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Unit 4: Mahayana Buddhism (Greater Vehicle)

May 8, 2013

Image Mahayana Buddhism is the largest of the two major schools of Buddhism. It is also called the  “Greater Vehicle”. Mahayana roots date back to sometime around the 1st Century CE. The path of  Mahayana Buddhists is to work toward becoming a Bodhisattva, unlike Theravada Buddhism, where the person works toward attaining individual enlightenment and reaching Nirvana. A Bodhisattva is one who has reached enlightenment, but instead of going on to Nirvana, they choose to prolong it in order to help others on their journey to enlightenment. This is a major difference between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, Mahayana strives for the enlightenment of all people. This is why compassion is central to their beliefs. They believe that we (all living beings) are connected to each other. In not wanting to see others suffer, you are not wanting yourself to suffer. In wanting enlightenment for others, you desire it for yourself.

Makransky,John. Compassion in Buddhist Psychology.
Guilford Press. 2012

  1. So many of my friends who grew up in Christianity have become Buddhists. They say,Buddhism is a natural progression from Christianity. We are all connected to one another, we dont want to see others suffer and we all want to be enlightened. How is that different than Christianity? I guess I just am not enlightened enough. Kris

  2. I think it’s interesting they say Buddhism is a natural progression from Christianity, since Buddhism was around about 500 years before Christ existed. If those ideas and virtues are what you extract from your belief in Christ, than I do not think sticking with it makes you any less “enlightened”. Good is good, no matter what name you associate with it.

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