Buddhism is one of the largest, and oldest religions in the world, making its history quite fascinating. According to Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life’s study, 7 percent of the world’s population are Buddhists, making it the fifth largest religion practiced in the world. Within the Buddhist Religion, there are three major schools in Buddhism: Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana.
Although each of these schools are categorized as Buddhism, each one has its own belief system and practices. Additionally, these schools are further divided into subsets. Best Online College has put together this comprehensive Buddhist studies guide that provides links to information about each branch, along with Buddhism’s historical background.
- A History of Buddhism: The teachings of the historic Buddha form the basis of the Buddhist world-view and practice by The Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies.
- Buddhism: The “Imported” Tradition: The focus of this article is the history of Buddhism in China from a book written by Stephen F. Teiser. The article also offers an in-depth history of Buddhism in general covering karma, reincarnation, the three jewels and the term “Buddha.”
- The History of Buddhism: Written by Dr. C. George Boeree of Shippensburg University, this essay deals with the history of Buddhism. It is subdivided into different Buddhist sects and countries for easier consumption.
- Life of Buddha: Dedicated to publishing information on the life of Buddha this site offers information on his life and provides links to relevant books and online resources. The story of Siddhartha Gautama, the “Supreme Buddha.”
- Life of the Buddha: TheBuddhistSociety.org provides a general overview of the life of the Buddha. The Buddhist Society splits up the eras of his life into the birth and early life, the four sights, renunciation, enlightenment, teaching life and passing away.
- Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition: FPMT is an organization devoted to the transmission of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values worldwide through teaching, meditation and community service. FPMT offers printed materials at their online learning center.
- Mahayana Buddhism (a.k.a. Northern Tradition): This site explains the basics of Mahayana Buddhism and its history. It also provides a great comparison chart that shows the differences between Theravadan and Mahayanan traditions.
- Mahayana Buddhism: Emeritus professor, Paul Brians, of Washington State University maintains this very short history of Mahayana Buddhism. The essay focuses Eightfold Path with a link to a good comparison of Buddhism and Hinduism.
- Tendai: Tendai is a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism. This site publishes several articles about the Tendai way–its principles, founder and history.
- Zen Buddhism: This is a school of Mahayana Buddhism. The Metropolitan Museum of Art shows the history of this school with its art.
- Access to Insight: This site teaches what is Theravada Buddhism. They also provide a wonderful online library of Theravada literature.
- The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation: This speech was originally given by a teacher of Vipassana meditation. He touches on the practice Vipassana meditation–one of India’s most ancient techniques. This speech is an easy read with deep meaning.
- Theravada Buddhist Society of America: TBSA offers event and retreat news for United States citizens.
- Vipassana Research Institute: This website provides information about and studies on Vipassana Meditation, as taught by S.N.Goenka and his assistant teachers in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin.
- What is Theravada Buddhism?: The Buddhist Society of Queensland offers a digression into the historical origin of Theravada. They provide many pages to sift through for learning about Buddha and Buddhist practices.
- A View on Buddhism: Introduction to Buddhist practice and meditation, philosophy, history and traditions and especially Tibetan Buddhism by Tibetan Buddhist themselves.
- Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center: This is truly a great resource. For those of you interested in dissecting hard-to-find pieces of Tibetan Buddhist literature, this is a great resource. Aside from ancient texts, you can also stay up to date with their blog.
- Some Facts about Vajrayana Buddhism: This is a pointed essay written by Acharya Mahayogi Sridhar Rana Rinpoche dissecting the widely held beliefs of this Buddhist school. It explores its existence in Nepal in particular.
- Shambhala: Shambhala is a community for practitioners of and for those interested in Tibetan Buddhism. You will find information about meditation, a description of beliefs, and information about global events and centers.
If you enjoy studying religion, such as Buddhism, you may be interested in pursuing a degree in religion or theology. North Carolina State University recently published a paper discussing the study of religion, stating that “In a world defined by religious conflict—in the Middle East, in Africa, and in the culture wars at home—colleges and universities have come to consider religious studies increasingly important.” Since the 1970s, the number of students obtaining a bachelor’s degree in religious studies has double, according to this paper.
But how practical is a religious studies degree in regards to employment? Well, because religion plays such a prominent role in the world, the study of religion is extremely beneficial in numerous career fields. This infographic lists a few of the top career paths that people with a religious studies degree take.
Possible career options available to religious studies graduates include:
- Education and teaching
- Business and international business
- Government, law and politics
- Social services
Additionally, there are employment opportunities in niche areas, such as:
- Museum and archival work
- Environmental studies
- Travel and hospitality
- Public health
- Speciality chefs