EARLY DEVELOPMENT OF BUDDHISM IN INDIA
In brief, the historical development of Buddhism can mainly be classified in four phases:
1. The Phase Of Early Buddhism: The historic Buddha expounded the teachings and his disciples preserved the teachings. This occurred approximately from the middle of the 6th to the middle of the 5th century B.C.E.
2. The Phase Of Interpretations Of The Teachings: The beginning of the divisions into various (Hinayana) schools on the basis of different interpretations of the teachings of Buddha (Councils) started to occur, the criterion of the second phase. This took place approximately from the 4th century to the 1st century C.E. The Hinayana Schools developed between the mahaparinirvana (death) of the Buddha and the end of first century B.C.E. After the third council, the first split into schools took place and Hinayana Buddhism was divided into eighteen sub-schools. It is said that its doctrines are essentially based on the sutras taught by the Buddha, its discipline based on Vinaya, and the analysis of the Abhidharma teachings. Hinayana primarily presents the path of individual salvation or liberation called the Pratimoksha.
3. The Phase Of The Rise Of Mahayana Buddhism: The rise of Mahayana Buddhism with its two sub-schools – Chitamattra (or the Yogacharya) and Madhyamaka was the third historical phase of Buddhism. This occurred approximately from 1st to the 7th century C.E. Mahayana Schools developed especially during the time of Asanga, Vasubhandu, Nagarjuna, and other great masters.
4. The Phase Of Buddhist Tantra: The revelation of Buddhist Tantras (in Tibet) started to take place after the 7th century. Tantric buddhism existed in India at the time in an extremely hidden or secret form and was not made public or accessible to the general buddhist practitioners. It expanded even more during the time of Saraha, Nagarjuna, and other great mahasiddhas and finally came to Tibet in full through the blessings of Guru Padmasambhava, Marpa the Great Translator, and many other great Indian and Tibetan masters.