Buddhist Studies timelines of buddhist history
Buddha Dharma Education Association » History & Culture » Timelines: Main Page » Timeline of Sri Lankan Buddhism
Major Events in Sri Lankan Buddhism
247 B.C.E.

King Asoka sends his son, Ven. Mahinda, on a mission to bring Buddhism to Sri Lanka.
• King Devanampiya Tissa of Sri Lanka is converted.

240 B.C.E.

• Ven. Mahinda establishes the Mahavihara (Great Monastery) of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. • The Vibhajjavadin community living there becomes known as the Theravadins. • Mahinda's sister, Ven. Sanghamitta, arrives in Sri Lanka with a cutting from the original Bodhi tree, and establishes the bhikkhuni-sangha (nuns) in Sri Lanka.

100 C.E.

• Famine and schisms in Sri Lanka point out the need for a written record of the Tipitaka to preserve the Buddhist religion. • King Vattagamani convenes a Fourth Council, in which 500 reciters and scribes from the Mahavihara write down the Pali Tipitaka for the first time, on palm leaves. • Theravada Buddhism first appears in Burma and Central Thailand.

425 C.E.

Ven. Buddhaghosa collates the various Sinhalese commentaries on the Canon - drawing primarily on the Maha Atthakatha (Great Commentary) preserved at the Mahavihara, and translates his work into Pali. This makes Sinhalese Buddhist scholarship available to the entire Theravadin world. As a cornerstone to his work, Buddhaghosa composes the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification) which eventually becomes the classic Sri Lankan textbook on the Buddha's teachings.

• Dhammapala composes commentaries on parts of the Canon missed by Buddhaghosa (such as the Udana, Itivuttaka, Theragatha, and Therigatha), along with extensive sub-commentaries on Buddhaghosa's work.

1050 • The bhikkhu and bhikkhuni communities at Anuradhapura die out following invasions from South India.

• Bhikkhus from Pagan (Burma) arrive in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka to reinstate the Theravada ordination line in Sri Lanka.


• Polonnaruwa destroyed by foreign invasion. • With the guidance of two monks from a forest branch of the Mahavihara sect, Ven. Mahakassapa and Ven. Sariputta, King Parakramabahu reunites all bhikkhus in Sri Lanka into the Mahavihara sect.

1236 • Bhikkhus from Kañcipuram, India, arrive in Sri Lanka to revive the Theravada ordination line.
1279 • Last inscriptional evidence of a Theravada Bhikkhuni nunnery (in Burma).
13th century • A forest-based Sri Lankan ordination line arrives in Burma and Thailand. Theravada spreads to Laos. Thai Theravada monasteries first appear in Cambodia shortly before the Thais win their independence from the Khmers.
1753 • King Kirti Sri Rajasinha obtains bhikkhus from the Thai court to reinstate the bhikkhu ordination line, which had died out in Sri Lanka. This is the origin of the Siam Nikaya of Buddhist monks.
1803 • Sri Lankans ordained in the Burmese city of Amarapura found the Amarapura Nikaya in Sri Lanka to supplement the Siam Nikaya, which admitted only brahmins from the Up Country highlands around Kandy.

• Forest monks headed by Ven. Paññananda go to Burma for reordination, returning to Sri Lanka the following year to found the Ramañña Nikaya.

1873 • The revival of Buddhism got fully under way in Sri Lanka when Ven. Sri Sumangala and Ven Dharmanada established two Buddhist monastic colleges, the Vidyodaya and the Vidyolanka Pirivenas (monastic colleges), in 1873 and 1875 respectively. At about the same time a brilliant young monk, Ven. Mohottivatte Gunananda defeats Christian missionaries in a public debate, sparking a nationwide revival of Sri Lankan pride in its Buddhist traditions.
1880 • Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, founders of the Theosophical Society, arrive in Sri Lanka from the USA, embrace Buddhism, and begin a campaign to restore Buddhism on the island by encouraging the establishment of Buddhist schools.
1891 • Maha Bodhi Society founded in India by the Sri Lankan lay follower Anagarika Dharmapala, in an effort to reintroduce Buddhism to India.

Ven. Nyanaponika Thera establishes the Buddhist Publication Society in Sri Lanka to publish English-language books on Theravada Buddhism. • Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement is founded in Sri Lanka to bring Buddhist ideals to bear in solving pressing social problems.

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