Magadh Info/Bodhgaya

Buddhism Outside India

Sri Lanka (3rd century BCE onwards
When Ashoka's son, monk Mahindra reached the contemporary Sri Lankan capital of Anuradhapura in the 3rd century BCE, he was warmly welcomed by the Sri Lankan ruler, Devanampriya-Tissa. The Sri Lankan emperor was greatly influenced by the teachings of the Buddha and culture of the Buddhist India which were preached by the monk Mahindra, and converted into Buddhism. Soon, Buddhism became the state religion of Sri Lanka.

Later, when Ashoka's daughter, Sanghamitra, reached Sri Lanka, she is believed to have brought the southern branch of the original Bodhi tree, which was planted at Anuradhapura, and still is worshipped by the Sri Lankan Buddhists.

During the reign of the Sri Lankan ruler, Vatta Gamini in the 1st century CE, the monks assembled in Aloka-Vihara and wrote down the Tripitaka, the three basket of the Teachings, known as the Pali scriptures for the first time. The Sri Lankan nuns introduced the Sangha of nuns in China in 433 CE. Although Buddhism in Sri Lanka had spread once from Sri Lanka to other parts as well, but from the 16th century CE onwards, it nearly died out due to competition from Hinduism and Islam, as well as war and Portuguese, Dutch and British colonialism in Sri Lanka.

But a major Buddhist revival movement as a result of nationalism not only brought back the glory of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, but also flourished it in other parts of the continent.From that period onwards itself, the Sri Lankan monks have had an important role in spreading both Theravada Buddhism in Asia, the West and even in Africa. Today, about 69 per cent of the total Sri Lankan population adheres to Theravadin Buddhism.

China (475 CE onwards)
Before the arrival of Buddhism in China, the Chinese were either following Confucianism, Taoism or folk religion. China recorded official contact with Buddhism with the arrival of an Indian Buddhist monk and scholar, Bodhi Dharma IN 475 CE. Bodhi Dharma introduced the philosophy of the Buddha's teachings to the Chinese, who were influenced by them. Gradually, Buddhism and Chinese Taoism intermingled with one another, thereby resulting in the Ch'an school of Buddhism in China. The philosophical inspirations of the Madhyamaka and Yogachara, as well as the Pure Land and Ch'an Sutras, interacting with the already sophisticated philosophies of Confucianism and Taoism, led to a regular renaissance in religious and philosophical thought in China.

Tibet (173 CE onwards)
Buddhism was first introduced to Tibet in 173 CE in the reign of the 28th Yarlung king Lha Thothori Nyantsen, but it had hardly any impact on the Tibetans. The Buddhist scriptures were for the first time officially introduced to Tibet around 500 CE during the reign of the 28th Tibetan king, Hlato Ri Nyentsen. The Indian scholar, Shantarakshita went to Tibet during the reign of the Tibetan king Trisong Detsen (CE 740 - CE 798), but due to the opposition from some of the king's ministers, he had to return back. But before Shantarakshita left, he convinced the king to invite the tantric adept Padmasambhava, whose arrival asserted that Shantarakshita's efforts had been ruined by the demons of the country. Padmasambhava defeated all the demons in a personal combat which impressed the king and his court who then invited Shantarakshita again and the first monastery in Tibet was built at Samye. This marked the beginning of the 'first dissemination' of Buddhism to Tibet, which ended when the devout Buddhist king Relbachen (815-836) was assassinated, which further led to the beginning of an interregnum period for Tibetan Buddhism, which again ended in 1042 CE, when Atisha (982 CE - 1054 CE), one of the directors of the monastic university of Nalanda, paid a visit to Tibet. Tibetan historians consider this to be the beginning of the 'second dissemination' of Buddhism in Tibet. Atisha was so successful in bringing back the Dharma to Tibet that Buddhism quickly became the dominant religious tradition in the country.

Buddhism In Japan (550 CE onwards)
Buddhism was introduced to Japan by Korea and China in the 6th century CE. Trade via 'silk route' not only brought different regions of the distant world together, but also developed the 'mutual understanding' among the neighbouring nations. China and Korea were no exception and along with trade relationship, Buddhism reached Korea from China.
Later, as per Nihonshoki in 552 CE, the Korean state of Paekche sent Buddhist texts and images to Japan so as to convince the Japanese emperor to become an ally in its war with the neighboring state of Silla. In the initial stages, Japanese inclination towards Buddhism was majorly related to the magical powers of the Buddha and Buddhist monks. But when the emperor Yomei (CE 585 - CE 587) converted into Buddhism, the Japanese began to travel to China in order to learn from the Buddhist teachers there, and a number of indigenous Buddhist schools developed in Japan, Zen being the most prominent one of all others like Shingon and Tindai.
Yomei's son, Prince Shotoku (CE 574 - CE 622) propagated Buddhism, built various Buddhist temples and sent Japanese monks to travel to China for further studies on Buddhism. Besides these, he also wrote commentaries on three Buddhist texts. Undoubtedly, in later period, he was viewed in Japan as an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara