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Indian Political Thought: Buddhist traditions

Buddhism is a popular tradition worldwide and basically developed in India. Since ancient time, Buddhism was dominant in India. It is a major world religion, founded in north-eastern India and based on the lessons of Siddhartha Gautama, who is called the Buddha, or Enlightened One (Matthew J. Moore, 2016). Buddhist holiness is observed as something from within, an innate goodness in all humans that has been lost can now be found through practice and meditation. Buddhists must inspire themselves, and rely on their own efforts, not those of a magnetic leader. If followers of the Buddha began to respect the man, they would become distracted from their task impeding spiritual progress. According to Mark W. Muesse, a professor of religious studies, "Buddhist spirituality promotes a form of life that provides an antidote to the stresses of modern living. As a counterpoint to the haste and hurry, the noise and confusion of this world, Buddhism prescribes a life of quietness and tranquillity, a life of contemplation and gentle awareness" (Muesse, 2002).

Buddhism is not a single monolithic religion. Many of its supporters have combined the teachings of the Buddha with local religious rites, beliefs and customs. In this tradition, some conflict occurs, because Buddhism is a philosophical system to which such additions can be easily implanted. Buddhism includes a variety of rituals and practices, which are intended to help in the journey to enlightenment and bring blessings on oneself and others. While some activities are exclusive to certain expressions of Buddhism, there are others that are found in most of the popular forms of the belief system.

Buddha is the key persona in the religion of Buddhism, and accounts of his life, discourses and simple rules, which involve the renouncing of worldly pursuits in order to wholly devote one's self to spiritual work, are believed to have been summarized after his departure and are memorized by his followers. Collections of the teachings attributed to him were initially transferred to generations by oral tradition, and were first committed to writing about 400 years after his death.

In other religions such as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and Hinduism, Buddha is regarded as a diviner and in others, a god. Supporters of this religion identify Buddha as an enlightened teacher who shared his insights to help beings that are not enlightened and are therefore confined to death, rebirth and suffering to attain nirvana. Nirvana is described as a supreme state which allows one to be free of suffering and selfish or individual existence. Nirvana allows an individual to blow out the fires of hatred, greed and delusion and therefore end the cycle of sorrow in the individual's life.

Buddhist philosophy is described as the philosophical investigations and systems of inquiry that developed among various Buddhist schools in India following the death of the Buddha and later spread throughout Asia. Buddhism's main concern has always been freedom from dukkha (unease) and the path to that ultimate freedom consists in ethical action (karma), meditation and in understanding the nature of reality (prajna). Indian Buddhists sought this understanding not just from the exposed teachings of the Buddha, but through philosophical analysis and coherent deliberation. Buddhist philosophers in India and afterwards in East Asia have covered topics as phenomenology, ethics, ontology, epistemology, logic and philosophy of time in their analysis of this path.

Richard Gombrich has briefly explained Buddhism as, "For Buddhists, religion is purely a matter of understanding and practising the Dhamma [Sanskrit: Dharma], understanding and practice which constitute progress towards salvation. They conceive salvation or liberation, to use a more Indian term as the total eradication of greed, hatred and delusion. To attain, it is open to any human being, and it is ultimately the only thing worth attaining, for it is the only happiness which is not transient. A person who has attained it, will live on so long as his body keeps going, but thereafter not be reborn. Thus he will never have to suffer or die again.

For Buddhists, religion is what is relevant to this quest for salvation, and nothing else"(1988).

Early Buddhism was based on empirical indication gained by the sense organs (ayatana) and the Buddha seems to have retained a skeptical distance from certain metaphysical questions, rejecting to answer them because they were not conducive to liberation but led instead to further speculation. An intermittent theme in Buddhist philosophy has been the reification of concepts, and the successive return to the Buddhist Middle Way.

Conventionally, Buddhists throughout the Buddhist world consider that the universe contains more beings in it than are normally visible to humans. Buddhists have no objection to the existence of the Hindu gods, although they repudiate completely the existence of God as spoken of in orthodox Christianity, understood as the all-powerful, omniscient, all-good, and primordially existent creator deity, who can be thought of as in some sense a person.

