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Buddha and Buddhism

Buddhism is a philosophy of life expounded by Siddhartha Gautama (in Sanskrit, or Gotama in Pali), the Buddha, who lived and taught in India in the 6th century B.C. The term Buddha, literally meaning "awakened one "or "enlighten one", is a title such as Messiah (the Christ). The Buddha was not a god and his teachings were aimed solely to liberate sentient beings from suffering and from the cycle of existence. The system of the Buddha's teaching includes thought and practice that presents a complete path towards liberation from this bondage is called the vehicle of the Buddha.


Within the Buddha's Vehicle there are three major systems of thought and practice. These are:

  • Hinayana: the vehicle of individual liberation. This includes the Theravada system, the predominant form of Buddhism in many Asian countries, such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, and others.

  • Mahayana: the vehicle of universal salvation, embracing the various traditions within China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.

  • Vajrayana: the vehicle of tantra. It is sometimes included within Mahayana. It is considered by the Tibetan tradition and some Mahayana doctrines to be the highest vehicle.


Teachers from all schools made their way to the West starting from around 1950. Some preserve their lineages as found in the country of origin, while others have adopted less traditional approaches. But most of the teachers are maintaining the same terminology even though some English names are different due to translators' different backgrounds and lineages.



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