Buddhism is one of the oldest religions of the world. Buddhism is practiced by a large number of people in many parts of the world, particularly the South East Asian countries. As Buddhism made progress and spread to different parts of the world, new thoughts and improvisations came to be attached with the existing beliefs and practices. This led to the development and evolution of different schools of Buddhism or Buddhist sects. Surviving schools of Buddhism can be roughly grouped as Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Most of the Buddhist schools and sects encourage followers to adhere to certain practices and philosophies. Some of these philosophies and practices are common whereas some unique to the particular school or sect.
Mahayana Buddhism is considered to be one of the two major schools of
Buddhism. Also known as the Greater Vehicle, it first surfaced in the
first century CE. Literally, Mahayana means Greater Ox-Cart and it
serves as a more moderate and comprehensible interpretation of Buddhism.
Not only the monks and ascetics, but also the common people may follow
the path of Mahayana. Today, the sect is predominant in North Asia and
the Far East, including China, Japan, Korea, Tibet and Mongolia.
Tantric Buddhism (Vajrayana
Tantric Buddhism is quite different form a number of other Buddhist
forms. Also known as Vajrayana, it is considered as one of the three
major 'vehicles' (Yanas) of Buddhism, along with Theravada and Mahayana.
Vajrayana Buddhism is based, to a certain extent, on the tantras,
tantric techniques written in Indian scriptures. It prescribes the
technique of 'use the result as the Path'. It means that a person should
try to identify with the enlightened body, speech and mind of a Buddha.
Theravada literally means 'The Way of the Elders'. This term embodies
the entire sect in itself, as Theravada Buddhism is based on the
original beliefs and practices of the Buddha and the early monastic
Elders. Also known as Hinayana Buddhism, it is mainly predominant in
southern Asia, especially in Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand,
Cambodia and Laos.
Tibetan Buddhism is the body of the Buddhist doctrine and institutions
found in Tibet, the Himalayan region, Mongolia, Buryatia, Tuva, Kalmykia
(Russia) and northeastern China. It is also known by the name of
Vajrayana. In this article, we will provide you with a brief
introduction to Tibetan Buddhism.
The western counties saw the emergence of Buddhism somewhere around the
19th and the 20th century. The scholars as well as the colonists of that
time are credited with the origin of Buddhism in the West. One of the
major incidents in the journey of Buddhism in the West was the
establishment of the Pali Text Society. This nineteenth century society
was the result of the efforts of T.W. Rhys Davies. Another name worth
mentioning in this context is that of Edward Arnold.
The Mahayana sutras that were written in India and China form the basis
of Zen Buddhism. Of these, the most prominent ones are the Lankavatara
Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, the Samantamukha Parivarta, the Heart Sutra, a
chapter of the Lotus Sutra and the Platform Sutra of Huineng. The
fundamental elements of Buddhist philosophy consist of the basics of Zen