Nonetheless, people cannot as a Buddhist take refuge in Hindu gods, for Hindu gods are not Buddhas. That is, they are not enlightened. This means that Hindu gods, for all their power, do not see the final truth of things. They do not understand it as it is. Power does not necessarily require insight, and for Buddhists the Hindu gods, unlike Buddhas, do not have that liberating insight. Thus, because they are not open-minded Hindu gods too ultimately suffer. They have been reborn as gods due to their good performances in the past (as we have been reborn human for the same reason), and gods too (like us humans) die, and are reborn elsewhere. We may ourselves be gods in our next lives, and, Buddhists would say, we certainly have been infinite times in the past, in our infinite series of previous lives. Gods may be reborn as humans (or worse, the round of rebirth includes e.g. animals, worms, ghosts, and sojourns in horrible hells as well). But none of this entails that Hindu gods do not exist.

Main factor of Buddhist philosophy have often been the subject of disagreements between different schools of Buddhism. These elaborations and disputes gave rise to various schools in early Buddhism of Abhidharma, and to the Mahayana traditions and schools of the prajnaparamita, Madhyamaka, Buddha-nature and Yogacara.

The basic thought of the Buddha:

The four Noble Truths: The method for the four Noble Truths is perhaps based on the formula for a medical diagnosis. That is, it states the illness, the source of the illness, then the cure for the illness, and finally the way to bring about that cure.

It can be said that The Buddha's first sermon after his Enlightenment focused on the Four Noble Truths, which are the basis of Buddhism. The truths are:

  1. The truth of suffering (dukkha)
  2. The truth of the cause of suffering (samudaya)
  3. The truth of the end of suffering (nirhodha)
  4. The truth of the path that frees us from suffering (magga)

1. The Truth of Suffering: The First Noble Truth often is interpreted as "Life is suffering." It is observed that many people do not have idea about Buddhism dogma as soon as they hear this. But the Pali word dukkha also denotes to anything that is temporary, conditional, or compounded of other things. Even something valuable and pleasing is dukkha, because it will end. Related to the nature of life is the nature of self. People want more and more from life and that is the core of the problem, egocentric desire. This is Buddha's diagnosis (Simpkins & Simpkins, 2000). People can understand that life is impermanent but are they, also, impermanent? The Buddha communicated that before people can understand life and death, they must understand the self.

2. The Truth of the Cause of Suffering: The Second Noble Truth in Buddha's teaching is Cause of Suffering. The cause of suffering is craving or thirst (tanha). People continually search for something outside ourselves to make them happy. But no matter how successful they are, they never remain satisfied. The Buddha taught that this thirst cultivates from ignorance of the self. People go through life grabbing one thing after another to get a sense of security about ourselves. They attach not only to physical things, but also to ideas and opinions about themselves and the world around them. Anger is one of the main causes for distress to others; it also will cause suffering within. People constantly engage in actions that cause anguish, either directly or indirectly (Simpkins & Simpkins, 2000). Then they become frustrated when the world does not behave the way they want and their lives do not conform to their expectations. The Buddha's teachings on karma and rebirth are narrowly related to the Second Noble Truth.

3. The Truth of the End of Suffering: The Buddha's teachings on the Four Noble Truths are compared to a physician identifying an illness and prescribing a treatment. The first truth tells what the illness is, and the second truth tells what causes the illness. The Third Noble Truth holds out hope for a cure. The Buddha taught that through hardworking practice, people can put an end to craving. Ending the hamster-wheel chase after satisfaction is enlightenment (bodhi, "awakened"). The enlightened being exists in a state called Nirvana.

4. The truth of the path that frees us from suffering: In the Fourth Noble Truth, the Buddha as physician recommends the treatment for our illness. The Eightfold Path. Dissimilar in many other religions, in Buddhism, there is no particular benefit to just believing in a dogma. Instead, the emphasis is on living the doctrine and walking the path.

Major Buddhist Traditions:

Major branches of Buddhism are as under.

Theravada: Theravada is the oldest on-going branch. It denotes to the school of elders, and is prevalent in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka.

