Schools of Buddhism

Representatives from the three major modern Buddhist traditions, at the World Fellowship of Buddhists, 27th General Conference, 2014.
Map showing major Buddhist divisions
Districtwise Buddhist population percentage, India census 2011. India's West-centre area Maharashtra shows Navayana Buddhist population
Percentage of Buddhists by country, according to the Pew Research Center.
Map of the major geographical centers of major Buddhist schools in South Asia, at around the time of Xuanzang's visit in the seventh century. * Red: non-Pudgalavāda Sarvāstivāda school * Orange: non-Dharmaguptaka Vibhajyavāda schools * Yellow: Mahāsāṃghika * Green: Pudgalavāda (Green) * Gray: Dharmaguptaka Note the red and grey schools already gave some original ideas of Mahayana Buddhism and the Sri Lankan section (see Tamrashatiya) of the orange school is the origin of modern Theravada Buddhism.
The Tipitaka (Pali Canon), in a Thai Style book case. The Pali Tipitaka is the doctrinal foundation of all major Theravāda sects today
Nagarjuna, one of the most influential thinkers of Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism
Indian Buddhist Mahasiddhas, 18th century, Boston MFA.
B. R. Ambedkar delivering speech during conversion, Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur, 14 October 1956
Taixu, the founder of Chinese Humanistic Buddhism

The schools of Buddhism are the various institutional and doctrinal divisions of Buddhism that have existed from ancient times up to the present.

- Schools of Buddhism
Representatives from the three major modern Buddhist traditions, at the World Fellowship of Buddhists, 27th General Conference, 2014.

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Ancient kingdoms and cities of India during the time of the Buddha (circa 500 BCE) – modern-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan

Buddhism

Indian religion or philosophical tradition based on a series of original teachings attributed to Gautama Buddha.

Indian religion or philosophical tradition based on a series of original teachings attributed to Gautama Buddha.

Ancient kingdoms and cities of India during the time of the Buddha (circa 500 BCE) – modern-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan
The gilded "Emaciated Buddha statue" in an Ubosoth in Bangkok representing the stage of his asceticism
Enlightenment of Buddha, Kushan dynasty, late 2nd to early 3rd century CE, Gandhara.
The Buddha teaching the Four Noble Truths. Sanskrit manuscript. Nalanda, Bihar, India.
Traditional Tibetan Buddhist Thangka depicting the Wheel of Life with its six realms
Ramabhar Stupa in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India is regionally believed to be Buddha's cremation site.
An aniconic depiction of the Buddha's spiritual liberation (moksha) or awakening (bodhi), at Sanchi. The Buddha is not depicted, only symbolized by the Bodhi tree and the empty seat.
Dharma Wheel and triratna symbols from Sanchi Stupa number 2.
Buddhist monks and nuns praying in the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple of Singapore
A depiction of Siddhartha Gautama in a previous life prostrating before the past Buddha Dipankara. After making a resolve to be a Buddha, and receiving a prediction of future Buddhahood, he becomes a "bodhisattva".
Bodhisattva Maitreya, Gandhara (3rd century), Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Sermon in the Deer Park depicted at Wat Chedi Liam, near Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand.
Buddhist monks collect alms in Si Phan Don, Laos. Giving is a key virtue in Buddhism.
An ordination ceremony at Wat Yannawa in Bangkok. The Vinaya codes regulate the various sangha acts, including ordination.
Living at the root of a tree (trukkhamulik'anga) is one of the dhutaṅgas, a series of optional ascetic practices for Buddhist monastics.
Kōdō Sawaki practicing Zazen ("sitting dhyana")
Seated Buddha, Gal Viharaya, Polonnawura, Sri Lanka.
Kamakura Daibutsu, Kōtoku-in, Kamakura, Japan.
Statue of Buddha in Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat, Phitsanulok, Thailand
An 18th century Mongolian miniature which depicts the generation of the Vairocana Mandala
A section of the Northern wall mural at the Lukhang Temple depicting tummo, the three channels (nadis) and phowa
Monks debating at Sera Monastery, Tibet
Tibetan Buddhist prostration practice at Jokhang, Tibet.
Vegetarian meal at Buddhist temple. East Asian Buddhism tends to promote vegetarianism.
A depiction of the supposed First Buddhist council at Rajgir. Communal recitation was one of the original ways of transmitting and preserving Early Buddhist texts.
Gandhara birchbark scroll fragments (c. 1st century) from British Library Collection
The Tripiṭaka Koreana in South Korea, an edition of the Chinese Buddhist canon carved and preserved in over 81,000 wood printing blocks
Buddhist monk Geshe Konchog Wangdu reads Mahayana sutras from an old woodblock copy of the Tibetan Kanjur.
Mahākāśyapa meets an Ājīvika ascetic, one of the common Śramaṇa groups in ancient India
Ajanta Caves, Cave 10, a first period type chaitya worship hall with stupa but no idols.
Sanchi Stupa No. 3, near Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, India.
Map of the Buddhist missions during the reign of Ashoka according to the Edicts of Ashoka.
Extent of Buddhism and trade routes in the 1st century CE.
Buddhist expansion throughout Asia
A Buddhist triad depicting, left to right, a Kushan, the future buddha Maitreya, Gautama Buddha, the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, and a monk. Second–third century. Guimet Museum
Site of Nalanda University, a great center of Mahāyāna thought
Vajrayana adopted deities such as Bhairava, known as Yamantaka in Tibetan Buddhism.
Angkor Thom build by Khmer King Jayavarman VII (c. 1120–1218).
Distribution of major Buddhist traditions
Buddhists of various traditions, Yeunten Ling Tibetan Institute
Monastics and white clad laypersons celebrate Vesak, Vipassakna Dhaurak, Cambodia
Chinese Buddhist monks performing a formal ceremony in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China.
Tibetan Buddhists practicing Chöd with various ritual implements, such as the Damaru drum, hand-bell, and Kangling (thighbone trumpet).
Ruins of a temple at the Erdene Zuu Monastery complex in Mongolia.
Buryat Buddhist monk in Siberia
1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago
Interior of the Thai Buddhist wat in Nukari, Nurmijärvi, Finland
Percentage of Buddhists by country, according to the Pew Research Center, as of 2010
A painting by G. B. Hooijer (c. 1916–1919) reconstructing a scene of Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world.
Frontispiece of the Chinese Diamond Sūtra, the oldest known dated printed book in the world

