Buddhish History


The History of Buddhism spans the 6th century BC to the present, starting with the birth of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama in Lumbini, Nepal. This makes it one of the oldest religions practiced today. The religion evolved as it spread from the northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent through Central, East, and Southeast Asia. At one time or another, it influenced most of the Asian continent. The history of Buddhism is also characterized by the development of numerous movements, schisms, and schools, among them the Theravāda, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna traditions, with contrasting periods of expansion and retreat. (Wikipedia)

 

Expansion of Buddhism, originated from India in VI century BCE to the rest of Asia until present.

Expansion of Buddhism, originated from India in VI century BCE to the rest of Asia until present.

Expansion of Buddhism, originated from India in VI century BCE to the rest of Asia until present.

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The exact birth place of Gautama Buddha, in Lumbini, Nepal.

The exact birth place of Gautama Buddha, in Lumbini, Nepal.

The exact birth place of Gautama Buddha, in Lumbini, Nepal.

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A small temple beneath the Bodhi tree, Bodh Gaya

A small temple beneath the Bodhi tree, Bodh Gaya

#12: A small temple beneath the Bodhi tree, Bodh Gaya

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The Vajrashila, where Gautama sat under a tree and became enlightened

The Vajrashila, where Gautama sat under a tree and became enlightened

The Vajrashila, where Gautama sat under a tree and became enlightened,
Bodh Gaya, India, 2011

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A small temple beneath the Bodhi tree, Bodh Gaya

A small temple beneath the Bodhi tree, Bodh Gaya

A small temple beneath the Bodhi tree, Bodh Gaya

Image source: en.wikipedia.org

The Vajrashila, where Gautama sat under a tree and became enlightened

The Vajrashila, where Gautama sat under a tree and became enlightened

The Vajrashila, where Gautama sat under a tree and became enlightened,
Bodh Gaya, India, 2011

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Mahabodhi Temple and Tree of Wisdom (Scalpture)

Mahabodhi Temple and Tree of Wisdom

Mahabodhi Temple and Tree of Wisdom ib Bodhgaya

Image source: archive.org "The Freer Indian sculptures" Plate 13

Rajarajesvara (Brhadisvara) Temple

Rajarajesvara (Brhadisvara) Temple

Rajarajesvara (Brhadisvara) Temple

Image source: archive.org "The Freer Indian sculptures" Plate 24


Dhâmek Stûpa in Sârnâth, India

Dhâmek Stûpa in Sârnâth, India

Dhâmek Stûpa in Sârnâth, India
site of the first teaching of the Buddha in which he taught the Four Noble Truths to his first five disciples

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Dhamek Stupa in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, India

Dhamek Stupa in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, India

Dhamek Stupa in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, India
Dhamek Stupa in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, India, built by King Ashoka, where the Buddha gave his first sermon.

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Vulture Peak, Rajgir, India.

Vulture Peak, Rajgir, India.

Vulture Peak, Rajgir, India.
Vulture Peak Mountain is, by tradition, one of several sites frequented by the Buddha and his community of disciples for both training and retreat.

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Buddha's cave, Griddhakuta Hill, Rajgir.

Buddha's cave, Griddhakuta Hill, Rajgir.

Buddha's cave, Griddhakuta Hill, Rajgir.
Meditation area, Griddhakuta Hill, Rajgir.

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Gautama's cremation site

Gautama's cremation site

Gautama's cremation site,
Ramabhar Stupa in Uttar Pradesh, India.

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Buddha's cremation stupa, Kushinagar

Buddha's cremation stupa, Kushinagar

Buddha's cremation stupa, Kushinagar.

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Parinirvana of Gautama Buddha

Parinirvana of Gautama Buddha

Parinirvana of Gautama Buddha
Painting of the Sanskrit Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra manuscript written in the Ranjana script. Nalanda, Bihar, India. Circa 700-1100 CE.

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Buddha statue depicting Parinirvana.

Buddha statue depicting Parinirvana.

Buddha statue depicting Parinirvana.
(Mahaparinirvana Temple, Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India)

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The sharing of the relics of the (Buddha)

The sharing of the relics of the (Buddha). Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, 2-3rd century CE.

The sharing of the relics of the (Buddha). Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, 2-3rd century CE. Zenyōmitsu-Temple Museum, Tokyo

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The stupa of Barhut

The Barhut stupa (ca. 150 B.C.), situated about 100 miles southwest of Allahabad, was the largest and most important monument erected under the Sunga dynasty ( 185-72 B.C.). The Sungas, who ruled over the central and eastern part of northern India, were the successors of the Maurya dynasty (ca. 321-184 B.C.), founded by Chandragupta, who is said to have been a temporary ally of Alexander the Great. Under Chandragupta’s grandson, the famous Buddhist emperor Asoka, the empire reached from Afghanistan to Bengal and from Kashmir and Nepal to the Deccan.

