Schools of Buddhism refers to the various institutional and doctrinal divisions of Buddhism that have existed from ancient times up to the present. That have made up or currently make up the whole of Buddhist traditions, the sectarian and conceptual divisions of Buddhist thought are part of the modern framework of Buddhist studies, as well as comparative religion in Asia. The most common classification among scholars is threefold, with Mahāyāna itself split between the traditional Mahāyāna teachings, and the Vajrayāna teachings which emphasize esotericism, Vajrayāna, primarily in Tibet, Bhutan, Mongolia and the Russian republic of Kalmykia. The following terms may be encountered in descriptions of the major Buddhist divisions, Ekayāna Mahayana texts such as the Lotus Sutra and the Avatamsaka Sutra sought to unite all the different teachings into a single great way. These texts serve as the inspiration for using the term Ekayāna in the sense of one vehicle and this one vehicle became a key aspect of the doctrines and practices of Tiantai and Tendai Buddhist sects, which subsequently influenced Chán and Zen doctrines and practices. In Japan, the teaching of the Lotus Sutra also inspired the formation of the Nichiren sect. Esoteric Buddhism usually considered synonymous with Vajrayāna, some scholars have applied the term to certain practices found within the Theravāda, particularly in Cambodia. It is considered a term when applied by the Mahāyāna to mistakenly refer to the Theravāda school. Moreover, Hīnayāna refers to the now non extant schools with limited set of views, practices and results and its use in scholarly publications is now also considered controversial. Lamaism an old term, still used, synonymous with Tibetan Buddhism. Mahāyāna a movement that emerged from early Buddhist schools, together with its later descendants, Vajrayāna traditions are sometimes listed separately. The main use of the term in East Asian and Tibetan traditions is in reference to spiritual levels, mainstream Buddhism a term used by some scholars for the early Buddhist schools. Mantrayāna usually considered synonymous with Vajrayāna, the Tendai school in Japan has been described as influenced by Mantrayana. Newar Buddhism a non-monastic, caste based Buddhism with patrilineal descent, nikāya Buddhism or schools an alternative term for the early Buddhist schools. Non-Mahāyāna an alternative term for the early Buddhist schools, northern Buddhism an alternative term used by some scholars for Tibetan Buddhism. Also, a term still sometimes used to encompass both East Asian and Tibetan traditions. It has even used to refer to East Asian Buddhism alone. Secret Mantra an alternative rendering of Mantrayāna, a literal translation of the term used by schools in Tibetan Buddhism when referring to themselves
Map showing the three major Buddhist divisions
An image of Gautama Buddha with a swastika, a traditional Buddhist symbol of infinity, on his chest. Ananda, the Buddha's disciple, appears in the background. This statue is from Hsi Lai Temple.