Everyone knows that Buddhism is one of the world’s great religions. It is estimated to be followed by 535 million people, around 8% of the world’s population. It is a complete package, uniting philosophy, meditation practice (which turns theoretical knowledge into direct experience), and a system of ethics grounded in compassion and wisdom.
The historical Buddha taught during 45 years of constant travelling, in which he encountered different kinds of people and gave general and specific advice for all life’s situations. After he passed away, his teachings were compiled, categorised, and spread during historical phases over Asia. While retaining their timeless message, their outer form adapted to the specific cultural circumstances in which they were disseminated. This is why we find many branches or traditions within Buddhism.
Today Buddhism is in the process of taking root in Western countries, thanks to the exchange and cooperation between the masters of traditional Asian Buddhist lineages, and their Western students. The life-long work of Lama Ole Nydahl and his establishment of the global network of Diamond Way Buddhist centres on behalf of his teacher, the 16th Karmapa, is a very notable example of this process.