A Brief History of Buddhism

by Michael LaFargue (based on R. Robinson)

[Most of the historical information in this essay is taken from The Buddhist Religion: A historical introduction by Richard H. Robinson and Willard L. Johnson (4th Edition; NY: Wadsworth. 1997).  This is the best overall history of Buddhism that I know of, and fills out the present brief sketch in much more detail.]

Click here for a map of Asia.

Buddhism originated in the Ganges River plain in Northeastern India, sometime around 500 B.C. Its founder was a person called Siddartha Gautama, later given the title "The Buddha," meaning "The Enlightened One." He is sometimes also called Shakyamuni (shakya-muni, lit. a muni/monk of the shakya tribe).  He was born in what is today the country of Nepal, close to the border with India.

Buddhism was originally one movement within a larger religious tradition now called "Hinduism" – the national religious tradition in India – and shared many ideas and ideals expressed in the Upanishads, the earliest writings developing the distinctive worldview characteristic of classical Hinduism. Buddhism rejected the authority of the Upanishads, and divorced itself from many ethnic customs and traditions important to others in India. Partly as a result of this, Hinduism remained primarily an ethnic religion of people on the Indian subcontinent, while Buddhism spread to become an international religion spreading to many other nations and ethnic groups throughout Asia.


The Buddha’s time was one of social and religious change in north India. Old tribal structures were breaking down, and cities and trade were growing. At the same time, there appeared to have been many groups of alienated people who dropped out of conventional society and devoted themselves to spiritual self-discovery. The Buddha’s first followers were gathered from among these groups.  They probably did not originally aim to "start a religion" for the masses of the people.  Buddhist teaching and meditation practice was initially a personal spirituality for a much smaller group of individual seekers.

The earliest Buddhists writings, themselves written down several centuries after the Buddha’s death, contain no "life of the Buddha." Later Buddhists did develop such a "biography," which almost certainly are dramatizations of Buddhist ideals, rather than accurate recording of history.

The legendary Buddha pictured in these writings was originally a wealthy prince who led a sheltered life in a palace. Upon venturing forth from the palace he was shocked by the sight of sick people and dead people, which brought home to him the insecurity and impermanence of the comforts he enjoyed in his palace, and this is when he joined the groups of drop-outs searching for something more enduring. In this first phase of his quest he is pictured as engaged in extreme asceticism, fasting and putting himself through extreme physical hardships. He is pictured as the most heroic of all those trying to gain mental self-control and a toughness of mind that would make them impervious to all life’s sufferings. The legend says that he eventually realized that such extreme asceticism only brought more mental disturbance. The inner peace he sought could only come through meditation, and required a reasonably healthy body.

From the point of view of modern historians, it is unlikely that this story represents true history (as Buddhists generally believe). It is a dramatization in story form of the early Buddhist claim that Buddhism was a "middle way" between extreme luxury and extreme hardship. (Modern historians, of course, generally hold that the "life of Jesus" told in the Gospels is a dramatization in story form of early Christian ideas, rather than an accurate biography, as most Christians believe.)


Buddhism has existed for 2500 years, and in many different countries. During this period it has developed a tremendous variety of forms. It is difficult to speak of one set of teachings and practices that absolutely all people who call themselves "Buddhists" agree upon.

The Buddha himself wrote nothing, and Buddhist teachings were originally handed down through oral traditions. These traditions were committed to writing only in about 200 B.C., in a collection called "The Pali Canon" (written in a language called Pali, a dialect closely related to Sanskrit, the classical language of India). Modern critical scholars think that not all teachings ascribed to the Buddha in the Pali Canon were actually taught by the historical Buddha. But there is no agreed upon way of separating Buddha’s original teachings from later accretions.


Theravada and Mahayana

Different Buddhist schools began to develop at a very early period. Around 100 B.C., a major split occurred, between more conservative schools that held strictly to traditional Buddhist teachings written down in the Pali Canon, and more liberal groups who wanted to integrate into the Buddhist movement ideas and practices developed at a later time. (For example, many people began treating the Buddha as a god, and espoused worship of several different Buddhas; such worship was accepted by the liberal group. But according the Pali Canon the Buddha is not a god but a man who discovered the true path to enlightenment.)

