Buddhist Timeline

Important key events and influential Buddhist figures

C.566-486 BCE. South Nepal - North India
Buddha Shakyamuni སངས་རྒྱས་ཤཱཀྱ་ཐུབ་པ།
Buddha Shakyamuni སངས་རྒྱས་ཤཱཀྱ་ཐུབ་པ་
 Figure   The birth, enlightenment, teaching and Parinirvana of Siddhārtha Gautama - Buddha Shakyamuni. [1]
3 months after the Buddha's death Rajagriha, India
1st Buddhist Council

The first Buddhist council held at Rajagriha, India with five hundred arhats དགྲ་བཅོམ་པ་ headed by Mahakashyapa འོད་སྲུང་ཆེན་པོ་. Mahakashyapa was one of the principles disciples of Buddha Shakyamuni སངས་རྒྱས་ཤཱཀྱ་ཐུབ་པ་ and the first who succeeded the Buddha as head of the Buddhist community. [1] [2]

Beginning 3rd century BCE Vaishali, India
2nd Buddhist Council - 1st division of the Sangha

At the second Buddhist Council, held 110 years after the Buddha's prinirvana, the first division of the Sangha དགེ་འདུན་ happened when the Sthaviras ('elderly members') divided from the majority Mahāsāṃghikas ('the Great Sangha'). [1] [2]

3rd century BCE Pataliputra, India
3rd Buddhist Council - First division of the Sangha

The Third Buddhist Council took place 137 or 160 years after the parinirvana of the Buddha. Five hundred arhats led by Arya Parsva and four hundred panditas led by Vasumitra དབྱིག་ཤེས་. [2]

c.268 BCE India
Accession of Emperor Asoka མྱ་ངན་མེད།
 Video  Asoka was an Indian emperor who largely contributed to the propagation of Buddhism in India and Asia. [1] [2] [i3]
C.258-232 BCE India
Great Stupa at Sanchi
The Great Sanchi Stupa, Buddhist Architecture at sanchi, Madhya
Emperor Ashoka མྱ་ངན་མེད་ oversees the construction of the Great Stupa at Sanchi, said to contain some of the relics of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni སངས་རྒྱས་ཤཱཀྱ་ཐུབ་པ་. [13] [i2]
3rd century BCE Sri Lanka
Pali canon brought to Sri Lanka

Pali canon brought from northern India to Sri Lanka by Mahinda, a Buddhist monk who was the son of the emperor Asoka. The Mahavihara ('great monastery') was established by Mahinda himself. [1]

Reign: 127–? BCE Tibet
Nyatri Tsenpo གཉའ་ཁྲི་བཙན་པོ། - 1st King of Tibet

 Post  Nyatri Tsenpo is said to have been the first king of Tibet. [2] [11] [i8]

1st century BCE Sri Lanka
Written Pali Text

Pali texts were written down for the first time in Sri Lanka. Abhayagiri vihāra montsray estblished. [1]

1st Century CE Jalalabad, Eastern Afghanistan
Bimaran Casket
 Video  The Bimaran Casket is the oldest, dateable depiction of the Buddha in human form. [9]
c.150-250 CE South India
Nāgārjuna ཀླུ་སྒྲུབ།
Nāgārjuna ཀླུ་སྒྲུབ།
 Figure  Nāgārjuna is revered as the founding father of one of the principal Sastra བསྟན་བཅོས། systems of Mahayana philosophy, namely the Madhyamaka དབུ་མ་. He is also renowned as an unsurpassed master by all Buddhist schools. Nāgārjuna laid out the Middle Way དབུ་མ་ between the extremes of nihilism and eternalism by clearly delineating the two truths: the ultimate truth and the relative truth. His most famous work is the Madhyamaka-karika དབུ་མ་རྩ་བ་ཤེས་རབ་ ('Verses on the Middle').  [1] [2] [7]
3rd century CE Sri Lanka
Jetavana monstary in Sri Lanka established
4th to 5th century CE North India
Asanga ཐོགས་མེད་ and Vasubandhu དབྱིག་གཉེན་
Asanga ཐོགས་མེད་ and Vasubandhu དབྱིག་གཉེན་

