Nirvana is the earliest and most common term used to describe the goal of the Buddhist path. The literal meaning is "blowing out" or "quenching." It is the ultimate spiritual goal in Buddhism and marks the soteriological release from rebirths in saṃsāra. Nirvana is part of the Third Truth on "cessation of dukkha" in the Four Noble Truths, the summum bonum destination of the Noble Eightfold Path. Within the Buddhist tradition, this term has been interpreted as the extinction of the "three fires", or "three poisons", passion and ignorance; when these fires are extinguished, release from the cycle of rebirth is attained. Nirvana has been deemed in Buddhism to be identical with anatta and sunyata states. In time, with the development of Buddhist doctrine, other interpretations were given, such as the absence of the weaving of activity of the mind, the elimination of desire, escape from the woods, cq. the five skandhas or aggregates. Buddhist scholastic tradition identifies two types of nirvana: sopadhishesa-nirvana, parinirvana or anupadhishesa-nirvana.
The founder of Buddhism, the Buddha, is believed to have reached both these states. Nirvana, or the liberation from cycles of rebirth, is the highest aim of the Theravada tradition. In the Mahayana tradition, the highest goal is Buddhahood, in which there is no abiding in Nirvana, but a Buddha continues to take rebirths in the world to help liberate beings from saṃsāra by teaching the Buddhist path; the term nirvana describes a state of freedom from suffering and rebirth, but different Buddhist traditions have interpreted the concept in different ways. The origin is pre-Buddhist, its etymology may not be conclusive for its meaning; the term was a more or less central concept among the Jains, the Ajivikas, the Buddhists, certain Hindu traditions, it may have been imported into Buddhism with much of its semantic range from other sramanic movements. Nirvana has a wide range of meanings, although the literal meaning is "blowing out" or "quenching", it refers both to the act and the effect of blowing to put it out, but the process and outcome of burning out, becoming extinguished.
The term nirvana in the soteriological sense of "blown out, extinguished" state of liberation does not appear in the Vedas nor in the pre-Buddhist Upanishads. According to Collins, "the Buddhists seem to have been the first to call it nirvana." However, the ideas of spiritual liberation using different terminology, is found in ancient texts of non-Buddhist Indian traditions, such as in verse 4.4.6 of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad of Hinduism. The prevalent interpretation of nirvana as "extinction" is based on the etymology of nir√vā to "blow out". Nir is a negative, while va is taken to refer to "to blow"; the term nirvana is part of an extensive metaphorical structure, established at a early age in Buddhism. According to Gombrich, the number of three fires alludes to the three fires which a Brahmin had to keep alight, thereby symbolise life in the world, as a family-man; the meaning of this metaphor was lost in Buddhism, other explanations of the word nirvana were sought. Not only passion and delusion were to be extinguished, but all cankers or defilements.
Exegetical works developed a whole new set of folk etymological definitions of the word nirvana, using the root vana to refer to "to blow", but re-parsing the word to roots that mean "weaving, sewing", "desire" and "forest or woods": vâna, derived from the root word √vā which means "to blow": blow. Vāna, derived from the root word vana which means "woods, forest":based on this root, vana has been metaphorically explained by Buddhist scholars as referring to the "forest of defilements", or the five aggregates; the "blowing out" does not mean total annihilation, but the extinguishing of a flame, which returns, exists in another way. The term nirvana can be used as a verb: "he or she nirvāṇa-s," or "he or she parinirvānṇa-s"; the term nirvana, "to blow out", has been interpreted as the extinction of the "three fires", or "three poisons", namely of passion or sensuality, aversion or hate and of delusion or ignorance. Another explanation of nirvana is the absence of the weaving of activity of the mind.