Originally there were several different schools in the conservative group, but a school calling itself "Theravada" (thera-vada, lit. elder-path) is the only one that survives today. Liberal groups called themselves collectively "Mahayana" (maha-yana, lit. great-vehicle). Theravada is a fairly uniform tradition, and eventually became the dominant Buddhist tradition in Sri Lanka and in Southeast Asia (Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia; influential also in Vietnam).

"Mahayana" refers to a very diverse body of Buddhist schools and groups, differing greatly among themselves. (It includes for example "Pure Land" Buddhism, a popular form of Buddhism focused on the worship of Amida Buddha who presides over a heaven called "the Pure Land." But it also includes Ch’an or Zen Buddhism, which holds that individuals need to save themselves through meditation practice, without any help from divine beings.) Mahayana groups came to predominate in Tibet, China, and those East Asian cultures most influenced by Chinese culture (Korea, Japan, Singapore; also Northern Vietnam, which was under Chinese control from about 100 B.C. to 940 A.D.)

Mahayana Buddhists refer to the more conservative Buddhists by the derogatory term "Hinayana" (hina-yana, lit. lesser-vehicle), and this term is still often used in some East Asian and Western writings about Buddhism. But one should be aware that Theravada Buddhists do not like to hear their tradition called "Hinayana." (No one refers to their own tradition as "the lesser vehicle".)  Mahayana Buddhists have also popularized the notion, common in the West, that Mahayana Buddhists are altruistic, wanting to achieve Enlightenment "for the sake of all beings," whereas "Hinayana" Buddhists are individualistic and self-centered, each interested only in Nirvana as a personal achievement, and unconcerned about others.  Again, we do not find Theravada Buddhists describing themselves in this particular way.

Much later, in the sixth century A.D. there developed a third major branch of Buddhism calling itself Vajrayana (from vajra, meaning both "diamond" and "thunderbolt"). Vajranyana Buddhism borrowed many ideas and practices from the Tantric tradition in India, which shares many tendencies common in what modern Westerners call "occultism": calling on various spirits in rituals thought to give practitioners magical powers, incorporation of dance and song into religious ritual, deliberate breaking of normal sexual taboos, and so on. Although once popular in many Buddhist lands, Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism eventually became associated primarily with Tibet.

These competing schools of thought in Buddhism were not always linked to competing Buddhist organizations. Sometimes teachers and followers adhering to different schools of thought lived together in the same monasteries. It was common for individual Buddhist monks to travel to different teachers, studying several different schools of Buddhist thought. Among Buddhist scholars in China and Tibet, much effort was devoted to incorporating the teachings of all the main schools of thought into one overarching system, often utilizing the idea that some schools taught a more preliminary "beginner’s Buddhism," while others taught more advanced, "final" forms of Buddhism.



The spread of Buddhism in India was greatly assisted by the conversion of King Asoka (c. 270-230 B.C), who sponsored Buddhism in the territories he controlled on the Indian subcontinent. Legend has it that he also sent Buddhist missionaries to the nearby countries of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and Myanmar. Both Theravada and Mahayana traditions existed in India for many centuries. But for a variety of reasons Buddhism began to weaken as a movement in India around 700 A.D., and ceased to be an important factor in Indian social life when the last Buddhist monasteries were destroyed by Muslim invaders around 1000 A.D.

In more recent times, Buddhists in other countries have established Buddhist shrines near the Buddha’s birthplace in Northeast India; a movement among lower-caste Hindus protesting the Indian caste system has officially adopted Buddhism; and Tibetan Buddhists fleeing Communist Chinese occupying Tibet reside in refugee camps in Northern India. Otherwise Buddhism has no important presence in modern day India.


Sri Lanka and the Southeast Asian peninsula (Myanmar [formerly Burma], Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam)

Sri Lanka, a large island off the Southeast Coast of India, was never under direct control by India, but came under strong influence of Indian culture from early times. Buddhist legend has it that the Indian Buddhist king Asoka sent Buddhist missionaries to Sri Lanka in 247 B.C. but scholars have been unable to confirm this. But certainly by the first century A.D. , Indian influence brought a mixture of Hindu and Buddhist (Mahayana and Theravada) beliefs and practices to Sri Lanka. A group Sri Lankan Buddhists called the Mahavihara established a strong reputation among conservative Buddhists opposed to Mahayana developments, especially in the fifth century when a monk named Buddhaghosa wrote the Visuddhimagaa (Path to Purification), which became the authoritative statement of the orthodox Theravada interpretation of the Buddhist message. Developments in the thirteenth and fourteenth century caused Sri Lanka to be regarded by Buddhists in Southeast Asia as the homeland of orthodox Theravada teaching.

