The Spread of Buddhism
For all Buddhists the Four Noble Truths are the foundation. However, the Buddha explained his teaching in various ways to meet the different interests and talents of his students. This led to the development of various schools with different areas of philosophical and methodological emphases.
In South and South-East Asia, the predominant tradition is the Theravada, the School of the Elders. It is based on the writings of the so-called Pali Canon, the oldest written records of the Buddha's teachings.
In Mahayana Buddhism, the "Great Vehicle" that spread in various forms to Central and East Asia, the enlightenment of all living beings is the goal of the religious practice. The ideal is the Bodhisattva. Through the development of wisdom combined with love and compassion the Bodhisattva strives to perfect enlightenment in order to optimally assist all other beings on their path. Exercises for developing and cultivating altruistic attitudes such as love and compassion are the essence of this path.
From the Mahayana evolved, among others, Tantric Buddhism (Vajrayana), which is practised mainly in Tibet and which enables the adept to attain the state of Buddhahood particularly fast. On the basis of strong compassion even subtle levels of the mind can be influenced by appropriate meditation techniques. However, these methods should be practised only after intensive preliminary exercises under the guidance of a qualified teacher.
The different traditions and schools that have been formed over the centuries under the influence of different cultures complement and respect each other.
Today Buddhism is practised not only in South, Central and East Asia, but also increasingly in the West by a total of about 400 million people.