The Buddhist Religion: A Historical Introduction, Fourth Edition

Richard H. Robinson, formerly of the University of Wisconsin
Willard L Johnson, San Diego State University

Assisted by

Sandra A. Wawrytko, San Diego State University

Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff), Metta Forest Monastery

Wadsworth Publishing Company

In order to make room for the greatly expanded text of the new fourth edition of this popular textbook, a number of the study aids for the book are being placed at this Web site so that students may have quick and easy access to them. At the moment, these aids consist of:

[2] a Pronunciation Guide for Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese, and Korean terms, and
[3] An Overview of Buddhist Scriptures in the Pali, Chinese, and Tibetan Canons.

Additional study aids will be provided in the future.
Because the book is not yet off the press, we are including [1] its Table of Contents to give a preview both of the range of material the new edition covers and of the way in which the material is organized.
Questions and comments may be directed to Prof. Willard Johnson, c/o Religious Life in History Series, Wadsworth Publishing Company, 10 Davis Drive, Belmont, CA 94002 U.S.A.

Table of Contents

<Diacritical marks included in the book have been omitted from this preview.>


Preface to the Fourth Edition




1.1 The Social and Religious Context of Early Buddhism
1.2 The World View of Early North Indian Thought
1.3 The Biography of the Buddha

1.3.1 Birth and Youth of the Bodhisattva
1.3.2 The Great Renunciation
1.3.3 The Bodhisattva's Studies and Austerities
1.3.4 Temptation by Mara
1.3.5 The Awakening

1.4 An Interpretation of the Awakening

1.4.1 The Bodhisattva's Remembrance of His Past Lives and the Jatakas
1.4.2 The Wheel of Life and the Hierarchy of Beings
1.4.3 Dependent Co-Arising and the Cessation of Suffering


2.1 The Decision to Propagate the Dharma
2.2 The First Sermon
2.3 Commentary on the First Sermon

2.3.1 The Four Noble Truths
2.3.2 Practice and Attainment

2.4 Founding the Buddhist Community
2.5 The Parinirvana (The Buddha's Passing Away)


3.1 The Formation of the Canon

3.1.1 The Sutras
3.1.2 Vinaya
3.1.3 Abhidharma

3.2 The Development of the Early Systems and Schools

3.2.1 The Second Council and the Mahasanghikas
3.2.2 The Personalist School
3.2.3 The Third Council and the Sarvastivadins
3.2.4 The Sautrantikas and Later Schools

3.3 Asoka
3.4 Religious Life in the Early Centuries

3.4.1 The Code of Discipline for Monks
3.4.2 Life of the Monks
3.4.3 Buddhist Nuns
3.4.4 The Laity
3.4.5 Cult Objects and Forms of Worship


4.1 The Rise of Mahayana
4.2 The Teaching of Emptiness
4.3 Yogacara
4.4 Later Developments in the Early Schools


5.1 The Bodhisattva Path
5.2 Buddhist Women in the Mahayana
5.3 The Mahayana Image of the Buddha
5.4 The Cosmic Bodhisattvas

5.4.1 Maitreya
5.4.2 Maañjusri
5.4.3 Avalokitesvara

5.4.4 Other Bodhisattva Traditions

5.5 The Cosmic Buddhas

5.5.1 Multiple Bodies of the Buddha and the Buddha-lands
5.5.2 Saakyamuni According to the Lotus Sutra
5.5.3 Aksobhya
5.5.4 Amitabha (Amita)
5.5.5 Vairocana

5.5.6 Bhaisajyaguru--The Healing Buddha


6.1 Syncretism and Survival
6.2 Buddhist Dialectics and the Monastic Universities
6.3 Buddhist Tantrism

6.3.1 Action and Performance Tantras
6.3.2 Yoga Tantras
6.3.3 Unexcelled Yoga Tantras
6.3.4 Lay Vajrayana Practitioners: Siddhas and Yoginis
6.3.5 Mainstream Monastic Vajrayana

6.4 The Disappearance of Indian Buddhism

6.4.1 Buddhism in Nepal
6.4.2 The Buddhist Revival


7.1 Orthodoxy and Syncretism, History and Structure
7.2 Buddhism in "Further India"
7.3 The Theravada Connection
7.4 The Colonial Period