The Southeast Asian peninsula has a rather complex history, in which national boundaries have shifted many times. For example, the Khmer people, the dominant ethnic group in present-day Cambodia, at one time ruled a large kingdom covering most of present-day Southeast Asia; and on the other hand, several previous small kingdoms, such as Funan and Champa, have disappeared, absorbed into present-day Vietnam.

Just as happened in Sri Lanka, beginning at least in the first century A.D., merchants and traveling monks brought to Southeast Asia a mixture of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs (in both Mahayana and Theravada forms), and this mixture formed the dominant religious tradition in these countries up until government policy, cooperating with Buddhist leaders in Sri Lanka, established Theravada as the dominant tradition over most of Southeast Asia in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries A.D.

Present day northern Vietnam was under Chinese rule from about 100 B.C. to 940 A.D. For this reason, Mahayana traditions popular in China continued to be influential in Vietnam, alongside Theravada traditions.

Theravada Buddhism continues to be the dominant religious tradition among the majority Sinhalese ethnic group in Sri Lanka. It has become part of a focus for nationalist sentiment fueling the war with ethnic Tamils, a Hindu group living in Northern Sri Lanka.

Recent wars and subsequent Communist takeovers in Southeast Asia were very destructive for Buddhism in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, but Buddhism is currently undergoing something of a revival in these countries.

Buddhism was influential also in Malaysia and Indonesia throughout the first millennium A.D., but was suppressed by Muslim invaders and supplanted by Islam.


Central Asia, Tibet, and China

The Northern spread of Buddhism initially happened primarily through Central Asia, lands north of Tibet that are now parts of the former Soviet Union and Mongolia. From the first to the fourth centuries A.D. this was the site of the Kusana empire, one of the four largest empires in the world at the time. Kusana emperors were strong supporters of Buddhism.

Central Asia was also the major trading route between India and China, commonly called the Silk Road (named after Chinese silk, the major trading commodity). Consequently this was the main route by which Buddhism traveled from India to China. The city of Tun-huang, at the Eastern, Chinese end of the Silk Road, became a major center for the translation of Buddhist texts from Sanskrit into Chinese. Tun-huang is also the site of mammoth caves decorated with large Buddha statues, in which were found in 1907 some of the oldest surviving Buddhist manuscripts. (This includes the oldest printed book in the world, the Mahayana Diamond Sutra, printed in 868 A.D., seven centuries before the Gutenberg Bible.)

Tibet, a large mountainous area north of India, became a dominant power in Central Asia in the seventh century A.D. Tibetan warlords initially persecuted Buddhism, but soon converted and became avid sponsors. Much later, around 1600 A.D. when Tibet was under Mongol rule, Mongolian rulers appointed the head teacher of a particular Buddhist monastic school to be political as well as religious leader of Tibet, with the title of Dalai Lama (lit. "Ocean [of Wisdom] Teacher"). Successive Dalai Lamas continued to rule Tibet until the 1950's, when Chinese Communists brutally suppressed Buddhism in Chinese-controlled Tibet, and the reigning Dalai Lama fled with many followers to refugee settlements in Northern India.

Buddhism reached China via the Silk Road around the middle of the first century A.D. It gained particular strength in China during the four centuries of turmoil in China that followed the fall of the Han Dynasty in 220 A.D., and reached its height during the T’ang Dynasty (618-960 A.D.) Many new Mahayana scriptures were written in China, and several new Buddhist schools developed there. This includes the Ch’an school, which many think developed under the influence of an indigenous Chinese tradition called Taoism. (The term Ch’an comes from the Sanskrit Dhyana; in Vietnam it is know as Thien, in Korea Son, and in Japan Zen.)

