Greco-Buddhist monasticism

Greco-Buddhist Monasticism

Greco-Buddhist monasticism

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The role of Greek Buddhist monks in the development of the Buddhist faith under the patronage of emperor Ashoka around 260 BCE, and then during the reign of Menander is described in the Mahavamsa, an important non-canonical Theravada Buddhist historical text compiled in Sri Lanka in the 6th century CE, in the Pali language.

The Mahavamsa (Pali: "Great Chronicle") covers the history of Buddhism from the 6th century BCE to the 4th century CE. It was written in the 6th century CE by the monk Mahanama, brother of the Sri Lankan King Dhatusena, and heavily relied on the Dipavamsa, written five centuries earlier.


Emperor Ashoka convened the third Buddhist council around 250 BCE at Pataliputra (today's Patna). It was held by the monk Moggaliputta.

The Pali canon (Tipitaka, or Tripitaka in Sanskrit, lit. the "Three Baskets"), which are the texts of reference of traditional Buddhism and considered to be directly transmitted from the Buddha, was formalized at that time. They consist of the doctrine (the Sutra Pitaka), the monastic discipline (Vinaya Pitaka) and an additional new body of subtle philosophy (the Abhidharma Pitaka).

Another objective of the council was to reconcile the different schools of Buddhism, and to purify the Buddhist movement, particularly from opportunistic factions which had been attracted by the royal patronage.

Finally, the council also reported on the proselytizing efforts of Emperor Ashoka, who sought to expand the Buddhist...
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