During the 26 centuries since the life of the Buddha, Buddhism has developed into diverse schools and sects. As a result many diferernt forms of Buddhisms arose which adopted the Buddha and Buddhist art and literature. whcih along the way it lost much of its original meaning. Sometimes new religions were created which were Buddhist in appearance but which retained little of the Buddha's teachings. What arose were questions such as when is "Buddhism" actually Buddhism? As a result schools of Buddhism based on the 'Buddha's teachings' all accept the Four Seals of Dharma as the distinction between true Buddhism' and 'looks like' Buddhism.
The Four Seals are as follows:
- All compounded things are impermanent -
Anything that is assembled of other things will come apart -- acar, a building, a mountain, a person. The fact is the world around u, which seems solid, is in a state of perpetual flux.
- All stained emotions are painful.
- This is the teaching of the' Second Noble Truth', which teaches that the cause of suffering is craving or thirst (tanha).
- All phenomena are empty - is another way
to say this is that nothing has intrinsic or inherent existence, including ourselves. This relates to 'anatta'.
Nirvana is peace - The Buddha taught that Nirvana was beyond human conceptualization or imagination, and discouragedfollowers from wasting time in speculating about it.