Buddhism greatly influenced several thinkers who revived the Chinese Confucian tradition beginning around 1100 A.D.. They created a synthesis of Confucian, Buddhist, and Taoist ideas known in the West as "Neoconfucianism." But from this time onward, this neoconfucian synthesis gained a monopoly in the education of Chinese elite, and Buddhism suffered a decline among the educated elite, becoming more associated with the religion of the masses. Buddhism suffered greatly under Chinese Communists who came to power in 1949, but there is some revival of Buddhism in China under recent more tolerant government policies.


Korea and Japan

Buddhism arrived in the Korean peninsula from China, sometime around 400 A.D., and was patronized by many early Korean rulers. Later, in the 14th century, as in China, it was supplanted by Confucianism and suffered some government persecution. Korean Buddhists continued to develop many of the same Buddhist school traditions as had existed in China, with Son (Ch’an/Zen) becoming predominant around 1200 A.D.

Buddhism was brought to Japan by Korean immigrants around 550 A.D., and gained an early patron in Prince Shotoku (573-622). As it had in many other countries, Buddhism became associated with elements of folk religion that had preceded it, in this case the worship of spirits called kami in a religious tradition that became known as Shinto.

Buddhism became at various times very involved in Japanese politics, at times supported by Japanese rulers as a unifying force for the country, at times suppressed as a source of divisions, or as a "foreign" religion opposed to native Japanese Shinto. In the early 20th century, Japanese government enlisted Buddhism in the service of Japanese expansion that led to World War II, and Buddhism consequently suffered when Japan was defeated in that war. Traditional Buddhism fell out of favor, but some recently founded popular religious movements ("new religions") incorporate various aspects of Buddhist thought and practice. For many modern Japanese, Buddhism is part of the national heritage that has a great many shaped many aspects of Japanese art, thought, and social life, but does not constitute a set of teachings of great contemporary interest.


Monastic Buddhism, traditional lay Buddhism, and modernizing lay Buddhism

Modern Western students of Buddhism often draw mistaken comparisons between Christianity and Buddhism. These mistakes arise partly because many modern Westerners do not have a very broad grasp of the history of Christianity itself, but identify "Christianity" with certain contemporary Christian organizations and certain attitudes and ideas associated with these organizations today. They also arise because of the contrast between the circumstances in which Westerners usually learn about Christianity (childhood indoctrination and Sunday sermons), and the circumstances in which they learn about Buddhism (academic courses, or voluntary study because of personal interest). Some explanations about both Buddhist and Christian history are necessary to avoid some mistakes and confusions, by distinguishing three different things:

(1)-Monastic "Sangha-Buddhism" (monks and nuns in Buddhism are collectively referred to as "The Sangha").  Classical Buddhist scriptures were mostly written to teach Buddhist spirituality to monks and nuns living in Buddhist monasteries, or alone as hermits.  Most (not all) Buddhist sects make some place for monks and nuns, who in traditional Buddhism are looked on as the main exemplars of the spiritual ideals of Buddhism.

(2)-Lay Buddhism, the Buddhism of the majority of Buddhists who live a married life in the world outside of monasteries.  (In religious terminology, a "layperson" is a person who is not a monk of nun, called "householders" in traditional Buddhism.  Lay Buddhists made up the majority of people identifying themselves as "Buddhist," in practically all sects of Buddhism. Until very modern times, most lay Buddhists living outside Buddhist monasteries did not study Buddhist philosophy and spirituality very deeply, and did not meditate.  Buddhism for them was mostly a matter of observing certain rules, practicing certain rituals, supporting certain temples or monasteries, and so on.

(3)-Modernizing lay Buddhism.  This is a term I use to refer to attempts in recent times to adapt traditional Sangha-spirituality (1) to the lives of laypeople living outside of monasteries (as in (2)).  Westerners who become interested in Buddhism are generally most familiar with this kind of adaptation of traditional Sangha-spirituality to lay life.  It is a Buddhism adapted to "lay" life in the world, for people who are generally married, have money-making jobs, etc.  But it is very different from traditional lay Buddhism in Asia, in that it focuses on the spirituality, and generally has little to do with the Buddhist customs familiar to lay Buddhists in Asia.

These are not three different sects of Buddhism, but different understandings of Buddhism-in-practice found in many different Buddhist sects.


In almost all premodern cultures, in Asia and the West, there was a marked division between "high culture" and "popular culture," the culture of an educated elite minority, and the culture of the masses who lacked formal education. This was very evident in the sphere of religion, in which there was a strong division between the relatively sophisticated religion of the educated monks and nuns on the one hand, and the folk religion of the uneducated mass of laypeople on the other.