Theravadan (Doctrine of the Elders) Buddhism traces its origins to the earliest traditions of Buddhism, beginning with the original Sangha of the Buddha. Presntly, Theravadan Buddhists consider their tradition to be the only surviving representative of the earliest schools of Buddhism.

Theravadan Buddhists admit the earliest composed teachings of the Buddha, the Pail Canon, as the true authoritative Dharma (Pali was a language used during the Buddha's lifetime.). While the teachings of the Pali Canon are accepted as authentic in every branch of Buddhism, other traditions recognize other teachings as well as trustworthy.

Theravadan Buddhismh has been the principal religion of Sri Lanka and continental Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Burma/Myanmar and Thailand). It is also found in parts of southwest China, Vietnam and Bangladesh, as well as in Malaysia and Indonesia. Theravadan Buddhism is growing today in Singapore and in the West.

Theravadans uphold that the ideal Buddhist is the "one who is worthy, the perfected person who attains nirvana through his own efforts. Although the Theravadan arhat "takes refuge in the Buddha,"his focus is on the practice of the Buddha's dhamma. The role of the monastic and layperson are clearly distinguished by the Theravadans, with monks who detach from the world seen as those who may become arhants, with laypeople.

The modern Theravadan monastic tradition includes both Pali scholarship as well as a meditative practices. In traditional Asian Theravadan cultures, Buddhists support the monastic community which is working toward arahantship. While researchers may be found in the large monasteries of the Asian Theravadan countries, meditators often continue the tradition of "forest monks" from the Buddha's time.

Theravadans deeply admire the historical Buddha as a perfected master but do not pay homage to the numerous buddhas and bodhisattvas that are worshiped in the Mahayana. Currently, Theravada Buddhism now has huge number of followers. Buddhist missionaries from India took the religion to a number of countries, but it initially only accomplished a foothold in Sri Lanka. It later spread from Sri Lanka to Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and parts of Vietnam. They stimulated the Vibhajjavada school (Separative Teaching). By the 15th century, this form of the religion reached almost its present geographical extent.

Concepts and practices include:

Dana - thoughtful, ceremonial giving

Sila - accepting Buddhist teaching and following it in practice; refraining from killing, stealing, wrong behaviour, use of drugs. On special days, three additional precepts may be added, restricting adornment, entertainment and comfort.

Karma - the balance of amassed sin and merit, which will determine one's future in the present life, and the nature of the next life to come.

The Cosmos - comprises of billions of worlds grouped into clusters; clusters are grouped into galaxies, which are themselves grouped into super-galaxies. The universe also has many levels: four underworlds and 21 heavenly realms.

Paritta - ritual chanting.

Worship - of leftovers of a Buddha, of items made by a Buddha, or of other symbolic relics.

Festivals - days of the full moon, and three other days during the lunar cycle are celebrated. There is a new year's festival, and celebrations tied to the agricultural year.

Pilgrimages - particularly to Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka and India.

In Theravada Buddhism, since karma is a chastely impersonal process that is part of the structure of the universe, there can be no divine release or forgiveness for one's action. Though, other forms of Buddhism, such as the Vajrayana, regard the recitation of mantras, a sound, syllable, sound or a group of words, as a way of cutting off previous negative karma. This concept assists an individual comprehend that everything that happens to him or her is as a result of their actions and they must struggle to do good performances.

The central basis of Buddhist belief and practice are the three treasures or jewels i.e. the three things that Buddhists look toward for guidance and take refuge in, are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The Buddha refers to the historical creator of Buddhism or can be understood to mean the highest spiritual potential that exists within nature. The Dharma refers to the teachings of Buddha while the Sangha refers to the community of those individuals who have attained enlightenment, and who may help a practicing Buddhist attain the same. Taking refuge in the triple jewels distinguishes a Buddhist from a non-Buddhist and conventionally, it has been an assertion and commitment to following the Buddhist path. Other practices in Buddhism may include renouncing conventional living, becoming part of and supporting the monastic community as well as practice of meditation.

