Timeline Of Buddhism

Timeline Of BuddhismThe purpose of this timeline is to give a detailed account of Buddhism from the birth of Gautama Buddha to the present.

Some sources give the date of the Buddha’s birth as 563 BCE and others as 624 BCE; Theravada Buddhist countries tend to use the latter figure.

This displaces all the dates in the following table about 61 years further back.

Buddhism in the World

  • 563 BCE: Siddhārtha Gautama, Buddha-to-be, is born in Lumbini, Ancient India.
  • 534 BCE: Gautama leaves his inheritance and becomes an ascetic.
  • 528 BCE: Gautama attains Enlightenment, becomes the Buddha, and begins his ministry.
  • Abt. 500 BCE: Classical Sanskrit replaces Vedic.
  • c.490 – 410 BCE Life of the Buddha according to recent research
  • Abt. 483 BCE: Sakyamuni Buddha died at Kusinara (now called Kushinagar), India.
  • 400s BCE: Kharoṣṭhī script began to be used in Gandhara.
  • 300s BCE: Oldest Brahmi script (the ancestor of Indic languages) dates from this period.
  • Abt. 250 BCE: Third Buddhist Council convened by Ashoka and chaired by Moggaliputta Tissa, compiled the Kathavatthu to refute the heretical views and theories held by some Buddhist sects. Ashoka erected a number of edicts (Edicts of Ashoka) about the kingdom in support of Buddhism.
  • Abt. 250 BCE: First fully developed examples of Kharoṣṭhī script date from this period (the Aśokan inscriptions at Shāhbāzgaṛhī and Mānsehrā, northern Pakistan).
  • 200s BCE: Sanskrit and Prakrit languages emerge in northern India. 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). Mon seafarers and Ashokan emissary monks brought Buddhism to the Mon settlements of Suwannaphum (modern Burma).
  • Abt. 220 BCE: 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.
  • 185 BCE: Brahmin general Pusyamitra Sunga overthrows the Mauryan dynasty and establishes the Sunga Empire, starting of wave of persecution against Buddhism.
  • 180 BCE: Greco-Bactrian king Demetrius invades India as far as Pataliputra, and establishes the Indo-Greek kingdom (180-10 BCE), under which Buddhism flourishes.
  • Abt. 150 BCE: Indo-Greek king Menander I converts to Buddhism under the sage Nāgasena, according to the account of the Milinda Panha.
  • 120 BCE: The Chinese Emperor Han Wudi (156-87 BCE) receives two golden statues of the Buddha, according to inscriptions in the Mogao Caves, Dunhuang.
  • 1st century BCE: The Indo-Greek governor Theodorus enshrines relics of the Buddha, dedicating them to the deified “Lord Shakyamuni”.