Author Paul Swanson states that some contemporary Buddhism scholars have questioned the above etymologies and whether these are consistent with the core doctrines of Buddhism about anatman and pratityasamutpada. Matsumoto Shirō, for example, states that the original etymological root of nirvana should not be considered as nir√vā which means "extinction", but should be considered to be nir√vŗ, to "uncover"; the problem with considering it as extinction or liberation, is that it presupposes a "self" to be extinguished or liberated. According to Matsumoto, the original meaning of nirvana was therefore not "to extinguish" but "to uncover" the atman from that, anatman. Other Buddhist scholars such as Takasaki Jikidō disagree, states S
Gautama Buddha known as Siddhārtha Gautama in Sanskrit or Siddhattha Gotama in Pali, Shakyamuni Buddha, or the Buddha, after the title of Buddha, was a monk, sage, philosopher and religious leader on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. He is believed to have lived and taught in the northeastern part of ancient India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. Gautama taught a Middle Way between sensual indulgence and the severe asceticism found in the śramaṇa movement common in his region, he taught throughout other regions of eastern India such as Magadha and Kosala. Gautama is the primary figure in Buddhism, he is believed by Buddhists to be an enlightened teacher who attained full Buddhahood and shared his insights to help sentient beings end rebirth and suffering. Accounts of his life and monastic rules are believed by Buddhists to have been summarised after his death and memorized by his followers. Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition and first committed to writing about 400 years later.
Scholars are hesitant to make unqualified claims about the historical facts of the Buddha's life. Most people accept that the Buddha lived and founded a monastic order during the Mahajanapada era during the reign of Bimbisara, the ruler of the Magadha empire, died during the early years of the reign of Ajatasatru, the successor of Bimbisara, thus making him a younger contemporary of Mahavira, the Jain tirthankara. While the general sequence of "birth, renunciation, search and liberation, death" is accepted, there is less consensus on the veracity of many details contained in traditional biographies; the times of Gautama's birth and death are uncertain. Most historians in the early 20th century dated his lifetime as c. 563 BCE to 483 BCE. More his death is dated between 411 and 400 BCE, while at a symposium on this question held in 1988, the majority of those who presented definite opinions gave dates within 20 years either side of 400 BCE for the Buddha's death; these alternative chronologies, have not been accepted by all historians.
The evidence of the early texts suggests that Siddhārtha Gautama was born into the Shakya clan, a community, on the periphery, both geographically and culturally, of the eastern Indian subcontinent in the 5th century BCE. One of his usual names was "Sakamuni" or "Sakyamunī", it was either a small republic, or an oligarchy, his father was an elected chieftain, or oligarch. According to the Buddhist tradition, Gautama was born in Lumbini, now in modern-day Nepal, raised in the Shakya capital of Kapilvastu, which may have been either in what is present day Tilaurakot, Nepal or Piprahwa, India. According to Buddhist tradition, he obtained his enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, gave his first sermon in Sarnath, died in Kushinagar. Apart from the Vedic Brahmins, the Buddha's lifetime coincided with the flourishing of influential Śramaṇa schools of thought like Ājīvika, Cārvāka, Ajñana. Brahmajala Sutta records sixty-two such schools of thought. In this context, a śramaṇa refers to one who toils, or exerts themselves.
It was the age of influential thinkers like Mahavira, Pūraṇa Kassapa, Makkhali Gosāla, Ajita Kesakambalī, Pakudha Kaccāyana, Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta, as recorded in Samaññaphala Sutta, whose viewpoints the Buddha most must have been acquainted with. Indeed and Moggallāna, two of the foremost disciples of the Buddha, were the foremost disciples of Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta, the sceptic. There is philological evidence to suggest that the two masters, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, were indeed historical figures and they most taught Buddha two different forms of meditative techniques. Thus, Buddha was just one of the many śramaṇa philosophers of that time. In an era where holiness of person was judged by their level of asceticism, Buddha was a reformist within the śramaṇa movement, rather than a reactionary against Vedic Brahminism; the life of the Buddha coincided with the Achaemenid conquest of the Indus Valley during the rule of Darius I from about 517/516 BCE. This Achaemenid occupation of the areas of Gandhara and Sindh, to last for about two centuries, was accompanied by the introduction of Achaemenid religions, reformed Mazdaism or early Zoroastrianism, to which Buddhism might have in part reacted.
