The first chapter provides an outline covering the social and historical background in which Buddhism came into being. It explains the context of society (e.g. Aryan dominance) and presents how each side explains these issues. Then, information about the person Buddha and how Buddhism evolves is discussed.
The second chapter covers the development of early Buddhism. The early councils, the great schism, and their results are the issues discussed. The information on the evolvement of schools and the philosophical precepts presented will be compared.
The development of a Buddhism that found followers throughout the Asian continent is subject of the third chapter. What are the differences to the former faiths? How are the beginnings and developments explained of the new types of Buddhism? These are the questions which are investigated. Various schools that are summed up as the so-called Great Vehicle or Mahayana and the so-called Diamond Vehicle or Vajrayana respectively tantric Buddhism will also be discussed. Unlike the first evolvement of Buddhism, there are various proclaimers of diverse doctrines. The contributions on the basic schools and its representatives will be examined for both sides.
At last the fourth chapter covers the spread of Buddhism in its historical context. This chapter presents and analyzes the two works in relation to the information on the development and the spread of Buddhist creeds in Asia.
The procedure, in its single steps, will be as follows: The statements of the Chinese and English articles from the two reference works will be introduced. Both the Zhongguo Da Baike Quanshu and The New Encyclopædia Britannica have separate articles on general subjects of Buddhism. These articles cover philosophy and doctrine, sacred literature and biographies. At times additional information from these separate articles will be inserted if an author of the two main works emphasizes a subject. Also, if other authors discuss the same topic providing any contradicting information to the main works, this information will also be considered. If the two works offer insufficient or differing information, the discussion of other authors is examined for clarification. Possible deviations or any contradiction will be stressed and discussed.
It is known that the social, cultural and political viewpoints of the American and Chinese are in opposition; nonetheless this should not influence scientific work. This thesis does not attempt to determine the political viewpoints regarding Buddhism in any way; the reader is advised to keep in mind that emphasis is laid on the historical course and the relating philosophy that led to development and spread of Buddhism.