Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism

Mahayana vs Hinayana Buddhism
 

Mahayana Buddhism and Hinayana Buddhism are two sects of Buddhism that have differences between them in their religious concepts. Mahayana literally means ‘travelers by a greater vehicle’ and Hinayana literally means ‘travelers by a lesser vehicle.’ Though some say Hinayana and Theravada are the same, that is not true. That is a fact accepted by the Buddhist society in the world. According to them, only Mahayana Buddhism exists in the world now from the two. Hinayana Buddhism, which also evolved in India after the passing away of Lord Buddha, is no longer in existence in the world by now. Let us see more information about the two.

What is Mahayana Buddhism?

Mahayana Buddhism introduced the idea of a deity in the religion. Buddha became the principal deity. According to them, Arhats are more limited than Buddhas, or the enlightened beings. As they consider Buddha as a deity, they worship him as a deity too. Mahayana Buddhism tries to reinterpret the obscure doctrine in its own way. Mahayana Buddhism believes in the versions of the Jataka tales that describe the previous births of Buddha Shakyamuni as a Bodhisattva. Mahayana believes that there are one thousand Buddhas who will begin universal religions. They say there were many more before and will be many more after them too.

Mahayana says that everyone can become a Buddha. This is because of the fact that everyone is blessed with the Buddha-nature factor that can propel the attainment of the status of Buddha. Mahayana believes that Bodhisattvas alone practiced the ten far-reaching attitudes. According to Mahayana Buddhism, the ten far-reaching attitudes are generosity, skill in means, patience, ethical self-discipline, mental stability, joyful perseverance, strengthening, deep awareness, aspiration-filled prayer and discriminating awareness.

Mahayana Buddhism differs in the treatment of the four immeasurable attitudes, as well. It is indeed true that it teaches the practice of the four immeasurable attitudes of love, compassion, joy and equanimity. At the same time, it has difference in the definitions of these attitudes. Although, there is an agreement between Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism in terms of the definitions of love and compassion, there is some difference in the treatment of immeasurable joy and equanimity. Mahayana defines immeasurable joy as the wish that others have the experience of joy or happiness of continuous enlightenment. According Mahayana Buddhism, equanimity is the state of mind that is bereft of attachment, indifference and repulsion.

Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism

What is Hinayana Buddhism?

Hinayana Buddhism believes that Lord Buddha was an ordinary human being like everyone else. They did not attribute any godly characteristics to Lord Buddha. Hinayana follows the underlying principles of the Pali canon. Hinayana Buddhism stresses the importance and the significance of the four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. This is the reason why they are considered as the sect that closely follows the teachings of the Buddha. Hinayana Buddhism asserts that one follows the Bodhisattva path before becoming a Buddha. Hinayana Buddhism does not believe that the Bodhisattvas alone practiced the ten far-reaching attitudes. Hinayana replaces mental stability, skill in means, aspiration-filled prayer, strengthening and deep awareness by renunciation, being true to one’s word, resolution, love and equanimity in the ten far-reaching attitudes. Hinayana does not go into the details of Buddha-nature factors at all.Hinayana Buddhism differs in the treatment of the four immeasurable attitudes, as well. It is indeed true that it teaches the practice of the four immeasurable attitudes of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity. At the same time, it has difference in the definitions of these attitudes. Hinayana defines immeasurable joy as rejoicing in the happiness of others in the absence of jealousy. Hinayana Buddhism defines equanimity as the outcome of our compassion, love and rejoicing.

What is the difference between Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism?

• Mahayana literally means ‘travelers by a greater vehicle’ and Hinayana literally means ‘travelers by a lesser vehicle.’

• Mahayana accepts Lord Buddha as a deity while Hinayana Buddhism does not accept that godly attribution to Lord Buddha. They believe that Lord Buddha is an ordinary human being.

• While Hinayana tries to follow the Lord Buddha’s original teaching in the same way, Mahayana gives its own interpretation to Lord Buddha’s teachings.

• Mahayana says that everyone can become a Buddha. This is because of the fact that everyone is blessed with the Buddha-nature factor that can propel the attainment of the status of Buddha. Hinayana does not go into the details of Buddha-nature factors at all.

• Mahayana believes that Bodhisattvas alone practiced the ten far-reaching attitudes. Hinayana Buddhism does not hold this view. According to Mahayana Buddhism, the ten far-reaching attitudes are generosity, skill in means, patience, ethical self-discipline, mental stability, joyful perseverance, strengthening, deep awareness, aspiration-filled prayer and discriminating awareness. Hinayana replaces mental stability, skill in means, aspiration-filled prayer, strengthening and deep awareness by renunciation, being true to one’s word, resolution, love and equanimity.

• Though both believe in immeasurable attitudes they have different definitions of joy and equanimity.

These are the important differences between the two sects of Buddhism, namely, Mahayana Buddhism and Hinayana Buddhism.

 

Images Courtesy:

  1. Monks by Antonieta Elokdi (CC BY 3.0)