In particular, the ideas of the Buddha may have consisted of a rejection of the "absolutist" or "perfectionist" ideas contained in these Achaemenid religions. No written records about Gautama were found from his lifetime or from the one or two centuries thereafter. In the middle of the 3rd century BCE, several Edicts of Ashoka mention the Buddha, Ashoka's Rummindei Minor Pillar Edict commemorates the Emperor's pilgrimage to Lumbini as the Buddha's birthplace. Another one of his edicts mentions the titles of several Dhamma texts, establishing the existence of a written Buddhist tradition at least by the time of the Maurya era; these texts may be the precursor of the Pāli Canon. "Sakamuni" in mentioned in the reliefs of Bharhut, dated to circa 100 BCE, in relation with his illumination and the Bodhi tree, with the inscription Bhagavato Sakamunino Bodho. The oldest surviving Buddhist manuscripts are the Gandhāran Buddhist texts, repor
Four Noble Truths
In Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths are "the truths of the Noble Ones", the truths or realities for the "spiritually worthy ones". The truths are: dukkha is an innate characteristic of existence with each rebirth, they are traditionally identified as the first teaching given by the Buddha, considered one of the most important teachings in Buddhism. The four truths appear in many grammatical forms in the ancient Buddhist texts, they have both a symbolic and a propositional function. Symbolically, they represent the awakening and liberation of the Buddha, of the potential for his followers to reach the same religious experience as him; as propositions, the Four Truths are a conceptual framework that appear in the Pali canon and early Hybrid Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures. They are a part of the broader "network of teachings", they provide a conceptual framework for introducing and explaining Buddhist thought, which has to be understood or "experienced". As a proposition, the four truths defy an exact definition, but refer to and express the basic orientation of Buddhism: unguarded sensory contact gives rise to craving and clinging to impermanent states and things, which are dukkha, "incapable of satisfying" and painful.
This craving keeps us caught in samsara, the endless cycle of repeated rebirth, the continued dukkha that comes with it. There is a way to end this cycle, namely by attaining nirvana, cessation of craving, whereafter rebirth and the accompanying dukkha will no longer arise again; this can be accomplished by following the eightfold path, confining our automatic responses to sensory contact by restraining oneself, cultivating discipline and wholesome states, practicing mindfulness and dhyana. The function of the four truths, their importance, developed over time and the Buddhist tradition recognized them as the Buddha's first teaching; this tradition was established when prajna, or "liberating insight", came to be regarded as liberating in itself, instead of or in addition to the practice of dhyana. This "liberating insight" gained a prominent place in the sutras, the four truths came to represent this liberating insight, as a part of the enlightenment story of the Buddha; the four truths grew to be of central importance in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism by about the 5th-century CE, which holds that the insight into the four truths is liberating in itself.
They are less prominent in the Mahayana tradition, which sees the higher aims of insight into sunyata and following the Bodhisattva path as central elements in their teachings and practice. The Mahayana tradition reinterpreted the four truths to explain how a liberated being can still be "pervasively operative in this world". Beginning with the exploration of Buddhism by western colonialists in the 19th century and the development of Buddhist modernism, they came to be presented in the west as the central teaching of Buddhism, sometimes with novel modernistic reinterpretations different from the historic Buddhist traditions in Asia; the four truths are best known from their presentation in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta text, which contains two sets of the four truths, while various other sets can be found in the Pali Canon, a collection of scriptures in the Theravadan Buddhist tradition. The full set, most used in modern expositions, contains grammatical errors, pointing to multiple sources for this set and translation problems within the ancient Buddhist community.
