Buddhist Studies profiles of buddhist figures
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Contemporaries of the Buddha and Later Historical Figures

A cousin of the Buddha, the brother of Devadatta. One of the ten great disciples of the Buddha. Ananda accompanied the Buddha for more than twenty years and was the Master's favourite disciple. He attained enlightenment after the demise of the Buddha under the guidance of Mahakasyapa. He was famed for his excellent memory and recited the Suta-Pitaka (the discourses contained in the Tipitaka) at the First Buddhist Council.

Maha Kassapa (Skt: Kasyapa)
A Brahmin of Magadha who became a close disciple of the Buddha, and was at the time of his death the most senior member of the Order. He therefore presided over the first Buddhist Council, held immediately after the passing. The Zen School regards him as their First Patriarch from the story of the 'transmission' of the 'Mind-seal' when the Buddha held up the golden flower and Maha Kassapa smiled.

Khema (5 B.C.E)
The perfect or model Buddhist nun (bhikkhuni) according to the Buddha. She was the Queen of Bimbisara, of great beauty; but through the Buddha's teaching, she realized the transience of the body and achieved the condition of the Arhat. She became a wise teacher herself, giving answers to questions posed by King Pasenadi which turned out to be identical to the Buddha's own answers when he was asked the same questions.

She was the sister of Mahamaya, the mother of Shakyamuni Buddha. They both married King Suddhodana. Mahamaya died seven days after the birth of Shakyamuni. Mahapajapati then became the step/foster mother of Shakyamuni, and treated Shakyamuni as her own son, Nanda. Nanda was one of the Ten Great Disciples of Shakyamuni. After the death of King Suddhodana, Mahapajapati was ordained as the first woman admitted to Buddhist Order.

The Greco-Bactrian King Menander or Menandros who reigned over Afghanistan and Northern India in the latter half of the second century B.C. King Milinda had a series of discussions with a Buddhist monk, Nagasena, concerning Buddhist doctrines, which were compiled into a work entitled the Milindapanha. Their dialogue is famous as one of the first encounters between Buddhism and Hellenistic culture. Milinda is said to have eventually become a Buddhist.

Asoka (207-230 B.C.E)
India's foremost royal patron of Buddhism and the first monarch to rule over a united India. Emperor of India, founder of the Maurya Dynasty. A great Buddhist ruler who was converted to Buddhism after a long period of wars of conquest. He abolished wars in his Empire, restricted hunting or killing for food, built hospital for man and beast, and engraved on rocks and pillars throughout the Empire his famous Edicts, setting forth the moral precepts of Buddhism. He sent his son Mahinda and daughter Sanghamitta to Sri Lanka where they converted the ruler and people to Buddhism. The Third Buddhist Council was held at his capitial Pajaliputra, India, in the seventeenth year of his reign.

Son of the Indian King Asoka and leader of a Buddhist missionary enterprise to Sri Lanka. Sometime around 250 B.C., Asoka sent his son and daughter, Sanghamitta, to Sri Lanka to establish the Dharma on the island. Mahinda converted the king, Devanampiya Tissa, and established a monastery that eventually developed into the Mahavihara or 'Great Monastery.' A branch of the Bodhi tree was brought from Bodhgaya. In a short time, a valid lineage was established, and the religion began to grow on the island, remaining today as a stronghold of Theravada Buddhism.

Buddhaghosa (5th Century C.E.)
A great Buddhist scholar born in India early fifth century, who translated Sinhalese commentaries into Pali and wrote the Visuddhi Magga (Path of Purification) and other works, including commentaries on Theravada Buddhism and much of the Pitakas (the Pali Tipitaka).

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