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Overview of Buddhism 

About 2500 years ago, the historical Buddha Shakyamuni gave many different types of teachings to sentient beings with different capacities on how to end their suffering. Buddha's disciples later systematized these teachings into three major categories: Shravakayana (the vehicle for the hearers), Pratyekabuddhayana (the vehicle for the solitary realizers) and Bodhisattvayana (Mahayana - the vehicle for Bodhisattvas). Within Mahayana, there are two types of teachings: Sutrayana (exoteric teachings) and Tantrayana (esoteric teachings, also called "Vajrayana").

Throughout the centuries, Buddhism has been taught and practiced mainly in different parts of Asia. The Theravada tradition, characterized by Shravakayana teachings is well preserved in some Southeast Asian countries. The sutric Mahayana tradition has found its fertile ground in countries including China, Japan and Korea and has been practiced in forms such as the "Pure Land" school and Zen. The Vajrayana teachings, encompassing the diverse traditions of Hinayana, Sutric Mahayana and Vajrayana, have mostly been preserved in Tibet and Nepal, although one can find Tantric teachings in some Japanese traditions today.

In the recent couple of centuries, all flavors of Buddhism have been introduced to the West and some other parts of the world.

Buddhism was brought from India to Tibet as early as the 7th century. The four main schools of Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet are the Nyingmapa, Kagyupa, Sakyapa and Gelugpa (the Gelugpa school having evolved primarily from the Kadampa school). Although the four schools emerged from the differences in emphasis of their founding masters, they all share the basic teachings of the Buddha and have the same goal of enlightenment for the sake of all beings.

 
* including Shravakayana and Pratyekabuddhayana

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