7.4.1 Sri Lanka
7.4.2 Burma
7.4.3 Thailand

7.5 The Post-Colonial Period

7.5.1 Domesticated (Popular) Buddhism
7.5.2 Buddhism in the Forest



8.1 The Dharma Travels the Silk Road

8.1.1 From the Mauryan to the Kus.aana Empire
8.1.2 Between Two Empires
8.1.3 The Tibetan Empire and After


8.2 A Grand Assimilation
8.3 Buddhism on the Fringes of Society
8.4 Buddhism Enters the Mainstream of Chinese Culture

8.4.1 The Era of Buddho-Taoism
8.4.2 The Rise of Buddhist Scholasticism

8.5 The Sui and T'ang Dynasties (581-907)

8.5.1 T'ien-t'ai
8.5.2 Hua-yen
8.5.3 Pure Land (Ching-te)
8.5.4 The Third Period Sect (San-chieh-chiao)
8.5.5 Ch'an

8.6 The Sung Dynasty (970-1279)
8.7 The Religion of the Masses (1279-1949)

8.7.1 Religious Life: Monastic
8.7.2 Religious Life: Lay

8.8 Modern Chinese Buddhism
8.9 A Buddhist Charitable Organization
<The Buddhist Compassion Relief Love and Mercy Foundation>



9.1 An Indian Import via China


9.2 The Three Kingdoms Period (18 B.C.E.-688 C.E.)
9.3 The Unified Silla Dynasty (668-918)

9.3.1 Hwaom (Hua-yen)
9.3.2 Son (Ch'an)

9.4 The Koryo Dynasty (918-1392)

9.4.1 Uich'on
9.4.2 Chinul
9.4.3 T'aego

9.5 The Yi/Choson Dynasty (1392-1910)
9.6 Japanese Rule (1910-1945) and its Aftermath
9.7 Buddhism in Modern Korea
9.8 Life in a Son Monastery


9.8 Two Streams of Buddhism Converge
9.9 Buddhism in Popular Culture
9.10 The Modern Period


10.1 The Cult of Charisma
10.2 The Importation of Korean Buddhism
10.3 The Importation of Chinese Buddhism
10.4 The Heian Period: 804-1185
10.5 The Kamakura Period: 1185-1333

10.5.1 Zen
10.5.2 Pure Land
10.5.3 Nichiren

10.6 Decline and Fall: 1336-1603
10.7 Confucianism in Control: 1603-1868
10.8 State Shinto in Control: 1868-1945
10.9 The Rise of Modern Urban Folk Buddhism
10.10 A Religious Life in a Secular World <Rissho Kosei-kai>


11.1 A Tantric Orthodoxy
11.2 The Conversion of Tibet

11.2.1 The First Propagation
11.2.2 The Second Propagation

11.3 The Period of Consolidation

11.3.1 Historical Issues
11.3.2 Texts
11.3.3 Doctrinal Systems
11.3.4 Politics

11.4 The Age of the Dalai Lamas
11.5 The Dynamics of Tibetan Ritual
11.6 A Tradition at the Crossroads


12.1 Europe's Early Contact with Buddhism
12.2 The Awakening Meets the Enlightenment

12.2.1 Buddhism and the Science of Humanity
12.2.2 The Appropriation of Buddhist Ideas
12.2.3 The Crisis of Cultural Relativism
12.2.4 Calls for Reform

12.3 The Two Sides of North American Buddhism


Select Bibliography


[2] Pronunciation Guide

As a pan-Asian religion, Buddhism has made use of the major languages of an entire continent. None of these languages is natively written in the Roman alphabet, but all can be transliterated into it. Each system of transliteration carries its own set of pronunciation difficulties. The following guidelines are intended simply to help the student overcome some of the more blatant hurdles to approximating correct pronunciation. They are not complete phonetic guidelines.

