The Spread and Emergence of Buddhism

During the 600 BCE to 600 CE period, religions started to become more well known. New religions started to emerge and spread throughout Eurasia. In Southeastern and Western Eurasia, new religions such as Buddhism and Confucianism started to spread and become more common within this time period.

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Throughout 600 BCE to 600 CE, the spread Buddhism was caused by trade routes, emperors, while the emergence of Buddhism was caused by social inequalities. One cause for the spread of Buddhism was trade routes. One specific trade route was the Silk Road. This trade route ran all across Eurasia and became a key part for merchants and missionaries. By the time Silk Road was established, Buddhism had already spread into modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1st century. Buddhist merchants from these lands started to build temples and shrines along the Silk Road. Monks and priests supervised these temples and shrines, they preached the Buddhist teachings to other travelers. Due to the Silk Road, the spread of Buddhism was able to spread more rapidly.

Another cause for the spread of Buddhism was emperors, more specifically, Emperor Wu from the Han Dynasty and Ashoka from the Mauryan Empire. For a selective time, the Han dynasty was run by Emperor Wu. Emperor Wu was some-what influential in spreading Buddhism. Wu made a law claiming that Buddhism was a much more superior religion than other religions. During this time, China also was able to spread Buddhism to Korea and Japan which dominated other religions establish there. Ashoka, on the other hand converted to Buddhism after being impacted by a bloody war with Kalinga. Over 100,000 soldiers had died and more than 150,000 civilians were deported. Endict 13 on the rock by Ashoka talks about his feelings when he walks through the city. He disgusted by the number of corpses that are lying everywhere and this crushes his quest to conquer other kingdoms. Around this time, Ashoka was inspired by the teachings from Buddha and Ashoka decided to go on 256-day pilgrimage to the places in which Buddha went himself. This led Ashoka to spread Buddhism by building public works around India. He also spread Buddhism to adjacent kingdoms. Ashoka inspired his son and daughter to propagate Buddhism in modern-day Srilanka. This shows that emperors from two different parts of Eurasia were able to contribute to the spread of Buddhism in just their own empire but in other places too.

One cause of the emergence of Buddhism was social inequality of India. During the time Buddhism was emerging, the Indian society was controlled by the Caste system. This system determined that when someone is born they are permanently in a class. There were 4 classes called Vedas and they each had certain duties that they had to fulfill in order to gain karma and break free from the everlasting cycle of reincarnation. One class was called the Untouchables which were not counted in the 4 major Vedas. The untouchables were seen as not worthy of gaining Karma and were not seen as pure. Also at the time, Hinduism was a very common religion among India. Hinduism was in support of the Caste system and believed that those who are an Untouchable shall never be broken from the cycle of reincarnation. When Buddha had witnessed the number of suffering people around him he was determined to help the suffering. Buddhism is a religion that is accessible by all, many of the Untouchables liked the Idea of Buddhism because it did not discriminate against them, unlike Hinduism. The emergence of Buddhism shows that because of social inequality, it not only helped the emergence of Buddhism but it also impacted Buddhism by making Buddhism either compatible with other religions or by making the lower classes able to participate and benefit from the religion. In conclusion, trade and emperors contributed to the spread of Buddhism, while the social inequality in India helped with the emergence of Buddhism. Although Buddhism was a new religion, it was still able to be impactful to lower classes and all across Eurasia. Throughout 600 BCE to 600 CE, the spread Buddhism was caused by trade routes, emperors, while the emergence of Buddhism was caused by social inequalities.

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