Schools of Buddhism

Schools of Buddhism

The Schools of Buddhism. Buddhism is classified in various ways. The normal English-language usage, as given in dictionaries, divides it into Theravada (also known by the name Hinayana, which many consider derogatory) and Mahayana. The most common classification among scholars is threefold, with Mahayana split into East Asian (also known simply as Mahayana) and Tibetan traditions (Secret Mantra or Vajrayana; the term Vajrayana is often used so as to also include the Japanese Shingon school).


The article "Buddhism, schools of" in the Macmillan "Encyclopedia of Religion" distinguishes three different types of classification:

* movements:
** Hinayana
** Mahayana
** Vajrayana
* nikayas or monastic fraternities; three of these survive at the present day:
** Theravada, in Southeast Asia
** Dharmaguptaka, in China, Korea and Vietnam
** Mulasarvastivada, in the Tibetan tradition
* doctrinal schools


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:

;Conservative Buddhism: An alternative name for the early Buddhist schools.;Early Buddhist Schools: The schools into which Buddhism became divided in its first few centuries; only one of these survives as an independent school, Theravada;East Asian Buddhism: A term used by scholars [B & G, Gethin, R & J, P & K] page number to cover the Buddhist traditions of Japan, Korea, Singapore and most of China and Vietnam; Eastern Buddhism: An alternative name used by some scholars [Penguin, Harvey] page number for East Asian Buddhism; also sometimes used to refer to all traditional forms of Buddhism, as distinct from Western(ized) forms.; Esoteric Buddhism: Usually considered synonymous with Vajrayana. ["Encyclopedia of Religion", Macmillan, New York, volume 2, page 440] Some scholars have applied the term to certain practices found within the Theravada, particularly in Cambodia. ["Indian Insights", Luzac, London, 1997] page number; Hinayana: Often interpreted as a pejorative term, used in Mahayana doctrine to denigrate its opponents. [ "Hinayana (literally, “inferior way”) is a polemical term, which self-described Mahayana (literally, “great way”) Buddhist literature uses to denigrate its opponents." - p. 840, MacMillan Library Reference Encyclopedia of Buddhism, 2004] It is sometimes used to refer to the early Buddhist schools, including the contemporary Theravada, although the legitimacy of this is disputed. ["Hinayana is a designation that has no clearly identifiable external referent" - p. 840, MacMillan Library Reference Encyclopedia of Buddhism, 2004] Its use in scholarly publications is controversial. ["The supposed Mahayana-Hinayana dichotomy is so prevalent in Buddhist literature that it has yet fully to loosen its hold over scholarly representations of the religion." - p. 840, MacMillan Library Reference Encyclopedia of Buddhism, 2004] 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. ["It is also certain that Buddhist groups and individuals in China, Korea, Tibet, and Japan have in the past, as in the very recent present, identified themselves as Mahayana Buddhists, even if the polemical or value claim embedded in that term was only dimly felt, if at all.", Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism, 2004, page 492] 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 ["Penguin Handbook", pages 378f] regardless of school. The literal meaning of Hinayana can also be interpreted as "the small vehicle," referring to a raft meant to carry one person, as an arhat, to nirvana through their own effort, in contrast to the "large vehicle" of Mahayana meant to carry many there at once, piloted by a bodhisattva.; Lamaism: An old term, still sometimes used, synonymous with Tibetan Buddhism; widely considered derogatory.; Mahayana: A movement that emerged out of 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 ["Penguin Handbook"] page number regardless of school.; Mainstream Buddhism: A term used by some scholars for the early Buddhist schools.; Mantrayana: Usually considered synonymous with Vajrayana. [Harvey, pages 153ff] The Tendai school in Japan has been described as influenced by Mantrayana. ["Penguin Handbook"] page number; Nikaya Buddhism or schools: An alternative term for the early Buddhist schools.; Non-Mahayana: An alternative term for the early Buddhist schools.; Northern Buddhism: An alternative term used by some scholars [Penguin, Harvey] page number for Tibetan Buddhism. Also, an older term still sometimes used to encompass both East Asian and Tibetan traditions. It has even been used to refer to East Asian Buddhism alone, without Tibetan Buddhism.; Secret Mantra: An alternative rendering of mantrayana, a more literal translation of the term used by schools in Tibetan Buddhism when referring to themselves. [Hopkins, Jeffrey (1985) "The Ultimate Deity in Action Tantra and Jung's Warning against Identifying with the Deity" Buddhist-Christian Studies, Vol. 5, (1985), pp. 159-172] ; Sectarian Buddhism: An alternative name for the early Buddhist schools.; Southeast Asian Buddhism: An alternative name used by some scholars [R & J, P & K] page number for Theravada.; Southern Buddhism: An alternative name used by some scholars [Penguin, Harvey] page number for Theravada.; Sravakayana: An alternative term sometimes used for the early Buddhist schools.; Tantrayana or Tantric Buddhism: Usually considered synonymous with Vajrayana. [Harvey, pages 153ff] However, one scholar describes the tantra divisions of some editions of the Tibetan scriptures as including Sravakayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana texts [Skilling, "Mahasutras", volume II, Parts I & II, 1997, Pali Text Society, Lancaster, page 78] (see Buddhist texts). Some scholars ["Indian Insights", loc. cit.] page number have used the term tantric Theravada to refer to certain practices found particularly in Cambodia.; Theravada: 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. ["Encyclopedia of Religion", volume 2, Macmillan, New York, 1987, pages 440f; "Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy", sv Buddhism] ; Tibetan Buddhism: Usually understood as including the Buddhism of Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan and parts of China, India and Russia, which follow the Tibetan tradition.; Vajrayana: 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 [Harvey] page numberalso 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." [Lopez, "Buddhism in Practice", Princeton University Press, 1995, page 6]

