differences in the sects of buddhism...


a simple buddhist
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augusta, ga
does anyone know a website that shows the differences in the sects of buddhism? i have studied buddhism for a while, but i cant find the differences between the many sects. im just looking for a website that has most of the sects on it so i can decide which one fits my beliefs the closest. id rather not search through 50 webpages trying to find the small differences if there is one page that i can look at. any help in this matter would be greatly appreciated. thanks and be well in peace.

I found the following article on Wikipedia helpful in getting an overview of the three principal branches of Buddhism.

Also, consult this page, which has more sections, each of which is well researched and useful. Even within Tibetan Buddhism, for example, there are four primary schools ... but this is explained in detail on the website.

Hope that helps,

taijasi :)
thank you so much for those websites. ive looked through them and they have been very helpful in my search. be well in peace.

hmm, there
are many websites, but I'm at the college campus, so
I don't have the bookmarks here, but at the home pc,
if I remember, than I will post it here,
I do remember about

Schools & lineages:


When it comes down to it, there is really,
3 types of buddhism, or sect/vehicle (yana)

Theravada (Hinayana) , Mahayana and Vajrayana
bascially, one advancing the religion from the other,
example, first you need to learn the same basics
as the theravada schools to learn the mahayana,
and vajrayana is the advacned and next step after,
Mahayana. Also, there is a huge history of Buddhist
schools and lineages, A huge one. I wish I could find the
information now, but I don't have the links which I expalined
earlier before, if i don't post, soon, please give me an email,
and I will try to remember to get the info as fast as possible thank you
and all ways

(peace be with you)

Hi everybody!

Here is a passage I adapted from a book on Buddhism, "Turning the
Wheel" by Sandy Boucher, giving a basic explanation of Buddhist
thought, and an outline of some of the major Buddhist demoninations.


Buddhism began in the sixth century [B.C.], when an Indian nobleman's
son named Siddhartha Gautama left his [father's] palace in order
to investigate the causes of suffering, old age, and death. After
years of searching and practicing austerities, he turned away from
asceticism. Sitting alone under a fig tree, he attained "enlightenment,"
which can be described as "a direct, dynamic spiritual ex-
perience brought about. . . through the faculty of intuition..."
or, more simply, seeing clearly.

Siddhartha Gautama's enlightenment (which entitled him to
the [title] Buddha) occurred without the help of a deity or
even an earthly teacher, simply as the result of his own efforts..
After it, while he could have remained in a state of solitary bliss,
he chose to give to others what he had learned, and he spent the
next forty-nine years of his life traveling throughout India and
teaching the "Dharma" (the truth, or the way). That his early disciples
came from all social classes indicates that he stood in open
opposition to the Hindu caste system as it then existed. He was
also revolutionary in allowing women to join the monastic order
he founded.

Now, 2,500 years later, the teachings he gave are followed by
somewhere between a third and a fifth of the earth's people.
Chief among the observances they perform are generosity, moral
conduct, and ceremonies expressing reverence. Meditation in order
to achieve the goal of liberation or enlightenment is engaged
in by smaller numbers of more intensely motivated practitioners.
In the West it is meditation practice that is usually emphasized,
and in some instances Buddhist meditation techniques are taught
independent of all religious trappings.

The Buddha taught three universal qualities of human exis-
tence. The first is the impermanence of everything as it flows from
birth to death or creation to dissolution. Next is the suffering in
human existence. This concept has been variously translated, and
one of the more inclusive interpretations is "the general unsatis-
factoriness of life." Some explicators have used the image of a
wheel set slightly askew on its axle, so that it rubs and wears as it
turns, always just a little off balance, as we are almost always a little
off balance in our lives. The third quality is the nonexistence of the
self; a concept difficult for Westerners. In the unceasing flow of
phenomena, the self is seen as having no solidity, no separate existence.
It is viewed as an artificial construct, merely a tool for accomplishing
actions in the world. When told to let go of belief in
the self, contemporary western [people] especially react with outrage,
pointing out that most of us need to build ego-strength and
selfhood, not to destroy it. But this resistance arises from a misconception,
for what one gives up are the qualities in oneself that
obstruct and hinder, and cause pain-the impediments to full realization,
such as greed, hatred, and delusion. In experiencing
oneness with all phenomena one taps into an unshakable strength
far deeper than the capacities of personality.

The Four Noble Truths form the foundation of Buddhist practice. They are:

1. We suffer.

2. The cause of our suffering is our craving, primarily for pleasant
sense contacts and for survival-a craving that can never
be satisfied because of the impermanence of the body and the
transience of any particular mental, physical, or emotional

3. There can be an end to the suffering.

4. The means to that end is provided in the Eightfold Noble

The Eightfold Noble Path is generally broken down into three
sections under Wisdom, Morality, and Concentration. Wisdom is
comprised of Right Understanding and Right Thought (that is,
purpose or aspiration). Morality requires Right Speech, Right Action,
Right Livelihood. Concentration is reached through Right
Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration (that is,
meditation). This Eightfold Noble Path is called the Middle Way,
for it avoids, on the one hand, losing oneself in sensual pleasures,
and, on the other hand, giving oneself over to asceticism and self-mortification.