Sanskrit and Paali. A few basic rules for pronouncing words in these languages are as follows:

1. Marked vowels: A bar (called a macron) over a vowel makes it long, both in quality and in the length of time it is pronounced. Thus any of the following vowels marked with a macron should be pronounced as follows:

a as in "father"
i as in "machine"
u as in "rule"

2. Unmarked vowels:

a as in "about"
e as in "they"
i as in "is"
o as in "go"
u short as in "rhubarb"

3. Unmarked consonants are generally pronounced as they are in English, with a few exceptions:

c as in "ancient"
k unaspirated as in "skin"
kh aspirated as the k in "kin"
ñ as the ny in "canyon"
p unaspirated as in "spot"
ph as in "upholstery"
t unaspirated as in "stop"
th as in "Thomas"

4. Retroflex dots under letters--such as t, d, n--mean that those letters should be pronounced with the tip of the tongue curled back up into the middle of the mouth, giving them a nasal quality. Exceptions to this rule:

s with a retroflex dot is pronounced as the sh in "sheep"
l with a retroflex dot is pronounced as the l in "apple"
r with a retroflex dot is pronounced as the ri in "rig"
m with a retroflex dot is pronounced as a humming sound, pronounced in the nose and the back of the mouth, much like the ng in "sing"

5. Another marked consonant:

s with what looks like an apostrophe coming out of its top is pronounced as the sh in "sheep"

Chinese. Aside from modern place names, like Beijing, Chinese words in this book are transliterated using the Wade-Giles system, as this is the system found in most scholarly books on Chinese Buddhism. A few peculiarities of the system are as follows:

1. Initials:

ch unaspirated as the c in "ancient"
ch' as the ch in "chest"
hs as the sh in "shirt"
as the sur in "leisure"
k unaspirated as in "skin"
k' aspirated as the k in "kin"
p unaspirated as in "spot"
p' aspirated as the p in "pot"
t unaspirated as in "stop"
t' aspirated as the t in "top"
ts/tz as the ds in "reads"
ts'/tz' as the ts in "its"

2. Vowels and finals:

a as in "father"
ai as the i in "high"
as the ou in "out"
ei as the e in "they"
en as the un in "unable"
eng as the ung in "rung"
i as in "sit"
as the ur in "church"
ou as the o in "go"
as in "rhubarb"
ü as it is pronounced in German
ui as the entire word "way"

Japanese. The transliteration system used in this book is the Hepburn system, which has few peculiarities, but the following principles should be kept in mind:

1. Vowels are pronounced as in Italian. Thus o, e, i, a are sounded as in "do, re, mi, fa," although the e in "re" should be short and clipped. U is generally like the u in "rhubarb," although often, especially at the end of a word, it is barely pronounced at all. Vowels written with macrons--o and u--have the same quality as if they were written without macrons, but are sounded for a longer period of time. Y is pronounced as in "quickly," and not as in "why."
2. Consonants:

r as the unaspirated tt in the American pronunciation of "little"
g as in "go"

3. Double consonants--nn, pp, kk--should be pronounced distinctly as double, like the nn in "unnecessary."

Tibetan. Like English, Tibetan has a spelling system in which many of the consonants are silent. The Wylie transliteration reproduces all of the letters used to spell a word, but is absolutely useless as a guide to pronunciation. In this book, words and names are introduced in a phonetic rendering, followed by the Wylie transliteration in parentheses, after which the phonetic rendering is used alone. Vowels and consonants in the phonetic rendering are pronounced much as they are in English; vowels with an umlaut--ü and ö--are pronounced as they are in German.

Korean. Vowels and consonants in the standard Korean transcription system are pronounced much as they are in English, with the following peculiarities:
ae as the e in "they"

e as in "let"
ch' unaspirated as the c in "ancient"
ch as in "chop"
t' unaspirated as the t in "stop"
t as in "top"

Vowels with a breve, the "short vowel" mark in dictionaries, are pronounced as follows (with the > after the vowel standing for a breve over the vowel):

o> as the o in "song"
u> as the u in "curl"
u>i as the i in "machine"

Other languages.
Words in Sinhalese, Khmer, Thai, Burmese, and Vietnamese are rendered in a phonetic form. Two general observations:

a as in "father"
th as in "Thomas"

[3] An Overview of the Buddhist Scriptures

To render Sanskrit and Pali terms in this overview, the following code has been used:

A double vowel (aa, ii, uu) stands for the corresponding single vowel with a macron over it.
A consonant followed by a period (such as t., d., n.) stands for the corresponding consonant with a retroflex dot under it.

A. The Pali Canon: The Tipit.aka ("Three Baskets")

I. Vinaya-pit.aka ("Basket of Discipline")

1. Sutta-vibhanga ("Analysis of the Text")--the rules of the Paat.imokkha codes with explanations and commentary.

a. Mahaavibhanga ("Great Analysis")--the 227 rules for monks.
b. Bhikkhun.ii-vibhanga ("Nuns' Analysis")--the 310 rules for nuns.

