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Chronology of Buddhism

6th  Century B.C.E. to 15th  Century  C.E.


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6th Century B.C.E.

• Life of Siddhartha Guatama, the historical Buddha: conventional dates: 566-486 B.C.E. (According to more recent research, revised dates are: 490-410 BCE).

5th Century B.C.E.

• First Buddhist Council at Rajagaha (486) after the Parinirvana*, under the patronage of King Ajatasattu.


• The Buddhist Canon as it exist today was settled at this Council and preserved as an oral tradition.

4th Century B.C.E.  

• Second Buddhist Council at Vesali (386) about 100 year after the Parinirvana.


• First schism of the Sangha occurs in which the Mahasanghika school parts ways with the Sthaviravadins and the Theravadins.


• Non-canonical Buddhist Council at Pataliputra (367)

3rd Century B.C.E.  

• Reign of Indian Emperor Asoka (272-231) who converts and establishes the Buddha's Dharma on a national level for the first time.


• Third Buddhist Council at Pataliputra (250) under the patronage of Emperor Asoka about 200 years after the Parinirvana.


• The modern Pali Tipitaka now essentially complete.


• Asoka's son and missionary Mahinda established Buddhism in Sri Lanka (247)

2nd Century

• Beginnings of Mahayana Buddhism (20O).


• Composition of Prajnaparamita literature.


• Historical record has it that two Buddhist missionaries from India in 68 AD, arrived at the court of Emperor Ming (58-75) of Han Dynasty. They enjoyed imperial favour and stayed on to translate various Buddhist Texts, one of which, The 'Sutra of Forty-two Sections' continues to be popular even today.

1st Century

• Entire scriptural canon of Theravada School was committed to writing on palm leaves in Pali at the Aloka Cave, near Matale, Sri Lanka (35-32)


• Milinda-paρha or Questions of King Milinda to Venerble Nagasena.

1st Century C.E.*

• King Kaniska (78-101) convened the Fourth Buddhist Council at Jalandhar or in Kashmir around 100 C.E. (This is not recognized by the Theravadins).


• Buddhism established in Cambodia 100 C.E and in Vietnam 150 C.E.


• Composition of Lotus Sutra and other Mahayana Buddhist texts.


• Buddhism enters Central Asia and China.

2nd Century C.E.

• The Age of Indian Buddhist philosopher Nargarjuna (150) founder of the school of Madhyamika ('the Middle Way').

3rd Century C.E. 

• Expansion of Buddhism to Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Indonesia.


The Yogacara (meditation) school was founded by Maitreyanatha (3rd century).


• Buddhist influence in Persia spreads through trade.

4th Century C.E.   

• Asanga (310-390) and his brother Vasubandhu (420-500) prominent teachers of the Yogacara school of Buddhism.


• Development of Vajrayana Buddhism in India.


• Translation of Buddhist texts into Chinese by Kumarajiva (344-413) and Hui-yόan (334-416).


• Buddhism enters Korea (372).

5th Century

• Buddhist monastic university founded at Nalanda, India.


• Buddhaghosa composes the Visuddhimagga and major commentaries in Sri Lanka.


• Buddhism established in Burma and Korea.


• Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hsien visits India (399-414).


• Amitabha (Amida) Pure Land sect emerges in China.


• Sri lankan Theravadin nuns introduce full ordination lineage into China (433).


• Mahayana Buddhism was introduced into Java, Sumatra, Borneo, mainly by Indian immigrants.

6th Century

• Bodhidharma founder of Ch'an (Zen) arrives in China from India. (526)


• Sui Dynasty in Chinese History (589-617) beginning of Golden Age of Chinese Buddhism.


• Development of T'ien-tai, Hua-yen, Pure Land, and Ch'an schools of Chinese Buddhism.


• Buddhism enters Japan (538) becomes state religion (594).


• Buddhism flourishing in Indonesia.


• Jataka Tales translated into Persian by King Khusru (531-579).

7th Century

• Construction of Potala Palace, Jokang and Ramoche temples to house Buddha images (641-650)


• Harsa-vardhana ruler of a large empire in northern India from 606 to 647. He was a Buddhist convert in a Hindu era.


• Chinese pilgrim Hsuan-Tsang (602-664) visits India.

8th Century

• Academic schools (Jφjitsu, Kusha, Sanron, Hossφ, Ritsu, and Kegon) proliferate in Japan.


• Great debate between Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist schools.


• Ch'an declared heretical in Tibet.


• Nyingma School of Tibet Buddhism established.


• Borobudur Temple complex built in Java.


• Jataka Tales translated into Syrian and Arabic under title: Kalilag and Damnag.

9th Century

• Khmer kings build Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious monument.


• Tendai School (founded by Saichφ (767-822) and Shingon School (founded by Kukai: (774-835) appear in Japan.


• Great Buddhist persecution in China (845)


• Biography of Buddha translated into Greek by Saint John of Damascus and distributed in Christianity as "Balaam" and "Josaphat".

10th Century

• First complete printing of Chinese Buddhist Canon (983), known as the Szechuan edition.


• Buddhism in Thailand (900-1000)


• Islam replaces Buddhism in Central Asia (900-1000).

11th Century

• Conversion of King Anawrahta of Pagan (Burma) (1044-1077) by Shin Arahan.


• Atisha (982-1054) arrives in Tibet from India (1042).


• Marpa (1012-1097) begins Kargyu School of Tibetan Buddhism.


• Milarepa (1040-1123) becomes greatest poet and most popular saint in Tibetan Buddhism.


•The bhikkhu and bhikkhuni (monk and nun) communities at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, die out following invasions from South India.


• Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism established.


• Revival of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Burma. • Decline of Buddhism in India.

12th Century

• Theravada Buddhism established in Burma.


• Hφnen (1133-1212) founded the Pure Land School of Japanese Buddhism.


• Eisai (1141-1215) founds the Rinzai Zen School of Japanese Buddhism.


• In 1193 the Moslems attacked and conquered Magadha, the heartland of Buddhism in India, and with the destruction of the Buddhist Monasteries and Universities (Valabhi and Nalanda) - in that area Buddhism was wiped out.


• Buddhism in Korea flourishes under the Koryo dynasty (1140-1390).

13th Century

• Shinran (1173-1263 ) founds True Pure Land School of Japanese Buddhism.

• Dogen (1200-1253) founds Soto Zen School of Japanese Buddhism.


• Nichiren (1222-1282) founds school of Japanese Buddhism named after him.


• Mongols converted to Vajrayana Buddhism.


• Theravada Buddhism spreads to Laos.


• Some Buddhist texts still being translated into Arabic, in Persia.

14th Century

• Bu-ston collects and edits Tibetan Buddhist Canon.


• Rulers of the north (Chieng-mai) and northeast (Sukhothai) Thailand adopt Theravada Buddhism (becomes state religion in 1360).


• Theravada Buddhism adopted in Cambodia and Laos.


• Tsong-kha-pa (1357-1419) Tibetan Buddhist reformer and founder of Dge-lugs-pa (or Gelugpa, or 'Yellow Hat') order.


Esoteric Buddhism By A P Sinnet


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Theosophical Society, Cardiff Lodge

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 1DL