An almost universal practice in Buddhism is taking refuge. Often
this begins a practice session or retreat. One "takes refuge" in, or
invokes the protection of, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the
Sangha (community of enlightened ones), which are known as the
Three Jewels or Three Gems. In Western language, one takes
refuge in the enlightened mind (Buddha), in the way leading to it
(Dharma), and in those who achieved enlightenment by traveling
this path (Sangha). Usually in American Buddhism the sangha is
interpreted more broadly as the community of all those who practice,
and this is the sense in which it will be used in this book.

The Divine Abodes, another mainstay of Buddhism, give an idea
of its gentle and benevolent moral foundation. The four qualities
to be cultivated are: Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic
Joy, and Equanimity.

As Nancy Wilson Ross has pointed out, "Buddhism recognizes
no sacred and revealed Scripture and no Divine Personality existing
outside and beyond man and his world. Buddhism is not a revealed
faith but a religion of accumulated wisdom, and each generation
is free to add to it without fear of the charge of heresy.'
In this spirit, Buddhism was taken from India to other countries
in the East, and in each new country its practitioners interpreted
it through their own cultural forms, translating the texts into
their own language, devising ceremonies appropriate to their

There are two major strains or families within Buddhism: Theravada
and Mahayana. (The name Hinayana, or "lesser vehicle,"
sometimes used to denote Theravada, was invented by practitioners
who broke from the original teachings to forge a new path and
who called themselves Mahayana, the "greater vehicle." Thus the
term Hinayana is considered to be denigrating, and Theravada,
or Way of the Elders, is more commonly used.) Theravada Bud-
dhism is based upon the Pali canon, an extensive body of scripture
first written down by the monks of Ceylon in 80 B.C.E., several
hundred years after the Buddha's death. Pali is an Indo-Aryan
dialect of the Buddha's time. Theravada Buddhism was originally
dedicated to the ideal of individual salvation and set forth monasticism
as the way to that end.

The Mahayana, which matured in northern India during and
following the first and second centuries C.E., is based on the Sanskrit
version of the scriptures, and comprises all the forms developed
after Theravada, principally Pure Land and Zen as they are
practiced in China, japan, Korea, and other countries, and Tibetan
Buddhism. Sanskrit is the traditional sacred and scholarly language
of India. The Mahayana proposed the ideal of salvation for
all and developed forms of popular devotion and universal secular
service to humanity. The term Vajrayana is used to indicate Tibetan
Buddhism, and some practitioners think of the Vajrayana
as a separate strain in Buddhism, but it is generally seen as a type
of Mahayana manifestation.

One important distinction between the Theravada and Mahayana
is the role of the Bodhisattva. In Theravada Buddhism, the
Bodhisattva is one who has set himself or herself on the path to
enlightenment or Buddhahood. In this endeavor he or she will
practice the paramis or perfections, including loving kindness toward
other beings. With full cultivation of these perfections, he
or she will become a Buddha and will enter Nirvana at death. In
Mahayana Buddhism, the Bodhisattva is a person who has the
same wisdom and virtue as a Buddha but who delays the eventual
entry into Nirvana in order to stay in the world to help all sentient
beings achieve enlightenment.

Most of the types of Buddhism practiced in the world today
have found their way to the United States, where it is estimated
there are several million Buddhists. Three major forms followed
by Americans are Zen, Theravada, and Tibetan Buddhism. Also
practiced here are Pure Land and Nichiren Buddhism.

Theravada Buddhism is the oldest form, having arisen within a
few hundred years after the Buddha's lifetime. Considered the
most austere path, it thrives in Southeast Asian countries such as
Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand, and it has some foothold still in
India. The Theravada path is a gradual one, in which through
meditation and study and the following of an ever more scrupulous
moral life one eventually gains enlightenment. Although there has
been considerable Theravada activity in this country for the past
ten years, with the establishment of one large teaching center and
several smaller ones, and at least one functioning monastery that
ordains monks and nuns, it has operated in relative obscurity.

[While most people say that there are two major strains of Buddhism
(Theravada and Mahayana) there is also Vajrayana, called by some the third
turning of the wheel. Some even say that there has been a fourth
turning of the wheel known as Dzogchen which includes Tantric practices.]

Zen Buddhism grew up in China, then was taken to Korea, Japan,
and other countries. It expanded upon, and in some of its methods
and ideas diverged from, the Theravada tradition. In Zen, intuition
is the faculty most valued, and it is believed that
Buddhahood is not something to be achieved or developed but
exists in each of us right now. The effort then is to realize our own
already preexisting condition of enlightenment. Undoubtedly
Japanese Zen is the best-known form of American Buddhism,
having been picked up and written about by the beatniks in the
late fifties and widely popularized by writers such as Alan Watts,
D. T. Suzuki and Nancy Wilson Ross. Many Zen centers were established
in the sixties and seventies on both coasts, most of them
headed by Japanese Zen masters and peopled with young college
dropouts disillusioned with their parents' middle-class lifestyles,
their appetites for spirituality whetted by experimentation with
L.S.D. and marijuana. As the Japanese type of Zen encourages
tremendous industry and commitment, through the efforts of the
students most of these Zen centers have survived and grown to be
financially and spiritually viable institutions. Korean Zen has also
taken root in this country through the efforts of one particularly
energetic teacher, Seung Sahn (or Soen Sa Nim), whose headquarters
is in Providence, Rhode Island.

