Mahayana – The Bodhisattva path
Mahāyāna is a term for a broad group of Buddhist traditions, texts, philosophies, and practices.
Mahāyāna Buddhism developed in India and is considered one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Origin of Mahāyāna’s teachings
- 2 - Terms, concepts & places in Mahāyāna practices
- 2.1 - Pure land
- 2.2 - Bodhisattva vow
- 2.3 - Buddha-nature
- 2.4 - Svabhava
- 2.5 - Buddhism in Southeast Asia
- 2.6 - Buddhist Texts Library
- 2.7 - Greco-Buddhism
- 2.8 - Prasaṅgika according to Tsongkhapa
- 2.9 - Śrāvakayāna
- 2.10 - Buddhism in Hong Kong
- 2.11 - Pratyekabuddhayāna
- 2.12 - Dharmarakṣita (9th century)
- 2.13 - Humanistic Buddhism
- 2.14 - Icchantika
- 2.15 - Sahā
- 2.16 - Tathāgataguhyaka Sūtra
Origin of Mahāyāna’s teachings
Mahāyāna accepts the main scriptures and teachings of early Buddhism, but also adds various new doctrines and texts such as the Mahāyāna Sūtras and its emphasis on the bodhisattva path and Prajñāpāramitā.
Vajrayāna or Mantra traditions are a subset of Mahāyāna, which make use of numerous tantric methods considered to be faster and more powerful at achieving Buddhahood by Vajrayānists.
The origins of Mahāyāna are still not completely understood and there are numerous competing theories.
The earliest Western views of Mahāyāna assumed that it existed as a separate school in competition with the so-called “Hīnayāna” schools.
Terms, concepts & places in Mahāyāna practices
This is a list of terms, concepts and places related to the Mahayana practice.
A pure land is the celestial realm or pure abode of a buddha or bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism. The term “pure land” is particular to East Asian Buddhism and related traditions; in Sanskrit the equivalent concept is called a “buddha-field”. The various traditions that focus on pure lands have been given the nomenclature Pure Land Buddhism. Pure lands are also evident in the literature and traditions of Taoism and Bon.
The Bodhisattva vow is a vow taken by some Mahāyāna Buddhists to achieve full buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings. One who has taken the vow is nominally known as a bodhisattva. This can be done by venerating all Buddhas and by cultivating supreme moral and spiritual perfection, to be placed in the service of others. In particular, bodhisattvas promise to practice the six perfections of giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom in order to fulfill their bodhicitta aim of attaining buddhahood for the sake of all beings.
Buddha-nature or Buddha Principle refers to several related terms, most notably tathāgatagarbha and buddhadhātu. Tathāgatagarbha means “the womb” or “embryo” (garbha) of the “thus-gone” (tathagata), or “containing a tathagata”, while buddhadhātu literally means “Buddha-realm” or “Buddha-substrate”.
Svabhava literally means “own-being” or “own-becoming”. It is the intrinsic nature, essential nature or essence of living beings.
Buddhism in Southeast Asia
Buddhism in Southeast Asia includes a variety of traditions of Buddhism including two main traditions: Mahāyāna Buddhism and Theravāda Buddhism. Historically, Mahāyāna Buddhism had a prominent position in this region, but in modern times most countries follow the Theravāda tradition. Southeast Asian countries with a Theravāda Buddhist majority are Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, all mainland countries.
Buddhist Texts Library
Buddhist Texts Library is a large building in Chinese Buddhist temples which is built specially for storing The Chinese Buddhist Canon (大藏經). It is encountered throughout East Asia, including in some Japanese Buddhist Kyōzōs (経蔵). The Chinese Buddhist Canon is the total body of Buddhist literature deemed canonical and was called “all the sutras” (一切經) in the ancient time. With four thousand kinds, it includes Āgama (經), Vinaya (律) and Abhidharma (論) texts. Āgama aretheories made by Buddha for disciples to practice, Vinaya are the rules formulated by Buddha for believers and Abhidharama are the collection of theories explanations by Buddha disciples.
Greco-Buddhism, or Graeco-Buddhism, is the cultural syncretism between Hellenistic culture and Buddhism, which developed between the fourth century BCE and the fifth century CE in Bactria and the Gandhara. It was a cultural consequence of a long chain of interactions begun by Greek forays into India from the time of Alexander the Great. The Macedonian satraps were then conquered by the Mauryan Empire, under the reign of Chandragupta Maurya. The Mauryan Emperor Ashoka would convert to Buddhism and spread the religious philosophy throughout his domain, as recorded in the Edicts of Ashoka.
The Svatantrika-Prasaṅgika distinction is a set of arguments about two different positions of emptiness philosophy which are debated within the Mahayana school of Buddhism. It is most prominently discussed in Tibetan Buddhism where Prāsaṅgika and Svātantrika, are viewed to be different forms of Madhyamaka philosophy.
Śrāvakayāna is one of the three yānas known to Indian Buddhism. It translates literally as the “vehicle of listeners [i.e. disciples]”. Historically it was the most common term used by Mahāyāna Buddhist texts to describe one hypothetical path to enlightenment. Śrāvakayāna is the path that meets the goals of an Arhat—an individual who achieves liberation as a result of listening to the teachings of a Samyaksaṃbuddha. A Buddha who achieved enlightenment through Śrāvakayāna is called a Śrāvakabuddha, as distinguished from a Samyaksaṃbuddha or Pratyekabuddha.
Buddhism in Hong Kong
Buddhism is a major religion in Hong Kong and has been greatly influential in the traditional culture of its populace. Among the most prominent Buddhist temples in the city there are the Chi Lin Nunnery in Diamond Hill, built in the Tang Dynasty’s architectural style; the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island, famous for the outdoor bronze statue, Tian Tan Buddha, which attracts a large number of visitors during the weekends and holidays.
Pratyekabuddhayāna is a Buddhist term for the mode or vehicle of enlightenment of a pratyekabuddha or paccekabuddha, a term which literally means “solitary buddha” or “a buddha on their own”. The pratyekabuddha is an individual who independently achieves liberation without the aid of teachers or guides and without teaching others to do the same. Pratyekabuddhas may give moral teachings but do not bring others to enlightenment. They leave no sangha as a legacy to carry on the Dhamma.
Dharmarakṣita (9th century)
Dharmarakṣita is a c. 9th century Indian Buddhist credited with composing an important Mahayana text called the Wheel of Sharp Weapons. He was the teacher of Atiśa, who was instrumental in establishing a second wave of Buddhism in Tibet.
Humanistic Buddhism is a modern philosophy practiced by Buddhist groups originating from Chinese Buddhism which places an emphasis on integrating Buddhist practices into everyday life and shifting the focus of ritual from the dead to the living.
In Mahayana Buddhism the icchantika is a deluded being who can never attain enlightenment (Buddhahood).
Sahā or more formally the Sahā world in Mahāyāna Buddhism refers to the mundane world, essentially the sum of existence that is other than nirvana.
The Tathāgataguhyaka Sūtra or Tathāgatācintyaguhyanirdeśasūtra is an important Mahayana Buddhist sutra, which is also part of the Mahāratnakūṭa compilation.