Small communities of monks and nuns, known as bhikkus, sprang up across India. They were devoted to the teachings of Buddha. They wandered the countryside to meditate quietly. For almost 200 years, these Buddhist disciples were overshadowed by the dominant Hindu believers.
In the 3rd century B.C.E., several ambitious leaders built the expansive Mauryan empire and fought bloody battles to extend its boundaries. King Ashoka became troubled by the effects of the conquests on humanity. He converted to Buddhism and incorporated principles of Buddhism into his ruling practices. He adopted a code of nonviolence and renounced warfare.
Ashoka sent monks to surrounding territories to share the teachings of the Buddha. A wave of conversion began, and Buddhism spread not only through India, but also throughout Ceylon, Burma, Nepal, Tibet, central Asia, China, and Japan.
With the vast spread of Buddhism, traditional practices were redefined and developed regional differences. Buddhist influence began to fade within India itself. Some scholars believe that many Buddhist practices were absorbed into the tolerant Hindu faith.
Today there are approximately 350 million Buddhists in the world.
Source: Buddhism: Spiritual Revolution
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