Magadh Info/Bodhgaya

Buddhism After Buddha :

Buddhism is a philosophy based on the teachings of Lord Buddha(563 BCE-483 BCE), who was born as Siddhartha Gautama, a Shakya prince in Lumbini, Nepal. The teachings preached by Lord Buddha subsequently turned into a religion, known as Buddhism. The core of Buddhism lies in the purification of mind and soul by realising the truth and getting rid of the worldly desires. Basically, it were the principles of Karma in the doctrine of Buddhism that made the religion one of the major ones in the world.

Buddhism After The Buddha - The role of Ashoka

It was after the Buddha's death that the school of Buddhism spread slowly in India and then subsequently, throughout the world. However, it was at the time of the the Indian emperor Ashoka that Buddhism took a pace to reach its height. After the tragic Kalinga war, Ashoka decided to follow the path of non-violence or 'ahimsa' and converted to Buddhism. He promoted the doctrines of Buddhism not only in his empire as Dhamma but in other regions as well. It was his promotional campaign that led to the construction of the Buddhist religious monasteries and stupas, which further facilitated the spread of Buddhism in countries like Sri Lanka, Tibet, China and Japan.

The Buddhist Councils And The Rise Of The Buddhist Sects

First Buddhist Council : It was merely three months after the death of the Buddha that the first Buddhist Council was held in Rajgriha (Modern Rajgir, India) under the guidance of a senior monk, Maha Kassapa. Almost all the Buddhist monks who had attained the 'arahantship' participated in the council, in which they unanimously agreed that no disciplinary rule regulated by Lord Buddha should be changed, and neither new rules should be introduced! Since there was no conflict among the monks regarding the doctrines of Buddhism, therefore, all the principles were divided into several parts, which were individually assigned to the senior monks and their disciples. The main purpose of this division was only to ensure that no omissions and additions could be made to the original principles.

The Second Buddhist Council And The Formation Of Sthaviravadin and Mahasanghika Schools :

One hundred years after the first Buddhist council, the second Buddhist council was held in Vaishali in 383 BCE to deal with the disputes related to the monastic discipline(Vinaya). The monks differed so severely in their opinions on the interpretations of the Buddha's teachings that a split was inevitable and further resulted in the formation of the Sthaviravadin (with orthodox view) and Mahasanghika(with liberal view) schools of Buddhism.

The Third Buddhist Council :

The Indian emperor Ashoka convened the third Buddhist council at Patliputra (Now Patna, India) in 250 BCE. The council was held by the monk, Moggaliputta Tissa and aimed at the purification of the Buddhist movement by reconciling different schools of Buddhism.

The third Buddhist council formalised the Pali canon, Tripitaka, better known as the traditional Buddhist text directly transmitted from the Buddha. The Pali canon comprised the monastic discipline(Vinaya Pitaka), the Budddhist doctrine(Sutra Pitaka) and a new philosophy(Abhidharma Pitaka)

As per the proceedings of the third Buddhist council, emissaries, including Ashoka's son, Mahindra, were sent to various countries such as Sri Lanka, Ceylon and the Greek kingdoms in the west in order to spread Buddhism.

After the third Buddhist council, the ideological conflict between the Sthaviravadins and the Mahasanghikas became so intense that they parted their ways forever and were named as Theravadins and Mahayanas respectively.

Buddhist Scriptures

The first disciple of Buddha, Ananda wrote down Bbuddha's thoughts and sermons (From first one at Banaras to the last one at Kushinagar) after His death. These texts, known as Tripitaka or the Three baskets became the main Buddhist scriptures. Later the Mahayanas added the 'Lotus Sutra' and the 'Perfection of wisdom', 'Lankavatara' and many others to the Buddhist scriptures. Similarly, the Tantrayanas also compiled the holy scriptures of the 'Kanjur'(108 volumes), and the 'Tanjur'(225 volumes). Besides, the writings of the 6 Buddhist Councils are also considered as the Buddhist holy scriptures, which consists of 400 volumes.

Today, Buddhism is practiced widely in nations of the far east and few of the south Asian countries, whereas it has almost disappeared from India - the country of its origin. It was in the 7th-8th century CE that Buddhism began to decline in India, owing to the revival of Hinduism and Bhakti movement, and by the time of the Turkish invasion of India in 12th century CE, the wave of Buddhism had stayed calm due to the arrival of Islam in India. But, despite these challenges, Buddhism managed to sail through in other parts of the world, and still survives in some parts of India, its birthplace.