BUDDHISM IN INDIA
In India, there were 3 periods of the development of Buddhism.
Each period was about 500 years. In other words, Buddhism vanished
in India after 1,500 years.
First Period (the first 500 years)
It was the Period of Correct Doctrine which lasted 500 years.
During this period the main stream of Buddhism was Sthavirah (regarded
as Hinayana, or Theravada Buddhism) in India.
For the preaching of Sakayamuni Buddha in 49 years, it can be divided
into Five Periods according to Tien Tai Sect.
It was obvious that the Buddha spend only 12 years in speaking of
Hinayana sutras (i.e. in Agama Period). Thus, the main teaching of
the Buddha obviously focused in Mahayana.
- The Avatamsaka Period (21 days after enlightenment)
After the enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha, he spoke the
Avatamsaka Sutra for 21 days, but only the Bodhisattva heard
it. Those Arhats and Bhiksus of the Small Vehicle did not even
see him. So the period of speaking the Avatamsaka Sutra was
for the teaching of great Bodhisattvas. The Sutra expounds the
Wonderful Dharma of infinite realm of "One Trueness" in the
- The Agama Period (12 years during travelling in 16 countries)
Agama, a Sanskrit word, means "incomparable Dharma", for none
of the teachings of non-Buddhist religions can compare with
it. So, the period of speaking the Agama Sutras was for the
teaching of the Small Vehicle, and for those with the lowest
- The Vaipulya Period (8 years thereafter)
Vaipulya, a Sanskrit word, means "extensive". The Vaipulya
teaching pervades the former Agama teaching and the following
Prajna teaching. Both those of the Small Vehicle and those of
the Great Vehicle can study the Sutras of this period.
- The Prajna Period (22 years in preaching)
The period of speaking the Sutras was for the beginners of
the Great Vehicle. It is distinct and separate from the Vaipulya
period and the Lotus-Nirvana Period. The teaching spoken in
this period is basically collected in Mahaprajna Sutra.
- The Dharma Flower - Nirvana Period (8 years before Nirvana)
This is the ultimate teaching of the Buddha. The teachings
of the previous four periods are provisional, manifesting for
the sake of the real. The Lotus Sutra was spoken in this period,
which opened the provisional and manifested the real.
Moreover, even though there were many Mahayana sutras compiled
in the Council by Sthavirah (representing the intimate and older
disciples of Sakayamuni) and Mahasangkikah (representing the rest
of disciples), those sutra were not as popular as Hinayana ones.
In this period, the Sthavirah was reputed as the nearest to early
Buddhism in its tenets, though it was said to have changed the basis
of Buddhism from an agnostic system (believing that the existence
of any ultimate reality is unknown) to a realistic philosophy.
For the details of the doctrines of Hinayana and Mahayana, and
the history the Councils, please refer to the previous chapters
This period is the beginning of Semblance Doctrine Period which
lasted for 1,000 years.
In this period, a number of great masters who wrote a number of
great masterpieces changed the main stream of Buddhism from Hinayana
to Mahayana in India. As a result Mahayana was the main trend in
this period, while Hinayana was secondary in India. Certainly, those
great masters were honoured to be called as Bodhisattva.
- Asvaghosa Bodhisattva
He was patroned by the Indo-Scythian King Kaniska. He was
famous in his ten works, of which some had great influence on
He established the philosophical basis for the Mahayana development.
- Buddha Cartikavya Sutra
- Mahayana Sraddhotpada Sutra
- Sastra on The Great Adornment Sutra
- Nagarjuna Bodhisattva
Following Asvaghosa Bodhisattva, Nagarjuna Bodhisattva strived
for breaking the theories of Upadana, particularly the attachment
of Dharama advocated by the Sthavirah. He wrote many articles
to explain the meanings of ultimate emptiness, i.e. Sunyata.
For the next few hundred years, most Buddhist practitioners
were indulged in the doctrine of emptiness. Instead of attaching
to the reality, they held the concept of emptiness, i.e. the
extreme view of extinction and end denying the Law of Causes
and Effect, etc. As it denied the reality of all phenomenal
existence and defined the noumenal world in negative term, it
was too profound that was beyond human concept and expression.
- Deva Bodhisattva or Aryadeva or Kandeva
He was the disciple of Nagarjuna. Along with Nagarjuna,, he
was known as one of the founders of Three Sastra Sect. The three
Madhyamaka Sastra (i.e. Doctrine of Mean).
- Dvadasanikaya Sastra (i.e. Doctrine of Twelve Points).
- Sata Sastra (i.e. Doctrine of the Hundred Verses).
He was the 14th patriarch of Buddhism in India.
- Asanga Bodhisattva
He was the first follower of the Mahisasaka School, but founded
the Yogacarya or Tantric School. He was said to be preached
by Maitreya Bodhisattva in Tusita heaven. After then, he dictated
Yogacaryabhumi Sastra. There were many sastras written by him,
such as Sasatra of Abhidhara. According to the doctrine of Yoga
( i.e. Esoterism/ Tantrism) and Mere-Consciousness the seed
of Alaya could generate all kinds of matters, thus the causes
and effects were not empty. It expounded that the principle
of real emptiness and wonderful existence.
- Vasubandhu Bodhisattva
He was convented to Mahayana by his brother, Asanga Bodhisattva.
He was a highly productive master, who wrote over 500 volumes
of sastras in Hinayana and Mahayana. He was said to be the King
of A Thousand Sastras. The famous sastras (treatises) written
by Vasubandhu were:
Twenty Sastra of Mere-Consciousness
- Thirty Sastra of Mere-Consciousness
- Sastra on Buddha's nature
- Sastra on Ten States Sutra
- Sastra on Nirvana
Those sastras expounded the principle of wonderful existence
Around 1,200 years after the death of Sakyamuni Buddha, the masters
of Sunyata (Emptiness) Sect argued with Bhava (Reality) Sect with
their doctrines of ultimate emptiness, and the masters of Bhava
Sect responded with their doctrine of wonderful existence. As a
result of their debate, Mahayana was split into two main streams
i.e. Sunyata Sect and Bhava Sect, while Hinayana almost extinguished.
In this period, there was a great master Ngarjnana Bodhisattva,
who was the disciple of Nagarjuna Bodhisattva. He was the 4th patriach
of Tantric Sect. It was said that his face appeared to be thirty
in his age of 700. He merged the India traditions to the Tantric
mantra, which was very popular in India by that time. Tantric Sect
became the main stream, while both Mahayana and Hinayana also included
some elements of mantra in their practice.
Later around 1300 years after the death of Sakayamuni Buddha, due
to the renaissance of Brahman and invasion of Muslims Buddhism declined
and finally vanished in India. It entered the Period of Degenerated