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Schools of Buddhism

Buddhism in India, based on Lord Buddha’s teachings is one of the world’s oldest religions. Prevalent in South East Asia, Buddhism evolved as new thoughts and concepts were introduced into existing beliefs and practices. As Buddhist religion spread, different schools of Buddhist sect developed of which only Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana still exist.

Buddhist schools encourage followers to adhere to certain practices and philosophies, some of which are common and some unique to a particular school or sect. After Buddha’s death, Buddhism split only over different monastic rules and intellectual positions such as whether an enlightened person could lapse or not. Time, culture and customs of countries adopting Buddhism only form the obvious variations in these Buddhist schools; there is no sort of enmity between them. All follow and practice the core teachings of Buddha’s Dharma.

Three Major Schools of Buddhism :

Theravada : Theravada meaning ' Way of the Elders’ symbolizes the entire sect in itself, based on original beliefs and practices of Buddha and early monastic Elders. Also named Hinayana, it is primarily followed in southern Asia including Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

Mahayana : Known as Greater Vehicle (literally Greater Ox-Cart), Mahayana Buddhism emerged in first century CE. One of the major Buddhist schools, it is a different form of expressing the same teaching of the historical Buddha. Mahayana is a more moderate and comprehensive version of Buddhism, followed not only by monks and ascetics but also by common people in North Asia and Far East, including China, Japan, Korea, Tibet and Mongolia.

Vajrayana : Along with Theravada and Mahayana, Vajrayana (Tantric Buddhism) forms one of the three major 'vehicles' (Yanas) of Buddhism. A different form of Buddhism, Vajrayana is based on tantras, tantric techniques written in the scriptures of ancient Buddhism in India. It stresses on 'use the result as Path' technique, trying to relate to the enlightened body, speech and mind of a Buddha.

Tibetan Buddhism : Tibetan Buddhism symbolizes Buddhist doctrine and traditions, normally in Tibet, the Himalayan region, Mongolia, Buryatia, Tuva, Kalmykia (Russia) and Northeast China.

Zen Buddhism : Basic values of Buddhism contain the fundamentals of Zen Buddhism, based on writings of Mahayana sutras in Indian Buddhism including that of the Chinese. The prime, being the Lankavatara Sutra, Diamond Sutra, Samantamukha Parivarta, Heart Sutra, a chapter of Lotus Sutra and Platform Sutra of Huineng.

Western Buddhism : Buddhism originated in the west between 19th - 20th century, with endorsement of scholars and colonists of that time. Establishment of the Pali Text Society was another prime event in the development of Buddhism.