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Buddhism in India


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Buddhism in India

Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama. At an early age Siddhartha attained enlightenment while meditating under a Peepal tree, also known as Bodhi Tree. Gautama, from then on, was known as "The Perfectly Self-Awakened One," the Samyasambuddha.

Gautama received great support from the ruler of Magadha, Bimbasara, who not only was extremely convinced on Gautam’s beliefs but also allowed him to establish many Buddhist "Viharas”. The Wheel of Dharma was set in motion when Buddha delivered sermons to a group of five champions, who worked on the path to enlightenment along with Buddha.

They, together with the Buddha, formed the first Sangha, the company of Buddhist monks, and hence, the first formation of Triple Gem (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) was completed. The ruler of Mauryan Empire, Ashoka converted himself to Buddhism, especially after the Battle of Kalinga. He as any other Buddhist Devotee was committed towards spreading and preserving the religion of Buddhism.

Later, the ruler of Kushan Empire, Kanishka encouraged and spread Buddhism. In Gandhara Mahayana Buddhism flourished and Buddha was represented in human form.

When Buddha died, he left no successor, and his teachings were only in oral traditions. However, the Sangha established by Buddha held a number of Buddhist Councils in order to reach consensus on various matters related to Buddhist doctrine and practices.

The first four Buddhist councils were held at Rajgir, Vaishali, Patliputra and Jalandhar. The Mahayana branch of Buddhism popularized the concept of a Bodhisattva (literally enlightened being or "a Buddha-to-be") and the worship of the Bodhisattvas. Vajrayana, a form of Indian Buddhism that emerged in the 4th century AD later became widespread in Tibet, and Japan.

As various evidences suggest, the spread of Buddhism from India to other parts of the World was mainly through various trade relations. Over the years the reach of Buddhism in India secluded in the north Eastern areas of India, with Kathmandu being the center of Buddhism. Today, in the urban centers of Kathmandu valley, we still find Indian Mahayana Buddhism, modified through mixing with Vajrayana, practiced by the local Buddhist Newar population.

After the decline of last dynasty supporting Buddhism, the Pala kingdom, around 12th century, Buddhism began to decline in its reach in India. Buddhism further weakened when various Muslim conquerors tried to destroy monasteries and spread the influence of Islam.

However, revival of Buddhism began in India in 1891, when the Sri Lankan Buddhist leader Anagarika Dharmapala founded the Maha Bodhi Society. Its activities expanded to involve the promotion of Buddhism in India. In June 1892, a meeting of Buddhists took place at Darjeeling where Dharmapala spoke to Tibetan Buddhists and presented a relic of the Buddha to be sent to the Dalai Lama.

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