Due to many complex factors, the original Indian Buddhist community flourished and spread, but also developed subtle nuances that helped to distinguish them from other communities. As Buddhism spread outside of India and adapted to new cultures such as Persia, China, Myanmar, etc, these differences magnified and individual schools and traditions rose to the surface.
However, all traditions seek to answer the same basic question: how does one put the Buddha’s teachings into practice in such a way as to cross over from the existing state to the state of Nirvana?
Because of the diversity and breadth of sutras, to say nothing of history and geography, various Buddhist schools will tend to center around a specific sutra, or sutras, and formulate practices and teachings around it.
Further, depending on the particular Buddhist culture and for complex historical reasons, sometimes these schools blend together practices and techings, and sometimes they have distinct boundaries between one another. For example, in the Japanese Tendai school, elements of meditation, esoteric teachings and devotion can be found. On the other hand, Japanese Zen focuses primarily on seated meditation, while Japanese Pure Land focuses on Amitabha Buddha and the recitation of his name.
Back: What Are The Sutras?
Next: What Next?