The Buddhist Tradition: In India, China and Japan

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According to tradition, a son of Ashoka founded the kingdom of Khotan about bce. The grandson of this king supposedly introduced Buddhism to Khotan, where it became the state religion. Other accounts indicate that the Indo-Scythian king Kaniska of the Kushan Kusana dynasty , which ruled in northern India, Afghanistan, and parts of Central Asia in the 1st to 2nd century ce , encouraged the spread of Buddhism into Central Asia. Kaniska purportedly called an important Buddhist council and patronized the Gandhara school of Buddhist art, which introduced Greek and Persian elements into Buddhist iconography.

In Central Asia there was a confusing welter of languages, religions, and cultures , and, as Buddhism interacted with these various traditions, it changed and developed.

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Shamanism , Zoroastrianism , Nestorian Christianity , and Islam all penetrated these lands and coexisted with Buddhism. Some of the Mahayana bodhisattvas, such as Amitabha , may have been inspired in part by Zoroastrianism. There is also evidence of some syncretism between Buddhism and Manichaeism , an Iranian dualistic religion that was founded in the 3rd century ce. Buddhism flourished in parts of Central Asia until the 11th century, particularly under the patronage of the Uighur Turks.

Buddhist Imagery

But with the successful incursions of Islam beginning in the 7th century ce and the decline of the Tang dynasty — in China, Central Asia ceased to be the important crossroads of Indian and Chinese trade and culture that it once had been. Buddhism in the area gradually became a thing of the past. Although there are reports of Buddhists in China as early as the 3rd century bce , Buddhism was not actively propagated there until the early centuries of the Common Era.

The emperor dispatched emissaries to India who returned to China with the Sutra in Forty-two Sections , which was deposited in a temple outside the capital of Luoyang. However this may be, Buddhism most likely entered China gradually, first primarily through Central Asia and later by way of the trade routes around and through Southeast Asia. Buddhism in China during the Han dynasty was deeply coloured with magical practices, which made it compatible with popular Chinese Daoism , an integral component of contemporary folk religion. Instead of the doctrine of no-self, early Chinese Buddhists seem to have taught the indestructibility of the soul.

Nirvana became a kind of immortality.


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They also taught the theory of karma , the values of charity and compassion, and the need to suppress the passions. Until the end of the Han dynasty , there was a virtual symbiosis between Daoism and Buddhism, and both religions advocated similar ascetic practices as a means of attaining immortality.

The Buddhist Tradition: In India, China and Japan

It was widely believed that Laozi , the founder of Daoism, had been reborn in India as the Buddha. Many Chinese emperors worshiped Laozi and the Buddha on the same altar. The first translations of Buddhist sutras into Chinese—namely, those dealing with topics such as breath control and mystical concentration—utilized a Daoist vocabulary to make them intelligible to the Chinese.

Indian Deities Worshipped in Japan

After the Han period, Buddhist monks were often used by non-Chinese emperors in the north of China for their political-military counsel and their skill in magic. At the same time, in the south Buddhism penetrated the philosophical and literary circles of the gentry. One of the most important contributions to the growth of Buddhism in China during this period was the work of translation.


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The greatest of the early translators was the learned monk Kumarajiva , who had studied the Hindu Vedas , the occult sciences, and astronomy , as well as the Hinayana and Mahayana sutras before he was taken to the Chinese court in ce. During the 5th and 6th centuries ce , Buddhist schools from India were established in China, and new, specifically Chinese schools were formed.

The Buddhist World: Buddhism in East Asia - China, Korean, Japan.

Buddhism was a powerful intellectual force in China; monastic establishments proliferated, and Buddhism became established among the peasantry. Thus, it is not surprising that, when the Sui dynasty — established its rule over a reunified China, Buddhism flourished as a state religion. The golden age of Buddhism in China occurred during the Tang dynasty. Although the Tang emperors were usually Daoists themselves, they favoured Buddhism, which had become extremely popular.


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The reader has rich resources before his or her eyes, yet is not overwhelmed by an unmanageable amount of detail. The explanations offered along with each translated excerpt make them accessible to the new reader, yet do not attempt to replace the texts with any sort of oversimplified explanation. It focuses on the teachings of the historical Budd All Rights Reserved.

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