One of the key branches of Buddhism, Mahayana is thoroughly discussed in Mitchell’s book, Buddhism: Introducing the Buddhist Experience.
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The author devotes an entire chapter of his paper to Mahayana as the teaching of Buddha, thus, allowing to understand the key differences between the former and the original Buddhist teachings.
With a deep insight and a careful analysis of the key principles of the two teachings, Mitchell helps the readers to understand the impact that Mahayana, or The Great Vehicle, has had on Buddhism1.
According to the existing evidence, there are actually two key branches of Buddhism, which are the Theravada and the Mahayana Buddhism. Therefore, it is most reasonable to compare the two to see what exact specifics define Mahayana Buddhism.
Appropriately enough, the comparison should start with the pivotal figure in Buddhism, i.e., The Enlightened One himself. According to the Theravada traditions, the number of times when Buddha gets a mentioning are close to zero – it seems that not the Buddha, but his teachings are what matters to the Theravada adepts most.
On the contrary, the Mahayana Buddhists seem to focus on Buddha’s personality. Mahayana, however, mentions not only the historical Gautama Buddha, but also a number of others, such as Amitabha Buddha and Medicine Buddha.
Another important difference between the two branches of Buddhism is the key objective of the path of a true Buddhist. According to Theravada Buddhism, the goal of its true adept is to achieve self-liberation, which means that of the three selves, the one-self concept is stressed the most.
Mahayana Buddhism, in its turn, also sets the goal of self-liberation, yet it also states very clearly that the followers of Buddhism must also focus on the relationships between them and the rest of the world, maintaining fragile balance between one’s self and the selves of the others.
However, the above-mentioned two types of Buddhist teachings are not the only interpretations of what Buddha was trying to convey to his students; according to the existing records, there are four major schools of Buddhism in China; to be more exact, there are Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana and Nikayas2.
While each of the schools mentioned above has its own subdivision, altogether, they make the bulk of the Buddhist teachings. However, each of the schools offers its own interpretation of Buddha’s postulates.
While each of the schools is based on the same idea of enlightenment as the climax of one’s spiritual progress, they actually have a number of differences, as it has already been proven above with the help of a comparison between Theravada and Mahayana.
When it comes to discussing the most peculiar school of Buddhist thought, Vajrayana seems an interesting choice. Also known as the Diamond Way, it practically obliterated distinctions between the esoteric and the exoteric.
The last, but definitely not the least, the mahasiddhas that the Buddhist teaching in China often mentions3 are worth taking a closer look at.
Typically used to denote the people who have acquired supernatural skills4, mahasiddhas must have inspired millions of people who follow the Buddhist principles.
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Being a great example of the fact that that there are no obstacles in a man’s way except for the ones that he creates, mahasiddhas seem to have inspired the Tantric branch of Buddhism, opening new horizons for Buddhists of all times and continents.
“Buddhist Masters of Enchantment.” Keith Dowman. Web.
Lustig, Verbard Andrew. Altering Nature. New York, NY: Springer, 2008.
Mitchell, Donald. “The Teachings of the Buddha.” In Buddhism: Introducing the Buddhist Experience, 33-64. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2008.
“The Eighty-Four Mahasiddhas and the Path of Tantra.” Keith Dowman. Web.
- Donald Mitchell, “The Teachings of the Buddha,” in Buddhism: Introducing the Buddhist Experience, 33-64 (Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2008), 33.
- Verbard Andrew Lustig, Altering Nature (New York, NY: Springer, 2008), 33.
- “Buddhist Masters of Enchantment,” Keith Dowman.
- “The Eighty-Four Mahasiddhas and the Path of Tantra,” Keith Dowman.