They were considered correct by the Pali tradition, which didn't correct them. According to the Buddhist tradition, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, "Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion", contains the first teachings that the Buddha gave after attaining full awakening, liberation from rebirth. According to L. S. Cousins, many scholars are of the view that "this discourse was identified as the first sermon of the Buddha only at a date," and according to professor of religion Carol S. Anderson the four truths may not have been part of this sutta, but were added in some versions. Within this discourse, the four noble truths are given as follows: Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering. Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving which leads to re-becoming, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there. Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, non-reliance on it.
Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering: it is this noble eightfold path. According to this sutra, with the complete comprehension of these four truths release from samsara, the cycle of rebirth, was attain
History of Buddhism
The history of Buddism spans from the 5th century BCE to the present. Buddhism arose in the eastern part of Ancient India, in and around the ancient Kingdom of Magadha, is based on the teachings of Siddhārtha Gautama; this makes it one of the oldest religions practiced today. The religion evolved as it spread from the northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent through Central and Southeast Asia. At one time or another, it influenced most of the Asian continent; the history of Buddhism is characterized by the development of numerous movements and schools, among them the Theravāda, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna traditions, with contrasting periods of expansion and retreat. Siddhārtha Gautama was the historical founder of Buddhism; the early sources state he was born in the small Shakya Republic, part of the Kosala realm of ancient India, now in modern-day Nepal. He is thus known as the Shakyamuni; the republic was ruled by a council of household heads, Gautama was born to one of these elites, so that he described himself as a Kshatriya when talking to Brahmins.
The Early Buddhist Texts contain no continuous life of the Buddha, only after 200 BCE were various "biographies" with much mythological embellishment written. All texts agree however that Gautama renounced the householder life and lived as a sramana ascetic for some time studying under various teachers, before attaining nirvana and bodhi through meditation. For the remaining 45 years of his life, he traveled the Gangetic Plain of central India, teaching his doctrine to a diverse range of people from different castes and initiating monks into his order; the Buddha sent his disciples to spread the teaching across India. He initiated an order of nuns, he urged his disciples to teach in dialects. He spent a lot of his time near the cities of Sāvatthī, Rājagaha and Vesālī. By the time of his death at 80, he had thousands of followers; the years following the death of the Buddha saw the emergence of many movements during the next 400 years: first the schools of Nikaya Buddhism, of which only Theravada remains today, the formation of Mahayana and Vajrayana, pan-Buddhist sects based on the acceptance of new scriptures and the revision of older techniques.
Followers of Buddhism, called Buddhists in English, referred to themselves as Sakyan-s or Sakyabhiksu in ancient India. Buddhist scholar Donald S. Lopez asserts they used the term Bauddha, although scholar Richard Cohen asserts that that term was used only by outsiders to describe Buddhists. After the death of the Buddha, the Buddhist sangha remained centered on the Ganges valley, spreading from its ancient heartland; the canonical sources record various councils, where the monastic Sangha recited and organized the orally transmitted collections of the Buddha's teachings and settled certain disciplinary problems within the community. Modern scholarship has questioned the historicity of these traditional accounts; the first Buddhist council is traditionally said to have been held just after Buddha's Parinirvana, presided over by Mahākāśyapa, one of His most senior disciples, at Rājagṛha with the support of king Ajāthaśatru. According to Charles Prebish all scholars have questioned the historicity of this first council.
Over time, these two monastic fraternities would further divide into various Early Buddhist Schools. The Sthaviras gave birth to a large number of influential schools including the Sarvāstivāda, the Pudgalavāda, the Dharmaguptakas and the Vibhajyavāda; the Mahasamghikas meanwhile developed their own schools and doctrines early on, which can be seen in texts like the Mahavastu, associated with the Lokottaravāda, or ‘Transcendentalist’ school, who might be the same as the Ekavyāvahārikas or "One-utterancers". This school has been seen as foreshadowing certain Mahayana ideas due to their view that all of Gautama Buddha's acts were "transcendental" or "supramundane" those performed before his Buddhahood. In the third century BCE, some Buddhists began introducing new systematized teachings called Abhidharma, based on previous lists or tables of main doctrinal topics. Unlike the Nikayas, which were prose sutras or discourses, the Abhidharma literature consisted of systematic doctrinal exposition and differed across the Buddhist schools who disagreed on points of doctrine.