2. Khandhaka ("Groupings")

a. Mahaavagga ("Great Chapter")--rules for ordination, Observance Day, rainy-season retreat, clothing, food, medicine, and procedures of the Sangha.
b. Cullavagga ("Lesser Chapter")--judicial procedures, miscellaneous rules, ordination and instruction of nuns, history of the First and Second Councils.

3. Parivaara ("Appendix")--summaries and classifications of the rules. This is a late supplement.

II. Sutta-pit.aka, ("Basket of Discourses")

1. Diigha-nikaaya ("Collection of Long Discourses")--34 suttas.
2. Majjhima-nikaaya ("Collection of Medium Discourses")--152 suttas.
3. Sam.yutta-nikaaya ("Collection of Connected Discourses")--56 groups of suttas.
4. Anguttara-nikaaya ("Collection of Item-more Discourses")--more than 2,300 suttas grouped by the number of factors in their topics.
5. Khuddaka-nikaaya ("Collection of Little Texts")

a. Khuddaka-paat.ha ("Little Readings")--a breviary.
b. Dhammapada ("Verses on Dharma")--423 verses in 26 chapters.
c. Udaana ("Utterances")--80 exalted pronouncements of the Buddha, with circumstantial tales.
d. Itivuttaka ("Thus-saids")--112 short suttas.
e. Sutta-nipaata ("Collection of Suttas")--short suttas, mostly in verse of high poetic quality.
f. Vimaana-vatthu ("Tales of Heavenly Mansions")--gods tell the deeds that earned them celestial rebirths.
g. Peta-vatthu ("Tales of Ghosts")--how various persons attained that unfortunate rebirth.
h. Thera-gaathaa ("Verses of the Elders")--stanzas attributed to 264 early monks.
i. Therii-gaathaa ("Verses of the Eldresses")--stanzas attributed to 73 early nuns.
j. Jaataka ("Lives")--tales ostensibly reporting the former lives of S'aakyamuni. The verses in each tale are supposed to have been uttered by the Buddha, and so are considered canonical; but the 547 tales themselves are extracanonical.
k. Niddesa ("Exposition")--verbal notes to part of the Sutta-nipaata. The Niddesa is second or third century C.E.
l. Pat.isambhidaa-magga ("The Way of Discrimination")--scholastic treatment of doctrinal topics.
m. Apadaana ("Stories")--lives and former lives of the saints.
n. ("Lineage of the Buddhas")--lives of 24 previous Buddhas, of S'aakyamuni, and of Maitreya, presented as being told by S'aakyamuni.
o. Cariya-pi.taka ("Basket of Conduct")--verse retellings of jaatakas illustrating the Bodhisattva's practice of the perfections.


III. Abhidhamma-pi.taka ("Basket of Scholasticism")

1. Dhamma-sangini ("Enumeration of Dharmas")
2. Vibhanga ("Analysis")--more on sets of dharmas.
3. Dhaatu-kathaa ("Discussion of Elements")
4. Puggala-paññatti ("Designation of Persons")--classifies types of individuals according to their spiritual traits and stages.
5. Kathaa-vatthu ("Subjects of Discussion")--arguments about theses in dispute among the Hiinayaana and early Mahaayaana schools.
6. Yamaka ("The Pairs")--arranged in pairs of questions; deals with distinctions among basic sets of categories.
7. Patthaana ("Conditional Relations")--24 kinds of causal relation and their almost infinite permutations.

B. The Chinese Canon: The Ta-ts'ang-ching ("Great Scripture-Store")

The first printed edition, produced in Szechuan in 972-983 C.E., consisted of 1,076 texts in 480 cases. The standard modern edition is the Taisho/ Shinshuu Daizo/kyo/ (Ta-ts'ang-ching newly edited in the Taisho/ reign-period). It was published in Tokyo, 1924-1929, and consists of 55 Western-style volumes containing 2,184 texts. A supplement consists of 45 volumes. The following analysis is of the Taisho/ edition.

