Events in Theravada Buddhism
The Second Council convenes in Vesali to discuss controversial
points of Vinaya. The first schism of the Sangha occurs,
in which the Mahasanghika school parts ways with the traditionalist
Sthaviravadins. At issue is the Mahasanghika's reluctance
to accept the Suttas and the Vinaya as the final authority
on the Buddha's teachings. This schism marks the first beginnings
of what would later evolve into Mahayana Buddhism.
Third Council is convened by King Asoka at Pataliputra (India).
Disputes on points of doctrine lead to further schisms,
spawning the Sarvastivadin and Vibhajjavadin sects. The
Abhidhamma Pitaka is recited at the Council, along with
additional sections of the Khuddaka Nikaya. The modern
Pali Tipitaka is now essentially
King Asoka sends his son,
Ven. Mahinda, on a mission
to bring Buddhism to Sri Lanka. King Devanampiya Tissa
of Sri Lanka is converted.
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.
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.
Buddhist monastic university at Nalanda, India flourishes;
remains a world centre of Buddhist study for over 1,000
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 Purity)
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.
The bhikkhu and bhikkhuni communities at Anuradhapura
die out following invasions from South India.
Bhikkhus from Pagan arrive in Polonnaruwa,
Sri Lanka to reinstate the Theravada ordination line in
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
Bhikkhus from Kañcipuram, India, arrive in Sri Lanka
to revive the Theravada ordination line.
Last inscriptional evidence of a Theravada Bhikkhuni
nunnery (in Burma).
Pagan (Burma) looted by Mongol invaders; its decline
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
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.
King Rama I, founder of the current dynasty in Thailand,
obtains copies of the Tipitaka from Sri Lanka and sponsors
a Council to standardize the Thai version of the Tipitaka,
copies of which are then donated to temples throughout the
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.
Thailand's Prince Mongkut (later King Rama IV) founds the
Forest monks headed by Ven. Paññananda go
to Burma for reordination, returning to Sri Lanka the
following year to found the Ramañña Nikaya.
First translation of the Dhammapada into a Western
Fifth Council is held at Mandalay, Burma; Pali Canon is
inscribed on 729 marble slabs.
Ven. Mohottivatte Gunananda defeats Christian missionaries
in a public debate, sparking a nationwide revival of Sri
Lankan pride in its Buddhist traditions.
Sir Edwin Arnold publishes his epic narrative poem
Light of Asia, stimulating popular Western interest in Buddhism.
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
Pali Text Society is founded in England by T.W.
Rhys Davids; most of the Tipitaka is published in roman
script and, over the next 100 years, in English translation.
Maha Bodhi Society founded in India by the Sri Lankan
lay follower Anagarika Dharmapala,
in an effort to reintroduce Buddhism to India.
First Western Theravada monk (Gordon Douglas) ordains, in
Ven. Ajahn Mun and Ven. Ajahn
Sao revive the forest meditation tradition in Thailand.
King Rama V of Thailand institutes a Sangha Act that formally
marks the beginnings of the Mahanikaya and Dhammayut sects.
Sangha government, which up to that time had been in the
hands of a lay official appointed by the king, is handed
over to the bhikkhus themselves.
Mahasi Sayadaw becomes head
teacher at a government sponsored Vipassana meditation centre
in Rangoon, Burma.
Burmese government sponsors a Sixth Council in Rangoon.
Buddha Jayanti Year, commemorating 2,500 years of Buddhism.
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.
Two Germans ordain at the Royal Thai Embassy in London,
becoming the first to take full Theravada ordination in
Refugees from war in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos
settle in North America, Australia and Europe, establishing
many Buddhist communities in the West. Ven. Taungpulu
Sayadaw and Dr. Rina Sircar, from Burma, establish the Taungpulu
Kaba-Aye Monastery in Northern California, USA. Ven.
Ajahn Chah establishes Wat Pah Nanachat, a forest monastery
in Thailand for training Western monks. Insight Meditation
Society, a lay meditation center, is founded in Massachusetts,
USA. Ven. Ajahn Chah travels to England to establish
a small community of monks at the Hamsptead Vihara, which
later moves to Sussex, England, now known as Chithurst Forest
Lay meditation centers grow in popularity in North
America, Australia and Europe. First Theravada forest
monastery in the USA (Bhavana Society) is established in
West Virginia. Amaravati Buddhist Monastery established
in England by Ven. Ajahn Sumedho.
Continued western expansion of the Theravada Sangha: monasteries
from the Thai forest traditions established in California,
USA (Metta Forest Monastery, founded by Ven. Ajaan Suwat;
Abhayagiri Monastery, founded by Ven. Ajahns Amaro and
Pasanno). Buddhism meets cyberspace: Buddhist computer
networks (BuddhaNet) emerge. Several editions of
the Pali Tipitaka become available online.