The 4 Phases of The Development of Buddhism in India

was introduced to Indians by who lived in in the sixth century BCE, a of boom of and philosophical thought from Greece to . Born as the crown prince of the great Kingdom, the youth was prepared to be a in accordance with the wishes of his royal father.

However, at the age of 28 years old, he learned of the deep experienced in life by most people. He left his royal palace life, gave up his fine clothes and ornaments in order to find the causes of this suffering and the means to overcome it. After a long period of learning, deprivation, and deep he finally realized his goal. He had become the one ().

In the with deer and other at , near in India, he gave his first sermon, an event which is called the first turning of of Law (Dharmacakra).

Early Development of Buddhism In India

In brief, the historical development of Buddhism can mainly be classified into four phases:

The Phase Of Early Buddhism

The historic Buddha spread the and his disciples preserved the teachings. This occurred approximately from the middle of the sixth to the middle of the fifth century B.C.E.

The Phase Of Interpretations Of The Teachings

The beginning of the separation into various (Hinayana) schools on the basis of different interpretations of the teachings of Buddha (Councils) started to occur, the criterion of the second phase.

This took place approximately from the fourth century to the 1st century C.E. The Hinayana Schools refined between the mahaparinirvana (death) of the Buddha and the end of first-century B.C.E. After the third council, the first divided into schools took place and Hinayana Buddhism was divided into eighteen sub-schools.

It is said that its doctrines are usually based on the taught by the Buddha, its discipline based on , and the analysis of the teachings. Hinayana primarily presents the path of individual salvation or called the Pratimoksha.

The Phase Of The Rise Of Mahayana Buddhism

The rise of with its two sub-schools – (or the Yogacharya) and was the third phase of Buddhism.

This occurred roughly from 1st to the 7th century C.E. Schools built especially during the time of , Vasubhandu, , and other great .

The Phase Of Buddhist Tantra

The revelation of (in ) started to take place after the seventh century. prevailed in India at the time in an extremely hidden or secret form and was not made public or accessible to the general Buddhist practitioners.

It spread even more during the time of Sarah, Nagarjuna, and other great and finally came to Tibet in full through the blessings of , the Great Translator, and many other great and masters.

The Spread Of Buddhism In Asia

Starting about the 3rd century Buddhism began to excel and spread outside India, adjusting to local and the varying conditions of different countries. Buddhism started to take root in different nations in as they came in contact with Buddhism from early 2nd-century B.C.E.

Buddhism was introduced to Ceylon (Shri Lanka) in 250 B.C.E. by Mahinda and , children of King . This recorded the first time for Buddhism to spread outside India.

In the 3rd century C.E., Buddhism then came to Burma (Myanmar) during the rule of the King Ashoka; Cambodia; China in the 2nd or 3rd century C.E.

And Indonesia in the 3rd century C.E. From the 4th through the 8th century C.E.  Buddhism spread to Korea from China in the 4th century C.E.; to from Korea in 522 C.E.; to Thailand from Burma in the 6th century C.E.; and to Tibet in early 8th century C.E.

Asoka and Buddhism in India

Alexander returned back to Babylon in 324 BC. Then a man called by Chandragupta overthrew the old Vedic kingdom of and formed a big new empire. He ruled all of the northern territories of India and into Afghanistan.

Greek historians write that Chandragupta got the idea from Alexander. But it seems more likely that, like Alexander, the Indians got the idea of conquering empires from the Iranians. Or maybe he got the idea from earlier Vedic empire-builders from India. Chandragupta took the valley back from the Greeks.

As part of the treaty he weeded the daughter of Seleucus, who had succeeded Alexander. He gifted Seleucus 200 elephants.


There was a lot many things going on in the Mauryan Empire. The  was getting started. Indian traders sold raw , Indian pearls, black and white pepper and cinnamon to their northern neighbors, the Sogdians, and the Greeks.

They bought fast horses and silver, in return, these traders brought the new alphabet back to India. People used their version of that alphabet to write the Rig Veda, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata for the first time.

As India got wealthier from a trade, the Mauryan kings built the first Buddhist . Then they engraved  into the cliffs at Ajanta – because Buddhism was also growing rapidly under Mauryan rule. People in India started to use  wheels for irrigation, they began to make steel to sell on the Road. Even  changed: apparently, new ideas about and  came into the faith, possibly from China.

Chandragupta died in 298 BC and after him, his son Bindusara took over. Bindusara’s son Ashoka made the Mauryan Empire even powerful. He ruled some of southern India and the northern too.

But Ashoka’s victories at Orissa were so cruel and awful, that (at least according to tradition) after that battle he gave up warfare for the rest of his life. Ashoka transformed from Indian Hinduism to the new faith of Buddhism.

After Ashoka died in 231 BC, though, his sons and grandsons were not as powerful rulers as he was. The Mauryan Empire gradually collapsed into a bunch of smaller kingdoms.

In the era of 300s BC, one of the greatest Mauryan kings, Asoka, became a Buddhist, which helped Buddhism to succeed. Asoka spread the of Buddhism to many other Indian people and also convinced them to become Buddhists.

Decline And Reestablishment Of Buddhism In India

Buddhism became nearly disappeared from India, the country of its origin, after the 13th century C.E., primarily due to the continuous destructive activity of different fundamentalist Muslim emperors.

However, it continued to grow and excel in other countries to the present day.

Buddhism is now restored in India by many Theravadin schools of Hinayana and Tibetan Mahayana- Buddhist schools in recent years.



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About dipakdaspaswan

Namaste! I am Dipak Paswan from Nepal. I love to write articles about Asian religion and cultures. If you like this post or have any question please leave me a comment or use the contact page to reach me.

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