The Barhut inscriptions confirm the patronage of the Sunga emperors and record donations of princes and merchants from all over India as well.

The large relic-mound was surrounded by a sculptured railing with a ground plan of swastika shape, measuring nearly 90 feet across.

The Barhut stupa, fallen into ruin, desecrated by treasure hunters and finally put to use as a quarry, was discovered in 1873 by Sir Alexander Cunningham who began to excavate it the following year. Most of the surviving components of the sculptured railing and gates have been reassembled in the Indian Museum in Calcutta. Nothing remains at the barren site but broken bricks from the casing of the mound.

The following figures are the illustrations of the somewhat later stupas (stupa I and stupa III) at Sanchi to convey the general concept of the stupa of Barhut.

Stupa number III, Sanchi

Stupa number III, Sanchi; Early Andhra dynasty.

Stupa number III, Sanchi; Early Andhra dynasty, second century B.C to first century A.D. (gateway).
This figure is the later stupa number III at Sanchi.

Stupa number I and eastern gateway, Sanchi

Stupa number I and eastern gateway, Sanchi

Stupa number I and eastern gateway, Sanchi ; Early Andhra dynasty., second century B.C to first century A.D. (gateway).
This figure is the later stupa number I at Sanchi.

 

Stupa railing from Barhut

Stupa railing from Barhut.

Stupa railing from Barhut

Stupa railing from Barhut Sunga dynasty. Second century B.C.
Indian Museum Calcutta

This figure shows that the Barhut railing was decorated on the outside by life-size reliefs of nature spirits (yakshas, yakshis, nagas, etc.) and lotus medallions.
(Note: on the coping stones and on the inner face the Barhut railing was decorated by scenes from previous lives of the Buddha (jata- kas) and from his last life.)

King Prasenajit Visits the Buddha

King Prasenajit Visits the Buddha

King Prasenajit Visits the Buddha
Railing relief from the Barhut stupa; Sunga dynasty. Second century B.C.
Indian Museum Calcutta

The latter relief shows a royal procession and the interview of King Prasenajit with the Buddha. Besides the king, we recognize the four divisions of his army, i. e., Elephant, Horse, Chariot and Foot. The procession is headed by the cavalry and war-elephants bring up the rear; between them are placed first the infantry and next the chariots. Each unit is represented twice, illustrating the progress of the procession. The two worshippers inside the hall are but one, the king himself. On the left, he is waiting upon the Buddha; on the right, retiring.

 

Two reliefs from the stupa of Barhut (The Barhut railing) in the Freer Gallery of Art

The earliest Indian sculptures in the Freer Gallery are two reliefs from the stupa of Barhut, virtually the only ones which have found their way to this country.
(Note: Except for a yakshi fragment in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, there are, to our knowledge, no others outside India.)

Examination of their backs shows that the two slabs are indeed halves of a single block; the lenticular tenons at the ends, characteristic of all the Barhut fence rails, have been chiselled off.

King Vidudabha Visits the Buddha

King Vidudabha Visits the Buddha

King Vidudabha Visits the Buddha; railing relief from the Barhut stupa; Sunga dynasty.
COLLECTION OF FREER GALLERY OF ART, WASHINGTON, D,C.

In the center of the hall under a parasol, an ornamented wheel is placed above on altar or empty seat strewn with flowers; wreaths hang from wheel hub and canopy. The Wheel of the Law (dharma-chakra) represents the teaching Buddha who, at this period, was not yet shown in human form.

On each side of the seat and wheel, a woman kneels in worship; behind her, a turbaned man stands, with joined hands, in an attitude of reverent sup- plication. Probably the four figures represent one couple in two stages of circumambulatory worship.

To the right, under a tree, we see the front part of a chariot drawn by two caparisoned horses. In the chariot, a king is seated, his royal umbrella held by an invisible attendant who is concealed by the charioteer. The king raises his right hand in a gesture of command.

To the left, the hindquarters of a caparisoned horse are disappearing through the gateway; the turbaned head of its rider is visible just above the gate. At the top, we see the front part of a preceding elephant, his trunk grasping the branch of a tree while the mahout urges him on with a goad .

The inscription on the roof has been deciphered as “attana maramta(pi)” which means: “Even though they be dying ”

In the scriptures we read: “Now the kinsmen of the Fully Awakened One do not take the lives of others, even though they be dying (themselves)”

This provided the clue to the interpretation of the scene as the sequel of another, on a relief (i.e. "King Prasenajit Visits the Buddha') in the Indian Museum, which is inscribed “Raja Prasenajit of Kosala,” and “The Wheel of the Law of the Blessed One”.

