Buddhism is a dharmic religion and a philosophy. Buddhism is also known as Buddha Dharma or Dhamma, which means roughly the `teachings of the Awakened One` in Sanskrit and Pali, languages of ancient Buddhist texts. Buddhism was founded around the fifth century BCE by Siddhartha Gautama, hereafter referred to as `the Buddha`.
Prince Siddhartha Gautama is believed by Buddhists to have been born in Lumbini and raised in Kapilavastu near the present-day India
n-Nepalese border. After his attainment of `Awakening` (bodhi -popularly called `Enlightenment` in the West) at the age of 35, he was known as Buddha or Gautama Buddha. He spent some 45 years teaching his insights (Dharma). According to scholars, he lived around the fifth century BCE, but his more exact birthdate is open to debate. He died around the age of 80 in Kushinagara (India).
Buddhism spread throughout the Indian subcontinent and into neighboring countries (such as Sri Lanka) in the five centuries following the Buddha`s passing. It spread further into Asia and elsewhere over the next two millennia.
The original teachings and monastic organization established by Buddha can be referred to as pre-sectarian Buddhism, but all the current divisions within Buddhism are too much influenced by later history to warrant inclusion under this name The most frequently used classification of present-day Buddhism among scholars divides present-day adherents into the following three traditions or geographical or cultural areas: Theravada, East Asian Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism.
An alternative scheme used by some scholars has two divisions, Theravada and Mahayana, with the latter including the last two traditions above. This scheme is that of ordinary usage in the English language. Some scholars use other schemes. Buddhists themselves have a variety of other schemes.
The terminology for the major divisions of Buddhism can be confusing, as Buddhism is variously divided by scholars and practitioners according to geographic, historical, and philosophical criteria, with different terms often being used in different contexts. The following terms may be encountered in descriptions of the major Buddhist divisions:
Early Buddhist Schools
The schools into which Buddhism became divided in its first few centuries only one of these survives as an independent school,
East Asian Buddhism
A term used by scholars to cover the Buddhist traditions of Japan
, Korea, Singapore and most of China and Vietnam
An alternative name used by some scholars for East Asian Buddhism also sometimes used to refer to all traditional forms of Buddhism, as distinct from Western(ized) forms.
Usually considered synonymous with Vajrayana. Some scholars have applied the term to certain practices found within the Theravada, particularly in Cambodia
A pejorative term used in Mahayana doctrine to denigrate its opponents. It is sometimes used to refer to the early Buddhist schools, including the contemporary Theravada, although the legitimacy of this is disputed. Its use in scholarly publications is controversial. By the Mahayana schools and groups in China, Korea, Tibet, and Japan the term is felt to be only slightly pejorative, or not pejorative at all. By some it is used with respect proper to teachings coming direct from the Buddha. The main use of the term in East Asian and Tibetan traditions is in reference to spiritual levels regardless of school.
An old term, still sometimes used, synonymous with Tibetan Buddhism widely considered derogatory.
A movement that emerged out of the early Buddhist schools, together with its later descendants, East Asian and Tibetan Buddhism. Vajrayana traditions are sometimes listed separately. The main use of the term in East Asian and Tibetan traditions is in reference to spiritual levels regardless of school.
Usually considered synonymous with Vajrayana. The Tendai school in Japan has been described as influenced by Mantrayana.
An alternative term used by some scholars for Tibetan Buddhism. Also, an older term still sometimes used to encompass both East Asian and Tibetan traditions.
Southeast Asian Buddhism
An alternative name used by some scholars for Theravada.
An alternative name used by some scholars for Theravada.
An alternative term sometimes used for the early Buddhist schools.
Tantrayana or Tantric Buddhism
Usually considered synonymous with Vajrayana. Howevwe, one scholar describes the tantra divisions of some editions of the Tibetan scriptures as including Sravakayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana texts (see Buddhist texts). Some scholars have used the term tantric Theravada to refer to certain practices found particularly in Cambodia.
The traditional Buddhism of Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and parts of Vietnam, China, India, Bangladesh and Malaysia. It is the only surviving representative of the historical early Buddhist schools. The term `Theravada` is also sometimes used to refer to all the early Buddhist schools.
Usually understood as including the Buddhism of Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan and parts of China, India and Russia
, which follow the Tibetan tradition.
A movement that developed out of Indian Mahayana, together with its later descendants. There is some disagreement on exactly which traditions fall into this category. Tibetan Buddhism is universally recognized as falling under this heading many also include also the Japanese Shingon school. Some scholars also apply the term to the Korean milgyo tradition, which is not a separate school. One scholar says, `Despite the efforts of generations of Buddhist thinkers. it remains exceedingly difficult to identify precisely what it is that sets the Vajrayana apart.`
Indian Buddhism had become virtually extinct, but is now again gaining strength. Buddhism continues to attract followers around the world and is considered a major world religion. While estimates of the number of Buddhist followers range from 230 to 500 million worldwide, most estimates are around 350 million, or 310 million. However, estimates are uncertain for several countries. According to one analysis, Buddhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world behind Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and traditional Chinese religion. The monks` order (Sangha), which began during the lifetime of the Buddha in India, is amongst the oldest organizations on earth.