Early schools

Numerous attempts have been made to tabulate these schools. Here is one.

**Pudgalavāda ('Personalist') (c. 280 BCE)
***Vibhajjavāda (prior to 240 BCE; during Aśoka)
****Theravāda (c. 240 BCE)
*****Theravada subschools (see below)
****Mahīśāsaka (after 232 BCE)
*****Dharmaguptaka (after 232 BCE)
****Kāśyapīya (after 232 BCE)
****Vatsīputrīya (under Aśoka) later name: Saṃmitīya
***Mūlasarvāstivāda (third and fourth centuries)
***Sautrāntika (between 50 BCE and c. 100 CE)
*IAST|Mahāsaṃghika ('Majority', c. 380 BCE)
**Ekavyahārikas (under Aśoka)
**Golulika (during Aśoka)
***Bahuśrutīya (late third century BCE)
***Prajñaptivāda (late third century BCE)
**Caitika (mid-first century BCE)
***Apara Śaila
***Uttara Śaila

Twenty sects

The following lists the twenty sects described as Hinayana in some Mahayana texts:

Sthaviravada (上座部) was split into 11 sects. These were:

:說一切有部(Sarvastivadin)、雪山部(Haimavata)、犢子部(Vatsiputriya)、法上部 (Dharmottara)、賢冑部(Bhadrayaniya)、正量部(Sammitiya)、密林山部(Channagirika)、化地部 (Mahisasaka)、法藏部(Dharmaguptaka)、飲光部(Kasyapiya)、經量部(Sautrāntika).

Sthaviravada─┬─ Haimavata──────────────────────────────────────────── └─ Sarvastivadin─┬─────────────────────────────────── ├ Vatsiputriya ─┬──────────────────── │ ├ Dharmottara─────── │ ├ Bhadrayaniya───── │ ├ Sammitiya──────── │ └ Channagirika───── ├ Mahisasaka─┬───────────────────── │ └ Dharmaguptaka────── ├ Kasyapiya──────────────────────── └ Sautrāntika──────────────────────

Mahasanghika (大眾部) was split into 9 sects. There were::一說部(Ekavyaharaka)、說出世部(Lokottaravadin)、雞胤部 (Kaukkutika)、多聞部(Bahussrutiya)、說假部(Prajnaptivada)、制多山部(Caitika)、西山住部 (Aparasaila)、北山住部(Uttarasaila).