Buddhist schools vary in their interpretation of the path to liberation, the relative importance and canonicity assigned to the various Buddhist texts, and their specific teachings and practices.

The Buddhist Nalanda university and monastery was a major center of learning in India from the 5th century CE until the 12th century.

Buddhist philosophy

The Buddhist Nalanda university and monastery was a major center of learning in India from the 5th century CE until the 12th century.
Gautama Buddha surrounded by followers, from an 18th-century Burmese watercolour
Indian Emperor Aśoka and the elder Moggaliputta-Tissa, who is seen as a key thinker of the Vibhajyavāda tradition (and thus, of Theravada).
Buddhaghosa (c. 5th century), the most important Abhidharma scholar of Theravāda Buddhism, presenting three copies of the Visuddhimagga.
Nagarjuna, protected by the Nagas snake spirits who are said to be the guardians of the Prajnaparamita sutras.
Vasubandhu wrote in defense of Vijñapti-matra (appearance only) as well as writing a massive work on Abhidharma, the Abhidharmakosa.
Dignāga in formal debating stance
Abhayākaragupta, one of "the last great masters" of Indian Buddhism (Kapstein).
Tsongkapa, 15th-century painting, Rubin Museum of Art
Gorampa Sonam Senge
Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso.
Painting of Śramaṇa Zhiyi of the Tiantai school.
A 3D rendering of Indra's net.
The Garbhadhatu mandala. The center square represents the young stage of Vairocana Buddha.
A portrait of Gendün Chöphel in India, 1936.
Kitarō Nishida, professor of philosophy at Kyoto University and founder of the Kyoto School.

Buddhist philosophy refers to the philosophical investigations and systems of inquiry that developed among various Buddhist schools in India following the parinirvana (i.e. death) of the Buddha and later spread throughout Asia.

Nepalese Thangka with Prajñāpāramitā, the personification of transcendent wisdom, holding a Mahāyāna Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra

Mahayana sutras

The Mahāyāna Sūtras (𑀫𑀳𑀸𑀬𑀸𑀦 𑀲𑀽𑀢𑁆𑀭𑀸𑀡𑀺) are a broad genre of Buddhist sutra scriptures that are accepted as canonical and as buddhavacana ("Buddha word") in Mahāyāna Buddhism.

