The Spread of Buddhism

There are various reasons for the spread of Buddhism,
1. The principles of Buddhism were very simple to follow. They were written in Pall language. It was easily understood even by common people.
2. The personality of Buddha influenced the people very much. He gave up royal life and led a very simple life. He lived as he preached. This attracted people very much towards his teachings
3. As Hinduism prescribed costly rituals the poor embraced Buddhism.
4. Buddhism preached equality. Hence the downtrodden, oppressed and suppressed people began to follow Buddhism.
5. The Buddhist Sanghas and monasteries helped the people by removing their poverty and spreading education among them, This made the people to follow Buddhism.
6. The patronage extended by rulers to Buddhism was another’ important reason. Kings of Kosala, Kausambi, Asoka and Kanishka helped the spread of Buddhism, During Asoka’s time Buddhist monks and missionaries went to Egypt, Syria and Macedonia, Asoka sent his son Mahendra and daughter Sangamitra to Ceylon to spread Buddhism. Kanishkha’s missionaries went to Burma Japan, Tibet and Central Asia through China. China came under the influence of Buddhism, Thus Buddhism became a world religion. In South India sonic ancient Chera rulers supported Buddhism, in the ancient days.

During the period of Kanishka Buddhism got split into two branches, namely Mahayana Buddhism (The Greater Vehicle) and Hinayana Buddhism (The Lesser Vehicle).

Contribution of Buddhism

1. Many educational centers such as Nalanda, Vallabhi, Kanchi and Vikramasila were famous for Buddhist teaching. Its legacy contained in its rich literature.

2. Many beautiful stupas at Sanchi and Vallabhi and Nalanda were built. The stupas at Sanchi and Bharhut contain a relic from Buddha’s life. There are also panels depicting the Jataka tales (the stories which describe the previous births of Buddha). They are found at Gaya in Bihar and Sanchi and Bharhut in Madhya Pradesh.

3. The Gandhara sculptures and the paintings at Ellora and Ajanta are the gifts of Buddhism.

4. The Buddhists built many rock cut structures called Chaityas which were prayer halls and viharas, which were monasteries, Modern Bihar derived its name from Viharas.

5. Vinaya pitaka, Sutta pitaka and Abidhamma pitaka are the earliest literary works on Buddhism.

Causes for the Decline of Buddhism

The lack of royal patronage, revival of Hinduism under the Guptas, corruption in the Buddhism of idol worship were the main causes for the decline of Buddhism.

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