Common Era

  • 1st century: 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. Additionally, the oldest surviving Buddhist manuscripts – indeed the oldest surviving Indian manuscripts of any kind – probably date from this period. They were written in Ghandari language and Kharoṣṭhī script on bark, and were unearthed in a clay pot bearing an inscription in the same language. The manuscripts are now in possession of the British Library. It is believed they were recovered around Hadda near Jalalabad in Afghanistan, and are part of the long-lost canon of the Sarvastivadin Sect that dominated Gandhara and was instrumental in Buddhism’s spread into central and east Asia.
  • 65: Liu Ying’s sponsorship of Buddhism is the first documented case of Buddhist practices in China.
  • 67: Buddhism came to China with the two monks Moton and Chufarlan.
  • 68: Buddhism is officially established in China with the founding of the White Horse Temple.
  • 78: Ban Chao, a Chinese General, subdues the Buddhist Kingdom of Khotan.
  • 78-101: According to Mahayana tradition, the Fourth Buddhist council takes place under the Kushana king Kanishka’s reign, near Jalandar, Kashmir, India.
  • 116 CE: The Kushans under Kanishka established a kingdom centered on Kashgar, also taking control of Khotan and Yarkand, previously Chinese dependencies in the Tarim Basin, modern Xinjiang.
  • 148: An Shigao, a Parthian prince and Buddhist monk, arrived in China and proceeded to make the first translations of Theravada texts into Chinese.
  • 178: The Kushan monk Lokaksema travels to the Chinese capital of Loyang and becomes the first known translator of Mahayana texts into Chinese.
  • 100s/200s: Indian and Central Asian Buddhists travel to Vietnam.
  • 200s: Use of Kharoṣṭhī script in Gandhara stops.
  • 200s & 300s: Kharoṣṭhī script is used in the southern Silk Road cities of Khotan and Niya.
  • 300s: Two Chinese monks took scriptures to the Korean kingdom of Goguryeo and established paper-making in Korea.
  • 320-467: The University at Nalanda grew to support 3000-10,000 monks.
  • 399-414: Fa Xian travelled from China to India, then returned to translate Buddhist works in to Chinese.
  • 400s: The kingdom of Funan (centered in modern Cambodia) begins to advocate Buddhism in a departure from Hinduism. Earliest evidence of Buddhism in Myanmar (Pali inscriptions). Earliest evidence of Buddhism in Indonesia (statues). Earliest reinterpretations of Pali texts. The stupa at Dambulla (Sri Lanka) is constructed.
  • 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.
  • Abt. 475: Bodhidharma arrives in China, where he will later found the Chan school at the Shaolin Temple.
  • 425: Buddhism reached Sumatra.
  • 485: Five monks from Gandhara travel to the country of Fusang (Japan, or possibly the American continent), where they introduced Buddhism.
  • 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 (Korea) according to Nihonshoki. Some scholars place this event in 538.
  • Early 600s: Jingwan begins carving sutras on to stone at Fangshan, Yuzhou, 75km south-west of modern day Beijing.
  • 607: A Japanese imperial envoy was dispatched to Sui China to obtain copies of sutras.
  • 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. King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet sent messengers to India to get Buddhist texts. Latest recorded use of the Kharoṣṭhī script amongst Buddhist communities around Kucha.
  • 671: Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Yi Jing visited Palembang, capital of the partly-Buddhist kingdom of Srivijaya on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia and reported over 1000 Buddhist monks in residence. Uisang returns to Korea after studying Chinese Huayan Buddhism, and founds the Hwaeom school.
  • 736: Huayan is transmitted to Japan via Korea, when Rōben invites the Korean Hwaeom monk Simsang to lecture, and formally founds Japan’s Kegon tradition in the Tōdaiji temple.
  • 743-754: The Chinese monk Jianzhen attempts to reach Japan eleven times, succeeding in 754 to establish the Japanese Ritsu school, which specialised in the vinaya (monastic rules).
  • 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 John of Damascus, and widely circulated to Christians as the story of Barlaam 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, Padmasambhava travelled from Afghanistan to establish tantric Buddhism in Tibet (later known as the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism), replacing Bonpo as the kingdom’s main religion. Buddhism quickly spreads to Sikkim and Bhutan.
  • Abt. 760: Borobodur, the famous Indonesian Buddhist structure, begins to be constructed, probably as a non-Buddhist shrine. It was completed as a Buddhist monument in 830 after about 50 years of work.
  • 804: Under the reign of Emperor Kammu of Japan, a fleet of four ships set sail for mainland China. Of the two ships that arrived, one carried the monk Kukai, recently ordained by the Japanese government as a Bhiksu, who absorbed Vajrayana teachings in Chang’an and returned to Japan to found the Japanese Shingon school. The other ship carried the monk Saichō, who returned to Japan to found the Japanese Tendai school, partly based upon the Chinese Tiantai tradition.
  • 841-846: Li Yan reigns in China during the Tang Dynasty, one of three Chinese emperors to prohibit Buddhism.
  • 9th Century Tibet: Decline of Buddhism, persecution by King Langdharma
  • 900s: Buddhist temple construction commences at Bagan, Myanmar. In Tibet begins a strong Buddhist revival. The Caodong school of Zen is founded by Dongshan Liangjie and Caoshan Benji in southern China.
  • 971: Chinese Song Dynasty commissions Chengdu wood carvers to carve the entire Buddhist canon for printing. Work is completed in 983, 130,000 blocks are produced in total.
  • 991: A printed copy of the Song Dynasty Buddhist canon arrives in Korea, impressing government.
