Pacific Buddha has its roots in all three major phases of Buddhist history, which in themselves reach back further into antiquity. The major phases of Buddhism have been explained by Dr. Alan Sponberg (Dh. Saramati) in the following way:

Developmental Buddhism (First Phase)

Ascetic Shakyamuni
Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha of First Phase Buddhism

  • approximately 500 BCE to 0 CE
  • Challenge: preserving the historical Buddha’s teaching or Dharma
  • Creative Response: organizing the Buddha’s teaching into an authoritative cannon
  • Institutional Innovation: permanent, settled monastic communities; for example, the Theravada

Relational Buddhism (Second Phase) – the Mahayana

Amitabha from Chetral Rinpoche
Amitabha, the most widely revered archetypal Buddha of Second Phase Buddhism

  • approximately 0 CE to 500 CE
  • Challenge: re-universalizing the Dharma to make it as culturally accessible as possible
  • Creative Response: emphasizing Releasing teachings and universal Imagining meditations
  • Institutional Innovation: lay-based Mahayana and Mantrayana communities devoted to Imagining, especially the archetypal Buddha Amitabha

Technical Buddhism (Third Phase)

Third Phase Buddhism: includes Chán, Pure Land, and Vajrayana lineages

  • approximately 500 CE to present
  • Challenge: refocusing from the expansiveness of the Mahayana to the specific practices to be done
  • Creative Response: re-emphasizing the most immediate and direct methods for Awakening
  • Institutional Innovation: Chán, Pure Land, and Vajrayana, lineages

Fourth Phase Buddhism

Anagarika Dharmapala and Dr. B.R. AmbedkarDr. Ambedkar and Dharmapala, two heroes of Fourth Phase Buddhism

  • approximately 1850 CE to present
  • Challenge: balancing the dual realities of unity and diversity within the Buddhist tradition, while re-establishing its culture based on Abundance in the face of scarcity
  • Creative Response and Institutional Innovation: remains to be tried and tested