In Buddhism, which originated in India, there is something referred to as the three precious jewels and it is the crux of Buddhism worldwide, regardless of the country in which it is practiced. Since Buddhism has a rich tradition in Tibet, China, Japan, and India, as well as other Eastern countries, that is where it is learned from.
The Three Jewels
The three jewels are the Buddha, as example; the Dharma, as teaching; and the Sangha, as the community of practitioners. In the East, these three jewels are the basis of Refuge, which is the initial vow that the Buddhist practitioner takes to enter the practice of Buddhism.
One takes these vows under an enlightened master or the emissary of one and they literally take refuge in the three jewels for understanding and practice. The Buddha was a human being who attained enlightenment, which is the freedom and liberation from the cycles of existence in the six realms.
The Six Realms
According to all Buddhist teachings regardless of origin, there are six realms of existence. They are all considered to be tainted or “samsara,” meaning that they all have suffering and impermanence as their cardinal marks of reality.
There are three higher realms and three lower realms. In Buddhism, it is considered more favorable to be born into one of the higher realms but one is still subject to suffering in any of them.
The three higher realms are: The human realm, the demi-god realm, and the realms of the gods. The three lower realms are: The animal realm, the realm of hungry ghosts, and the hell realms.
Each is correlated with certain afflictive emotions and thus regarded as well below enlightened states of consciousness in which there are no afflictive emotions.
Western Versus Eastern
All Buddhism, as it is known, originated in the East from Gautama Buddha, the original Buddha who was once Prince Siddhartha from India. He renounced all earthly ties of wealth, fame, stature, and comfort in order to find a higher state of consciousness.
As an example, the Buddha himself still stands for all Buddhist traditions, hence the name given to the religion which is actually more a system of thought than it is a religion. He is the ultimate example and the state of the Buddha is something that is said anyone can attain.
Buddhism was brought to the West by the Venerable Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche who came from Tibet. He demystified the practices for Westerners so they could begin practice on their own without having to travel to India in order to learn.
The original form of Western Buddhism is now known as Shambhala Buddhism and it is purely Western Buddhism in the strictest sense. Now there are other forms of Western Buddhism and the methods are still very similar. All utilize meditation and right action as a basis for practice.
To this very day, Shambhala Buddhism is practiced across the country and now around the world. Westerners think differently than those in the East and are faced with different lifestyles.