 Figure  Asanga (left image) and his elder half-brother Vasubandhu were the greatest Buddhist authorities of Ancient India. Asanga was founding father of the other great Sastra བསྟན་བཅོས། school of the Mahayana ("Great Vehicle"), namely the Yogacara རྣལ་འབྱོར་སྤྱོད་པ་ (or Chittamatra སེམས་ཙམ་པ་, "Mind Only"). Asanga received teachings from Maitreya བྱམས་པ་ and transcribed them as the ‘Five Treatises of Maitreya’ བྱམས་ཆོས་སྡེ་ལྔ་. [2] [3]

470-550 CE India
Buddhapalita སངས་རྒྱས་བསྐྱངས།
Buddhapalita སངས་རྒྱས་བསྐྱངས་

 Figure  Buddhapalita is an Indian scholar who is acknowledged as the founder of the Prasangika ཐལ་འགྱུར་པ་ Madhyamika དབུ་མ་པ་. [2] [7]

c.600-650 CE India
Chandrakirti ཟླ་བ་གྲགས་པ།
Chandrakirti ཟླ་བ་གྲགས་པ་

 Figure  Chandrakirti was a renowned Indian scholar. He was the author of Introduction to the Middle Way དབུ་མ་ལ་འཇུག་པ་, Clear Words ཚིག་གསལ་ and other key works on the Middle Way. [2] [7]

c.600-660 CE India
Dharmakirti ཆོས་ཀྱི་གྲགས་པ།
Dharmakirti ཆོས་ཀྱི་གྲགས་པ་

 Figure  Dharmakirti received teachings from a direct disciple of Vasubandhu དབྱིག་གཉེན. He was perhaps the greatest master of Pramana ཚད་མ་ ('Valid Cognition') and the author of Seven Treatises on Valid Cognition ཚད་མ་སྡེ་བདུན. [2] [7]

602-664 China - Central Asia - India
Hsüan-tsang ཧྱན་ཙང་།

 Video  Hsüan-tsang (also written Xuanzang) was a Buddhist monk and Chinese pilgrim to India who translated the sacred scriptures of Buddhism from Sanskrit into Chinese and founded in China the Buddhist Consciousness Only school. His fame rests mainly on the volume and diversity of his translations of the Buddhist sutras and on the record of his travels in Central Asia and India, primarily to Nalanda university. [14] [i7]

c.605-650 CE Tibet
Introduction of Buddhism to Tibet

King Songtsen Gampo སྲོང་བཙན་སྒམ་པོ , is known as the 1st Dharma king. His two wives, Princess Bhrikuti from Nepal and Princess Wencheng from China, introduced both Indian and Chinese forms of Buddhism for the first time in Tibet.  [1] [2]

632 Tibet-India
Thönmi Sambhota ཐོན་མི་སམྦྷོ་ཊ།

Thonmi Sambhota is the Tibetan grammarian credited with inventing the Tibetan alphabet and writing the most important treatises on Tibetan grammar. According to Tibetan tradition, King Songtsen Gampo sent a young man of the Thönmi clan to India in the year 632 with other youths, to learn the alphabet. The ancient annals of Tun-huang records the year 655 that 'the text of the laws was written'. [2] [4] [i4]

c.685-763 India
Shantideva ཞི་བ་ལྷ།
Shantideva ཞི་བ་ལྷ་

 Figure  Shantideva was a great Indian master, scholar, and bodhisattva བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་དཔའ་, who was the author of the Bodhicharyavatara བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་དཔའི་སྤྱོད་པ་ལ་འཇུག་པ་. He is also counted among the eighty-four mahasiddhas གྲུབ་ཐོབ་བརྒྱད་ཅུ་རྩ་བཞི་. [2] [12]

