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WORLD RELIGION
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Buddhism: World Religion - Family Tree   [Return to List of Trees]

Buddhism is a world religion founded by Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as the Buddha, in the sixth or fifth century BCE in India. Teaching reincarnation and freedom from worldly attachments, Buddhism has three major branches: Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. According to Buddhism, the origin of suffering comes from ignorance, and one must follow the Eightfold Path to reach nirvana.


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Note: Groups that are colored blue are currently active. Groups that are colored gray are defunct.




Included in this tree

Group/Place/Event Founded Description
Sri Lankan Buddhism 3rd C. BCE During the reign of India emperor Asoka, a missionary program to propagate Buddhism leads to the spread of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. It is carried by Asoka's son Mahinder and daughter Sangamitta.
Burmese Buddhism 1000s While Buddhism may have trickled into Myanmar/Burma earlier, the key transmission followed the conversion of king Anawrahta in the eleventh century.
Cambodian Buddhism 1200s The original transmission of Buddhism to Cambodia was from China as early as the 5th century CE, but the major transmission from which present-day Buddhism developed came from Cambodia in the 15th century.
Laotian Buddhism 13th c. CE The present dominant Theravada Buddhism of Laos is dated to the rise of the Laotian kingdom under King Fa Ngum, though other forms of Buddhism had been present in the region in earlier centuries.
Thai Buddhism 1300s The earliest evidences of Buddhism in Thailand indicate a Chinese origin, but the key transmission came in the fourteenth thirteenth century when the Sangha from Sri Lanka was established there.
Tibetan Buddhism 600s Buddhism is introduced to Tibet in the seventh century, but the Vajrayana Buddhism that become dominant is introduced a century later with the arrival of Padmasambhava from India.
Mongolian (Gelugpa) Buddhism 1500s The Vajrayana Buddhism of Tibet (of the Gelugpa school) is introduced to Mongolia in the sixteenth century.
Europe 1800s No description available.
Japanese Buddhism 538 Buddhism enters Japan in 538 from Korea. Buddhism sects begin to emerge during the Nara period. From this point, almost all of the transmission of Buddhism comes directly from China.
United States 1800s Buddhism was originally introduced to the United States (Hawaii), and soon afterwards into other countries of the Americas (Canada, Brazil, Peru) in the nineteenth century by Japanese immigrants, but the initial transmission was soon supplemented by Chinese Buddhists and then in the twentieth century has received transmission of all of the Asian forms of Buddhism. The state of California is unique as one of the few places in the world where all of the major forms of Buddhism can be found in relatively close proximity to each other.
Central Asia 3rd C. BCE Buddhism spread through the kingdoms of Central Asia following the missionary activity of Asoka in the third century BCE and became established in Afghanistan by the first century. The Mahayana Buddhism that emerged gradually became the dominant form of Buddhism. It dies out after the arrival of Islam and its establishment as the state religion.
Chinese Buddhism 100s Buddhism is initially introduced into China from Central Asia, but subsequently receives numerous transmissions directly from India through the first centuries of the Common Era.
Indian Buddhism 5th C. BCE Buddhism begins with the enlightenment experience of Gautama Buddha and his organization of the Sangha (community of monks) who will spread the movement throughout India (including what today is Nepal and Pakistan). Buddhism dies out in India in the 12th century with the spread of Islam.
Korean Buddhism 300s Buddhism is transmitted from China to Korea even as Chinese Buddhism is still in its formative stages.

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