The Mahāyāna Sūtras (𑀫𑀳𑀸𑀬𑀸𑀦 𑀲𑀽𑀢𑁆𑀭𑀸𑀡𑀺) are a broad genre of Buddhist sutra scriptures that are accepted as canonical and as buddhavacana ("Buddha word") in Mahāyāna Buddhism.

Nepalese Thangka with Prajñāpāramitā, the personification of transcendent wisdom, holding a Mahāyāna Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra
A painting by Nicholas Roerich (1925) depicting Nāgārjuna in the realm of the Nagas, where the Prajñāpāramitā was said to have been hidden.
Folio from a manuscript of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra depicting Shadakshari Lokesvara, early 12th century, Opaque watercolor on palm leaf.
Chanting the Buddhist Scriptures, by Taiwanese painter Li Mei-shu
The Tripiṭaka Koreana, an early edition of the Chinese Buddhist canon
Sanskrit manuscript of the Heart Sūtra in the Siddhaṃ script. Bibliothèque nationale de France
The world's earliest printed book is a Chinese translation of the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra from Dunhuang (circa 868 CE).
The floating jeweled stupa; illustrated Lotus Sutra, Japan 1257.
Vietnamese Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra
A Goryeo (918-1392) illustration of the Descent of Maitreya Sutra, Myomanji, Kyoto, Japan.
Copy of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra from Dunhuang in the British Library
The layman Vimalakīrti Debates Manjusri, Dunhuang Mogao Caves
Goryeo Buddhāvataṃsaka manuscript, 14th century.
Jeweled pagoda mandala from a copy of the Golden Light Sutra. Japan, Heian period, 12th century
A Chinese illustration of the apotropaic Mahāpratisarādhāraṇī, in Sanskrit and Siddhaṃ script, Later Tang, 927 CE.

The Mahāyāna sūtras were not accepted by all Buddhists in India, and the various Indian Buddhist schools disagreed on their status as "word of the Buddha".

Distribution of major Buddhist traditions, East Asian Mahayana in yellow

East Asian Buddhism

Collective term for the schools of Mahāyāna Buddhism that developed across East Asia which follow the Chinese Buddhist canon.

Collective term for the schools of Mahāyāna Buddhism that developed across East Asia which follow the Chinese Buddhist canon.

Distribution of major Buddhist traditions, East Asian Mahayana in yellow
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, which practice as well as its architecture was designed in accordance with the Chinese Buddhist canon, in Singapore.
Statue of Budai (Maitreya)
Tablets of the Tripiṭaka Koreana, an early edition of the Chinese Buddhist canon, in Haeinsa Temple, South Korea

East Asian forms of Buddhism all derive from sinicized Buddhist schools that developed between the Han dynasty (when Buddhism was first introduced from Central Asia and Gandhara) and the Song dynasty, and therefore they are influenced by Chinese culture and philosophy.

A Tibetan vajra (club) and ghanta (bell).

Vajra

Ritual weapon symbolizing the properties of a diamond and a thunderbolt (irresistible force).

Ritual weapon symbolizing the properties of a diamond and a thunderbolt (irresistible force).

A Tibetan vajra (club) and ghanta (bell).
A viśvavajra or "double vajra" appears in the emblem of Bhutan.
Mahakala holding a vajra
Hindu god Indra riding on Airavata carrying a vajra. According to Hindu mythology this weapon is made of the bones of Maharshi Dadyhichi.
Indra's vajra as the privy seal of King Vajiravudh of Thailand
Five ritual objects used in Vajrayana at Itsukushima Shrine: a five-pronged short club (vajra) (五鈷杵 ), a pestle with a single sharp blade at each end (独鈷杵 ), a stand for vajra pestle and bell (金剛盤 ), a three-pronged pestle (三鈷杵 ), and a five-pronged bell (五鈷鈴 ).
Chinese four-pronged vajra and ghanta (ritual bell), made during the Xuande period of the Ming dynasty. In Chinese Buddhism, these instruments are usually utilized during esoteric rituals that incorporate tantric elements, such as the Grand Mengshan Food Bestowal ceremony (蒙山施食), the Yogacara Flaming Mouth ceremony (瑜伽焰口法會) and the Liberation Rite of Water and Land (水陸法會).
Vajrasattva holds the vajra in his right hand and a bell in his left hand.