756-97? Tibet
King Trisong Detsen ཁྲི་སྲོང་ལྡེ་བཙན། - 1st Spread of Buddhism in Tibet
 Figure  During the reign of King Trisong Detsen (image), known as the 2nd Dharma king, an Indian monk Shantarakshita ཞི་བ་འཚོ་ was invited to establish the first monastery, Samye བསམ་ཡས་. In order to accomplish his purpose, Shantarakshita is said to have had to call on an Indian yogin, Padmasambhava པདྨ་འབྱུང་གནས།, to subdue the local demons hostile to Buddhism. [1] [2]
C. 763 India-Tibet
Shantarakshita ཞི་བ་འཚོ།
Shantarakshita ཞི་བ་འཚོ་

 Figure  Shantarakshita (725–788) probably arrived in Tibet in or around 763. [2]

Padmasambhava པདྨ་འབྱུང་གནས།
c.740-795 India - Tibet
Kamalashila པདྨའི་ངང་ཚུལ།
Kamalashila པདྨའི་ངང་ཚུལ་

 Figure  Kamalashila was an Indian master and professor of Nalanda University. He was the main disciple of Shantarakshita ཞི་བ་འཚོ་. He is known for winning the Samya debate. [2]

792-4 Samye or Lhasa, Tibet
Samye Debate

A famous debate at Samye བསམ་ཡས་ or Lhasa in between an Indian faction, headed by Kamalaśīla པདྨའི་ངང་ཚུལ་ and a Chinese faction, headed by the teacher Hvashang Mahayana. The Indian opinion supporting gradual awakening is said to have prevailed. [1]

Late 8th Century India
Haribhadra སེང་གེ་བཟང་པོ།
Haribhadra སེང་གེ་བཟང་པོ་
 Figure  Haribhadra was a great pandita and master of the prajnaparamita ཤེར་ཕྱིན་ teachings. He is counted among the panditas of Nalanda University. [2]
806–838 Tibet
King Tri Ralpachen ཁྲི་རལ་པ་ཅན།

King Tri Ralpachen is known as the 3rd Dharma king and one of King Trisong Detsen's grandsons. He ruled Tibet from 815 until 838, when he was assassinated. He was extremely devoted to the teachings of the Buddha and is famous for having built one thousand temples. [2]

Reign: 838-842 Tibet
King Langdarma Udumtsen གླང་དར་མ་འུ་དུམ་བཙན།

Langdarma Udumtsen was the last king of the Tibetan empire. His time is known as a dark age for Buddhism in Tibet. "Langdarma suppressed the Buddhist faith and in his time Buddhism received a severe setback" said HH the Dalai Lama. The king was assassinated by Lhalung Palgyi Dorje ལྷ་ལུང་དཔལ་གྱི་རྡོ་རྗེ། in 842. [2] [7] [10]

11 May 868 China
The Diamond Sutra - World's Earliest Dated, Printed Book
Diamond Sutra frontispiece
 Video  The Diamond Sutra in Chinese language, complete with a beautifully illustrated frontispiece, is the world's earliest dated, printed book. It was produced on the 11 May 868. [9]
? India
Tilopa ཏི་ལོ་པ།
Tilopa ཏི་ལོ་པ།
 Figure  Tilopa was the first master of the Kagyu བཀའ་བརྒྱུད་ lineage. Tilopa is one of the most authoritative and renowned Indian mahasiddhas and masters of mahamudra ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོ་ and tantra རྒྱུད་. He is counted among the eighty-four mahasiddhas གྲུབ་ཐོབ་བརྒྱད་ཅུ་རྩ་བཞི་. He received various tantric teachings and unified them and transmitted to his disciple, Naropa. [2] [5]
956-I040 India
Naropa ནཱ་རོ་པ།
 Figure  Nāropā, together with his teacher Tilopa, was one of the most prominent and authoritative Indian masters. He is also counted among the eighty-four mahasiddhas གྲུབ་ཐོབ་བརྒྱད་ཅུ་རྩ་བཞི་. Naropa received the mahamudra ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོ་ and tantra རྒྱུད་ lineage teachings from his guru Tilopa and transmitted them to his disciple, Marpa, the Great Translator of Tibet. [2] [5]
982-1054 India-Tibet
Atisha - 2nd Spread of Buddhism in Tibet
Jowo Jé Palden Atisha ཇོ་བོ་རྗེ་དཔལ་ལྡན་ཨ་ཏི་ཤ་

