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Mahayana Buddhism

Design and deliver by : Group 6

Leader: Baguion, Mark
Peligrino, Antonio
Locob, Mickel
Sumando, Jeraldine
Richa, Jasrel
Definition: Mahayana Buddhism

Mahayana Buddhism is one of two major Buddhist

traditions, both of which base their philosophies on
the teachings of Siddartha Guatama, more
commonly referred to as the Buddha. Like
Theraveda Buddhism, Mahayana is both a
philosophy and a way of life that aspires to nirvana.
Nirvana is a state of enlightenment that comes with
the recognition that the ego, or the thing we think
of as our self, is an illusion that causes us pain and
suffering. .
Mahayana differs from the Theravada tradition in
three basic ways :

Mahayan emphasizes sunyata, or the emptiness that comes with enlightenment. While Theravada
Buddhism suggests that sunyata is the ultimate basis of all things, Mahayana holds that no such basis
exists, that nothing is anything until compared to something else. Put briefly, everything is nothing!
Mahayana embraces the letting go of all phenomena as aspects of illusion.

Mahayana also differs in its preferred path to enlightenment. The Mahayana tradition privileges the Bodhisattva-
path. A bodhisattva is one who has achieved enlightenment but postpones full nirvana to help others on their
paths to do the same. Unlike the Theravada tradition, which held that enlightenment required years of careful
study by trained monks and sometimes required multiple reincarnated lifetimes to achieve, Mahayana tradition
holds that any individual can take up the bodhisattva-path and that enlightenment can occur suddenly and within
one lifetime.

Mahayana Buddhism celebrates the Buddha as transcendent being and encourages the use of his image,
as a meditative tool or object of devotion. Depictions of heroic bodhisattvas are also associated with
Mahayana Buddhism.
To clarify this complex movement of spiritual and religious thought and religious practice, it may help to understand the three main classifications of
Buddhism to date: Theravada (also known as Hinayana, the vehicle of the Hearers), Mahayana, and Vajrayana. These are recognised by practitioners as the
three main routes to enlightenment (Skt: bodhi, meaning awakening), the state that marks the culmination of all the Buddhist religious paths. The differences
between them are as follows:

Theravada is the only remaining school from the Early Buddhist period, its central texts are in Pali (Pãli Canon), the spoken language of the Buddha; and its
exclusively monastic devotees strive to become enlightened for their own liberation.

Mahayana uses Sanskrit as its main language, and monastic and lay followers work for the liberation of all sentient beings, making compassion and insight
(wisdom) its central doctrines.

Vajrayana, the Diamond School, originally exclusive to Tibet (in 20th century CE the Chinese occupation of Tibet forced it out of the country), emphasizes
the permanence of the Buddha's teachings as symbolized by the vajra (thunderbolt), a ritual implement used for ceremonies, employs Tantra (techniques to
reach enlightenment quickly) and focuses mainly on lay practitioners.

The main schools of Buddhism practised today are Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren, Shingon, and Tendai (all Mahayanas); and Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana). It is
significant that Theravada texts exclusively concern the Buddha’s life and early teachings; whereas, due to widespread propagation (spreading of the
teachings), Mahayana and Vajrayana texts appear in at least six languages. Mahayana texts contain a mixture of ideas, the early texts probably composed in
south India and confined to strict monastic Buddhism, the later texts written in northern India and no longer confined to monasticism but lay thinking also.

The term Mahayana was first mentioned in

the Lotus Sutra (among the final teachings of
Buddha Sakyamuni) at an indeterminate date
between 5th and 1st century CE. However,
according to recent scholarship, it may have
been a mistaken term because instead of 'yana'
meaning 'vehicle' or 'cart,' it could have been
'mahajãna,' 'jãna' meaning 'knowing,' therefore
'great (maha) knowing.' In this era, the Dharma,
(Pali: Dhamma), the natural law of all existence
according to Buddhism, was no longer
regarded as a doctrinal element but as
a medicine that would heal all worldly

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Mahayana Buddhism is prevalent in north Asia having spread from northern India, then to Tibet and central
Asia, China, Korea, and lastly Japan. Due to the cultural influences and diversity of countries, the scope of
Buddhist practice has widened even more to include the Tantric practices (Tantra meaning techniques to
reach Enlightenment more quickly) and Shamanism (a shaman is an intermediary who has access to the
world of spirits and healing) from central Asia

Notable figures of this movement are Asvaghosa who wrote The Awakening of Faith in the
Mahayana translated into Chinese c. 550 CE; Maitreyanatha who compiled the Mahayana path from the
Yogacara perspective made up of 800 verses; Nagarjuna, founder of the Madhyamaka school, born c. 2nd
century CE in south India; Aryadeva, Nagarjuna's foremost disciple; Dogen, known for his teachings on
Buddha Nature in Japan; Kukai, founder of Shingon Buddhism; and Hua-yen for the 'Flower Garland'
tradition in China, Korea, and Japan.

