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.

    43.1   The 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.

    1. 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 Buddhalands.

    2. 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 root.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

    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.

    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 or glossary.

    43.2   The Second Period

    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.

    1. 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 Buddhism.

      1. Buddha Cartikavya Sutra
      2. Mahayana Sraddhotpada Sutra
      3. Sastra on The Great Adornment Sutra

      He established the philosophical basis for the Mahayana development.

    2. 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.

    3. 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 sastras were:

      1. Madhyamaka Sastra (i.e. Doctrine of Mean).

      2. Dvadasanikaya Sastra (i.e. Doctrine of Twelve Points).
      3. Sata Sastra (i.e. Doctrine of the Hundred Verses). He was the 14th patriarch of Buddhism in India.

    4. 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.

    5. 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:

      1. Twenty Sastra of Mere-Consciousness

      2. Thirty Sastra of Mere-Consciousness
      3. Sastra on Buddha's nature
      4. Sastra on Ten States Sutra
      5. Sastra on Nirvana

      Those sastras expounded the principle of wonderful existence in Mahayana.

    43.3   The Third Period

    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 Doctrine.