 Figure  Atisha Dipamkara Shrijñana ཨ་ཏི་ཤ་མར་མེ་མཛད་དཔལ་ཡེ་ཤེས་ (or Jowo Jé Palden Atisha ཇོ་བོ་རྗེ་དཔལ་ལྡན་ཨ་ཏི་ཤ་) was a great Indian master and scholar, and author of many texts including the Lamp for the Path of Awakening བྱང་ཆུབ་ལམ་སྒྲོན. He spent the last ten years of his life in Tibet, teaching and translating texts, and was instrumental in reinvigorating Buddhism there after a period of persecution. His disciples founded the Kadampa བཀའ་གདམས་པ་ school. [2]

1007-1078 India
Maitripa མཻ་ཏྲི་པ།
Maitripa མཻ་ཏྲི་པ།

 Figure  Indian Buddhist teacher who studied at both Nalanda ནཱ་ལེནྡྲ། and Vikramashila རྣམ་གནོན་ཚུལ། Monasteries. Maitripa is famous for brining his lineage Tibet by teaching the Mahamudra philosophy and practice to Marpa Lotsawa མར་པ་ལོ་ཙཱ་བ། [2] [16]

1012-96 Tibet
Marpa Lotsawa མར་པ་ལོ་ཙཱ་བ་ཆོས་ཀྱི་བློ་གྲོས།
 Figure  "Marpa the Translator" brought the Kagyu Lineage to Tibet. Marpa traveled to India from Tibet at great personal peril across the Himalayas to study with his principal teachers, Naropa and Maitripa. [1] [5]
1040-1123 Tibet
Jetsun Milarepa རྗེ་བཙུན་མི་ལ་རས་པ།
 Figure  Milarepa is widely regarded as Tibet’s greatest yogi, famous for his strict mountain retreats, beautiful songs of realization, and devotion to his teacher, Marpa. [1] [5]
d.1117 India-Tibet-Bhutan
Padampa Sangye ཕ་དམ་པ་སངས་རྒྱས།
Padampa Sangye ཕ་དམ་པ་སངས་རྒྱས
 Figure  Padampa Sangye was a great Indian siddha གྲུབ་ཐོབ་ who visited Tibet and Bhutan several times. He is known as the founder of the Chö གཅོད་ lineage together with his main disciple, Machik Labdrön མ་ཅིག་ལབ་སྒྲོན་. [2]
1055-1149/53 Tibet-Bhutan
Machik Labdrön མ་ཅིག་ལབ་སྒྲོན།
Machik Labdrön མ་ཅིག་ལབ་སྒྲོན་
 Figure  Machik Labdrön was a female master who, with Padampa Sangye ཕ་དམ་པ་སངས་རྒྱས, initiated in Tibet and Bhutan the lineage of the practice of Chö གཅོད་ (‘cutting through’ ego-clinging). [2]
1073 South-West Tibet
1st Sakya Monastery

Khön Könchok Gyalpo འཁོན་དཀོན་མཆོག་རྒྱལ་པོ་ founded the Sakya ས་སྐྱ་ monastery. [1] [i6]

1079-1153 Tibet
Gampopa སྒམ་པོ་པ།

 Figure  Gampopa "the Physician from Gampo", Sönam Rinchen བསོད་ནམས་རིན་ཆེན་ was the main student of Milarepa. He was also a doctor and tantric master. Gampopa authored the Lamrim ལམ་རིམ་ text, Jewel Ornament of Liberation དྭགས་པོ་ཐར་རྒྱན་, and founded the Dagpo Kagyu དྭགས་པོ་བཀའ་བརྒྱུད school. [2]

