Life of the Buddha

566 - 486 bce

566 bce Birth of the Buddha

Born in Lumbini, present day Nepal, as the Indian Prince Siddhartha Gautama into the family of King Shuddhodana, ruler of the republic of the Shakyas. At his birth it is predicted that he will become either a world ruler or an Enlightened One.

531 bce Enlightenment of the Buddha

After achieving complete mastery of all ordinary accomplishments, the prince departs from home at age 29 to find an end to all suffering. Seated beneath the Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya, he obtains Enlightenment. He left his family at 29 and wandered for six years, studying with the best teachers of his day.

531–486 bce Turning the Wheel of the Dharma

After His Enlightenment, he wanders throughout the Ganges basin, teaching thousands over the course of 45 years. His son, wife, aunt and cousins were among those who joined the orders of monks and nuns he established. the Buddha teaches for 45 years: The First Turning: the Teachings of the Shravakayana. Second Turning: Mahayana teachings. Third Turning: The Vajrayana Tantras.

486 bce Parinirvana

To demonstrate the truth of impermanence, the Buddha fell ill while traveling and passes into Nirvana at Kushinagara, India. He urged the Sangha, the community of his disciples, to preserve his teachings and pursue Enlightenment.

486 bce First Council

Convened at Banyan (Saptaparni) Cave in Rajaghra, during the summer monsoon the year after the Parinirvana under the patronage of King Ajatasatru. Five hundred Arhats assembled to recite the general teachings of the Shravakayana, while Bodhisattvas assembled to preserve the Mahayana, including the sutra and mantra vehicle teachings.Upali compiled the Vinaya, Ananda the sutras and Mahakasyapa, the Abhidharma. According to Dudjom Rinpoche, "As far away as Akanistha the gods preceived this and exclaimed, "The gods will flourish! The antigods will decline! The teachings of the Buddha will endure for a long period of time!" Some members of the sangha were absent and others disputed the authenticity of the recitations.

376 bce Second Council

Sponsored by King Ashoka and convened at Vaishali in response to monks of Vaishali becoming lax about monastic rules. This was condensed into a list of ten transgressions; permitting exclamations of 'alas!'; celebrating the arhats; deliberate gardening; sipping medicine (ale); storing salt; eating while on the road; desecration of offerings with 'two fingers' (?); stirring curd and milk together as an afternoon beverage; a new mat with an old patch; begging for gold or silver. It was at this council that two main currents of the Dharma, the conservative Sthaviras or elders and the more expansive Mahasanghas (Great Sangha), began to develop. According to Longchenpa, the Sarvastivadin, Mahasanghika, Sthavira, and Sammatiya schools arise at this time. Each of these traditions gives rise to additional schools, collectively known as the eighteen Sravaka schools.

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Indrabodhi b. 458 bce

Perhaps also known as King Dza or King Jah. Had seven auspicious dreams, when a rupa (statue) of Vajrapani appeared at the palace just as he had dreamed. He practiced for seven months and had a vision of Vajrasattva, received Guhyagarbha and 18 Mahayoga tantras from Vajrapani through vision, transmitted them to Uparaja who did not comprehend it, then to Kukkuraja, who became the King's guru & eventually to his own daughter the Princess Gomadevi.

The Buddha prophesied a King Ja who may be the same person as King Indrabodhi, or perhaps his son. Dudjom Rinpoche reports in his Historyof the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, that he may be the middle of three Indrabodhi's. This middle one is 5th in the sucession of the major kama and terma teachings of Mahayoga and of the Anuyoga Tantra teachings from the Buddha to Tulku Thondup's teacher. King Ja (Dza of Sahor) learned the Anuyoga Tantra from Vajrapani. It is said that he had seven dreams, and that many texts were transmitted to him, written on gold paper in malachite ink. An image of Vajrapani, two feet high and made of precious jewels came out of the sky and landed on the roof of his palace. When he made offerings to these he was given an understanding of the meaning of Dorje Sempa Zhalthong (Seeing the Face of Vajrasattva). He saw Vajrasattva in a vision and received prophetic instructions. He also saw Vajrapani in a vision, and understood the absolute meaning of the tantric texts he was given. Not requiring further teaching on this, he still followed the instructions of his vision and received the teachings from Licchavi Vimalakirti. These were later written down by Rakshasa Matyaupayika. During the time that King Trisong Detson ruled in Tibet, he sent two translators to India with gifts of gold and a message to the young King Indrabodhi to please send a great tantric master. A member of the Nyang family had suggested to the King that he invite Vimalamitri, and this is who the King and his scholars agreed upon.