In the Theravada principle of Buddhism, a person may arise from the "sleep of ignorance" and directly realize the true nature of reality. Such people are called arahants and occasionally as buddhas. After numerous lifetimes of religious strivings, arahants reach the end of the cycle of rebirth, and no longer revive as human, animal, ghost, or any other being. In Mahayana, the Buddha is observed as just human but as an earthly projection of an endless, ubiquitous being beyond range or reach of thought.

In the modern west, a new form of Theravadan lay practice cantered on meditation practice has taken root. It is often referred to as Vipassana or insight meditation, this form of Theravadan practice was brought to the west by Westerners who were trained in Thailand, Burma and India with teachers such as Mahasi Saydaw and Ajahn Chah. As well, traditional Theravadan monasteries can be found in most Western countries, serving the Asian communities now living in the West.

As educated in the West, insight meditation does not teach a system of dogmas but rather teaches techniques for seeing clearly into the nature of the mind. Insight meditation refers to practices for the mind that develop calm (samatha) through sustained attention, and insight (vipassana) through reflection. A major technique for sustaining attention is focusing awareness on the body; traditionally, this is practised while sitting or walking. In addition to practices of mindfulness, loving-kindness meditation (metta bhavana) is plays an important role in modern Theravadan practice.

Mahayana Buddhism: Another tradition in Buddhism is Mahayana Buddhism. It was founded in India. It is the predominant religion in China, Japan, Korea and much of Vietnam. The tradition entered China during the Han dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE). It found initial acceptance there among the workers; later, it slowly penetrated the ruling class. Buddhism reached Japan in the 6th century. It underwent severe repression during the 1960's in China during the Cultural Revolution.

Traditionally, Mahayana Buddhism has been practiced in the Far East and in North Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, Tibet and Mongolia. Today many Mahayana traditions are spreading in the West.

The historical basis of the name Mahayana is polemical, having its origin in a debate about what the real teachings of the Buddha are. As such, its use in any context except as that pertaining to a living tradition is controversial amongst Theravadin practitioners and some researchers. The most primitive identification of "Mahayana" occurs in the Lotus Sutra between the first century BCE and the first century CE. However, some scholars such as Seishi Karashima suggest the term first used in an earlier Gandhari Prakrit version of the Lotus Sutra was not "mahajana" but the Prakrit word "mahajana" in the sense of "mahajana" (great knowing). At a later stage when the early Prakrit word was converted into Sanskrit, this "mahajana", being phonetically ambivalent, was mistakenly converted into "mahajana", possibly by contamination arising through proximity to the famous Parable of the Burning House which talks of carts.

Mahayana is a movement and self-described as the "great vehicle" to distinguish itself from the Thervadan schools (which they disaparagionly referred to as the "lesser vehicle" or hinayana). There is much discussion regarding how different the two movement really are. Mahayana Buddhists, like Theravadans, distinguish the Pali Canon as sacred scripture, they also recognize many sutras (sutras in Pali) written later in Sanskrit.

Mahayana was first spread into China by Lokaksema, the first translator of Mahayana sutras into Chinese during the second century CE. Three sources made significant contributions to the growth of Mahayana Buddhism:

  1. The Early Buddhist Schools: Some important Mahayana texts such as the Prajnaparamita often refer to principles associated with the Sarvastivada, which were mentioned into Mahayana texts. In terms of content, however, the Mahasanghika dogma is closer to Mahayana thought, particularly those of the sub-schools such as the Lokottaravadins.
  2. Biographical literature of the Buddha composed by people said to have belonged to 'the vehicle that praised the Buddha'. This literature (comprising the Jatakas, Avadanas and other texts describing the life of Buddha) may have had its origins in the various Early Schools, but developed in ways that transcended the existing sectarian lines and contributed to the rise of Mahayana Buddhism. Buddhist poets wrote their work with purposes different from those of researchers who were concerned with doctrinal issues, and they used literary expressions which surpassed doctrinal lines between the schools.
  3. Stupa worship: Stupas which were firstly mere monuments to Gautama Buddha, increasingly became the place of devotion and of spreading Buddhism to the masses, the majority of whom were illiterate laymen. On the inside wall of the stupa, pictures were drawn or sculpted depicting the life of Buddha and his previous lives as a bodhisattva. This increased devotion to the Buddha and the bodhisattvas, distinct from the purely monastic sangha of the Early Buddhist schools. Though, this theory has been precluded by a number of researchers. Early Mahayanists may well have used the stupas that were not associated with the Early Buddhist Schools as the basis for preaching.

