Buddhism 102: Examples of Mahayana Buddhist Schools?

“Those who bowed to the image of the Buddha,
Or just joined their hands together towards it,
Or raised only one hand towards it,
Or bent their heads a little towards it
And offered the bending to it,
Became able to see innumerable Buddhas one after another….”

–The Lotus Sutra, chapter 2, Murano Translation

Many popular and well-known schools of Buddhism have the same Mahayana Buddhist foundation, even if they differ in some practical ways. These include:

  • Zen meditation schools
  • Pure Land schools, including Jodo Shinshu
  • Tibetan and “esoteric” schools, including Japanese Shingon
  • Lotus Sutra schools, including Tian-tai and Nichiren
  • Scholastic traditions (Madhyamika, Yogacara), largely defunct now.

In some countries, these schools are distinct for historical reasons. In other countries, the distinction between schools is vague, and instead one may find all such traditions under the same “school” and disciples are free to follow whatever practice they prefer.

In any case, the notion of expedient means assures us that whatever such school or tradition one is inclined to follow, it will ultimately help us on Buddhist path.

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