Buddhism- An introduction

Buddhism is a religion based on the teachings of Gautam Buddha between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE. The main aim of Buddhism is to help sentient beings eliminate suffering by removing ignorance and desires and attaining Nirvana or enlightenment.

There are three main branches of Buddhism-Theravada(teachings of the elders), Mahayana(the great vehicle) and Vajrayana(the thunderbolt vehicle). Sometimes Vajrayana is also referred to as a part of Mahayana. Theravada is practised in Sri Lanka and South East Asia like Thailand, Cambodia, Laos etc, Mahayana is practised in East Asia like China, Japan, Singapore Vietnam etc and Vajrayana is practised in Tibet and Mongolia.

Common Ground for all the Schools of Buddhism

1.   Siddhartha Gautam Buddha or Shakyamuni Buddha is the historical and original founder of Buddhism.

2.   The basic foundation of all schools are –

a)   The three Universal Seals or the three Marks of Existence–  Suffering, Impermanence and Non Self.

b)   The Four Noble Truths

1) The Truth of suffering or dukkha

2) The truth of the origin of suffering

3)The truth of the cessation of suffering

4)The truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering.

c) The Noble Eight fold path

1) Right View

2) Right Intention

3) Right Speech

4) Right Action

5) Right Livelihood

6) Right Effort

7) Right Mindfulness

8) Right Concentration

d)Twelve links of dependent origination

1)Ignorance or Avidya

2)Karma or Samskaras

3)Consciousness or Vijnana

4)Name and Form or Nama Rupa ie.mind and body

5)The Six sense organs or Sadayatana

6) Impressions or Sparsha

7)Feelings or Vedana

8)Craving or Trishna

9)Clinging or Upadana

10)Existence or Bhava

11) Birth or Jati

12)Old age and death or Jaramarana

3.Threefold Training –Precepts, Meditation, Wisdom

4.Classification of Buddhist Teachings-Sutra, Vinaya, Shastra

5.Taming and Control of the Mind-Mind over Matter Concept

Differences between Theravada and Mahayana Schools





Buddha Only Gautam Buddha or Shakyamuni and past Buddhas are accepted Besides Gautam Buddha other contemporary Buddhas like Amitabha Buddha and Nagarjuna  are also accepted
Bodhisattvas Only Maitreya Bodhisattva is accepted All Boddhisattvas are accepted.eg-Avalokiteshwara,Vajrapani, Akashagarbha etc
Objective Becoming a Arahant or a Buddha who is awakened but generally cannot teach others(Pacceka Buddha) Buddhahood via the Bodhisattva path
Scriptures Pali Canon of three baskets called Tipitaka(Vinaya Pitaka,Sutta Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka) Mahayana Canon of three baskets(Tipitaka)-Disciplines,Sutras,

Dharma analysis.

Concept Main emphasis on self liberation Helping other sentient beings to liberation
Language Since Tipitaka is strictly in Pali,Dharma teachings are in Pali along with the local language. Original language is in Sanskrit and it has been translated into local languages.
Rituals Less emphasis on rituals. More emphasis on rituals.


Mantras and Mudras Used moderately Used extensively
Vegetarianism and meals Not Compulsory and mostly one meal a day Practised extensively though not compulsory.Number of Meals is left to the disposition of each individual
Worship Generally simple image of Buddha Elaborate with chambers/halls even for Amitabh Buddha and Nagarjuna and for Bodhisattvas like Avalokiteshwara,Maitreya etc.
Influences Influenced by Indian/Brahmin ideologies Influenced by Confucianism and Taoism

Vajrayana Buddhism is generally considered a branch of Mahayana of which the most famous one is Tibetan Buddhism where the Guru or Lama is the central focal point of the religion.


Published On: 29-05-2014