While for Theravadan Buddhists, the ultimate purpose of life is to strive to become an arhant, an aspiration suitable only to monks and nuns, Mahayana Buddhists seek to become boddhisatvas, saints who have become enlightened but who selflessly delay nirvana to help others attain it as well, as the Buddha did.

The paths for accomplishing these goals also differ, with Mahayana Buddhists teaching that enlightenment can be accomplished even by a layperson and can be attained in a single lifetime. (Different Mahayana schools teach different paths to the attainment of this goal.)

In Mahayana, the supreme practice is that of Bodhicitta, or the Bodhi Heart. Some Mahayana traditions tends to be more religious in nature than Theravadan, practicing ceremonies, religious rituals, magical rites, veneration of celestial beings, Buddhas and boddhisatvas, and the use of icons, images, and other sacred objects. Again such a generalization cannot incorporate the Mahayana's range of practices, which range from Tibetan Tantric Buddhism's elaborate rituals and religious ceremony to Zen practitioners spare practice orientation and frequent outright rejection of such elements.

According to the lessons of Mahayana traditions, Mahayana also refers to the path of the Bodhisattva seeking complete enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, also called "Bodhisattvayana", or the "Bodhisattva Vehicle". A bodhisattva who has accomplished this goal is called a samyaksaṃbuddha, or "fully enlightened Buddha". A samyaksaṃbuddha can establish the Dharma and lead disciples to enlightenment. Mahayana Buddhists teach that enlightenment can be attained in a single lifetime, and this can be accomplished even by a layperson.

The Mahayana tradition is the major tradition of Buddhism existing today, with 53.2% of practitioners, compared to 35.8% for Theravada and 5.7% for Vajrayana in 2010.

In historical review, Mahayana Buddhism spread from India to various other South, East and Southeast Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Taiwan, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Major traditions of Mahayana Buddhism today include Chan Buddhism, Korean Seon, Japanese Zen, Pure Land Buddhism, and Nichiren Buddhism. It may also include the Vajrayana traditions of Tiantai, Tendai, Shingon Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism, which add esoteric teachings to the Mahāyāna tradition.

Eastern Buddhism has many distinct schools such as T'ein-t'ai, Hua-yen, Pure Land teachings, and the Meditation school. They celebrate the New Year, harvest festivals, and five anniversaries from the lives of Buddha and of the Bodhissattva Kuan-yin. They also engage in Dana, Sila, Chanting, Worship and Pilgrimage.

It is called the 'Great Vehicle' of Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism usually spread north through India to China, Japan.

Mahayana Buddhism stresses on following:

- Buddhism is for the masses not just monks.

- The role of the Bodhisattva - altruistic beings working for improvement of world. - Everyone has capacity to be a Bodhisattva.

- Non Dualism - Ultimate reality beyond all divisions.

- Living in the present moment.

Pure Land Buddhism: It is a worshipful form of Buddhism. It emphasizes less on meditation more on belief and devotion to Amitabha. Pure Land Buddhism stresses practise rather than study. Pure Land Buddhism offers a way to enlightenment for people who cannot handle the subtleties of meditation, endure long rituals, or just live especially good lives.

Pure Land oriented practices and concepts are found within basic Mahāyāna Buddhist cosmology, and form an important component of the Mahāyāna Buddhist traditions of China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. The term "Pure Land Buddhism" is defined both the Pure Land soteriology of Mahāyāna Buddhism, which may be better understood as "Pure Land traditions" or "Pure Land teachings," and the separate Pure Land sects that developed in Japan.

The important practice in Pure Land Buddhism is the chanting of the name of Amitabha Buddha with total concentration, trusting that one will be reborn in the Pure Land, a place where it is much easier for a being to work towards enlightenment. Pure Land Buddhism adds mystical features to the basic Buddhist teachings which make those teachings easier to work with. These elements include faith and trust and a personal relationship with Amitabha Buddha, who is considered by Pure Land Buddhists as a sort of saviour; and belief in the Pure Land, a place which provides a moving stone towards enlightenment and liberation. Pure Land Buddhism is mainly popular in China and Japan.