Abhidharma sought to analyze all experience into its ultimate constituents, phenomenal events or processes called dharmas. During the reign of the Mauryan Emperor Aśoka, Buddhism gained royal support and began to spread more reaching most of the Indian subcontinent. After his invasion of Kalinga, Aśoka seems to have experienced remorse and began working to improve the lives of his subjects. Aśoka built wells, rest-houses and hospitals for humans and animals, he abolished torture, royal hunting trips and even the death penalty. Aśoka supported non-Buddhist faiths like Jainism and Brahmanism. Aśoka propagated religion by building stupas and pillars urging, among other things, respect of all animal life and enjoining people to follow the Dharma, he has been hailed by Buddhist sources as the model for the compassionate chakravartin. Another feature of Mauryan Buddhism was the worship and veneration of stupas, large mounds which contained relics of the Buddha or other saints within, it was believed that the practice of devotion to these relics and stupas could bring blessings
A Buddhist chant is a form of musical verse or incantation, in some ways analogous to Hindu, Christian or Jewish religious recitations. In Buddhism, chanting is the traditional means of preparing the mind for meditation as part of formal practice; some forms of Buddhism use chanting for ritualistic purposes. While the basis for most Theravada chants is the Pali Canon and Vajrayana chants draw from a wider range of sources. In the Theravada tradition, chanting is done in Pali, sometimes with vernacular translations interspersed. Among the most popular Theravada chants are: Buddhabhivadana Tiratana Pancasila Buddha Vandana Dhamma Vandana Sangha Vandana Upajjhatthana Metta Sutta Reflection on the Body; the traditional chanting in Khmer Buddhism is called Smot. Since Japanese Buddhism is divided in thirteen doctrinal schools, since Chan Buddhism and Buddhism in Vietnam – although sharing a common historical origin and a common doctrinal content – are divided according to geographical borders, there are several different forms of arrangements of scriptures to chant within Mahayana Buddhism.: Daily practice in Nichiren buddhism is chanting the five character of Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō.
A Mahayana sutra that reveals the true identity of Shakyamuni as a Buddha who attained enlightenment numberless kalpas ago. Kumarajiva's translation, honoured, is entitled the Lotus Sutra of the wonderful law; the mystic relationship between the law and the lives of the people courses eternally through past and future, unbroken in any lifetime. In terms of space, the Nichiren proclaims that the heritage of the ultimate law flows within lives of his disciples and lay supporters who work in perfect unity for the realization of a peaceful world and happiness for all humanity. Nichiren practitioners will chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo - the true aspect of all the phenomena and recite certain chapters from the Lotus Sutra, in particular the 2nd and 16th chapters. Pure Land Buddhists Namu Amida Butsu or Namo Amituofo. In more formal services, practitioners will chant excerpts from the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life or the entire Smaller Sutra of Immeasurable Life. Popular with Zen, Shingon or other Mahayana practitioners is chanting the Prajñāpāramitā Hridaya Sūtra during morning offices.
In more formal settings, larger discourses of the Buddha may be chanted as well. In the Chinese and the Japanese traditions, repentance ceremonies, involving paying deep reverence to the buddhas and bodhisattvas, as well as executing rituals to rescue and feed hungry ghosts, are occasionally practiced. There is no universally used form for these two practices, but several different forms, the use of which follows doctrinal and geographical borders. Within Chan, it is common to chant Sanskrit formulae, known as dhāraṇīs in the morning. In the Vajrayana tradition, chanting is used as an invocative ritual in order to set one's mind on a deity, Tantric ceremony, mandala, or particular concept one wishes to further in themselves. For Vajrayana practitioners, the chant Om Mani Padme Hum is popular around the world as both a praise of peace and the primary mantra of Avalokitesvara. Other popular chants include those of Tara and Amitabha. Tibetan monks are noted for their skill at throat-singing, a specialized form of chanting in which, by amplifying the voice's upper partials, the chanter can produce multiple distinct pitches simultaneously.