In Buddhism, the vajra (dorje) is the symbol of Vajrayana, one of the three major schools of Buddhism.

Sri Lanka

Island country in South Asia.

Island country in South Asia.

Ptolemy's world map of Ceylon, first century CE, in a 1535 publication
The Avukana Buddha statue, a 12 m standing Buddha statue from the reign of Dhatusena of Anuradhapura, 5th century
The Sigiriya ("Lion Rock"), a rock fortress and city, built by King Kashyapa (477–495 CE) as a new more defensible capital. It was also used as a Buddhist monastery after the capital was moved back to Anuradhapura.
The seated image of Gal Vihara in Polonnaruwa, 12th century, which depicts the dhyana mudra, shows signs of Mahayana influence.
A 17th-century engraving of Dutch explorer Joris van Spilbergen meeting with King Vimaladharmasuriya in 1602
Sri Vikrama Rajasinha of Kandy, the last ruling native Sri Lankan monarch
British appointed Kandyan chief headmen in 1905.
The formal ceremony marking the start of self-rule, with the opening of the first parliament at Independence Square
Topographic map of Sri Lanka
A view of Sripada from Maskeliya
Sri Lanka map of Köppen climate classification
The Sri Lankan elephant is one of three recognised subspecies of the Asian elephant. The 2011 elephant census estimated a population of 5,879.
The Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) is an endangered subspecies of leopard native to Sri Lanka.
Maha rath mala (Rhododendron arboreum ssp. zeylanicum) is a rare sub-species of Rhododendron arboreum found in Central Highlands of Sri Lanka.
The old Sri Lankan Parliament building, near the Galle Face Green. It now serves as the Presidential Secretariat's headquarters.
The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, Colombo
President J. R. Jayewardene gifting a baby elephant to US President Ronald Reagan in 1984
Development of real GDP per capita, 1820 to 2018
A proportional representation of Sri Lanka exports, 2019
The Colombo World Trade Center in Colombo. Presidential Secretariat, Bank of Ceylon and Galadhari Hotel are also visible in the image.
Sri Lanka's most widely known export, Ceylon tea, which ISO considers the cleanest tea in the world in terms of pesticide residues. Sri Lanka is also the world's 2nd largest exporter of tea.
Sri Lanka's population, (1871–2001)
Development of life expectancy
The Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology is a research institute specialising in the field of nanotechnology.
Hindu devotees engaging in Kavadi at a temple in Vavuniya
Sri Lankan rice and curry
Female dancers in traditional Kandyan dress
The Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre was constructed as a major venue for the performing arts
A Low Country drummer playing the traditional Yak Béra
R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.

Succeeding kingdoms of Sri Lanka would maintain many Buddhist schools and monasteries and support the propagation of Buddhism into other countries in Southeast Asia.

Painting of Nāgārjuna from the Shingon Hassozō, a series of scrolls authored by the Shingon school of Buddhism. Japan, Kamakura Period (13th-14th century)

Nagarjuna

Nāgārjuna (c.

Nāgārjuna (c.

Painting of Nāgārjuna from the Shingon Hassozō, a series of scrolls authored by the Shingon school of Buddhism. Japan, Kamakura Period (13th-14th century)
A map of the Satavahana Kingdom, showing the location of Amaravathi (where Nāgārjuna may have lived and worked according to Walser) and Vidarbha (the birthplace of Nāgārjuna according to Kumārajīva).
A model of the Amaravati Stupa
Nicholas Roerich "Nagarjuna Conqueror of the Serpent" (1925)
Golden statue of Nāgārjuna at Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery, Scotland

At this point in Buddhist history, the Buddhist community was already divided into various Buddhist schools and had spread throughout India.

The Buddhist Movement for Dalits was begun by Ambedkar when he converted with his followers in 1956 in Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur

Dalit Buddhist movement

Religious as well as a socio-political movement among Dalits in India which was started by B. R. Ambedkar.

Religious as well as a socio-political movement among Dalits in India which was started by B. R. Ambedkar.