Ashoka Maurya reigned 269-232 bce

Third ruler of the Mauryan Dynasty after Chandragupta and Bindusara. Unified most of India and enlarged the empire even further before being horrified at the violent overthrow of Kalinga. Took Buddhist vows under Upagupta and became a devout layman, building stupas and supporting the sangha, sponsoring social welfare projects, even educating the populace through edicts inscribed on rock pillars. During this century, 18 Hinayana schools develop and Shravakayana teachings spread throughout India and take root in Sri Lanka. Ashoka sends dharma missions to other Asian lands. Is patron of the Third Council, which met at Pataliputra, after a mass purge of bogus devotees and freeloaders.

100 bce – 100 ce The first Prajnaparamita (Perfection of Wisdom) sutras are written. They are the Ratnagunasamcayagatha and theAstasahasrika. These are elaborated upon until about 300 ce, by which time the Vajracchedika (Diamond Sutra) is written. The Lotus Sutra (Saddharma-Pundarika) is written during this time. The Vimalakirti-Nirdesa sutra may be older, perhaps written as early as 150 bce. Most of these are written in Middle Indo-Aryan.

Kukkuraja 100 ce

Originally a brahmin, did his sadhana in a cave with a dog. After the scriptures landed on the palace roof, Indrabodhi brought them to Kukkuraja for interpretation. Practicing on this, Vajrapani instructed Kukkuraja to study with Vimalakirti. After receiving instruction form the King, he transmitted the 18 tantras to the King's son, and daughter Gomadevi, as well as the adept from Zahor named Uparaja. Through the King's transmission of Mahayoga from Vajrapani, these were in turn taught to Kukkuraja by the King and from there to a thousand students.

100 ce Fourth Council Convened at Jalandhar (or in Kashmir) by Scythian King Kanishka, to resolve difference within the monastic order. A monastery is built for 500 monks, who wrote commentaries on basic teachings. It is believed that the entire canon was engraved on copper sheets (in Pali for the Shravakayana; Sanskrit for the Mahayana) and placed in a stupa.

Princess Gomadevi c. 135

The Mahayoga transmission passed from Kukkuraja to Indrabhuti the Middle, to Singharadza, to Uparadza who taught Princess Gomadevi and her 500 disciples. From here it spread to devas, yaksas, nagas, rudras and humans. It is also related that the transmitted precepts of the karmamudra were passed from Gomadevi to King Jah and Kukkuraja, and from them to masters Lilavajra and Buddhaguhya.

Saraha c. 100 - 200

Siddha portrayed as an arrow maker. Born of a dakini, he received tantric teachings in Oddiyana and wrote dohas, short verses expressing his realization. His best-known work is "Royal Song of Saraha." As Khenpo at Nalanda, he ordained Nagarjuna. In the 9th century, his songs, or dohas, were collected as the Dohakosha.

Nagarjuna c. 150 – 250 (also 26 bce – c. 100 ce)

Born in southern India, ordained by Saraha at Nalanda as a youth, mastered the science of alchemy, was a great proponent of the Prajnaparamita (Perfection of Wisdom) sutras, and clarified the meaning of the Middle Way (Madhyamaka) through an analysis of logic and the dialectic elaboration of sunyata (emptiness-openness). Championed the Second Turning of the Wheel. Aryadeva was his heart student, with whom he composed the great Madhyamaka treatises.

Aryadeva (Karnaripa Aryadeva) 175 - 275

Lotus-born in Sri Lanka; met Nagarjuna on pilgrimage and became his devotee. Matrceta, the poet, was a Brahman who converted after debating Aryadeva at Nalanda. His student was Rahulamitra who taught Nagamitra who taught Samgharaksita who passed these teachings to Buddhapalita and Bhaviviveka.