Japanese esoteric practitioners practice a form of chanting called shomyo. In the Ghitassara Sutta, the Buddha teaches: Bhikkhus, there are five dangers of reciting the Dhamma with a musical intonation. What five? Oneself gets attached to the sound, others get attached to the sound, householders are annoyed, saying, “Just as we sing, these sons of the Sakyan sing”, the concentration of those who do not like the sound is destroyed, generations copy it. These, are the five dangers of reciting the Dhamma with a musical intonation. John Daido Loori justified the use of chanting sutras by referring to Zen master Dōgen. Dōgen is known to have refuted the statement "Painted rice cakes will not satisfy hunger"; this statement means that sutras, which are just symbols like painted rice cakes, cannot satisfy one's spiritual hunger. Dōgen, saw that there is no separation between metaphor and reality. "There is no difference between paintings, rice cakes, or any thing at all". The symbol and the symbolized were inherently the same, thus only the sutras could satisfy one's spiritual needs.
To understand this non-dual relationship experientially, one is told to practice liturgy intimately. In distinguishing between ceremony and liturgy, Dōgen states, "In ceremony there are forms and there are sounds, there is understanding and there is believing. In liturgy there is only intimacy." The practitioner is instructed to listen to and speak liturgy not just with one sense, but with one's "whole body-and-mind". By listening with one's entire being, one eliminates the space between the liturgy. Thus, Dōgen's instructions are to "listen with the eye and s
Chinese Buddhism or Han Buddhism has shaped Chinese culture in a wide variety of areas including art, literature, philosophy and material culture. The translation of a large body of Indian Buddhist scriptures into Chinese and the inclusion of these translations together with works composed in China into a printed canon had far-reaching implications for the dissemination of Buddhism throughout the East Asian cultural sphere, including Korea, Japan and Vietnam. Chinese Buddhism is marked by the interaction between Indian religions, Chinese religion, Taoism. Various legends tell of the presence of Buddhism in Chinese soil in ancient times. Nonetheless, the scholarly consensus is that Buddhism first came to China in the first century CE during the Han dynasty, through missionaries from India. Generations of scholars have debated whether Buddhist missionaries first reached Han China via the maritime or overland routes of the Silk Road; the maritime route hypothesis, favored by Liang Qichao and Paul Pelliot, proposed that Buddhism was practiced in southern China, the Yangtze River and Huai River region, where prince Ying of Chu was jointly worshipping the Yellow Emperor and Buddha in 65 CE.
The overland route hypothesis, favored by Tang Yongtong, proposed that Buddhism disseminated through Central Asia – in particular, the Kushan Empire, known in ancient Chinese sources as Da Yuezhi, after the founding tribe. According to this hypothesis, Buddhism was first practiced in China in the Western Regions and the Han capital Luoyang, where Emperor Ming of Han established the White Horse Temple in 68 CE. In 2004, Rong Xinjiang, a history professor at Peking University, reexamined the overland and maritime hypotheses through a multi-disciplinary review of recent discoveries and research, including the Gandhāran Buddhist Texts, concluded: The view that Buddhism was transmitted to China by the sea route comparatively lacks convincing and supporting materials, some arguments are not sufficiently rigorous. Based on the existing historical texts and the archaeological iconographic materials discovered since the 1980s the first-century Buddhist manuscripts found in Afghanistan, the commentator believes that the most plausible theory is that Buddhism reached China from the Greater Yuezhi of northwest India and took the land route to reach Han China.