The Buddhist Movement for Dalits was begun by Ambedkar when he converted with his followers in 1956 in Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur
Ambedkar delivering a speech to a rally at Yeola, Nashik, on 13 October 1935
Ambedkar delivering speech during conversion, Nagpur, 14 October 1956
Statue of B.R.Ambedkar inside Ambedkar Park, Lucknow
Flag symbolises Dalit movement in India.
Deekshabhoomi Stupa in Nagpur where Ambedkar converted to Buddhism.

It radically re-interpreted Buddhism and created a new school of Buddhism called Navayana.

Buddhism in Japan

Buddhism has been practiced in Japan since about the 6th century CE.

Buddhism has been practiced in Japan since about the 6th century CE.

The Great Buddha of Asuka-dera, the oldest Buddha statue in Japan, and an example of the Tori style.
Painting depicting the semi-legendary Prince Shōtoku (574-622), the first major sponsor of Buddhism in Japan. Colors on silk, 14th century or earlier.
The Yumedono Kannon, another example of the Tori style.
A model of Yakushi-ji, a major imperial temple of Nara
Model of the garan of Todaiji seen from the north side
Todaiji's Great Buddha (Daibutsu)
An illustration of Saichō with tea leaves. He is known for having introduced tea to Japan.
Sanjūsangen-dō in Kyoto, a print of a Tendai temple, by Toyoharu, c. 1772–1781
Statue of Kūya by Kōshō, son of Unkei, dating to the first decade of the thirteenth century. The six syllables of the nembutsu, na-mu-a-mi-da-butsu, are represented literally by six small Amida figures streaming from Kūya's mouth.
A scroll depicting the kami Hachiman dressed as a Buddhist monk, an example of Shinbutsu-shūgō ("syncretism of kami and buddhas").
Sutra art from the Heike-Nôkyô, chapter 12.
An illustration of Hōnen preaching
Ninshō
A 20th century depiction of the banishment of Nichiren in 1261.
The main gate of Tōfuku-ji, the oldest sanmon in Japan.
Tenryū-ji's Sōgen Pond, designed by Musō Soseki.
The Hansōbō shrine, a Shinto shrine at the Rinzai temple of Kenchō-ji.
Kinkaku-ji, ("the Temple of the Golden Pavilion'), is a Rinzai Zen temple built in the Muromachi period (c. 1397) and destroyed during the Onin War (it was later rebuilt).
A model of Ishiyama Hongan-ji in Osaka, one of the main fortress-temple complex of the True Pure Land (Jōdo Shinshū) "Devoted League" (Ikko-Ikki).
The Battle of Ishiyama Hongan-ji, by Utagawa Yoshifuji
Portrait of Chinese monk Yinyuan (Ingen), who founded the Ōbaku school
Making Prints, by Hosoki Toshikazu c. 1879
Buddhist temple bells being smelted for bronze during the haibutsu kishaku
Soka Gakkai's Tokyo headquarters
Kōfuku-ji, the national headquarters of the Hossō school.
Tōdai-ji, the head temple of the Kegon school
The Golden Hall (kondō) at Yakushi-ji
Chion-in, the head temple of Jōdo-shū.
A traditional map of Eihei-ji, the main temple of the Sōtō school.
A print of the Nichiren Shū temple Ikegami Honmon-ji by Hiroshige.
Bodhidharma (Chinese: 達磨; Hiragana: だるま; Romanji: Daruma), painted by Miyamoto Musashi, swordsman artist and philosopher close to Takuan Soho monk of the Rinzai school (linked to the samurai caste) founded by the 28th Patriarch.
Vine and grape scrolls from Nara, 7th century.

Japanese Buddhism (Nihon Bukkyō) created many new Buddhist schools, and some schools are original to Japan and some are derived from Chinese Buddhist schools.

Dīpankara Buddha (Bahi-dyah) on display during Gunla.

Newar Buddhism

Form of Vajrayana Buddhism practiced by the Newar people of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.

Form of Vajrayana Buddhism practiced by the Newar people of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.

Dīpankara Buddha (Bahi-dyah) on display during Gunla.
The bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, 16th century CE.
A Vajracharya priest
Seto Machindranath Jatra at the Temple of Annapurna

As a result, Newar Buddhism seems to preserve some aspects of Indian Buddhism that were not preserved in schools of Buddhism elsewhere.