Buddhism Timeline

The chronological history of Buddhism

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Below is a timeline for the major events in the Buddhist religion, along with links to more in-depth articles at the bottom of the page.

Understanding the chronology of this religion will assist a person in understanding its history and development in several areas.

The story of Buddhism begins with the life of the Buddha, however, some of the religions that influenced Buddhism pre-date its founder.

By reading through the timeline, one is able to track the advancement of Buddhism around the world, starting in the East and continuing to the West.

A timleline of Buddhism

c. 800-500 BCE
Composition of Hindu Upanishads
552-479 BCE
Life of Confucius (also see Confucianism)
c. 500 BCE
Life of Lao-tzu
c. 480 BCE
Birth of the Buddha in Kapilavastu.
c. 450 BCE
The Buddha's enlightenment and first sermon. (also see life of Buddha)
c. 405 BCE
Death of the Buddha.
c. 405 BCE
First Buddhist Council, at Rajagrha.
c. 350 BCE
Second Buddhist Council, at Vaisali.
327-325 BCE
Alexander the Great in India.
c. 300 BCE
Buddhism arrives in SE Asia. (also see history of Buddhism)
272 BCE
Emperor Asoka takes throne.
250 BCE
Third Buddhist Council, resulting in Great Schism and Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism
247 BCE
Mahinda introduces Buddhism to Sri Lanka.
200-0 BCE
Stupa construction at Sanci.
1st cent. BCE
Theravada Buddhist Canon (Tripitaka) completed in Sri Lanka.
1st cent. CE
Indian Buddhists settle in Southeast Asia.
150-250 CE
Life of Nagarjuna.
4th cent.
Rise of Vajrayana Buddhism.
Gupta dynasty in India; Buddhist philosophy and art flourish.
372 CE
Chinese monks bring Buddhism to Korea.
Fa-hsien travels to India.
c. 420
Schools of Tiantai, Huayan, Chan, and Jingtu appear in China.
Bodhidharma arrives in China.
Viniaya school founded in Korea.
Korea accepts Buddhism.
6th cent.
Burma adopts Theravada Buddhism. (see Theravada Buddhism)
Buddhism enters Japan from Korea.
Prince Shotoku sponsors Buddhism in Japan.
c. 589
Chinese Buddhist commentaries written.
c. 600
First diffusion of Buddhism in Tibet.
Life of Songtsen Gampo; establishment of Buddhism in Tibet. (see Tibetan Buddhism)
Chinese T'ang Dynasty; golden age of Buddhism in China.
7th cent.
Mahayana Buddhism adopted in Indonesia.
8th cent.
Buddhism becomes state religion of Japan. (see religion in Japan)
Japanese emperor orders a temple be built in every province.
c. 792-94
The Great Samye Debate decides on Indian Mahayana Buddhism as the form for Tibet.
King Langdharma persecutes Tibetan Buddhists.
Chinese emperor suppresses Buddhism.
early 10th cent.
Korea institutes a Buddhist constitution
11th cent.
King of Burma restores Theravadin monasticism. Mahayana Buddhism declines.
mid-12th cent.
Buddhism is virtually extinct in India.
During the Kamakura period in Japan, schools of Rinzai, Soto Zen, Jodo Shu (Pure Land), Jodo Shinshu (True Pure Land), and Nichiren develop.
Mongols invade Korea, destroy Buddhist scriptures.
Mongolian leader Kublai Khan accepts Tibetan Buddhism.
Theravada Buddhism becomes state religion of Thailand.
14th cent.
Theravada Buddhism introduced in Laos.
15th cent.
Theravada Buddhism dominant in Cambodia.
Sonam Gyatso is titled the Dalai Lama by the Mongolian leader Altan Khan.
Japanese invade Korea.
Life of the fifth Dalai Lama and beginning of rule of Tibet by Dalai Lamas.
Life of Basho; Buddhist influence on haiku and the arts in Japan
17-18th cent.
Korean Buddhism revives after regaining independence.
Mongolian Buddhist canon translated from Tibetan.
Shinto reinstated as national religion of Japan. (see Shinto)
Reformations of Korean and Chinese Buddhism.
Religious freedom introduced in Japan, with no official national religion.
Buddhism suppressed by Chinese communist government.
Tenzin Gyatso becomes the fourteenth Dalai Lama. China invades Tibet and suppresses Buddhism.
The Dalai Lama goes into exile.
Upon the death of Mao, Buddhism begins to revive in China.
International Network of Engaged Buddhists founded.
UK Association of Buddhist Studies founded.
Destruction of standing Buddha statues at Bamiyan by Taliban regime.

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  1. John Bowker, ed., The Cambridge Illustrated History of Religions (Cambridge UP, 2002).
  2. Damien Keown, A Dictionary of Buddhism (Oxford UP, 2003), Appendix VI, pp. 355-57.

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