Historical fact: Pure Land Buddhism as a school of Buddhist thinking started in India around the 2nd century BCE. It spread to China where there was a strong cult of Amitabha by the 2nd century CE, and then spread to Japan around the 6th century CE. Pure Land Buddhism received fame in the 12th century with the simplifications made by Honen. A century later Shinran (1173-1262), a disciple of Honen, brought a new understanding of the Pure Land ideas, and this became the basis of the Shin (true) sect.

Pure Land Buddhism took off in Japan when the monk Honen (1133-1212) simplified the teachings and practices of the sect so that anyone could cope with them. He excluded the intellectual difficulties and complex meditation practices used by other schools of Buddhism.

Zen Buddhism: Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that initiated in China during the Tang dynasty as Chan Buddhism. It was powerfully influenced by Taoism, and developed as a distinguished school of Chinese Buddhism. From China, Chan Buddhism extended south to Vietnam, northeast to Korea and east to Japan, where it became known as Japanese Zen.

Zen highlights rigorous meditation-practice, insight into Buddha-nature, and the personal expression of this insight in daily life, especially for the benefit of others. As such, it de-emphasizes mere knowledge of sutras and doctrine and favours direct understanding through zazen and interaction with an accomplished teacher.

Historical facts: Zen began as a distinctive school of Mahayana Buddhism when the Indian sage Bodhidharma (ca. 470-543) taught at the Shaolin Monastery of China. Presently, Bodhidharma is called the First Patriarch of Zen. Bodhidharma's teachings tapped into some developments already in progress, such as the confluence of philosophical Taoism with Buddhism. Taoism so deeply impacted early Zen that some philosophers and texts are claimed by both religions. The early Mahayana philosophies of Madhyamika (ca.2nd century CE) and Yogacara (ca. 3rd century CE) also played important roles in the development of Zen.

Under the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng (638-713), Zen shed most of its remaining Indian trappings, becoming more Chinese and more Zennish. Some consider Huineng, not Bodhidharma, to be the true father of Zen. His personality and influence are felt in Zen to this day.

Huineng's tenancy was at the beginning of the Golden Age of Zen. This Golden Age flourished during the same period as China's Tang Dynasty, 618-907. The masters of this Golden Age still speak to us through koans and stories.

During these years Zen organized itself into five schools. Two of these, called in Japanese the Rinzai and the Soto schools, still exist and remain distinctive from each other.

Zen was spread to Vietnam initially, possibly as early as the 7th century. A series of teachers communicated Zen to Korea during the Golden Age. Eihei Dogen (1200-1253), was not the first Zen teacher in Japan, but he was the first to establish a lineage that lives to this day. The West took an interest in Zen after World War II, and now Zen is establishing itself in North America, Europe, and elsewhere.

Zen is known as "the face-to-face transmission of the dharma outside the sutras." Throughout the history of Zen, teachers have transmitted their realization of dharma to students by working with them face-to-face. This makes the lineage of teachers critical. A sincere Zen teacher can trace his or her lineage of teachers back to Bodhidharma and to those Buddhas before the historical Buddha.

Bodhidharma's definition stated that Zen is not an intellectual discipline people can learn from books. Instead, it's a practice of studying mind and seeing into one's nature. The main tool of this practice is zazen.

The teachings of Zen include various sources of Mahayana thought, especially Yogachara, the Tathagatagarbha sutras and the Huayan school, with their emphasis on Buddha-nature, totality, and the Bodhisattva-ideal. The Prajnaparamita literature and, to a lesser extent, Madhyamaka have also been powerful to shape the "paradoxical language" of the Zen-tradition. It is based on simple, pure insight.

Hinayana Buddhism: This type is often used as a definition opposite to Mahayana Buddhism. Sometimes used in a pejorative way. It means small vehicle as opposed to large vehicle. Some suggest this is actually nearer to original teachings of the Buddha.

