The most important turning point in the expansion of Buddhism in India was the emergence and conversion of Asoka the Great (304–232 BC). He embraced Buddhism after 8 years of his coronation, he became a Buddhist and made it his state religion in 260 BC. He convened the third Buddhist council, which was held in Pataliputra in the presidency of Moggaliputta Tissa. He launched a vigorous campaign to propagate Buddhism which could be called Asoka’s Dhamma.
Salient Notes on Some Buddhist Scholars are as follows:
- Aśvaghosa is the Greatest Indian Poet Prior to Kalidasa. He is known as first Sanskrit Dramatist of the World. His epics rivalled the contemporary Ramayana. He wrote Buddhist texts in Classical Sanskrit.
- He was the court writer and religious advisor of Kushana king Kanishka. His main works are Buddhacharita, Mahalankara (Book of Glory) and Saundaranandakavya (details the life of Nanda).
- Nagarjuna founded the Madhyamika school of Mahayan Buddhism. He was contemporary of Satavahana King Gautamiputra. He was born in a Brahmin family in Nagarjunkonda in modern Andhra Pradesh.
- Due to his birth in Brahmin family and later conversion in Buddhism, it can be justified that his early work was in Sanskrit and not in Pali or Hybrid Sanskrit.
- Most important work is Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, which means Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way. His theory is also known as Shunyavad “emptiness”.
Asanga & Vasubandhu
- Both were half brothers and proponents of Yogachara and Abhidhamma They were from modern Peshawar area in Pakistan. Most important work of Vasubandhu was Abhidharmamoksha.
- Buddhaghosa lived the 5th century AD and is known to be one of the greatest Pali scholar. His name means “Voice of Buddha”. Considered to be most important commentator of the Theravada.
- He is said to have gone to Sri Lanka from India’s Magadha and settled in Anuradhapura. The most important work is Visuddhimagga
Dignāga or Dinnaga
- He is considered to be the founder of Buddhist logic.
Candrakīrti or Chandrakirti
- He was a disciple of Nagarjuna and a scholar at the Nalanda University. Prasannapadā is his main work which means happy words or clear words
- Dharmakirti lived in 7th century AD and was primary theorist of Buddhist Sankya. He was a teacher at the Nalanda University and a poet. He has written Seven Treatises on Valid Cognition. He has been called “Kant of India’.