Mahayana Buddhism

buddha statues mahayana

Mahayana tradition is one of the three mazor branches of Buddhism in the world. It is also taken as a term for classification of the philosophy and practice of Buddhism. It literally means the "Great Vehicle" in Sanskrit language. Mahayana Buddhism first emerged in the first century CE as a more liberal, accessible interpretation of Buddhism. The teaching of the Mahayana tradition is also defined by the path of the Bodhisattva seeking the complete verison of enlightenment for the ultimate benefit of all the beings in the universe. Also called "Boddhisatvayaa" or the vehicle of Bodhisattva, Mahayana tradition is the largest tradition of Buddhism today with 56% of Buddhist followers and practitioners following this tradition. A bodhisattva who has attained and accomplished the goal of attaining the enlightenment through Mahayana Buddhism is known as Samyaksambuddha or "fully enlightened Buddha".

Mahayana ideologies first emerged with the divison of the Buddhist sangha into two schools of thought following the establishment of a council to condemn few practices of some Buddhist monks which did not follow the Vinaya or monk's code of conduct. The erring monks were excommunicated while the remaining monks disputed the rules and certain aspects of the Dharma. The one group who opposed and went against any kind of change whatsoever came to be known as the Theravadins who followed what was believed to be the original teaching of the Buddha as agreed by the first council after the death of the historical Buddha. Similarly, they believed that the original nature of the mind is pure and that it is contaminated when it is stained by passions and defilements. It was from the Mahasanghikas that the Mahayana was to evolve.

Nagarjuna is considered the father of Mahayana and he also founded what is known as the Madhamika philosophy or philosophy of the Middle Path. The earliest textual evidence of "Mahayana" comes from sūtras originating around the beginning of the Common Era. Early philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism had four major classifications of thought. These thoughts were Madhyamaka, Yogacara, Buddha Nature and Buddhist logic. The Buddhist logic is considered as the last and the most region philosophy while Madhyamaka and Yogakara were the first two philosophies as there were two main philosophical schools of Mahayana in India who followed these two principles respectively. The teachings of Mahayana Buddhism inspired and encouraged societies and communities to be generous and to give donations to the Buddhist monasteries. Giving these generous donations was considered as a way of earning "religious merits". The doctrines of Prajnaparamita, Yogacara, Buddha nature and Pure Land teachings are still popular in Eastern Asia which has also introduced new philosophies like Zen Buddhism later, while in others they are treated in more traditional manner. The principles of Mahayana Buddhism also consists a rich cosmology and heavenly realms where various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas reside. These realms are also known as Buddha realms. These realms are said to have been resided by the five Dhyani Buddhas. The concepts of the three bodies or trikaya support these points making the Buddha himself as a boundless and spiritual being.

During the course of Mahayana Buddhism's history, the philosophy spread from its home India to various other Asian countries like China, Japan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Bhutan, Malaysia and Mongolia. The major tradition and teachings of Mahayana Buddhism in the current time include Chinese Chan, Zen, Pure Land, Nichiren and Tiantai Buddhism. Mahayana is also considered as closely related with the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition of Tibetan Buddhism which add more mysticism and profound teachings to the Mahayana Tradition. This is clearly seen in the Buddha statues and Buddhist artifacts from Tibet which depicts the Buddha and other monks having various supernatural powers.

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