Vajrayana Buddhism: Varjayana is developed out of Indian Mahayana. Most popular division of Varjayana Buddhism is the Tibetan Buddhism. It includes hidden esoteric (Tantric) teachings not revealed during the Buddha's life. Tibetan Buddhism became deeply rooted in Tibetan society, linked to Feudal system. Though 14th Dalai Lama has sought to more Tibetan Buddhism more towards democracy.

Varjayana is also popular as tantric Buddhism. It has approximately 10 million adherents in parts of China, Mongolia, Russia and Tibet. It was brought to Tibet circa 750 CE by Padmasambhava at the request of the king of Tibet. Conflict with the native Tibetan religion of Bon caused it to go mainly underground until its revitalization in the 11th century CE. The head of the Gelu school of Buddhist teaching became the Dalai Lama, and ruled Tibet. It has been wrongly dismissed as a degenerated form of Buddhism.

Tibetan Buddhism and Vajrayana are often lumped together and wrongly confused. Tibetan Buddhism is a form of Mahayana Buddhism that developed in Tibet and the Himalayan region beginning in the 7th century C.E. It combines Mahayana philosophy, meditation, Tantric symbolic rituals, Theravadan monastic discipline and the shamanism of the indigenous religion, Bon. Tibetan Buddhism is a form of Mahayana Buddhism that incorporates the practice of tantra (Vajrayna).

The Vajrayana or "Diamond Vehicle" have many of the basic concepts similar to Mahayana, but also includes range of spiritual systems designed to enhance Buddhist practice. One component of the Vajrayana is attaching psycho-physical energy as a means of developing intensely powerful states of concentration and awareness. These profound states are in turn to be used as an efficient path to Buddhahood. Using these methods, it is demanded that a practitioner can achieve Buddhahood in one lifetime. In addition to the Theravada and Mahayana scriptures, Vajrayana Buddhists extensive texts that include the Buddhist Tantras.

In the Tibetan scheme of Buddhism, the Vajrayana is the third and highest of the three "yanas"-Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana. However this hierarchy is not shared by Mahayana Buddhists such as Zen practitioners or by Theravadan Buddhists.

In this type of Buddhist practices, Ceremony and ritual are emphasized. They also engage in Dana, Sila, Chanting, Worship and Pilgrimage. They developed the practice of searching out a young child at the time of death of an important teacher. The child is believed to be the successor to the deceased teacher. They celebrate New Years, harvest festivals and anniversaries of five important events in the life of the Buddha. Buddhist and Tibetan culture suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution when an attempt was made to destroy all religious faith.

In Tibetan Buddhism, the mandala is seen as an encouragement to meditation and it expresses the intuition of the mysticism in humanity as a diagram of the spiritual life. In Buddhism, it is an image constructed through powerful meditation, discipline, and concentration. It is intended at finding a balance between the inward and outward conflicting opposites of life in order for individuals to exist in accord with nature. The mandala philosophy is based on the fact that one-sidedness, of any nature, can lead to illness, depression, loss of energy flow or stagnation.

Buddhism discards the concept of a static or permanent self with an eternal soul as in other religions like Hinduism and Christianity. Instead, Buddhist teachings stress on rebirth, the process whereby beings go through a series of lifetimes as one of several possible forms of sentient life, with each running from conception. Rebirth can be understood as the continuation of an ever-changing process which is determined by the laws of reason and karma, or effect, as opposed to that of one life form incarnating from one life to the next. This notion of Buddhism emphasizes on the need for a being to do good while in the current life in order to attract good karma in their succeeding lives. Sentient beings desire pleasure and are averse to pain from their birth to death. To control these desires, they bring about the cycle of adapted suffering and existence, and produce the causes and conditions of the consequent rebirth after death. Every rebirth repeats this process in an uncontrolled cycle, which Buddhists try to end by applying the teachings of the Buddha and subsequent Buddhists, as a way of eliminating these causes and conditions.