Mahasanghika─┬──────────────────────┬───── ├ EkavyaharakaCaitikaLokottaravadinAparasailaKaukkutikaUttarasailaBahussrutiyaPrajnaptivada

Influences on East Asian schools

The following later schools used the Vinaya of the Dharmaguptaka:
*Chinese Buddhism, especially the Vinaya School
*Korean buddhism, especially Gyeyul
*Vietnamese Buddhism
*Japanese RitsuThe following involve philosophical influence:
*The Japanese Jojitsu is considered by some an offshoot of Sautrāntika; others consider it to be derived from Bahusrutiya
*The Chinese/Japanese Kusha school is considered an offshoot of Sarvastivada, influenced by Vasubandhu.

Theravada subschools

The different schools in Theravada often emphasize different aspects (or parts) of the Pali Canon and the later commentaries, or differ in the focus on (and recommended way of) practice. There are also significant differences in strictness or interpretation of the Vinaya.
**Sangharaj Nikaya
**Mahasthabir Nikaya
**Thudhamma Nikaya
***Vipassana tradition of Mahasi Sayadaw and disciples
**Shwekyin Nikaya
**Dvaya Nikaya or Dvara Nikaya (see Mendelson, "Sangha and State in Burma", Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 1975)
*"Sri Lanka":
**Siam Nikaya
***Waturawila (or Mahavihara Vamshika Shyamopali Vanavasa Nikaya)
**Amarapura Nikaya
***Kanduboda (or Swejin Nikaya)
***Tapovana (or Kalyanavamsa)
**Ramañña Nikaya
***Galduwa (or Kalyana Yogashramaya Samsthava)
**forest nikaya
**Maha Nikaya
***Dhammakaya Movement
**Thammayut Nikaya
***Thai Forest Tradition
****Tradition of Ajahn Chah

Mahāyāna schools

* Madhyamaka
** Prāsangaka
** Svatantrika
** Sanlun (Three Treatise school)
*** Sanron
** Maha-Madhyamaka (Jonangpa)
* Yogācāra
** Cittamatra in Tibet
** Wei-Shi (Consciousness-only school) or Faxiang (Dharma-character school)
*** Beopsang
*** Hossō
* Tathagatagarbha
** Daśabhūmikā (absorbed in to Huayan)
** Huayan (IAST|Avataṃsaka)
*** Hwaeom
*** Kegon
* Chan / Zen / Seon / Thien
***Won Buddhism: Korean Reformed Buddhism
* Pure Land (Amidism)
** Jodo
** Jodo Shin
* Tiantai (Lotus Sutra School)
** Cheontae
** Tendai (also contained Vajrayana elements)
* Nichiren
** Nichiren Shū
** Nichiren Shōshū
** Nipponzan Myōhōji
** Soka Gakkai

Tantric schools

"see also: Vajrayāna""Subcategorised according to predecessors"
* Tibetan Buddhism
**New Bön (synthesis of Yungdrung Bön and Nyingmapa)
***Shangpa Kagyu
***Rechung Kagyu
***Dagpo Kagyu
****Karma Kagyu (or Kamtshang Kagyu)
****Tsalpa Kagyu
****Baram Kagyu
****Pagtru Kagyu (or Phagmo Drugpa Kagyu)
*****Taglung Kagyu
*****Trophu Kagyu
*****Drukpa Kagyu
*****Martsang Kagyu
*****Yerpa Kagyu
*****Yazang Kagyu
*****Shugseb Kagyu
*****Drikung Kagyu
**Rime movement (ecumenical movement)
* Japanese Mikkyo
** Shingon
** Tendai (derived from Tiantai but added tantric practices)

New Buddhist movements

* Aum Shinrikyo (now known as Aleph)
* Friends of the Western Buddhist Order
* New Kadampa Tradition
* Share International
* True Buddha School
* Vipassana movement

ee also

*Buddhism by region
*Humanistic Buddhism
*Northern and Southern Buddhism
*Early Buddhist Schools
*Perfection of Wisdom School


Coleman, Graham, ed. (1993). "A Handbook of Tibetan Culture". Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc.. ISBN 1-57062-002-4.

Warder, A.K. (1970). "Indian Buddhism". Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

External links

* [ Mahayana vs. Theravada: a Multiform Comparison]
* [ The Sects of the Buddhists] by T.W. Rhys Davids, in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1891. pp.409-422
* [ Sects & Sectarianism - The origins of Buddhist Schools]
* [ Schools of Buddhism - The Origin of Early Buddhist Schools in Ancient India]

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