I. AAgama Section, vol. 1-2, 151 texts. Contains the Long, Medium, Mixed (= Connected) and Item-more AAgamas (Nikaayas), plus some individual texts corresponding to parts of the Paali Khuddaka.
II. Story Section, vol. 3-4, 68 texts. Jaatakas, lives of various Buddhas, fables, and parables.
III. Prajñaa-paaramitaa Section, vol. 5-8, 42 texts.
IV. Saddharma-pun.d.ariika Section, vol. 9, 16 texts. Three complete versions of the Lotus Suutra, plus some doctrinally cognate Suutras.
V. Avatam.saka Section, vol. 9-10, 31 texts.
VI. Ratnakuut.a Section, vol. 11-12, 64 texts. A set of 49 Mahaayaana Suutras, some in more than one translation.
VII. Mahaaparinirvaan.a Section, vol. 12, 23 texts. The Mahaayaana account of S'aakyamuni's last days and words.
VIII. Great Assembly Section, vol. 13, 28 texts. A collection beginning with the Great Assembly Suutra, which is itself a suite of Mahaayaana Suutras.
IX. Suutra-collection Section, vol. 14-17, 423 texts. A miscellany of Suutras, mostly Mahaayaana.
X. Tantra Section, vol. 18-21, 572 texts. Vajrayaana Suutras, Tantras, ritual manuals, and spells.
XI. Vinaya Section, vol. 22-24, 86 texts. Vinayas of the Mahiis'aasakas, Mahaasaanghikas, Dharmaguptakas, Sarvaastivaadins, and Muula-sarvaastivaadins. Also some texts on the Bodhisattva discipline.
XII. Commentaries on Suutras, vol. 24-26, 31 texts on AAgamas and on Mahaayaana Suutras, by Indian authors.
XIII. Abhidharma Section, vol. 26-29, 28 texts. Scholastic treatises of the Sarvaastivaadins, Dharmaguptakas, and Sautraantikas.
XIV. Maadhyamika Section, vol. 30, 15 texts.
XV. Yogaacaara Section, vol. 30-31, 49 texts.
XVI. Collection of Treatises, vol. 32, 65 texts. Works on logic, anthologies from the Suutras, and sundry treatises.
XVII. Commentaries on the Suutras, vol. 33-39, by Chinese authors.
XVIII. Commentaries on the Vinaya, vol. 40, by Chinese authors.
XIX. Commentaries on the S'aastras, vol. 40-44, by Chinese authors.
XX. Chinese Sectarian Writings, vol. 44-48.
XXI. History and Biography, vol. 49-52, 95 texts.
XXII. Encyclopedias and Dictionaries, vol. 53-54, 16 texts.
XXIII. Non-Buddhist Doctrines, vol. 54, 8 texts. Saam.khya, Vais'es.ika, Manichean, and Nestorian Christian writings.
XXIV. Catalogs, vol. 55, 40 texts. Successive catalogs of the Canon beginning with that of Seng-yu published in 515 C.E.

C. The Tibetan Canon

I. Bka'-'gyur (Kanjur) ("Translation of Buddha-word"). The number of volumes and order of sections differ slightly from edition to edition. The following is according to the Snar-thang (Narthang) version.

1 . Vinaya, 13 vols.
2. Prajñaa-paaramitaa, 21 vols.
3. Avatam.saka, 6 vols.
4. Ratnakuut.a, 6 vols. A set of 49 Mahaayaana Suutras.
5. Suutra, 30 vols., 270 texts, three-quarters Mahaayaana Suutras and one-quarter Hiinayaana ones.
6. Tantra, 22 vols., over 300 texts.

II. Bstan-'gyur (Tenjur) ("Translation of Teachings"). In the Peking edition, this consists of 224 volumes and 3,626 texts, divided into:

1. Stotras (hymns of praise), 1 vol., 64 texts.
2. Commentaries on mantras, 86 vols., 3,055 texts.
3. Commentaries on Suutras, 137 vols., 567 texts.

a. Prajñaa-paaramitaa commentaries, 16 vols.
b. Maadhyamika treatises, 17 vols.
c. Yogaacaara treatises, 29 vols.
d. Abhidharma, 8 vols.
e. Miscellaneous, 4 vols.
f. Vinaya Commentaries, 16 vols.
g. Tales and dramas, 4 vols.
h. Technical treatises: logic (21 vols.), grammar (1 vol.), lexicography and poetics (1 vol.), medicine (5 vols.), chemistry and sundry (1 vol.), supplement (old and recent translations, indices; 14 vols.).


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