A time-line of Buddhism

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(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi)

There are several biographies of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, who probably lived in the 5th century BC, born in Lumbini near Kapilavastu (now in Nepal), but they were written centuries after the fact and frequently contradict each other: Asvaghosha's "Buddhacarita" (2nd c. AD), the Lalitavistara Sutra (3rd c.), the "Mahavastu" (4th c AD), Buddhaghosha's "Nidanakatha" (5th c.), the Abhini?kramana Satra (6th c.), etc. They are mostly collections of legends about miracles and supernatural events of little or no historical importance.

Gautama was a prince belonging to the Kshatriya caste and to the Sakya ethnic group. He was married at 16 to his cousin Yasodhara, from which he had his son Rahula. One day he left his palace and became a wandering ascetic. The Sakyas were exterminated by Virudhaka, king of Kashi Kosala. Among Buddha's followers were his cousins Ananda and Anuruddha, who survived the massacre. He died at the age of 80.

528 BC or 4## BC: Siddhartha Gautama achieves enlightenment
483 BC or 40# BC: Buddha dies
479 BC or 40# BC: at the first Buddhist council Buddha's teachings (Sutta) and the rules of monastic discipline (Vinaya) are codified
3## BC: Buddhism spreads in Nepal
383 BC or 30# BC: the second Buddhist council at Vesali chooses Hinayana over Mahayana
3## BC: The Jatakas are composed (lives of Buddha)
259 BC: king Ashoka of India converts to Buddhism and sends out Buddhist missionaries to nearby states
251 BC: Asoka's son Mahinda introduces Buddhism to Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
247 BC: Asoka calls for the third Buddhist council at Patna to codify the Buddhist canon of scriptures (Tipitaka)
246 BC: first Buddhist mission to Sri Lanka
200 BC: Buddhism spreads in central Asia
50 BC: Hinayana Buddhism (the Pali canon) spreads in Ceylon, Burma, Thailand
24 BC: the Mahaviranhara and Abhayagiri monasteries are founded in Ceylon
68 AD: Mahayana Buddhism is introduced in China
?? AD: The Gandharan texts are composed (not in Sanskrit but in a dialect of Prakrit), the oldest extant Buddhist manuscripts and possibly the oldest extant Indian texts in general
100 AD: the Pure Land sutra is composed
350: Huiyuan founds Pure Land Buddhism in China
366: Buddhists begin the Mogao caves near Dunhuang in China
372: Buddhism is introduced in Korea from China
380: Buddhist monks carve two giant Buddha statues in the rock at Bamiya, Bactria (Afghanistan)
494: Yun-kang cave temples in China
465: Buddhists begin the Yungang (Yun-Kang) caves near Datong in China
494: Buddhists begin the Longmen caves near Luoyang in China
520: Bodhidharma travels to China and founds Chan (Zen) Buddhism
528: the kingdom of Silla adopts Buddhism as the state religion
538: a delegation from Korea introduces Japan's emperor to Buddhism
560: Zhiyi founds Tendai Buddhism in China (centered around the teachings of the Lotus Sutra)
615: the Horyu-ji temple is built in Nara, capital of Japan
625: Shotoku Taishi adopts Buddhism and Confucianism as state religions of Japan
650: Vajrayana Buddhism (Tantrism)
750: Guru Rinpoche/ Padmasambhava converts Tibet to Buddhism
751: Korean prime Minister Kim Tae-song orders the construction of the Buddhist cave temple Sokkuram at Mount Toham
752: the giant statue of Buddha of Nara, capital of Japan
800: the Saliendra dynasty builds a giant temple to Buddha in Borobudur, Java
805: Saicho brings Tendai Buddhism to Japan
806: the monk Kukai (Kobo Daishi) introduces the Shingon (Tantric) school into Japan

See also a timeline of Tibet

World News | Politics | History | Editor
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi)