Buddhist Schools 2
In the Buddhist countries of southern Asia, there never arose any serious differences on the fundamentals of Buddhism. All these countries - Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, have accepted the principles of the Theravada school and any differences there might be between the various schools is restricted to minor matters.
The earliest available teachings of the Buddha are to be found in Pali literature and belongs to the school of the Theravadins, who may be called the most orthodox school of Buddhism. This school admits the human characteristics of the Buddha, and is characterised by a psychological understanding of human nature; and emphasises a meditative approach to the transformation of consciousness. The teaching of the Buddha according to this school is very plain. He asks us to 'abstain from all kinds of evil, to accumulate all that is good and to purify our mind'. These can be accomplished by The Three Trainings: the development of ethical conduct, meditation and insight -wisdom.
The philosophy of this school is that all worldly phenomena are subject to three characteristics - they are impermanent and transient; unsatisfactory and that there is nothing in them which can be called one's own, nothing substantial, nothing permanent. All compounded things are made up of two elements - the non-material part and the material part. They are further described as consisting of nothing but five constituent groups, namely the material quality, and the four non-material qualities - sensations, perception, mental formatives and consciousness. When that perfected state of insight is reached, i.e. Nibanna, that person is a 'worthy person' an Arhat. The life of the Arhat is the ideal of the followers of this school, a life where all (future) birth is at an end, where the holy life is fully achieved, where all that has to be done has been done, and there is no more returning to the worldly life'.
The Mahayana is more of an umbrella body for a great variety of schools, from the Tantra school (the secret teaching of Yoga) well represented in Tibet and Nepal to the Pure Land sect, whose essential teaching is that salvation can be attained only through absolute trust in the saving power of Amitabha, longing to be reborn in his paradise through his grace, which are found in China, Korea and Japan. Ch'an and Zen Buddhism, of China and Japan, are meditation schools.
It is generally accepted, that what we know today as the Mahayana arose from the Mahasanghikas sect who were the earliest seceders, and the forerunners of the Mahayana. They took up the cause of their new sect with zeal and enthusiasm and in a few decades grew remarkably in power and popularity. They adapted the existing monastic rules and thus revolutionised the Buddhist Order of Monks. Moreover, they made alterations in the arrangements and interpretation of the Sutra (Discourses) and the Vinaya (Rules) texts. And they rejected certain portions of the canon, which had been accepted in the First Council. According to it, the Buddhas are lokottara (supramundane) and are connected only externally with the worldly life. This conception of the Buddha contributed much to the growth of the Mahayana philosophy. The ideal of the Mahayana school is that of the Bodhisattva, a person who delays his or her own enlightenment in order to compassionately assist all other beings and ultimately attains to the highest Bodhi.
Mahayana Lineages Imported from India - Chinese Buddhism
Madhyamika (San Lun, Ch.) Based on the Chinese translation of Nagarjuna's (second century) Madhyamika Karika and two other works of uncertain authorship, this lineage emphasized the notion of shunyata (emptiness) and wu (nonbeing). So rigorous was the teaching of this lineage, that it declared that the elements constituting perceived objects, when examined, are really no more than mental phenonena and have no true existence.
Founded in the third century by
Maitreyanatha and made famous by Asanga and Vasubandhu in the fourth or fifth
century, this school held that the source of all ideas is vijρana
("consciousness"), which is seen as the fundamental basis of existence. Ultimate
Reality is therefore only perceived but has not real existence.
Indigenous Mahayana Lineages
T'ien T'ai Named after the mountains on which the founder Zhi Yi (d. 597 C.E.) resided, this lineage is based on a scheme of classification intended to integrate and harmonize the vast array of Buddhist scriptures and doctrines. This scheme of classification is based on the Buddhist doctrine of upaya ("skilful means"). The most important form of Buddhism for this lineage is the Mahayana devotionalism found in the Lotus Sutra.
Avatamsaka (Hua Yen, Ch.) This lineage takes its name from the Avatamsaka Sutra, its central sacred text, and like the T'ien T'ai school is oriented towards a classification of sutras. Basic to this lineage is the assertion that all particulars are merely manifestations of the absolute mind and are therefore fundamentally the same.
Pure Land (Amitabha) Based on the Sukhavati Vyuha ("Pure Land Sutra"), this lineage was founded in 402 C.E. by Hui Yuan. The Pure Land lineage held that the spiritual quality of the world has been in decline since its height during the lifetime of the Buddha and taught followers to cultivate through prayer and devotion a sincere intent to be reborn in the heavenly paradise of the Buddha Amitabha.
Ch'an Its name is derived from the Sanskrit term dhyana (meditation), this lineage emphasises meditation as the only means to a spiritual awakening beyond words or thought, dispensing almost entirely with the teachings and practices of traditional Buddhism. Ch'an is thought to have been brought to China by the enigmatic South Indian monk Bodhidharma in about the year 500 C.E.
This is the kind of Buddhism predominant in
the Himalayan nations of Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and also Mongolia. It is known as
Vajrayana because of the ritual use of the vajra, a symbol of
imperishable diamond, of thunder and lightning. At the center of Tibetan
Buddhism is the religious figure called the lama, Tibetan for "guru"," source of
another of its names, Lamaism. Several major lineages of lamas developed,
beginning in the ninth century with the Nyingma-pa. Two centuries later, Sarma-pa
divided into the Sakya -pa and the Kagyu-pa. Three hundred years later, one of
Tibet's revered lamas, Tsong-kha-pa, founded the reforming Gelug -pa.
Tibetan Buddhist Lineages
Nyingma-pa Tracing its origin to the Indian adept, Guru Padma-sambhava, who came to Tibet in 817 C.E. at the invitation of King Trisong Detsen (742-797) in order to subdue the evil forces then impeding the spread of Buddhism. This lineage of Buddhism is uniquely Tibetan in that many aspects of the traditional Bon religion are mixed together with more properly Buddhist beliefs and practices to form a unique expression of Buddhist piety. This lineage emphasizes the move towards more advance stages of enlightenment through "preliminary practice" that comprises the beliefs and practices of Buddhism before the advent of Tantra, and through the "higher practices," which involve the attainment of enlightenment through the chanting of magical spells, special hand gestures and mystical diagrams.
Sakya-pa The lineage has descended intact up to the present time from Khon K φnchok Gyelpo(1034-1102), founder of the Sakya tradition. From the doctrinal point of view the tradition traces its origins to the Indian Yogin Virupa through Gayadhara. His disciple Drogmi Shakya Yeshe (992-1074) travelled to India where he received teachings on the Kalachakra, the Path and its Fruit, and others from many Indian masters and returned to Tibet. Later, Khon K φnchok Gyelpo, one of his main disciples, built a monastery in the Tsang province of central Tibet and named it Sakya, or Grey Earth monastery. So the school took its name, Sakya, from the location of the monastery. Succession to the position of head of the Sakya tradition has been hereditary since the time of Khon K φnchok Gyelpo. The present incumbent is the 4lst occupant of the Sakya Throne. The central teaching and practice of the Sakya -pa, called Lamdre (Lam-bras), the Path and Its Fruit, ultimately leads a practitioner to the state of Hevajra. The Path and Its Fruit is a synthesis of the entire paths and fruits of both the exoteric and esoteric classes of teachings.
Kagyu-pa The lineages of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism derive primarily from two sources: Marpa Chφkyi Lodro (1012-1099) and Khyungpo Nyaljor (978 -1079). Marpa received the lineage of tantric teachings called the Four Commissioned Lineages - concerning the Illusory Body and Consciousness Transference, Dreams, Clear Light, and Inner Heat directly from Naropa (1016-1100), who had been given them by his teacher Tilopa (988-1069). Mahamudra, the unique feature of Kagyu tradition, can be explained according to interpretations of sutra and tantra. Both aspects of the teachings are aimed at direct understanding of the real nature of the mind. The approach to Mahamudra, which differs slightly within each Kagyu school, generally follows through the stages of foundation, path and fruit. Tantric practices unique to Kagyu tradition are the Six Yogas of Naropa, Chakrasambhava and Mahakala. In the context of tantric practice, the application of Mahamudra becomes much more profound and sophisticated. The Karma Kagyu was founded by the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (1110 -1193). This tradition has remained strong and successful due in large part to the presence of an unbroken line of reincarnations of the founder, the successive Karmapas.
Gelug-pa Founded by Tsong-kha-pa (1357-1419) as a reform movement within Tibetan Buddhism, followers acclaimed the third teacher as an incarnation of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, thus inaugurating the line of the Dalai Lama, the fourteenth and most recent of whom was born in 1935. Emphasis in this lineage is on a strict monastic discipline and on the conviction that the bodhisattva, a Buddha who has foregone final nirvana out of compassion for all sentient beings, is continually present. This tradition remains dynamic even after coming into exile. The major Gelug monasteries, Sera, Drepung, Ganden, and Tashi Lhunpo monasteries and Gyumey Tantric College have been re -established in various Tibetan settlements in Karnataka, and Gyut φ Tantric College has been reestablished in Bomdila, Arunachal Pradesh, all in India.
(Old School; School of the Ancient Ones)
(New Translation Schools)
(School that came from Gaden Monastery)
The Chinese possess a history of over five thousand years. An important component, which had yielded fruitful results on Chinese culture, is Indian Buddhism. One will realise this enormous influence when reading the cultural History of China. If one tries to talk about Chinese culture without touching on Buddhism, one will be in the position of a blind man as told in the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant.
Buddhism had been established some twenty -five centuries ago. It had been transmitted to China during the Ch'in and Han Dynasties some five hundred years after the Parinirvana of Sakyamuni Buddha. Buddhism in China had risen and fallen according to the law of constant changes during the past two thousand years. Nevertheless it had been well established in China. In the past it had not been greatly affected by the upheavals and chaos of political changes. For me the Chinese have been open-minded in their nature and have been capable of absorbing foreign culture. That is why Buddhism, when introduced into the well-cultured land of China, has flourished abundantly and developed fruitfully.
The golden age of Chinese Buddhism was from the age of the Three Kingdoms to the T'ang Dynasty. During this period the various Schools in Buddhism evolved their theories based on the doctrine of Sakyamuni Buddha.
Historically speaking the rise and fall of
the various schools had been closely connected to the evolution of cultural
thoughts and current events in China. For the past fifty years, the social
system of China had been changed from Absolute Monarchy to Constitutional
Monarchy, Republicanism and then to Socialism. Brief introduction to the ten
schools of Chinese Buddhism:
1. Reality School or Kosa School or Abhidharma School.
2. Satysiddhi School or Cheng-se School.
3. Three Sastra School or San-lun School.
4. The Lotus School or T'ien-t'ai
5. The Garland School or
6. Intuitive School or Ch'an School or Dhyana School.
7. Discipline School or Lu School or Vinaya School.
8. Esoteric School or Chen-yien School or Mantra School.
9. Dharmalaksana School or Ch'u-en School or Fa-siang School.
10. Pure-land School or Sukhavati School or Ching-t'u School.
The principles of all the above schools are based on the partial doctrine of Sakyamuni Buddha. In the beginning there were no such things as schools in Buddhism. The disciples of Buddha, however, took up what had been most beneficial and most practicable for them. Thus ten schools have evolved. Buddhism in China may also be divided into thirteen schools, but the other three have been absorbed within the ten.
The various schools may be further
classified into Mahayana and Theravada; esoteric teachings and open teachings,
and the easy way as contrasted to the hard way of salvation. The Kosa and
Satysiddhi schools belong to Theravada whereas the other eight belong to the
Mahayana. The Mantra School belongs to the esoteric teachings whereas the other
nine are open teachings. The Pure-land School is the easy way of salvation as
compared to the other nine schools, which are the hard way. This is just a
general view of classification on the Buddhist Schools in China. (Description
of the Ten Individual Chinese Schools).
Tendai (T'ien Tai, Chinese): Founded in Japan by Saicho (d. 822 C.E.), this lineage quickly rose to prominence as the most important lineage in Japanese Buddhism. The basic doctrine of this lineage and the Chinese T'ien Tai are the same, as in their reverence for the Lotus Sutra, but Tendai differs in its emphasis on the mystical and esoteric aspects of Buddhism. The four primary categories of this lineage are (1) morality, (2) monastic discipline, (3) esoteric practices, and (4) meditation.
Shingon: Founded by Kukai (d. 835 C.E), this lineage grew to rival the Tendai lineage as early as the late ninth century. The Shingon belief system was tantric and taught that through mantras (short, repetitive incantations), meditation and the performance of hand gesture one can gain access to the power of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas.
Jodo or Pure Land: Began at the time of the publication of the treatise of Honen (d. 1212 C.E) entitled Senchakushu, this lineage traces its scriptural heritage to the Pure Land Sutra (Sukhavati Vyuha), which prescribes loving devotion to the Buddha Amida as a means of being reborn in the Pure Land, or the paradise over which he presides. Pure Land prayer centres on the repetition on the phrase namu amida butsu ("Homage to Amida Buddha") and became one of the most popular forms of Buddhism in Japan.
Joho Shinshu or True Pure Land: Founded by Shinran (d. 1262 C.E), this lineage takes Pure Land teaching one step further, claiming that humility and faith in Amida's love are in themselves true signs that the redeeming grace of the Buddha has already been bestowed. Amida Buddha seeks and saves without first requiring faith and good works. These spring up spontaneously from Amida's spiritual presence in the heart.
Nichiren: Named after its founder Nichiren (d. 1282 C.E), this lineage was founded on the Lotus Sutra and taught that the mere repetition of the title of that sutra Nam-myoho-renge-kyo ("Homage to the Lotus Sutra") was sufficient to gain one access to paradise.
Zen (Soto and Rinzai Sects): The monk Eisai (d. 1215 C.E) is usually considered the first proponent of Zen in Japan, although Ch'an had existed since the early sixth century and probably existed also in Japan before Eisai's time. The earliest forms of Zen generally avoided intellectualism and de -emphasized scriptures, doctrines and ceremonial. Eisai, whose form of Zen took on the name of Rinzai (Lin -chi, Ch.) affirmed the authority of the traditional Buddhist scriptures and used the koan or meditational riddle as a means of transcending linear thinking. Soto Zen (Ts'ao-tung, Ch.), tracing its roots back to Dogen (d. 1253 C.E), also affirmed the validity of the Buddhist scriptures but de-emphasized the use of koans and focused solely on extended, silent meditation.
Sakayamuni Buddha is the original and historical founder of Buddhism.
The Three Universal Seals, Four Noble Truths, Eight Fold Paths and Twelve Links of Dependent Origination are the basic foundation to all schools of Buddhism including the Tibetan schools of Vajrayana.
Threefold training of Precepts, Meditation and Wisdom is universal to all schools.
Organization of the Buddhist teachings / Dharma into three classifications (Sutra, Vinaya and Sastra) is practiced among the Buddhist Canons of various countries.
Mind over matter concept. Mind as the principal area of taming and control is fundamental to all schools.
By purchasing your books or CDs at Amazon.com using our link, you will help support this website. Thank you!
Copyright © 2002-2008