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Branches of Buddhism. The 2 main schools of Buddhism are Mahayana and Theravada. Early Buddhism. After Buddha’s parinirvana : the sangha continued to operate. They met to keep the teachings consistent. Since the monks and nuns travelled a lot, the views began to change.

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branches of buddhism

Branches of Buddhism

The 2 main schools of Buddhism are Mahayana and Theravada

early buddhism
Early Buddhism
  • After Buddha’s parinirvana:
  • the sangha continued to operate.
  • They met to keep the teachings consistent.
  • Since the monks and nuns travelled a lot, the views began to change.
  • Buddhist practices merged with local customs.
  • The community disagreed about which scriptures to recognize.
  • Both the main schools recognize the Tripitaka as their scripture.
theravada buddhism
Theravada Buddhism
  • The “way of the elders”, formerly known as Hinayana (“the lesser vehicle”)
  • Oldest, most conservative
  • Only accepts Tripitaka
  • does not see Buddha as a god
  • meditation helps monks reach enlightenment
  • Ideal human state = arhat
  • Spread initially through monks and nuns sent out by the Emperor Ashoka
theravadin practices
Theravadin practices
  • Lay people’s main focus is 3 things:
  • Dana (giving to monks) – sila(morality) – bhavana(meditation, beginning w puja)
  • Monks live a very structured life of meditation, study and chanting; community supports them completely.
  • Their goal is panna (wisdom) – sila(morality) – samadhi (mental training to reach enlightenment)
performing dana thai monks collecting alms http www youtube com watch v hn f 2ug ki
Performing dana“Thai monks collecting alms”
mahayana buddhism
Mahayana Buddhism
  • This branch includes Zen, Pure Land Buddhism, Tibetan (aka Vajrayana) and others.
  • “the greater vehicle”
  • Many Mahayana Buddhists see Buddha as god
  • Believe in many Buddhas and people pray to them
  • Ideal human state = bodhisattva (also Buddhahood)
  • Recognize Tripitaka and many sutras as scriptures
  • Rituals reflect culture of the people
mahayana devotion
Mahayana devotion
  • Compared to Theravada, Mahayana is far more devotional (love of a god) and lay-focused.

Cundi and Avalokitesvara (many forms exist of both)


Bodhisattva’s paying respect to the Buddha (l), Matreiya Buddha(r), the Buddha who is yet to come – sometimes depicted as Budai


Amida Buddha (Pure Land Sect) (l) and Guan Yin (r) with Amida Buddha in her crown. Guan Yin has many names and forms in different countries – often called Goddess of Mercy

mahayana practices
Mahayana practices
  • Meditation – focus on an object (a Buddha image, a flower), a saying of B. Meditation varies – sitting, walking, working
  • Chanting mantras, e.g. OM MANI PADME HUM (Tibetan) –counted on a mala
  • Compassion
  • Specific practices for certain subgroups
  • Puja
  • dana
mahayana subgroups
Mahayana subgroups
  • Zen
  • (asian art museum)
  • The Zen Mind
branch comparisons
Branch comparisons
  • Theravada
  • Humans are individual
  • Wisdom is key belief
  • Religion is for monks
  • Meditation is the key practice
  • Early scriptures in Pali(dhamma, kamma)
  • Mahayana
  • Communities are important
  • Compassion is key belief
  • Religion is for everyone
  • People pray for requests
  • Scriptures in Sanskrit (dharma, karma)
what both schools agree on
What both schools agree on
  • Buddha is the only master and the ideal example
  • One must take refuge in the Buddha, dharma and sangha
  • This world is not created by a god
  • One must accept the 4 Noble Truths
  • All things are impermanent
how is tibet different
How is Tibet different?
  • emerged later in history (750 CE)
  • included in Mahayana
  • AKA esoteric Buddhism
  • Combined with native Tibetan religion
  • Ritualistic (mantras and using thangkas and mandalas) – builds concentration
  • Spiritual and political leader is Dalai Lama
  • Scriptures are translated to Tibetan
  • Practices include prayer wheels, flags and singing bowls
tibetan buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism
  • Like other Mahayana groups, there is great concern for gaining merit (another word for good karma) and spreading compassion and peace.

Tibetan tour – prayer flags, wheels, mani stone pile (4:16)

  • Life of an Australian Buddhist monk (5:23) “The Monk Story”
  • A Day in the Life of Buddhist Zen Monks (1:52)

Buddhist Spirituality and Modernity

  • Tibet Tech Prayer Wheel (1:40)

  • Traditional Prayer wheels (both less than 1 min)
  • Tibetan singing bowl (2:53)
buddhism and modernity
Buddhism and Modernity
  • Jews in Buddhism
  • SokaGakkai-
  • The Beastie Boys – Bodhisattva Vow