History – Development of Buddhism in South Asia – In the century BC, a kingdom called Magadha was founded in North India, with Pataliputra its capital. The greates king was Ashoka who was well-known as a cruel king. The prison he built for people who opposed him was called Ashoka Hell.
However, after losing a war against Kalinga kingdom in South India, he changed his attitude. The terrible was took a very large number of deaths, so Ashoka was deeply moved and promised to himself that he would not fight another war.
His cruelty and despotism were paid off by choosing Buddhism as his religion and life guidance. He also declared Buddhism as tha state religion and principle of government. He managed to unite the whole India during his reign. He also built not less than 48.000 stupas, the most famous of which was located in Sanchi, central India.
King Ashoka did not only develop Buddhism in his own contry. He also sent messengers to other countries, such as Greece, Syria, and Egypt. Yet the attempt to spread Buddhism westward was not successful.
On the contrary, the spread of Buddhism in Srilanka which was led by his two sons and a number of Buddhist monks under Mahinda was quite successful. They succeded in persuading King Tissa to profess Buddhism and a lot of his people followed him.
Then Tissa built a center of Buddhism in Anuradhapura. In addittion, he built a Buddist monastery named Tuparama in Kandy. In Tuparama monastery, a tooth of Buddha was kept in a small box decorated with jewels.
Buddhism also developed in Tibet, a snowy region on the foot of the Himalaya mountain range. The Buddhism that developed in Tibet underwent a lot of changes, so it became a sect that was quite different from the original Buddhism.
The Buddhist leader in Tibet was called Lama. The title Dalai was given by Mongolian princes to honour the holy man. Dalai Lama does not only act as a spiritual leader but also a leader of Tibetan people. This spiritual leader of Tibet lives in Potala monastery, the world’s largest monastery in Lhasa. Buddhist people believe that Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of Buddha.