also began a persecution of Catholic missionaries and converts that his successors (not without provocation) continued.
  • Abt. 1860: In Sri Lanka, against all expectations the monastic and lay community brought about a major revival in Buddhism, a movement that went hand in hand with growing nationalism. The revival followed a period of persecution by foreign powers. Since then Buddhism has flourished and Sri Lankan monks and expatriate lay people have been prominent in spreading Theravada Buddhism in Asia, the West and even in Africa.
  • 1880s: Burma becomes a British colony.
  • 1882: Jade Buddha Temple founded in Shanghai, China with two Jade Buddha statues imported from Burma.
  • 1896: Using Fa Xian's records, Nepalese archaeologists rediscovered the great stone pillar of Ashoka at Lumbini.
  • 1899: Gordon Douglas is ordained in Myanmar. He is the first westerner to be ordained in the Theravada tradition.
  • 1959: 14th Dalai Lama flees Chinese occupation of Tibet, establishes exile community in India.
  • 1966: World Buddhist Sangha Council convened by Theravadins in Sri Lanka with the hope of bridging differences and working together. The first convention was attended by leading monks, from many countries and sects, Mahayana as well as Theravada. Nine points written by Ven. Walpola Rahula were approved unanimously;
    1. The Buddha is our only Master
    2. We take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha
    3. We do not believe that this world is created and ruled by a God
    4. We consider that the purpose of life is to develop compassion for all living beings without discrimination and to work for their good, happiness, and peace; and to develop wisdom leading to the realization of Ultimate Truth
    5. We accept the Four Noble Truths, namely Dukkha, the Arising of Dukkha, the Cessation of Dukkha, and the Path leading to the Cessation of Dukkha; and the law of cause and effect (Dependent Origination)
    6. All conditioned things (sa.mskaara) are impermanent (anitya) and dukkha, and that all conditioned and unconditioned things (dharma) are without self (anaatma).
    7. We accept the Thirty-seven Qualities conducive to Enlightenment (bodhipak.sa-dharma) as different aspects of the Path taught by the Buddha leading to Enlightenment.
    8. There are three ways of attaining bodhi or Enlightenment: namely as a disciple (sraavaka), as a Pratyeka-Buddha and as a Samyak-sam-Buddha (perfectly and Fully Enlightened Buddha). We accept it as the highest, noblest, and most heroic to follow the career of a Bodhisattva and to become a Samyak-sam-Buddha in order to save others.
    9. We admit that in different countries there are differences with regard Buddhist beliefs and practices. These external forms and expressions should not be confused with the essential teachings of the Buddha.
  • 1970s: Indonesian Archaeological Service and UNESCO restore Borobodur.
  • 1975: Lao Communist rulers attempted to change attitudes to religion, in particular calling on monks to work, not beg. This caused many to return to lay life, but Buddhism remains popular.
  • 1975-79: Cambodian communists under Pol Pot tried to completely destroy Buddhism, and very nearly succeeded. By the time of the Vietnamese invasion in 1979 nearly every monk and religious intellectual had been either murdered or driven into exile, and nearly every temple and Buddhist library had been destroyed.
  • 1980: Burmese military government asserts authority over the sangha.
  • 1983: Shanghai Insititute of Buddhism established at Jade Buddha Temple under the Shanghai Buddhist Association.

See also: Buddhism.

Reference




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