Buddhist teachings emphasise that all the sufferings that any sentient being goes through has causes and solutions. This is especially revealed in the four noble truths which were the first teachings of Buddha after he attained Nirvana. They contain the essence of Buddha's teachings which maintain that life ultimately leads to suffering, which in turn is cause by desire. This is normally expressed as a mistaken clinging to selfhood or a certain sense of existence which we consider to cause happiness or unhappiness. Suffering only ends when desire ends, which can only be attained by eliminating misunderstanding, thus reaching a liberated state of enlightenment that is Nirvana. The only way to reach this state is by following the path and teachings laid out by the Buddha. This idea emphasizes on the renouncing of one's self in order to free his or herself from worldly sorrows.

The Middle Way, which is discovered by the Buddha before his enlightenment, is one of the most important supervisory principles of Buddhist practice. It can be described as a path of moderation, away from the limits of self-indulgence and can elucidate Nirvana, a state in which it becomes clear that all dualities in the world result to emptiness. To get relief from suffering, one develops calmness for worldly objects which can be accomplished by viewing things as characterized by the three marks of existence which are suffering, impermanence and not-self.

Transience expresses the Buddhist concept that everything is in constant change and nothing lasts. Therefore, we should not fix our nature to any object or experience. The notion asserts that everything is impermanent, and attachment to anything is futile and only leads to suffering. Suffering can be equated to misery and according to the Buddhist teachings; it is often as a result of the individual's actions. Not-self, the third mark of existence is an approach for gaining release from suffering. The phenomenon of ''I" or "mine", are created by the mind and are metaphysical assertions that bind an individual to suffering. By carefully analysing the continually changing physical and mental constituents of a person or object, one comes to the conclusion that neither a person, nor any individual parts as a whole comprise a self.

Nirvana, which can be interpreted to extinction, allows a being to be liberated from suffering and the cycle of involuntary rebirths. In some Buddhist categories, it denotes only to the eradication of greed and hate, suggesting that delusion was still present in an individual who achieved nirvana and that one needed to attain bodhi, the awakening of arahants (those who have achieved awakening). This is the only way that an individual attains complete nirvana at the moment of death, the time when the physical body dies.

Devotion and practice are integral part of the Buddhist way of life. Devotional practices include offerings, bowing and chanting. It includes states of meditative absorption with liberating thought. According to Buddha's teachings, meditative states alone are not an end to liberation. Instead, some mental activity must take place, based on the practice of mindful awareness in order to attain complete liberation. In the centuries preceding the Buddha, meditation was a trait of the practice of the yogis. Later on, the Buddha built upon the yogis concern and developed their meditative techniques, though he rejected their theories of liberation. In Buddhism, clear and mindful awareness was to be observed at all times, which was not the case in pre-Buddhist yogic practices. According to the Buddha, religious knowledge or vision was as a result of flawless meditation combined with the perfection of discipline.

Essential dogmas in Buddhism include finding immortality in the examples that individuals set and the work they do as well as display love to all other beings. It does not emphasize on deities. Buddhism helps individuals gain insight on from other religions and cultures and identify the power within one's self. Through Karma, individuals learn and understand that they are accountable for what they do and become, both as individuals and as members of a community.

Through meditation, individuals profoundly connect personally with themselves and through prayers and admiration; they gain purification, or cleansing of their emotional, physical, spiritual and mental parts. Physical cleansing is acquired as the sweat carries out the toxins out from the individual's body while the mental cleansing is attained from the individual releasing their worries and troubled thoughts to the surrounding. The spiritual cleansing offers a linking to the spirit while emotional cleansing is an amalgamation of all the above. The process of these cleansings brings an individual to a calmer and more grounded state, leaving them more peaceful with themselves and their lives.

To summarize, Buddhism thought has entrenched all over the world. Buddhism is divided into different traditions. However, most of the tradition shares common basic beliefs. As Buddhsim spread through Asia, the teachings came to be interpreted in different ways, and distinct practices became associated with the different "schools" that evolved. Although the schools found today do reproduce unique beliefs and practices, they all share the basic teachings of the Buddha as drawn in the Fundamentals section of DharmaNet's Learning Center. It is established that the Buddhist traditions presented as three main "schools" namely, Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana (Tibetan Buddhism). Although these categories have a useful purpose, they also overgeneralise the distinctions between traditions and obscure the connections between all the traditions.