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Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism

Mahayana vs Hinayana Buddhism

In Buddhism, what is referred to as a “vehicle” is interpreted metaphorically because it refers to something that people use (rides on) to cross from the so-called delusional shore (where there is suffering) to the enlightenment shore (the Land of Buddha). One of the main Buddhism branches is termed as Mahayana and the other is Theravada. However, Mahayana is frequently described in contrast with Hinayana because Mahayana is dubbed as the “greater, superior or bigger vehicle” while the latter is known as the “lesser, defective, deficient or lesser vehicle.”

Mahayana Buddhism is regarded by some Buddhists as the “Bodhisattva Vehicle.” Its core teachings highlight that everybody has the capacity to become Buddha or be in the state of Buddhahood. They just need to continuously cultivate the six paramitas or “perfections” (there are 10 in Theravada). It has been stressed within the Mahayana teaching that an individual is most likely unable to attain such a state while he still lives. Nevertheless, the state can still be attained in the future. The Mahayana is further subdivided into various specific teachings, but in the general sense it teaches the people many principles about purification so that they or the society as a whole can be elevated to the highest level.

Hinayana teachings are more self-serving. It is practiced for the enlightenment of the sole practitioner (at the individual level). According to some interpretations, the teachings of Hinayana include a plethora of rules, commentaries, sutras, and the three branches of Tripitaka (Buddhist canon). Hinayana is also known by several practitioners as the “vehicle for people of learning.” Under this practice, Buddha’s disciples were tasked to both listen and practice his teachings. However, they only seek personal emancipation and self-perfection.

Some scholars to this date argue that the Theravada is synonymous to Hinayana. However, the majority believe that this shouldn’t be the case because Theravada is a distinct branch of Buddhism while Hinayana no longer exists today. In fact, they refrain from comparing Hinayana to Theravada because the former has a slight, derogatory connotation. Similarly, others embrace the Theravada branch as being the remnant of the old Buddhist school that does not accept the teachings of the sutras of Mahayana.

Summary:

1.In Buddhism, Hinayana means “lesser or inferior vehicle” while Mahayana means “bigger or superior vehicle.”
2.Hinayana teachings emphasize personal enlightenment while Mahayana teachings emphasize both personal and mass (others’) enlightenment.
3.Mahayana is one of the two main Buddhism branches with Theravada being the other one.
4.Hinayana is accompanied with a derogative meaning for some scholars and Buddhist practitioners.


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