Monasteries, in premodern Asia and in the West, were educational establishments – often the only educational establishments in their society. And monks and nuns were generally among the more highly educated members of society. The religion studied by monks and nuns was generally more "spiritual" – compared to popular religion, it was more focused on internal spiritual change in individual persons, brought about through personal effort, self-discipline, and specially devised techniques such as meditation. It was also generally more rationalized – monastic scholars expended great effort to develop interpretations of their religion that could be supported with rational arguments, to resolve apparent inconsistencies in order to create large consistent systems of doctrines, and so on.

By contrast, the religion of the masses of the people was more focused on material concerns, enlisting the aid of supernatural beings and forces to protect people from harm and gain for them material blessings. It was more social and external, exerting social pressure on people to conform to certain norms of external behavior. And it was less rational, consisting of an unsystematized collection of various rules, rituals, and beliefs which people accepted without trying to give reasons. This was true of most lay Christianity prior to the Protestant reformation (1520 A.D.), and also true of most lay Buddhism up until even more recent times.

This should not be taken to mean, of course, that monks and nuns as individuals were necessarily superior to laypersons as individuals. The very prestige (and often the wealth and power) of monasteries attracted many individuals who were more interested in material benefits associated with the monasteries than with spiritual or intellectual advancement. One should not assume that the teachings developed in monasteries, which were officially supposed to be studied there, were actually taken seriously and practiced by all monks and nuns. And on the other hand, there were undoubtedly very many uneducated farmers very advanced in wisdom and spirituality. But in general, the work of monks and nuns has left us with more written bodies of teachings still available for us to study, and also more teachings suited to the mindset of the more rational, educated, and individualistic modern middle classes.


In the case of Christianity, monastic spirituality was given written form in the works of writers such as Simeon the New Theologian, Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas a Kempis, Theresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, and more recently Thomas Merton. Rationalizing efforts gave rise to what Christians call "theology," written down in the works of philosopher-theologians such as Augustine of Hippo, Gregory of Nyssa, Thomas Aquinas, and more recently Karl Rahner and Paul Tillich. Most of these names are unfamiliar to the vast majority of modern Christians. Many are only vaguely aware that there is such a thing as "theology," and they would be shocked at some of the teachings of influential theologians. Most are also unaware that the Christian tradition has any individual spiritual teaching at all – it appears to them an entirely social affair, focused on church buildings, doctrines, rituals, and rules for external behavior which an authoritarian clergy tries to impose on an unquestioning church membership.

In the case of Buddhism, practically all traditional Buddhist scriptures were written by and for monks and nuns, a group collectively referred to in Buddhism as "the Sangha." The teachings given in these writings really represent Sangha-Buddhism, i.e. they assume an audience committed on a full time basis to individual personal spiritual transformation. They reflect extensive efforts to rationalize Buddhist teachings around this goal of personal transformation – "incorrect" teaching is that kind of teaching which is thought to be an obstacle to the kind of internal transformation that Buddhism aims at.

Most of the teachings in these writings were virtually unknown to the vast majority of Buddhists living outside the monasteries. For them, Buddhism was primarily a social affair, consisting of temples, rituals, festivals, and rules for proper external behavior. Traditional lay Buddhism often incorporated many aspects of folk religion that probably preceded Buddhism in the areas in which it penetrated, so that lay Buddhists often associated Buddhism with invocation of various supernatural beings in order to acquire material benefits, the acquisition of magical powers such as the power to foretell the future, and so on. Because it incorporated elements of the folk religion of different cultures, traditional lay Buddhism also varied greatly from country to country.