Biographical literature of the Buddha first appeared during this Mahayana era and aided the rapid spread of Buddhism
across the Silk Road to the east of India and north into Nepal and Tibet. In addition, Buddhist poets expressed their faith
using literary expressions which transcended the doctrinal lines between the different schools.
doctrine of his nature as the trikaya, or three wheel bodies
(the Dharmakaya (the enlightenment or truth body),
the Sambhogakaya (the bliss or clear light body), and
the Nirmanakaya, (the form body manifesting in time and

The Bodhicaryavatara, 'Entering the Path of Enlightenment,'

composed by Santideva (685-763), a Buddhist monk, poet and
scholar based a Nalanda University, is one of the main texts for
aspiring Bodhisattvas. It describes various steps taken by a
Bodhisattva to reach enlightenment. A famous quotation from it

“Whosoever wishes to quickly rescue himself and another he

should practise the supreme mystery-the exchanging of himself
and the other”. (8.120).
Compassion can be tangibly used by Mahayana
practitioners in the transfer of merit to all sentient beings,
which is accumulated through devotional practice. Wisdom
can be used to transcend the human condition via the
conviction that all beings contain the Buddha seed so can,
therefore, become a Buddha. The basis of the Bodhisattva
vow is the six paramitas(perfections):
The six paramitas (perfections):

generosity (dana)

morality (sila)

patience (ksanti)

courage (virya)

knowledge (jhana or dhyana)

and intuitive insight (prajna).

In early Buddhism, there were ten paramitas, and later in
the Mahayana, they were increased again to ten to match
the ten stages (bhumi) of a Bodhisattva’s spiritual
progress. Liberating or saving those who were lost or
suffering becomes the sole life-purpose of those who
take this Bodhisattva vow, even today.
Places of worship
Another feature of Mahayana Buddhism is the
presence of stupas – religious towers or domes
which evolved from prehistoric burial mounds
and eventually had tall spires known as
pagodas, common structures found throughout
Asia. The Buddha instructed that on his death
a stupa should be constructed over his relics.
Today, surviving stupas often contain sacred
objects such as texts as well as relics or remains
of revered beings. Their popularity as marking a
place of worship increased as Buddhism spread
to the masses who were mostly illiterate laymen.

Many scholars claim that lay Buddhism was responsible for the flourishing of the Mahayanas. The centring of the movement
on Buddha as the first Bodhisattva and the revelation that all beings could reach Enlightenment promoted Buddhism in
everyday life rather than behind the closed doors of monasteries. There is also evidence to show that the excessive privileges
and arrogance of monks was detested by householders, especially in Japan, and that the clergy looked down on lay
practitioners as in other religions, notably Christianity. The Asokadattavyakarana Sutra advocated the wisdom of women and
girls: the protagonist, a 12-year-old princess, refuses to salute the monks referring to them as "Hinayana jackals." At the same
time, the Vimalakirtinrdusa Sutra advocates lay Buddhism in the exploits of its hero, Vimalakirti.

Stupas were administered by lay devotees and so the importance of Buddha's life became increasingly significant as a result.
They provided not only an opportunity for a different kind of worship but also for social interaction. There was finally an
alternative religious tradition for householders, some of whom became founders of new schools, e.g. Prince Shotoku of
Japan who never took monastic vows though he lived out the Buddhist teachings in everyday life and also became the first
Buddhist statesman to reorder Japan with a 17-article constitution. The widening of Mahayana doctrines and the universal
appeal of attaining Buddhahood meant that many schools flourished outside monasteries and often focused on certain
Mahayana texts. It might be said that for a long period of time monks remained cloistered hearing the Dharma, while the
laity were actively working as Bodhisattvas in daily life.
• The significance of the Buddha's • This striking change in
physical death as only an attitudes to the Buddha and
appearance is paramount in
Mahayana Buddhism. Out of his
his teachings represents its
compassion, he became ever- reabsorption into the society
present to help suffering sentient which it had renounced and
beings trapped in samsara, the become distant from in the
cycle of repeated birth and death monasteries. This
that individuals must undergo until fundamentally created a new
they attain 'Nirvana'
(enlightenment), in which they are
religious system and a self-
blinded by the three roots of evil, awareness which is evident in
namely greed, hatred, and the body of the Mahayana
delusion. Samsara, although not Sutras and which made such
mentioned by name, is doctrines respectable.