Theravada Vs Mahayana Buddhism Essay Research Paper

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Theravada Vs Mahayana Buddhism Essay, Research Paper A question asked by many people is ” What is the difference between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism?” To find the answer let us look at the history of Buddhism and compare and contrast the beliefs and philosophies of the two. The Buddah, Siddhartha Gautama, was born in the 6th century B.C.E. in Northwestern India. The Buddah was the son of an aristocrat and grew up in a world of affluence and privilege. His father, Suddhodana took every precaution to make sure Siddhartha didn’t experience anything that would hurt his happiness. The Buddah attained enlightenment at the age of 35 and spent his life teaching. He taught for 45 years and only slept for about two hours a day. What he taught was called Buddha Vacana, i.e.

the word of the Buddha. Three months after the Buddha’s death five hundred of his disciples convened the First Council at Rajagaha. Maha Kassapa, the most respected and elderly monk, presided the council. Since members of the council were not able to agree on any changes, Maha Kassapa ruled that no rules laid down by the Buddha should be changed and no new ones should be introduced. Maha Kassapa also said “If we changed the rules, people would say that Ven. Gotama’s disciples changed the rules even before his funeral fire ceased burning.” On hundred years later a Second Council was held and they made some changes to certain minor rules. In the 3rd Century B.C.E., the Third Council was held to discuss the difference between different sects. At the end of this Council, the

President of the Council, Moggaliputta Tissa, wrote a book called the Kathavatthu refuting the heretical, false views and theories of some sects. The teaching approved by this council was known as Theravada. There was nothing known as Mahayana at this time. Between the 1st Century B.C.E. and the 1st Century A.D., the term Mahayana appeared in the Saddharma Pundarike Sutra or Sutra of the Lotus of the Good Law. About the 2nd Century A.D., Mahayana became clearly defined. Theravada and Mahayana have a lot of similarities: n Both accept Sakyamuni Buddha as the Teacher. n The Four Noble Truths are exactly the same in both schools. n The Eightfold Path is exactly the same in both schools. n The Paticca-samuppada or the Dependent Organization is the same in both schools. n Both

rejected the idea of a supreme being who created and governed this world. n Both accept Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta and Sila, Samadhi, Panna without any difference. There are also some differences. The Mahayanists did not see themselves as creating a new start for Buddhism. They claimed that their canon of scriptures represented the final teachings of Buddha. They accounted for the non-presence of these teachings in over 500 years by claiming that these were secret teachings entrusted only to the most faithful followers. “Like the Protestant Reformation, the overall goal of Mahayana was to extend religious authority to a greater number of people, rather than concentrating it in the hands of the few.” World Civilizations, Richard Hooker, 1996. The goal of Theravada Buddhism is very

hard to accomplish. In order to make Buddhism a more esoteric religion, the Mahayanists invented two grades of Buddhist attainment below becoming a Buddha. The Buddha was the highest goal, the level before that is to become a Pratyeka-Buddha which is one who is awakened to the truth but keeps it secret. Below the Pratyeka-Buddha is the Arhant or “worthy”; who has learned the truth from others and has come to realize it as the truth. Mahayana Buddhism establishes Arhant as the goal for all believers. The believer hears the truth, comes to realize it as the truth, then passes into Nirvana. This doctrine of Arhanthood is the basis for calling Mahayan the “Greater Vehicle” because it is meant to include everyone. The Mahayanists completed the conversion of Buddhism from a