Foundations of Mahayana Buddhism
These are the basic teachings in which all Buddhist Schools have in
- The individual existence is sorrowful, and consequencely require deliverance.
- The belief in rebirth.
- The assumption of a moral natural law which rules the process of Karman
and rebirth and is neither created by a deity nor supervised by him.
- The view the phenomenon world is without substance and is in a state
of constant flux.
- The imperical person is considered without self, but as a conbination
of complex souless factors, in which
- The goal of extinction of sorrowful personality is logically connected.
- Liberation is only achieved through extirpation of greed, hatred, and
delusion, therefore gaining wisdom (enlightenment).
- The Buddha is regarded as a human teacher who had gained enlightenment,
a transcendental being who had once been mortal.
The Basic Difference Between Hinayana and Mahayana
The unique beliefs and characteristics of Mahayana Buddhism(Dai Thua
Phat Giao)is that it is essentially very different from the old teachings
and literature of Theravada or Hinayana Buddhism. The differencesbetween
Hinayana Buddhism(Tieu Thua Phat Giao)and Mahayana Buddhism is such that:
- Hinayana hold psychological realism, Mahayana an idealism. Hinayana
sees suffering as real while Mahayana sees it as an illusion.
- Hinayana denies a "true being" behind a phenomena and avoid
making metaphysical statements, the Mahayana teaches an Eternal Absolute
under many names. Beings in all forms of rebirth are said to be identical
in their cores with the absolute.
- The Historical Gautama is seeing as the projection of the absolute.
In essence Gautama holds the core of being absolute but possess a frail
mortal frame of illusion. Hinayana regards the Gautama as a natural teacher,
and at most a superman.
- Hinayana sees that liberation can only be achieved through one's own
effort, while Mahayana consider assistance from outside as possible. Deliverance
through other's power.
- The followers of Hinayana sees the immediate goal as in achieving nirvana.
Those who follow Mahayana sees the immediate goal as in following the ways
of the Bodhisattva in leading all beings to liberation.
- Nirvana, to Hinayana is the final exit from the world, while it to
Mahayana considered becoming conscious of one's own absoluteness and gaining
a state of mental aloofness from all. Hinayana has to create nirvana while
Mahayana sees all beings as holding liberation from very begining but not
aware of its existence.
- The attitudes of Mahayana are such that a person should lend a hand
to help the world and educate its followers to be selfless. The Hinayana
attitude is to defeat the world by analysing its elements and using that
knowledge for individual conduct. It is pragmatic in its approach.
The Buddha Gautama(Thi'ch Ca)is regarded by Mahayana Schools as the
universal saviour and bestower of deliverance. He is master over space
and time. Gautama's early life and his nirvana are illusions projected
onto the world in order to lead mankind to knowledge and virtuous conduct.
In fact he was already enlightened before he took the form of the historical
Gautama. It is the Mahayana's conviction that there are also many other
Buddhas aside from Gautama. There are as many Buddha as grains of sand
on the bank of the Ganges(Song Hang). Buddhas appear in all region of the
world taking many forms to shows beings the Buddha Vehicle.
The Three Bodies Doctrine. (Ba Tha^n Pha^.t)
Buddha was regarded as human, super-human, and a heavenly being. From
the earlier separation of view of the Buddha of the earlier Buddhists,
the Mahayanans adopted the doctrines of three bodies of the Buddha. The
Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya.
The Bodhisattva (Bo^` Ta't)
- The Dharmakaya (Dharma-body/Pha'p tha^n) is the inner nature
of the Buddha. In all the imnumerable earthly Buddhas and the countless
transcesdental Buddhas, there is only one Dharmakaya. It is the absolute
reality, besides which there is no other reality. Dharma is the partial
manifestation of natural laws, namely "facts". Dharma is the
technical term for "factors of existence". The Dharmakaya thus
is the base-consciousness of existence.
- Sambhogakaya (Body of bliss/Ba'u Tha^n)is the transcendental
Buddhas, that cannot be interpreted or preceived by the senses, but only
experience spiritually. Sambhogakaya-Buddhas are seen as mental creations,
the idea of the Bodhisattva. It is the manifestation of the absolute. Transcendental
Sambhogakaya Buddhas are regarded as objectively existing, supramundane
and subtle beings. The most popular transcendental Buddha is the Amida
Buddha(A Di Da Phat). The transcendental Buddhas are said to possess paradises,
in which believers are reborn there. They are teachers of the Bodhisattvas
and the spiritual fathers of the Earthly Buddhas. They project their compassions
for all beings into the world by their meditation (dhyana/Thie^`n di.nh).
- Nirmanakaya (Physical Body/Ho'a Tha^n) belongs to those Buddhas
like historical Gautama Buddha, appearing in the world in physical shape.
They are called Nirmana or "manifest beings". They are subject
to misery and aging, illness and death, because they are persons of flesh
and blood. They are distinguished by thirty-two bodily characteristics(32
ve~ de.p)and some supernatural abilities(lu.c tho^ng). The function of
the Earthly Buddha or Nirmankaya Buddha is to teach and spread Dharma,
the formulate truth into the world.
The Bodhisattva is the name ascribed to those beings who strive to systematically
for enlightenment, or who have already obtained it but postpone their own
Static post-mortal nirvana until all beings are liberated. Bodhisattva
live exclusively for others. They have mercifulness and compassion, wishing,
without self interest, only for the happiness of others. The Bodhisattva
encompasses wisdom to give, compassion to help others in any way to bring
others closer to enlightenment. The Bodhisattva is willing to take sufferings
onto his shoulders to help others, sacreficing all to bring other beings
closer to enlightenment. The Bodhisattva has wisdom to see what is necessary
for him to do to help others. There are 2 types of Bodhisattva, the Earthly
ones and the Transcendental ones. The Earthly Bodhisattva are said to be
those who follow a way of life striving for enlightenment while helping
others also to seek happiness in enlightenment like them. Everyone can
be a Earthly Bodhisattva, from any walk of life in any situation if they
follow the Bodhisattva way of life and vows. The Transcendental Bodhisattva
are those who through realizing perfection and wisdom(prajnaparamita /Tri'
Tue^.Ba't Nha~) and thus sainthood and liberation, have refuse to enter
static nirvana to stay in active nirvana in a state of deliverance in which
they can work for the benefit of the world. They can assume any form, playing
the illusory reality to help those caught in it seek the truth and absolute.
Of the famous and important of the Transcendental Bodhisattva is Avalokites'vara
(Quan The^' A^m)(The one who gracously looks down). In the far east, the
Bodhisattva Avalokites'vara is sculptured as a woman who resembles the
Virgin Mary in he west and symbolic of a compassionate mother to all.
Fundamentals of Mahayana Buddhism
All is suffering.
The way of self discipline
The way of wisdom
The Bodhisattva way
Faith, the Cultic way and Nirvana
of Mahayana Buddhism
The Practise of Mahayana
Buddhism in Vietnam
This page was created by Harriet
Vu , courtesy of the works by Professor Hans