Understanding the Origins of Schisms

BuddhismToday, not only are there many different religions, but within those there are breakaways, schisms and sects. In this article we will take a look at one from three different practices and their leaders: Judaism (Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld), Buddhism (the Therras) and Tianshidao (Zhang Daoling).

Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld was the founder of Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community during the time of the British Mandate of Palestine. Although he passed away in 1932, his legacy still lives on. In his time, Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld worked alongside Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin, helping in community activities, including the founding of many schools as well as the Diskin Orphanage. Today, this work continues, from his legacy, via his descendants.

One of the branches of Buddhism is Theraveda. Based on Pali Canon (Buddhist texts) teachings, this features a large array of customs which have emerged over its interactions – historically – with other cultures and communities. Today it is practiced by small groups in Bangladesh, China and Vietnam. Its credibility hails in that it was the only one of the 18 schools of early Buddhism that survived the eras following the Buddha’s death. Originated by the Theras (which means Elders) it is the ‘Doctrine of the Elders,’ as opposed to being established by one individual. However, others have said that it was Anawrahta – who founded the Pagan Empire – who introduced this type of Buddhism.
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Moving on to Taoism, around a century after his passing, Zhang Daoling earned the name Celestial Master. He was the founder and patriarch of Tianshidao (Way of the Celestial Masters) movement. He studied Taosim in the Scihuan area during the Han dynasty and reign of Shundi. He said he had received a revelation from Laozi, a great Sage and thus begun his prophesizing on the coming era of a time called Taiping (Great Peace). Today there remains a Celestial Master who claims he is a direct descendant of Zhang Daoling. Most non-Monastic Taoist priests from China and the Chinese diaspora are identified with this tradition now.


James Fishman has been involved in the world of online magazines for more than 15 years. He helped launch Sunstone Online and continues to improve the magazine as site editor and administrator. His writing focuses primarily business and technology. To be in touch with James, feel free to contact him at james[at]sunstoneonline.com.

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