1110-93 Tibet
1st Karmapa Lama - Düsum Khyenpa

The Kagyu བཀའ་བརྒྱུད tradition pawned various sub-schools. The Karma Kagyu ཀརྨ་བཀའ་བརྒྱུད sub-school is headed by a teacher given the title Karmapa ཀརྨ་པ. The first of these, a disciple of Gampopa, was Düsum Khyenpa. [1]

1182 - 1251 Tibet
Sakya Pandita ས་ཀྱ་པཎ་ཌི་ཏ་ཀུན་དགའ་རྒྱལ་མཚན།

The Sakyapas recoginzed five 'great masters', the most important of which is usually regarded as Sakya Paṇḍita. [1]

1292–1361 Tibet
Dölpopa Shérap Gyeltsen དོལ་པོ་པ་ཤེས་རབ་རྒྱལ་མཚན།

Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen  is often credited with founding the Jonang ཇོ་ནང tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. He was a great exponent of the Shentong གཞན་སྟོང་ view. [2]

1308-1364 Tibet
Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་པ།
 Figure  Longchenpa was one of the most brilliant teachers of the Nyingma རྙིང་མ lineage. He systematized the Nyingma teachings in his ‘Seven Treasures’ and wrote extensively on Dzogchen རྫོགས་པ་ཆེན་པོ. [2]
1357–1419 Tibet
Je Tsongkhapa རྗེ་ཙོང་ཁ་པ་བློ་བཟང་གྲགས་པ།

 Figure  The Gelug དགེ་ལུགས་ tradition sees itself as the principal inheritor of the Kadampa བཀའ་གདམས་པ tradition. The Gelug school was founded in the 14th century by the scholar-monk Je Tsongkhapa. [1]

1375-1451 Tibet
Bodong Chogle Namgyel བོ་དོང་པན་ཆེན་ཕྱོགས་ལས་རྣམ་རྒྱལ།

The Tibetan author with the largest volume of work. Bodong Chogle Namgyel was one of Tibet's most learned and realized masters as well as a most prolific writer. His collected works are in 137 volumes. [7] [8]

1410 Peking, China
1st printed edition of the Kangyur

The earliest woodblock printed edition of the Kangyur བཀའ་འགྱུར (the 'translated words' of the Buddha). [1]

1429-1489 Tibet
Gorampa Sönam Senge གོ་རམས་པ་བསོད་ནམས་སེང་གེ

Gorampa Sonam Senge is one of the most widely-studied philosophers in the Sakya ས་སྐྱ་ school. He was fierce critic of Je Tsongkhapa རྗེ་ཙོང་ཁ་པ་བློ་བཟང་གྲགས་པ།. Gorampa's works were so controversial that they were suppressed by Gelug དགེ་ལུགས་ leaders shortly after they were composed. Gorampa’s texts remained hidden until the early 20th century. [3] [7]

1507-1554 Tibet
Mikyö Dorje མི་བསྐྱོད་རྡོ་རྗེ།
Mikyö Dorje མི་བསྐྱོད་རྡོ་རྗེ་
 Figure  The 8th Karmapa. [2]
1543–1588 Tibet
3rd Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso བསོད་ནམས་རྒྱ་མཚོ།

Sonam Gyatso was the first to be named Dalai Lama. The title goes back to the sixteenth century and to Gelug དགེ་ལུགས་ relations with the Mongols, whose ruler, Altan Khan, declared Sonam Gyatso, the third in a line of reincarnating Gelugs lamas, 'an ocean (Mongolian dalai) [of wisdom]'. Sonam Gyatso was thus subsequently regarded as the third Dalai Lama. [1] [i5]

1612-82 Tibet
5th Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso ངག་དབང་བློ་བཟང་རྒྱ་མཚོ།

The 5th Dalai Lama. Since his time the Dalai Lama has acted as Tibetan head of state. [1]

