|A fanciful depiction of the Buddha in Maha Kassapa's Pipphali Cave, Rajgir (Yuttadhammo)|
|Indian women behold Ajanta cave complex in the distance; inside cave (Donmarty/flickr)|
|A darkened nook and lit shrine in the Ajanta complex (Martenlagendijk/Donmarty/flickr)|
|Chiang Dao (Peter Apflauer/flickr.com)|
|Ajanta Cave (Donmarty/flickr.com)|
|Ajanta cave art (Paroxysmal30/flickr)|
Like Plato's Allegory of the Cave, we begin to distinguish forms from shadows, the real thing from the tinsel we've been getting by on.
|Udayagiri, Khandagiri, Orissa (Aisamit/flickr)|
|Caves of Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan near the real Kapilavastu with Hindu Kush (part of the Himalayan range) in background (Wiki commons)|
There are two ways to understand that "Buddh-ISM" began in caves. The first way is to remember how often the Buddha-to-be or Bodhisatta (Sanskrit, Bodhisattva).
Many "Birth Tales" (jatakas) place the individual striving for buddhahood in caves along the foothills of the Himalayas.
|Sattapanni Cave, India (dhammawheel.com)|
Of course, the Buddha-Dharma -- the message and mission/ministry (buddha-sasana) of the Enlightened or Awakened One -- began in the wild forest under caring trees among wilderness devas or "sprites" (elementals, fairies, funloving spirits).
|Buddha surrounded by devas (Donmarty)|
Maha Kassapa, a Brahmin arhat and prominent disciple of the Buddha who lived in the nearby Pipphali Cave when his teacher dwelled on another hill called Vulture Peak and Veluvana Monastery just outside the royal city's gate, called for the First Council that led to the formation of a standardized "religion.
|The unimaginable magnificence of the Ajanta Buddhist cave complex, India (Donmarty)|
Now there are "Buddhist caves" all over the world -- India (Ajanta, Ellora), Central Asia (the -Stans), Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan (which was part of India until 1947), China, Japan, Korea, Tibet, Bhutan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Burma, Nepal, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Java, Singapore, Malaysia, Mongolia, Siberia, Russia, and Europe's Kalmykia.