Several visits of King Prasenajit to the Buddha are recorded in the scripures, but only one explains all the details of the Calcutta relief. The king went to inspect Nangaraka at the Sakya border. One day he went forth in procession. From the woodland he drove to Ulumpa (or Medalumpa), the nearest Sakya town, and went to the arama where the Master was sojourning. The Buddha was in his private chamber gandhakuti (fragrant cell). The king was admitted; he had a troubled heart. Finally he took leave, retired and came out — only to find himself deposed.

The story ends with a reference to the fate of King Prasenajit after this last meeting with the Buddha. His aide Dighakarayana, who had a grudge against him, helped Prince Vidudabha (or Virudhaka) to usurp the throne of Kosala. This prince was the son of Prasenajit by the daughter of a Sakya chief and a slave woman. (According to another version, he was the son of Prasenajit by a slave of the Sakyas.) Having been treated with contempt by the Sakyas, Vidudabha marched on Kapilavastu, proclaiming he would slay all the people. (At this point follows the phrase quoted above, “Now the kinsmen of the Fully Awakened One do not take the lives of others, even though they be dying themselves,” which contains the inscribed caption.) At the border, encountering the Buddha seated under a banyan tree, the king turned back. This happened three times. The fourth time, the Buddha did not appear, knowing that he could not save the Sakyas who sinned against each other.

Thus the caption refers to the “non-violent” attitude of the Sakyas who were nearly all killed by Vidudabha; according to one version of the story, no less than 77,000.

So the scene is not, as had been thought previously, another version of King Prasenajit’s visit, but depicts the subsequent visit of Vidudabha.

The building which shelters the Buddha in the Freer Gallery relief is virually the same as that in Prasenajit’s visit. In the scriptures, the latter building is called gandhakuti and situated at Ulumpa (or Medalumpa), a small village in Sakya territory. The original gandhakuti is represented and labelled as such in another Barhut relief where it is a simple one-story hut. The term was applied thereafter to any residence of the Buddha and finally to the Buddhist temple. In the two reliefs illustrating a royal visit, the building is a vihara (residence) and, at the same time, an actual Buddhist temple. In the Vidudabha story of the scriptures, on the other hand, the Buddha sits under a tree at the border, and not in his cell. In this detail the Freer relief does not conform to the sutras.

In any case, the texts state that Prasenajit entered “alone” into the Buddha’s abode, which corresponds with the illustration in the Calcutta relief.

The king and the charioteer in the Freer relief probably represent King Vidudabha and his general, Dighakarayana. The persons inside the hall can be interpreted as the king, the general and members of his retinue or, preferably, as the king and his consort, each represented twice.

 

 

Worship of a stupa (parinirvana)

Worship of a stupa (parinirvana)

Worship of a stupa (parinirvana); railing relief from the Barhut stupa; Sunga dynasty.
COLLECTION OF FREER GALLERY OF ART, WASHINGTON, D,C.

This second Barhut relief illustrates the worship of a stupa. The base of the inner railing is ornamented with nine right hands symbolizing the countless worshippers. The relic mound is decorated with garlands and flowers. Its dome is surmounted by the harmika (pavilion), from which rise the umbrella and two large flowers. Wreaths hang from the canopy as well as from two other large flowers flanking the harmika railing.

One pair of worshippers, male and female, are shown to the left and to the right of the stupa, alternately kneeling and walking during circumambulation. A third worshipper, a turbaned man, can be seen behind them, circumambulating the stupa as well; he turns his back to us on the left and faces us on the right.

The stupa is flanked by two pairs of flowering sal trees. Above, to the right, a kinnara (half-human, half-bird) swoops down offering a garland. To the left flies a deva (god), holding a basket from which he scatters flowers.

The stupa is a relic mound, a funerary monument. It symbolizes the deceased Buddha, who, as we have seen before, was not yet represented in human form; it also symbolizes the entire universe.

In the relevant scripture , the Buddha is being questioned, before his departure from the world, by his favorite pupil Ananda who wants to know what ceremonies are to be performed after his demise. The Enlightened One replies:

“The body of the tathagata (who came in truth; epithet of the Buddha) will be treated as one treats the body of a chakravartin (world ruler);

(i. e. it will be wrapped in a shroud and cremated on a pyre; then) a stupa will be raised to the tathagata at the crossing of the roads . Whoever shall there place garlands, or perfume, or color , or shall perform a salutation , or clarify his spirit, to him (these deeds) will bring lasting good and happiness. This place, where the believer can say: ‘Here the tathagata was completely extinguished, to that point of extinction which is without any residue of birth,’ is for that warrior who has faith a beautiful and deeply moving place . . . And there will come to such a place brethren and sisters and lay disciples who have faith ; and those who die with a clarified spirit during their pilgrimage to this sanctuary will, once they are cut off from their body, and deceased, be born again in the welcome celestial world.”

