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A timeline (or several) relating to Buddhism.


  • c480?: birth of the (future) Buddha; by the 3rd century BC this was believed to have occurred in what is now Rummindei, Nepal
  • c445?: his awakening and founding of Buddhism
  • c400?: his death; alleged First Council, Rajagaha (Rajgir), to collect his teachings (historicity uncertain)
  • late 4th century: Second Council, Vesali (Besarh), to settle dispute over monastic discipline; agreed that monks should not accept money
  • mid 3rd century: patronage of Emperor Asoka; earliest classical Indian inscriptions, including mention of Buddhism; Third (Theravada?) Council, Pataliputta (Patna) to deal with wrong views; Asoka's son Mahinda leads mission establishing Buddhism in Ceylon; possibly missionaries also sent to Greek kingdoms as far as Epirus and Cyrene
  • last century:
    • Pali Canon said to have been written down from oral tradition at Fourth (Theravada) Council in Ceylon
    • earliest known surviving Buddhist manuscripts, found in Gandhara (N Pakistan, E Afghanistan)

  • 65: earliest record of Buddhism in China
  • 2nd century: first translations of Buddhist texts into Chinese, including some Mahayana ones; about this time Nagarjuna, major figure in formation of Mahayana
  • 372: first definite record of Buddhism in Korea (mission from China)
  • early 5th century?: Indian monk Bodhidharma arrives in China, precursor of Zen
  • 476-542: Tanluan, founder of Pure Land school
  • 538: Buddhist mission to Japan (from Korea)
  • 638-713: Huinang, Patriarch of Zen
  • mid 8th century: earliest definite proof of Buddhism in Tibet
  • 779: Buddhism official religion of Tibet; Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) about this time regarded as founder of what later became known as Nyingma school
  • 767-822: Saicho, founder of Tendai school in Japan; a week after his death the emperor approves his proposal for a new ordination instead of the traditional monastic one; eventually displaces it
  • 774-835: Kukai, founder of Shingon school in Japan
  • 868: oldest known printed book, Chinese translation of Diamond Sutra, a Mahayana scripture
  • 10th century: first printed Chinese collected edition of Buddhist literature (mostly lost)
  • 982-1054: Atisa, Indian founder of Kadam school in Tibet
  • 11th century: Theravada established in Burma
  • 1012-96: Marpa, precursor of Kagyu school in Tibet
  • 1079-1153: Gampopa, actual founder of Kagyu as organized school
  • 1133-1212: Honen, Tendai clergyman, founder of Pure Land (Jodo) school in Japan
  • 1141-1215: Eisai, Tendai clergyman, founder of Rinzai Zen school in Japan
  • 1173-1263: Shinran, disciple of Honen, founder of Jodo Shinshu subschool, now the majority
  • 1200-53: Dogen, Tendai clergyman, founder of Soto Zen school in Japan
  • 1222-82: Nichiren, Tendai clergyman, founder of his own school
  • 1290-1364: Butön, compiler of Kanjur
  • 13th century: Tibetan Buddhism spreads to Mongols
  • 14th century: Theravada established in Siam, Cambodia and Laos
  • 1357-1419: Tsongkhapa, reformer of Kadam, which was consequently renamed Gelug
  • 15th century: Kanjur printed
  • 1505: Portuguese invasion of Ceylon: persecution of Buddhism contributes to lapse of ordination lineage
  • c1613: Western Kalmyks, a Buddhist Mongol tribe, cross the Urals and settle on the lower Volga in Eastern Europe
  • 1753: ordination lineage restored to Ceylon from Siam
  • 1871: Fifth (Theravada) Council, Mandalay, approves inscriptions of Pali Canon on 729 marble slabs (still on display in Kuthodaw Pagoda)
  • 1872: Japan repeals law of clerical celibacy; marriage subsequently becomes the norm
  • 1899: first Westerner ordained as monk, Gordon Douglas
  • c. 1900: first complete printed edition of the Pali Canon (38 volumes, Rangoon)
  • 1928: Supreme Patriarch of Siam bans purported ordination of nuns
  • 1930: Soka Gakkai founded, originally within the Nichiren Shoshu subschool, but eventually becoming a separate denomination
  • 1954-6: Sixth (Theravada) Council, Rangoon, approves 40-volume printed edition of the Pali Canon
  • 1959: after failed Tibetan uprising against Communist China, Dalai Lama flees to India
  • 2004: the monastic order in Myanmar rules there can be no valid ordination of nuns in modern times
  • 2005: Inamaluwe Sumangala becomes Sangha Maha Nayaka of Dambulla chapter of Siyam Nikaya in Sri Lankan Theravada; continues his practice (since 1998) of carrying out ordination ceremonies for nuns