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Buddhism In India

Buddhism In India


  • Buddhism started in India over 2,600 years ago as a way life that had a potential of transforming a person.
  • It is one of the important religions of South and South-Eastern Asian countries.
  • The religion is based upon the teachings, life experiences of its founder Siddhartha Gautama, born in circa 563 BCE.
  • He was born into royal family of Sakya clan who ruled from Kapilvastu, in Lumbini which is situated near the Indo-Nepal Border.
  • At the age of 29, Gautama left home and rejected his life of riches and embraced a lifestyle of asceticism, or extreme self-discipline.
  • After 49 consecutive days of meditation, Gautama attained Bodhi (enlightenment) under a pipal tree at Bodhgaya a village in Bihar.
  • Buddha gave his first sermon in the village of Sarnath, near the city of Benares in UP. This event is known as Dharma-Chakra-Pravartana (turning of the wheel of law).
  • He died at the age of 80 in 483 BCE at a place called Kushinagara a town in UP. The event is known as Mahaparinibbana.

Teachings by Buddha

  • Buddha was a practical reformer & did not believe in soul or god or metaphysical world & concerned himself with the worldly problems
  • Suggested that a person should avoid excess of both, Luxury & Austerity & prescribed a middle path
  • Opposed varna system & laid down the principle of social equality
  • Laid great emphasis on Karma (Varna based on action not on birth) & Ahimsa

Schools of Buddhism  | Buddhism In India

  • Theravada Buddhism
    • Based on the Pali Canon.
    • Oldest surviving school of Buddhism.
    • Emerged from the Third Buddhist Council held under Asoka at Pataliputra (c. 250 BCE).
    • Considered closest to early Buddhism.
    • Introduced to Sri Lanka by Mahinda, the son of Asoka, during the reign of DevanampiyaTissa.
    • Practiced today in Sri Lanka, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.
  • Mahayana Buddhism
    • Patronized by the Gupta dynasty.
    • Flourished from the 5th century CE onwards.
    • Practiced today in Japan, China, Korea, Singapore and Vietnam.
    • Nalanda University was a centre of Mahayana learning.
  • Vajrayana Buddhism
    • Tibetan Buddhism belongs to this tradition.
    • Involves tantric practices.
    • Became prominent after the fall of the Gupta dynasty.

Contribution of Buddhism

  • Formed Hybrid Sanskrit by mixture of Pali & Sanskrit
  • Slaves & debtors couldn’t join sangha rule helped moneylenders & richer sections of society
  • Taught people to put reason in everything & pleaded for logic instead of superstitions hence promoted rationalism in people
  • Earliest Buddhist text “ Sutta Nipata” pleads for protection of cattles & helped to prevent their decimation
  • Promoted education through residential universities like Valabhi, Nalanda & Vikramshila

Cause of Decline  | Buddhism In India

  • Use of Sanskrit instead of Pali from 4th Buddhist council (Around 100 AD)
  • Revival of Brahmanism & rise of Bhagavatism
  • Attack of Hunas (Around 500 – 600 AD) & Attack of Turkish invaders (1200 AD) destroyed major Buddhist Monasteries
  • After birth of Mahayana, Practice of Idol worship, Huge offerings & donations became common & led to the deterioration of moral standards
  • Shaivite Shashanka have said to cut the original Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya
  • Brahmana ruler Pushyamitra have said to persecuted Buddhists


  • Hinduism survived the challenge because it was much more broadly based as the religion of home and community and far more deeply rooted in Indian culture.
  • In the 1950s, almost 1,000 years after Buddhism’s demise in India, about five million “outcastes” revived Buddhism in India in protest at the inequalities of the caste system, and declared their allegiance to the old/new religion. These “neo-Buddhists” are almost the only Buddhists to be found in India today.
  • The total Buddhist population in 2010 in the Indian subcontinent – excluding that of Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan – was about 10 million, of which about 7.2% lived in Bangladesh, 92.5% in India and 0.2% in Pakistan.


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