Worship of a stupa (parinirvana)
fig. 6

The scene on our relief is none other than the parinirvana, the Extinction of the Enlightened One, between the twin sal trees in the sal grove of the Mallas at Kusinagara; the Freer relief is one of several Barhut panels representing this scene. We also find it at Sanchi (fig. 6) where the deep undercutting, the delicate carving, the intricate composition show a clear advance on Barhut. We are reminded that at least one of the Sanchi gates was donated by the guild of ivory carvers. The worshippers and musicians wear Indo-Scythian tunics and belts, capes, boots or leggings, skull caps or Iranian peaked hats. Among the outlandish instruments we notice central Asian dragon trumpets and the Greek aulos (double clarinet); the horizontal drum is Indian (mridanga). A more realistic and narrative illustration can be seen on the Gandhara relief (fig. 16); it will be discussed below.

Just as the Barhut railing still shows the carpentry technique of a wood construction, so the style of the reliefs relates to carving in wood. The relief is not very high and hardly goes beyond the exploitation of a flat surface. The larger figures are somewhat stiff, the smaller ones often clumsy, the perspective inconsistent, fragmented and naive. Despite all this, the Barhut reliefs are a sheer delight; full of life and of love for all living nature, unsophisticated but based on keen observation permeated by a touching faith, they marvelously illustrate the charming tales of the Buddha’s last and previous lives as they were told by the monks.

 

 

 

 

The Maurya Empire under Emperor Aśoka was the world's first major Buddhist state.

The Maurya Empire under Emperor Aśoka was the world's first major Buddhist state.

The Maurya Empire under Emperor Aśoka was the world's first major Buddhist state. A map of the Maurya Dynasty, showing major ciies, early Buddhist sites, Ashokan Edicts,

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Indian relief from Amaravati, Guntur. Preserved in Guimet Museum

Indian relief from Amaravati, Guntur. Preserved in Guimet Museum

Indian relief from Amaravati, Guntur. Preserved in Guimet Museum

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Bilingual (Greek and Aramaic) inscriptions by king Ashoka at Kandahar

Bilingual (Greek and Aramaic) inscriptions by king Ashoka at Kandahar

Bilingual (Greek and Aramaic) inscriptions by king Ashoka at Kandahar
(Shar-i-kuna). (3rd century BC). Preserved at Kabul Museum. Today disappeared. Two-dimensional inscription.

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Fragment of the 6th Pillar Edict of Aśoka

Fragment of the 6th Pillar Edict of Aśoka

Fragment of the 6th Pillar Edict of Aśoka (238 BC), in Brāhmī, sandstone. British Museum.

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Coin depicting Indo-Greek king Menander

Coin depicting Indo-Greek king Menander

Coin depicting Indo-Greek king Menander
Coin depicting Indo-Greek king Menander, who, according to Buddhist tradition records in the Milinda Panha, converted to the Buddhist faith and became an arhat in the 2nd century BCE . (British Museum)

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A coin of Menander I

A coin of Menander I

A coin of Menander I

A coin of Menander I with an eight-spoked wheel and a palm of victory on the reverse (British Museum).

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Chinese and Central Asian monks. Bezeklik, Eastern Tarim Basin, China,

Chinese and Central Asian monks. Bezeklik, Eastern Tarim Basin, China,

Chinese and Central Asian monks. Bezeklik, Eastern Tarim Basin, China,
9th–10th century. (National Institute of Informatics and the Tōyō Bunko)

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The Tripiṭaka Koreana in South Korea

The Tripiṭaka Koreana in South Korea

The Tripiṭaka Koreana in South Korea,
an edition of the Chinese Buddhist canon carved and preserved in over 81,000 wood printing blocks.

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A ruined Buddhist temple on Gurubhakthula Konda

A ruined Buddhist temple on Gurubhakthula Konda

A ruined Buddhist temple on Gurubhakthula Konda
(konda meaning "hill" in Telugu) in Ramatheertham village in Vizianagaram, a district of Andhra Pradesh, India

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Timeline: This is a rough timeline of the development of Buddhist schools/traditions:


This is a rough timeline of the development of Buddhist schools

Image source: en.wikipedia.org