Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism


1.      Theravada: “The Way of the Elders”

a.       No deification of the Buddha.  One Buddha at a time, in human realm. Disappeared into nirvana; only reached through teaching and sangha.

b.      Salvation for religious elite via effort and self-discipline, rationality.  Individualistic (with support from monastic community)

c.       Bond between monarchy and Sangha: legitimation, prosperity, spiritual benefit.          

d.      Sri Lanka, China, Thailand, Burma (Mayanmar), other parts of South East Asia.

e.       Triratna: The Triple Treasure:

                                                                    i.      I take refuge in:

1.      The Buddha: the teacher

2.      The Sangha: the community of those who follow

3.      The Dharma: the teaching

2.      Mahayana Buddhism: "The Greater Vehicle"

a.       Everyone has a chance of liberation.

b.      Criticizes elitism and selfishness of Theravadan religious.

c.       Mahayana emphasis on compassion:

                                                  i.      Buddha didn't disappear into nirvana, stayed beind to help others to liberation.  Can be contacted via prayer, meditation, and visions. 

d.      Boddhisattva (an enlightened one who, out of compassion, puts off his own final salvation till all others are saved)

                                                  i.      Buddhas continue to exist, always have.  Countless numbers, worlds of buddhas -- boddhisattvas.

1.      Example: Avalokatashvara: The Lord who looks down with compassion. “The lord who sees” - capacity to see the sufferings of others. Smts represented with 1000 eyes.  1000 hands to help in delivering innumerable beings from suffering

e.       Dharmakaya: Historical Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama Buddha) came to be a manifestation of a cosmic, divine reality. Dharmakaya ( “body of reality”) permeats all things. A cosmic buddha nature of all things, including us.  Our task is to realize this nature.

f.       Many traditions within Mahayana Buddhism: Vajrayana, Zen, Pure Land Buddhism

                                                  i.      Pure Land Buddhism: 5th century in China, Japan in 13th century.

1.      Buddha Amitabha constructed a Pure Land far to the west: splendors and joy; rivers deep and warm as you want, trees of jewels.  Conducive to nirvana.  Eventually an end in itself.  Paradise

2.      “Buddha Amitabha”means “Buddha of Infinite Light” (Japan: Amida)