After entering into China, Buddhism blended with early Daoism and Chinese traditional esoteric arts and its iconography received blind worship. A number of popular accounts in historical Chinese literature have led to the popularity of certain legends regarding the introduction of Buddhism into China. According to the most popular one, Emperor Ming of Han precipitated the introduction of Buddhist teachings into China; the Mouzi Lihuolun first records this legend: In olden days Emperor Ming saw in a dream a god whose body had the brilliance of the sun and who flew before his palace. The next day he asked his officials: "What god is this?" the scholar Fu Yi said: "Your subject has heard it said that in India there is somebody who has attained the Dao and, called Buddha. The emperor sent an envoy to Tianzhu to inquire about the teachings of the Buddha. Buddhist scriptures were said to have been returned to China on the backs of white horses, after which White Horse Temple was named. Two Indian monks returned with them, named Dharmaratna and Kaśyapa Mātaṅga.
An 8th-century Chinese fresco at Mogao Caves near Dunhuang in Gansu portrays Emperor Wu of Han worshiping statues of a golden man. However, neither the Shiji nor Book of Han histories of Emperor Wu mentions a golden Buddhist statue; the first documented translation of Buddhist scriptures from various Indian languages into Chinese occurs in 148 CE with the arrival of the Parthian prince-turned-monk An Shigao. He worked to establish Buddhist temples in Luoyang and organized the translation of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese, testifying to the beginning of a wave of Central Asian Buddhist proselytism, to last several centuries. An Shigao translated Buddhist texts on basic doctrines and abhidharma. An Xuan, a Parthian layman who worked alongside An Shigao translated an early Mahāyāna Buddhist text on the bodhisattva path. Mahāyāna Buddhism was first propagated in China by the Kushan monk Lokakṣema, who came from the ancient Buddhist kingdom of Gandhāra. Lokakṣema translated important Mahāyāna sūtras such as the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, as well as rare, early Mahāyāna sūtras on topics such as samādhi, meditation on the buddha Akṣobhya.
These translations from Lokakṣema continue to give insight into the early period of Mahāyāna Buddhism. This corpus of texts includes emphasizes ascetic practices and forest dwelling, absorption in states of meditative concentration: Paul Harrison has worked on some of the texts that are arguably the earliest versions we have of the Mahāyāna sūtras, those translated into Chinese in the last half of the second century CE by the Indo-Scythian translator Lokakṣema. Harrison points to the enthusiasm in the Lokakṣema sūtra corpus for the extra ascetic practices, for dwelling in the forest, above all for states of meditative absorption. Meditation and meditative states seem to have occupied a central place in early Mahāyāna because of their spiritual efficacy but a
Silk Road transmission of Buddhism
Buddhism entered Han China via the Silk Road, beginning in the 1st or 2nd century CE. The first documented translation efforts by Buddhist monks in China were in the 2nd century CE under the influence of the expansion of the Kushan Empire into the Chinese territory of the Tarim Basin under Kanishka; these contacts brought Gandharan Buddhist culture into territories adjacent to China proper. Direct contact between Central Asian and Chinese Buddhism continued throughout the 3rd to 7th century, well into the Tang period. From the 4th century onward, with Faxian's pilgrimage to India, Xuanzang, Chinese pilgrims started to travel by themselves to northern India, their source of Buddhism, in order to get improved access to original scriptures. Much of the land route connecting northern India with China at that time was ruled by the Kushan Empire, the Hephthalite Empire; the Indian form of Buddhist tantra reached China in the 7th century. Tibetan Buddhism was established as a branch of Vajrayana, in the 8th century.