Asvaghosa 175 - 275

Born in Ayodhya. Great Indian poet who wrote the Buddhacarita, a verse biography of the Buddha, and the Saundarananda (Awakening of Faith), about the conversion of the Buddha’s half-brother. Tibetans believe Asvaghosa is actually Matrceta, who converted after debating Aryadeva.

Garab Dorje, Pramodavajra, Prahevajra, Surativajra 320 bce – 75 ce

First human to present the Dzogchen teachings. Born in Oddiyana to a princess (said to a be a virgin nun), he was raised in the King's royal household. Met and defeated great scholars in debate at age seven. Spent 32 years in retreat and received the direct transmissions of the the Dzogchen teachings (from Vajrasattva and two dakinis) and realized his Buddhahood. He meditated and taught for the rest of his life in Sitavana, a famous old cemetery Northeast of Bodhgaya. He passed the teachings to Jampel Shenyen (Manjushrimitra), in Trashi Trigo (China), who in turn passed them to his student, Sri Singha.

100 – 400 ce Dharma Reaches Central and Southeast Asia

Monasteries are established at Kucha and Khotan and other sites along the Silk Route. Teachings are translated into Central Asian languages, viz., MiddleIndo-Aryan. Central Asian monks and translators make their way to China. To the south, the Sthavira (forerunner of the Theravada) is established in SriLanka. After early contacts in the 2nd century, the Dharma takes root in Burma (1st and 2nd c.), Cambodia (2nd c.), Vietnam (2nd c.).

Manjusrimitra (Jampel Shenyen) c. 0 - 200 ce

Studied with Garab Dorje for 75 years. At his master's passing he cried out in despair and received an amulet handed to him out of a mass of light which contained pith Atiyoga instructions, "Three Statements That Strike the Essental Points." Taught Sri Singha for 25 years as well as Padmasambhava.

Lha-Totori Nyentsen c. 173 - 293 ce

23rd king of of the Yarlung dynasty. At age 60, treasures including a text on Avalokitesvara, the Six-Syllable mantra, and a golden stupa fell onto the roof of his palace. This was the first awareness of Dharma in Tibet. He venerated but did not comprehend these objects; he lived till 120. Received a prediction that one who understood the meaning of the treasures would arise in five generations. The arrival of this text is considered to be the first introduction of Buddhism to Tibet, and is believed to have been planned by Avalokitesvara.

300 – 500 Prajnaparamita teachings are collected and condensed, and with the rise of the Gupta dynasty are translated into a MiddleIndo-Aryan/Sanskrit mix. Among these are the Heart Sutra, which may have been originally written in Chinese.

Sri Singha c. 200 - 700

Born in western China, from age 15-18 learned ordinary sciences with the scholar Haribhala. On instruction from Avalokitesvara, he studied on Mt. Wu-tai Shan with the outcast master Bhelakirti, and studied Atiyoga with Manjusrimitra for 25 years. Sri Singha taught Vimalamitra, Padmasambhava, Jnanasutra and Vairocana.

Asanga c. 310 - 400

Born in Peshawar in the northwest. Meditated in a cave south of Rajagrha for 12 years, guided by Maitreya, he composes five works. Abbot of Nalanda for12 years. Commentaries by Asanga and Vasubandhu comprise the foundation of the later Yogacara school. Taught throughout India and in Oddiyana. His students cannot be numbered.

Vasubandhu 316-396

Younger brother of Asanga, he is believed to have memorized the entire Tripitaka at an early age. Ordained at Nalanda, he studied with many masters in the northwest, focusing on Sautrantika and Abhidharma. At first critical of Mahayana before converting and writing over 50 commentaries which were incorporated into the Yogacara schools. Became Abbot of Nalanda after his brother's death. Phenomenal scholar and teacher of the Third Turning. Master of many disciplines, he was a foremost explicator of Abhidharma and Vijnanavada doctrine.

Dignaga c. 330 - 420

Born into a Brahmin family, he was unable to reconcile his own views with Vatsiputriya teachings regarding the person. At Nalanda, he became a disciple of Vasubandhu. Building upon Sautrantika investigations into perception and cognition, he analyzed the basis of logical reasoning and developed a comprehensive theory of pramana, or valid proofs of knowledge. Unmatched in debate, he spent much of his life in retreat and died in Orissa, a land where the king supported this master and the construction of 16 monasteries.