  • 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.
  • 1010: Korea begins carving its own woodblock print edition of the Buddhist canon. No completion date is known – the canon is continuously expanded with the arrival of new texts from China.
  • 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.
  • 1063: A copy of the Khitans’ printed canon arrives in Korea from mainland China.
  • 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.
  • 1100s: Sanskrit is subsequently written in Devanagari.
  • 1100-1125: Huizong reigns during the Chinese Song Dynasty and outlaws Buddhism to promote the Dao. He is one of three Chinese emperors to have prohibited Buddhism.
  • 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, Mathematics, 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 Sukhothai is established, with Theravada Buddhism as the state religion.
  • 1227: Dogen Zenji took the Caodong school of Zen from China to Japan as the Soto sect.
  • 1277: Burma’s Pagan empire begins to disintegrate after being defeated by Kublai Khan at the Battle of Ngasaunggyan, at Yunnan near the Chinese border.
  • 1287: The Theravada kingdom at Pagan, Myanmar falls to the Mongols, and is overshadowed by the Shan capital at Ava.
  • Abt. 1279-1298: Sukhothai’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, Sukhothai 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 (later known as 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 Oirat 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.
  • 1879: A council was convened under the patronage of King Mindon of Burma to re-edit the Pali canon. The king then had the texts engraved on 729 stones, which were then set upright on the grounds of a monastery near Mandalay.
  • 1880s: Burma becomes a British colony.
  • 1882: Jade Buddha Temple founded in Shanghai, China with two Jade Buddha statues imported from Burma.
  • 1893: World Parliament of Religions meets in Chicago, Illinois. Anagarika Dharmapala and Soyen Shaku attend.
  • 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.
  • 1930: Soka Gakkai is founded in Japan.
  • 1949: Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya is returned to partial Buddhist control.
  • 1950: World Fellowship of Buddhists is founded in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
  • 1956: Indian untouchable leader B. R. Ambedkar converts to Buddhism with more than 350,000 followers, beginning the modern Neo-Buddhist movement.
  • 1956: The Zen Studies Society is founded in New York to support the work of D.T. Suzuki.
  • 1957: Caves near the summit of Pai-tai mountain, Fangshan district, 75km south-west of Beijing are re-opened, revealing thousands of Buddhist sutras that had been carved on to stone since the 7th century. Seven sets of rubbings are made and the stones numbered in work which continues until 1959.
  • 1959: Together with some 100,000 Tibetans, the 14th Dalai Lama flees the Chinese occupation of Tibet, and establishes an exile community in India. The Chinese invaders completely destroy all monasteries but a handful, and severely persecute Buddhist practitioners.
  • 1962: The San Francisco Zen Center is founded by Shunryu Suzuki.
  • 1965: The Burmese government arrested over 700 monks for in Hmabwi, near Rangoon, for refusing to accept government rule.
  • 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 (see Three Jewels)
    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 (Pratitya-samutpada)
    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 regarding 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.
  • 1974: The Naropa Institue, now Naropa University, is founded in Boulder, Colorado.
  • 1974: In Burma, during demonstrations at U Thant’s funeral, 600 monks were arrested and several bayoneted by government forces.
  • 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: The Insight Meditation Society is established in Barre, Massachusetts.
  • 1975-79: Cambodian communists under Pol Pot tried to completely destroy Buddhism, and very nearly succeeded. By the time of the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978 nearly every monk and religious intellectual had been either murdered or driven into exile, and nearly every temple and Buddhist library had been destroyed.
  • 1976: Following a demonstration in Burma, the government sought to discredit the critical monk La Ba by claiming that he was a cannibal and a murderer.
  • 1978: In Burma, more monks and novices were arrested, disrobed and imprisoned by the government. Monasteries were closed and property seized. The critical monk U Nayaka was arrested and died, the government claiming it was suicide.
  • 1980: Burmese military government asserts authority over the sangha, violence against monks continues through the decade.
  • 1983: Shanghai Institute of Buddhism established at Jade Buddha Temple under the Shanghai Buddhist Association.
  • 1988: During the 1988 uprising SPDC troops gunned down monks. After the uprising, U Nyanissara, a senior monk, recorded a tape which discussed democracy in Buddhist precepts. This tape was banned.
  • 1990, August 27: Over 7000 monks met in Mandalay in Burma to call for a boycott of the military. They refused to accept alms from military families or perform services for them. The military government seized monasteries and arrested hundreds of monks, including senior monks like U Sumangala and U Yewata. The monks faced long-term imprisonment, and all boycotting monks were disrobed. Some monks were tortured during interrogation.
  • 2000, January: The Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary, a training facility for Theravada monks, is founded in Malaysia.
  • 2004, April: In Sri Lanka, Buddhist monks acting as candidates for the Jaathika Hela Urumaya party win nine seats in elections.

See also

  • History of Buddhism
buddha monk

buddha monk