But from about this time, the Silk Road transmission of Buddhism began to decline with the Muslim conquest of Transoxiana, resulting in the Uyghur Khaganate by the 740s. By this time, Indian Buddhism itself was in decline, due to the resurgence of Hinduism on one hand and due to the Muslim expansion on the other, while Tang-era Chinese Buddhism was repressed in the 9th century, but not before in its turn giving rise to Korean and Japanese traditions. Buddhism was brought to China via the Silk Road. Buddhist monks travelled with merchant caravans on the Silk Road; the lucrative Chinese silk trade along this trade route began during the Han Dynasty with the establishment by Alexander the Great of a system of Hellenistic kingdoms and trade networks extending from the Mediterranean to modern Afghanistan and Tajikistan on the borders of China. The powerful Greco-Bactrian Kingdoms in Afghanistan and the Indo-Greek Kingdoms practiced Greco-Buddhism and formed the first stop on the Silk Road, after China, for nearly 300 years.
See Dayuan. The transmission of Buddhism to China via the Silk Road started in the 1st century CE with a semi-legendary account of an embassy sent to the West by the Chinese Emperor Ming: It may be assumed that travelers or pilgrims brought Buddhism along the Silk Roads, but whether this first occurred from the earliest period when those roads were open, ca. 100 BC, must remain open to question. The earliest direct references to Buddhism concern the 1st century AD, but they include hagiographical elements and are not reliable or accurate. Extensive contacts however started in the 2nd century CE as a consequence of the expansion of the Greco-Buddhist Kushan Empire into the Chinese territory of the Tarim Basin, with the missionary efforts of a great number of Central Asian Buddhist monks to Chinese lands; the first missionaries and translators of Buddhists scriptures into Chinese were either Parthian, Sogdian or Kuchean. In the middle of the 2nd century, the Kushan Empire under king Kaniṣka from its capital at Purushapura, India expanded into Central Asia and went beyond the regions of Kashgar and Yarkand, in the Tarim Basin, modern Xinjiang.
As a consequence, cultural exchanges increased, Central Asian Buddhist missionaries became active shortly after in the Chinese capital cities of Loyang and sometimes Nanjing, where they distinguished themselves by their translation work. They promoted both Mahāyāna scriptures. Thirty-seven of these early translators of Buddhist texts are known. An Shigao, a Parthian prince who made the first known translations of Hīnayāna Buddhist texts into Chinese Lokakṣema, a Kushan and the first to translate Mahāyāna scriptures into Chinese An Xuan, a Parthian merchant who became a monk in China in 181 Zhi Yao, a Kushan monk in the second generation of translators after Lokakṣema. Kang Meng-hsiang, the first translator from Kangju Zhi Qian, a Kushan monk whose grandfather had settled in China during 168–190 Zhi Yueh, a Kushan monk who worked at Nanjing Kang Senghui, born in Jiaozhi close to modern Hanoi in what was the extreme south of the Chinese empire, a son of a Sogdian merchant Tan-ti, a Parthian monk Po Yen, a Kuchean prince Dharmarakṣa, a Kushan whose family had lived for generations at Dunhuang An Fachiin, a monk of Parthian origins Po Srimitra, a Kuchean prince Kumārajīva, a Kuchean monk and one of the most important translators Dharmakṣema, scholar who brought Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra to China Fotudeng, a Central Asian monk who became a counselor to the Chinese court Bodhidharma, the founder of the Chan school of Buddhism, the legendary originator of the physical training of the Shaolin monks that led to the creation of Shaolin kung fu.
According to the earliest reference to him, by Yang Xuanzhi, he was a monk of Central Asian origin whom Yang Xuanshi met around 520 at Loyang. Throughout Buddhist art, Bodhidharma is depicted as a rather ill-tempered, profusely bearded and wide-eyed barbarian, he is referred to as "The Blue-Eyed Barbarian" in Chinese Chan texts. Five monks from Gandhāra who traveled in 485 CE to the country of Fusang, where they introduced Buddhism. Jñānagupta, a monk and translator from Gandhāra Śikṣānanda, a monk and translator from Udyāna, Gandhāra Prajñā (c. 81