Buddhism in India

Anthony Tribe

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
Buddhism in India

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Buddhism in India comprises a vast array of traditions, institutions, doctrines, and literatures. It flourished on the Indian subcontinent for some 1,700 years, from its origins in the 5th century bce to its effective disappearance from most regions in the 13th century. The early tradition rapidly evolved monastic institutions, and during its first five or so centuries expanded from its birthplace in the north throughout much of the subcontinent. Within the schools and monastic culture of the Indian Buddhism of this period, and possibly as early as the 1st century bce, a number of movements developed that emphasized the importance of the bodhisattva and the scriptural authority of particular texts. Adopting the label Mahayana (Great Vehicle), these movements distinguished their emphases from those of the Buddhist mainstream (referred to as Mainstream Buddhism in modern scholarship). The Mahayana, apparently of marginal influence for a number of centuries, itself became progressively mainstream from the 5th or 6th century onward. By the end of the 7th century, tantric approaches to meditation and ritual emerged as a self-conscious tradition. Referring to itself as the Vajrayāna (Thunderbolt Vehicle), over the following centuries it increasingly came to dominate Indian Buddhist praxis. Scholarship on Buddhism in India almost matches the size and diversity of its subject. Recent research has been fascinated with issues of origins, whether of early Buddhist ideas and practices, the Mahayana, or tantric traditions. There has also been an emphasis on the importance of understanding the social, cultural, and historical contexts of texts and traditions, and a recognition of the value of epigraphic and archaeological sources of evidence. And, increasingly, studies are exploring the influence of the wider non-Buddhist religious, cultural, and political environments within which Buddhism in India was always embedded.

Article.  15236 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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