Known as the ‘Great Vehicle’ of Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism generally spread north through India to China, Japan.
Mahayana Buddhism stresses:
- Buddhism is for the masses not just monks
- The role of the Bodhisattva – altruistic beings working for the improvement of the world. – Everyone has the capacity to be a Bodhisattva
- Non-Dualism – Ultimate reality beyond all divisions
- Living in the present moment
- (“The School of the Elders”)
- Generally spread south to Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
- Often referred to as ‘original Buddhism’ Closest to oldest recording teachings (Pali Canon) of the Buddha.
- A close relationship between lay followers and monastic communities. Theravada Buddhism is a big part of daily life in countries like Thailand
Vipassana (Insight Meditation)
Popular in West, related to Theravada Buddhism. Emphasises – control of breath and retreats
Pure Land Buddhism
A more devotional form of Buddhism. Less emphasis on meditation more on belief and devotion to Amitabha – a transcendental being who exists beyond limits of time and space in your own heart. – Pure Land Buddhism stresses practise rather than study.
- Based on simple, pure insight.
- Developed in China and Japan.
- Often taught through ‘Zen Masters’ adepts of meditation, known for their quirky traditions
- Little formal ritual. Emphasises Zazen (sitting meditation)
Vajrayana – Tibetan Buddhism
- Developed out of Indian Mahayana. Most popular division of Vajrayana Buddhism is Tibetan Buddhism.
- Includes hidden esoteric (Tantric) teachings not revealed during the Buddha’s life
- A more colourful form of Buddhism, music, chanting, mantras, mudras, mystic diagrams. Deity Yoga e.g. Goddess Tara
- Tibetan Buddhism became deeply entrenched in Tibetan society, linked to the Feudal system. Though 14th Dalai Lama has sought to more Tibetan Buddhism more towards democracy.
Often used as a definition opposite to Mahayana Buddhism. Sometimes used in a pejorative way. Means small vehicle – as opposed to the large vehicle. Some suggest this is actually closer to original teachings of the Buddha.
Modern Buddhist Movements
- Essentially derived from Tibetan Buddhism, emphasising Mindfulness. Also includes aspects of Zen Buddhism, especially in aesthetics.
- Introduced by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
New Kadampa Tradition
Mahayana Buddhist school founded by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
Friends of the Western Buddhist Order
A modern, universal Buddhist division. Is said to be ecumenical not being affiliated with any particular tradition.
The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching
- The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation by Thich Nhat Hanh at Amazon
Spiritual figures – Famous saints, mystics and religious figures. Including Jesus Christ, The Buddha, Lord Krishna, St Teresa of Avila.
Lord Buddha – Biography of Lord Buddha