1645 Lhasa, Tibet
Potala Palace ཕོ་བྲང་པོ་ཏ་ལ།

The Potala Place, the main palace and residence of the Dalai Lamas, constructed in Lhasa by Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso ངག་དབང་བློ་བཟང་རྒྱ་མཚོ་, the Fifth Dalai Lama. Its construction started in 1645 on a large hill upon the ruins of an old palace and hermitage, erected on 637 by King Songtsen Gampo སྲོང་བཙན་སྒམ་པོ . Up until the Chinese invasion, it also housed Tibet's central administration and the Namgyal རྣམ་རྒྱལ། Monastery. [2] [6]

1730-1798 Tibet
Jigme Lingpa འཇིགས་མེད་གླིང་པ།

Jigme Lingpa is regarded as one of the most important figures in the Nyingma རྙིང་མ lineage. He was a great scholar and visionary, and discovered the Longchen Nyingtik ཀློང་ཆེན་སྙིང་ཐིག cycle through a series of visions of the great fourteenth-century master, Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་པ།. [15]

1733 Tibet
Derge སྡེ་དགེ་ block-print edition of 1733

One of the most widely used and favored editions of the Kangyur བཀའ་འགྱུར་ today is a reproduction of the Derge block-print edition of 1733. [1]

1829-1870 Tibet
Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa

Chokgyur Dechen Shikpo Lingpa མཆོག་གྱུར་བདེ་ཆེན་ཞིག་པོ་གླིང་པ་ was one of the great tertöns གཏེར་སྟོན་ (terma revealer) and an emanation of Prince Murub Tsenpo. His terma revelations are the Chokling Tersar མཆོག་གླིང་གཏེར་གསར་ (New Treasures of Chokgyur Lingpa). [2]

1846-1912 Tibet
Ju Mipham Rinpoche འཇུ་མི་ཕམ།

Ju Mipham Rinpoche was a great Nyingma master and writer and one of the greatest scholars of his time. He is known to have shaped the trajectory of the Nyingma རྙིང་མ school. Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་པ་ was the single most influential Tibetan figure for Mipham Rinpoche. He was a known supporter of the Rimé རིས་མེད་ (non-sectarian) movement. [2] [7]


[1] Rupert Gethin, The Foundations of Buddhism, Oxford Paperbacks; 1st edition (July 1 1998). p. 14, 40-42, 57, 254, 266-267, 270-273.

[2] rigpawiki.org – Rigpa Shedra Wiki,. an online encyclopedia of Tibetan Buddhism.

[3] plato.stanford.edu – The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

[4] R. A. Stein, Tibetan Civilization. (1972), Stanford University Press. p. 51, 58.

[5] kagyuoffice.org – Office of the 17th Karmapa. Naropa, Tilopa, Marpa, Milarepa.

[6] Michael Dillon, China: A Cultural and Historical Dictionary, Routledge (1998). p. 184.

[7] Douglas S. Duckworth, Jamgon Mipam: His Life and Teachings. Shambhala Publications (2011), intro, p. 20, 25-26, 33, 40, 43, 55.

[8] Rangjung Yeshe Wiki Rangjung Yeshe Institute. Institution of higher learning for Buddhist philosophy and practice.

[9] The British Museum – The British Museum in London, England, is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture.

[10] dalailama.com – Office of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

[11] Erik Haarh, Extract from The Yarlung Dynasty, in: The History of Tibet, ed. Alex McKay, Vol. 1, London (2003).

[12] Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva (Bodhicaryavatara), Translated by The Padmakara Translation Group, Shambhala Publications (1997).

[13] ancient.eu – World History Encyclopedia is a non-profit organization.

[14] Encyclopedia Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia – Xuanzang.

[15] Longchen Nyingtik Project – A project to translate the Core Texts of the Longchen Nyingtik.

[16] Himalayan Art Resources – Artworks from Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, India, China and Mongolia


[i1] All images that are not attributed are from TheThangka.com and Rinchen Ling Art School in Boudhanath, Kathmandu, Nepal.

[i2] Adobe Stock.

[i3] Photo Dharma from Sadao, Thailand, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

[i4] Sahil Bhopal, Tashi Mannox, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

[i5] Gombojab Tsybikov, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

[i6] Moszczynski, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

[i7] Eugene a, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

[i8] Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


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