Tibetan Buddhism, as its name indicates, developed in the tiny
isolated country of Tibet. Because of the harsh and mountainous
conditions of its homeland and the resulting culture of its practitioners,
as well as the folk traditions from which it drew elements
of its practice, it is in some respects quite different from both
Theravada Buddhism and Zen Buddhism. It places strong emphasis
on loyalty to a teacher, and it employs techniques of visualization
and other mystical practices. While Theravada
accoutrements are usually fairly minimal and Zen in particular
tends toward extreme simplicity, Tibetan ritual and trappings are
elaborate and colorful. There are a number of different schools
of Tibetan Buddhism, with their respective leaders, but the best-known
representative is the Dalai Lama, [who is the head of state and
spiritual leader of the Tibetan people.] Because of his
flight from the Chinese invaders in the 1950s, his establishment
of a government in exile in India, and his several visits to the United States,
he is well known to the West. The Tibetans, who have
nb homeland, are very active in establishing themselves in other
countries: several Tibetan sects maintain successful centers and
educational establishments in this country.

In addition to the above types of Buddhism, several other
forms are vigorously pursued in the United States.

The Pure Land school of Buddhism, which developed in China,
rather than relying on meditation uses recitation of the name
"Amitabha" (the name of a Buddha) to qualify the practitioner
to be reborn in the Pure Land after death. From the
Pure Land it is possible to reach enlightenment.

The Japanese versions of Pure Land Buddhism are Jodoshu and
Jodo Shinshu, the latter being presently the largest denomination
of Japanese Buddhism. Jodo Shinshu has established many centers
in the United States, organizing itself under the name "Buddhist
Churches of America"....

Nichiren Buddhism is a Japanese form with various subsects (two
are Nichiren Shoshu Soka Gakkai of America and Nipponzan Myohoji),
based upon the teaching of a thirteenth-century
Japanese [religious leader] named Nichiren. It includes no silent meditation
but uses the chant "Nam myo ho renge kyo," and adherents
dedicate themselves to the goal of world peace, often engaging in
social and political action. Nichiren Shoshu of America, alone
among Buddhist sects, vigorously proselytizes and recruits

[Two more Japanese denominations are worth mentioning, Shingon and Tendai.
Centuries ago, they were the largest denominations of Buddhism in Japan,
but their numbers have dwindled. Still, there are a number of
these temples in Japan and America, should they be of interest.]

As might be expected, the majority of Buddhist activity takes
place on the coasts [of America], with New England, New York, and
Washington, D.C., having many important Buddhist centers and California
having perhaps the most Buddhist activity. But there are
many Buddhist groups and centers in the Midwest, the South, and
the West, one of the largest being in Boulder, Colorado.

The picture of American Buddhism can be a confusing one.
For example, some people are drawn to Buddhism because it has
so little ritual, while others indicate that they chose it for its rich
liturgy. The reader will have to bear with such seeming contradictions,
understanding them to indicate the diversity of practices
that fall under the category of Buddhism.

The language or languages of Buddhism can be similarly bewildering.
Preeminent is Sanskrit. But Theravadin Buddhists adhere
to the Pali terms. The Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Sri Lankans,
Burmese, Tibetans, and other national groups translated the
original Buddhist texts and developed their own forms in their
own languages.
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Korean Zen has also
taken root in this country through the efforts of one particularly
energetic teacher, Seung Sahn (or Soen Sa Nim), whose headquarters
is in Providence, Rhode Island.

Zen Master Sahn's book The Compass of Zen is an excellent book IMO, not just in regard to Korean Zen, but Buddhism "generally."

(though it does refer to Theravada as Hinayana and Tibetan Buddhism doesn't really get a look in).

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Zen Buddhism grew up in China, then was taken to Korea, Japan,
and other countries. It expanded upon, and in some of its methods
and ideas diverged from, the Theravada tradition. In Zen, intuition
is the faculty most valued, and it is believed that
Buddhahood is not something to be achieved or developed but
exists in each of us right now.

The Indian Bodhidharma (c. 6th century CE) was the Buddhist monk traditionally credited as the founder of Chán (Zen) Buddhism in China. The Shaolin Monastery was originally founded in AD 495 by the Buddhist monk Batuo, an Indian dhyana master. Bodhidharma is credited with the designing of Kungfu, to develop the physical fitness and mental alertness of the chinese buddhist monks , and to defend themselves against bandits.


Thanks for sharing that info on Master Sahn. Please feel free to share some passages from his book.

Yes, Hinayana is a derogatory term that people are using less and less.