Modern developments have given rise to a large and relatively well-educated urban middle class, which no longer respects the claims of monks and nuns to elite religious status. If they are religious at all, this middle class wants a religion suited to its own way of life, centered on family, work, and leisure activities. At the same time, this educated middle class often regards traditional folk religion as superstitious, irrational, authoritarian, and backward. In the West, the Protestant Reformation, beginning in the 1500's, represents a movement critical of medieval Catholicism, both its elite spiritual side geared to monastic life, and its popular side (such as saint-worship) connected with folk religion that Protestant reformers considered to be pagan superstition. Protestant Christianity has thus had over four centuries to develop styles of Christianity adapted to the lives of relatively well-educated laypeople. For much of this time the Catholic church attempted to hold on to the medieval model (the official Catholic teaching is that monastic life is inherently superior to lay life). But in the present century it too has gradually yielded to the pressure to present Catholicism as primarily a religion for laypeople, and this is the Catholicism that most present day Catholics are aware of. Thus present day middle class Protestantism and Catholicism usually de-emphasize those elements of medieval Christianity which seem backward and superstitious (the worship of saints, ritual exorcism of demons, and so on), and tries to adapt traditional Christian theology to the mind-set and lifestyles of modern educated people.

In Asia, traditional social structures persisted much longer into modern times, including in Buddhist countries the division between Sangha Buddhism and lay Buddhism. The breaking down of divisions between high culture and popular culture in Asian countries happened relatively recently (in most cases beginning only in the middle of the last century), and in many cases it happened through forced confrontations with Western culture and military power accompanying Western attempts to colonize and dominate Asian countries. Patriotic Asians felt the need to modernize their countries very rapidly in order to avoid being taken over by Western powers. For many, this meant active campaigns both against the "feudal superstitions" associated with lay Buddhism, and also against the economically unproductive monastic way of life. Buddhism was thus faced with relatively sudden radical criticism and adverse social and political pressure and persecution, with relatively little time to adapt its message to the educated middle classes who were in the forefront of modernization movements.

In the case of China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the adoption of Western Communist ideology led to sometimes violent campaigns against Buddhism, from which it often not has recovered. There were however some strong movements in other countries to develop what is perhaps best called "modernist lay Buddhism." Middle class lay Buddhists in Sri Lanka developed a movement that some have called "Protestant Buddhism," because, in a way similar to the Protestant revolt against Catholicism, it aimed both to take away the leadership status of monks in Buddhism, and also to combat "superstitious" elements of traditional lay Buddhism. In Myanmar and Thailand, modernizing movements began among monks and nuns themselves, adapting traditional Buddhist philosophy and spirituality so that it could be applied and practiced by people outside the monasteries, and founding meditation centers where lay Buddhists could come for short periods of time to learn meditation practices and discuss how to apply Buddhist spiritual teachings to family and business life. In Japan, several intellectuals who had studied Western philosophy developed interpretations of traditional Buddhist teachings more in accord with modern Western philosophy.

The earliest scholarly studies of Buddhism in Western countries centered on the Sangha Buddhism taught in traditional Buddhist scriptures. In the late 19th century, and continuing to the present, many Westerners feeling alienated from Western society and religious traditions, became attracted to Buddhism as an alternative. But the Buddhism that attracted them was also a kind of modernist lay Buddhism. That is, it is not based on traditional Asian lay Buddhism, but on the philosophy and spirituality of traditional Sangha-Buddhism taught in Buddhist scriptures, now applied however to conditions of modern life outside of monasteries.

This situation has brought it about that many modern Americans who study Buddhism and practice Buddhist meditation, are under the mistaken impression that the Buddhism they know about was or is the dominant traditional religion of the vast masses of Asian peoples (imagined thus as a very "spiritual" people in contrast to "materialistic" Americans!). They are largely unaware of many beliefs and practices that traditional lay Buddhists in Asia associate with Buddhism. This difference is reflected in the general lack of connection between Buddhist teaching- and meditation-centers oriented toward a Western audience, on the one hand, and more traditional Buddhist temples established in US cities by immigrants from Asia, on the other.

Western versions of modernist lay Buddhism were developed partly by Westerners who traveled to Myanmar, Thailand, Japan, or Korea to study with Buddhist teachers – often leaders of modernist lay Buddhism in their own countries. They were also developed partly by native Asians, initially trained in Asian monasteries who later traveled to the West to spread Buddhist teachings among interested Westerners. These are the most widely read Buddhist writers among Western readers, interpreting the teachings of traditional Sangha Buddhism in a way adapted to lifestyles familiar to modern Westerners. Among such teachers are the Vietnamese Thich Nhat Hanh, the Japanese Shunryu Suzuki, the Korean Seung Sahn, the Thai Dhiravamsa, and the Tibetan Chogyam Trungpa.