To an outsider or someone not well-informed about Buddhism, its numerous school and traditions may appear to be so diverse as to have little or nothing in common with ech other. While it is true that some minor sects and cults identifying themselves as Buddhist are not really so, all genuinely Buddhists traditions share and adhere to certain common features. In 1967, First Congress of the World Buddhist Sangha Council, representing Buddhists from 25 countries and made up of all the main Buddhist branches and traditions, drew up an ecumenical document called The Basic Points Unifying the Theravàda and the Mahàyàna.  This document is a concise formula of the unifying principles that all Buddhists adhered too and was unanimously approved by the participants of the Council. The statement reads:

(1) The Buddha is our only Master (teacher and guide).

(2) We take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha (the Three Jewels).

(3) We do not believe that this world is created and ruled by a god.

(4) We consider that the purpose of life is to develop compassion for all living beings without discrimination and to work for their good, happiness, and peace; and to develop wisdom (pa¤¤a) leading to the realization of Ultimate Truth

(5) We accept the Four Noble Truths, namely dukkha, the arising of dukkha, the cessation of dukkha, and the path leading to the cessation of dukkha; and the law of cause and effect (pañiccasamuppàda).

(6) All conditioned things (saükhàra) are impermanent (anicca) and dukkha, and that all conditioned and unconditioned things (dhamma) are without self (anatta).

(7) We accept the thirty-seven qualities conducive to enlightenment (bodhipakkhaya dhamma) as different aspects of the Path taught by the Buddha leading to Enlightenment.

(8)  There are three ways of attaining bodhi or Enlightenment: namely as a disciple (sàvaka), as a paccakabuddha and as a samma sambuddha (perfectly and fully enlightened Buddha). We accept it as the highest, noblest, and most heroic to follow the career of a Bodhisattva and to become a samma sambuddha in order to save others.

(9) We admit that in different countries there are differences regarding Buddhist beliefs and practices. These external forms and expressions should not be confused with the essential teachings of the Buddha. (The Sanskrit for all doctrinal terms is used in the original).