What is called "Buddhism" is a whole range of different schools, sects, practices etc. that has in common that they are based on the teachings of Siddharta Gautama/the Buddha. But is the name "Buddhism" used as a name for these teachings anywhere else than in the "West"? How and when did the name "Buddhism" appear?

4 Answers 4


How and when did the name "Buddhism" appear?

I'm not an expert, but here's what I found this evening: the article SCHOPENHAUER AND BUDDHISM by Peter Abelson says,

When the tenets of Buddhism became known in Europe during the third and fourth decade of the nineteenth century

... and says that Schopenhauer referenced work by Isaak Jacob Schmidt.

Wikipedia's article for Isaac Jacob Schmidt says that one of his publications was titled,

Über die Verwandtschaft der gnostisch-theosophischen Lehren mit den Religions-Systemen des Orients, vorzüglich des Buddhaismus, Leipzig 1828

And this book Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West quotes Isaac Schmidt as saying,

enter image description here

So according to Isaac Jacob Schmidt,

The peoples of that faith call themselves followers of the teachings of the Buddha.

According to Wikipedia he was living in Russia and studying Mongolian and Tibetan history.

His scientific work became noted after the publication of a work on the history of Mongols and Tibetans in 1824. ... Until his death in 1847, Schmidt published a multitude of works on Mongolian and Tibetan studies

  • This is very interesting, and thanks for the article on Schopenhauer, he was a major reason for me to get into philosophy Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 5:31

I don't think I understand your question. It's simply an '-ism' made from what should be referred to as "Buddhadhamma". All schools agree that Buddha showed a way to nibbana which anybody can follow by critically understanding every step themselves. All schools also agree that their minute differences are mainly in the monastic rules and conduct which themselves are nothing but a raft used to reach a state, Buddha refers to Dhamma itself.

  • At some point the term must still have come into being. Probably "invented" by some early western scholars or translators, and I'm interested in that story and how the story of Dhamma evolves in the West. Since that is too big a question, I formulated it like I did Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 16:45
  • I also think that differences between schools are more than "minute". But that was not the question here ;-) Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 16:49
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    "How and when did the name “Buddhism” appear?" That's a quite simple and clearly put history question, isn't it?
    – user382
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 18:35
  • above answer is better, I agree. My confusion was that when we encounter any movement or a system based on some key idea, we call it <that-idea>ism like hooliganism, Marxism, minimalism and so on. When it was first used and by who is another matter of course. Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 4:23

Good question! The Buddha introduced his "religion" as (this) Dhamma- (this) Vinaya, Dhamma-Vinaya (Teaching & Discipline) and there is and was also the use of Buddha Sasana (the teaching of the Buddha).

The "ism"-isation is actually already against his teachings, especially such nuances as "my", "our" Buddhism, and indicates even much lack of respect, since the teaching of the Buddha, the Dhamma, is just for an Arahat his own and even so, a person who actually owns it, would not refer to it other than Buddha-Sasana.

As far as Atma knows, this name firstly came up about 1850 in UK (you find certain dates or orign and hints in older English dictionaries) and his actually a label of and everything that likes to use the Buddhas reputation for mainly wordily purposes, attachment, (wrong) views and identifications, so really not a good label if one seeks for the good teachings.


Buddhism is an English word that means the practice,system or doctrine of the Buddha, lit. "awakened, enlightened." Obviously the Buddha didn't speak English, but he did use a Pali phrase that means "followers of the Shakyan," referring to the Buddha's clan and territory (lit. "the able ones"), which means very nearly what is connoted by the English term. More usually, however, he simply refers to the Dharma-Vinaya, meaning "the doctrine and the practice," without specificially alluding to himself. Moreover, "Buddha" is really a collective term. The Buddha did not claim to present an original teaching specific to himself, but rather to an ahistorical or prehistorical lineage of perfected beings (buddhas) going back hundreds of thousands of years at least, which he equates with (but does not limit to apparently) the Vedic rishis. He states that this teaching is archaic, even primordial, and that he has only rediscovered it in the degenerate age, thus establishing a buddha dispensation (sasana) that will last 5,000 years (i.e., till 4600 CE approx.). The teaching of the ekayana, single or universal vehicle, is that all of these schools and sects are merely facets of one universal teaching that reconciles them all. Only the latter is actually Buddhism. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Buddha taught or thought in an exclusive or sectarian way.

  • This are interesting words, Mr. Alexander Duncan. Aside of not understanding of what some detail of future speculations are of use here, it would be great to have some sources of origin here. Maybe you like to tell that the Word "Buddhism" is the modern manifestation of Ekayana and explain that everything that comes along under this lable is just another aspect of "countless ways to nibbana". There is a whole and good maintained canon with much evidence and reasoning, that the Buddha was very strict with what we taught and how to handle what he did not taught.
    – user11235
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 0:41
  • "Buddhism" does not translate "ekayana," which means "one way."
    – user4970
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 4:03
  • Yes, so why such an answer?
    – user11235
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 4:08
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    My point is that there is no sect in Buddhism. Sectarianism is a secondary phenomenon, which does not correspond to how the Buddha thought (or taught).
    – user4970
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 0:30
  • Of course, Mr. Duncan (or better just one). Everything else is actually nonsense, but the label Buddhisms does a different. It put's every thing which is not the Buddhas sect under its label. Please note that the word sect or sectarianism is actually very proper for Buddhas Sangha and "religion".
    – user11235
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 0:46

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