Buddhist History Episodes in Chronological Order

Arising of Buddhism Part 1: Historical and Religious Context in India

[2000 BCE-500 BCE] The first episode in my “Buddhist History” series, about the historical and religious context for the beginnings of Buddhism in India around 500 BCE. I give you a brief overview of the history of civilization in India, and a sense of the dominant religious traditions of northern India from around 2000 BCE through the time of the Buddha. Then I describe the period of social and economic changes starting around 800 BCE that apparently paved the way for new schools of religious thought and practice, including Buddhism.

Arising of Buddhism Part 2: New Religious Developments in India Around 500 BCE

[500 BCE] At the time of the Buddha around 500 BCE, social and economic changes had paved the way for new schools of religious thought and practice. In this episode, I talk about these new religious movements, including Buddhism – particularly, their major spiritual questions and how they answered them. This gives you a sense of how Buddhism compared to the other new religions of its time, and how the Buddha’s approach differed from those of his contemporary spiritual teachers.

Life of Shakyamuni Buddha Part 1: Source Texts, and Birth Through Homeleaving

[Approx 500-471 BCE] Buddhism began when Siddhartha Gautama experienced a spiritual awakening over 2,500 years ago in India, and became an “awakened one,” or Buddha. In this first episode on his life, I first explain in detail the sources of biographical information we have on the Buddha – their historicity and significance. Then I tell the story of the Buddha’s life from just before his birth until he decides to leave home as a spiritual mendicant.

Life of Shakyamuni Buddha Part 2: Spiritual Struggle, Enlightenment, Teaching, and Death

[Approx 471-420 BCE] In this second episode on the Buddha’s life, I tell the story of his spiritual struggle and search, and the circumstances around his enlightenment. Then I summarize his teaching career, and tell the story of his passing, in order to give you a sense of the arc of his entire life. In Episode 9: Shakyamuni Buddha’s Enlightenment: What Did He Realize? I go into more detail about the content of the Buddha’s enlightenment, and in Episode 17: Life of Shakyamuni Buddha Part 3: Buddha’s First Sermons and Students, and the Early Sangha I return to the subject of the Buddha’s teaching career, which requires 1-2 episodes on its own.

Shakyamuni Buddha’s Enlightenment: What Did He Realize?

[Approx 465 BCE] According to tradition, Buddhism began with the Buddha’s enlightenment. This was the spiritual awakening of one man, Siddhartha Gautama, somewhere between 528 and 445 BCE, who afterwards was called the “Buddha,” or “awakened one.” He then taught others what he realized, along with the methods he used to achieve that realization, and those teachings have been passed down to the present day. What exactly did Siddhartha comprehend in his enlightenment?

How Buddhists Should Behave: Evolution of the Buddhist Precepts Part 1

[465-420 BCE] Many people are unaware that, from the beginning, Buddhism has said as much about how you should behave in your daily life as it does about meditation or study. In this episode, I cover the first Buddhist teachings about moral conduct, and then talk about the evolution of the Buddhist precepts, including the code of discipline for fully ordained monks and nuns.

How Buddhists Should Behave: Evolution of the Buddhist Precepts Part 2

[1st-11th centuries CE] In this episode, I continue with the story of the Theravadin precepts (see Part 1 for the first part of the story) – particularly how the Vinaya has affected the ordination of monks and nuns, and how lay people participate in precept practice. Then we move on to China, and I talk about how the Chinese dealt with the question of how to establish an authentic Buddhist lineage while adapting the Vinaya to China, and avoiding the trap of “hinayana” practice that Mahayana sutras warned about (was the Vinayahinayana” practice?). They responded by creating additional Mahayana precepts, and elaborate sets of monastic regulations.

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