Foundations of Mahayana Buddhism

These are the basic teachings in which all Buddhist Schools have in Common:

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:


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 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

    1. All is suffering.

    2. The way of self discipline

    3. The way of wisdom

    4. The Bodhisattva way

    5. Faith, the Cultic way and Nirvana

    Main Page

    The Founding of Mahayana Buddhism

    The Practise of Mahayana Buddhism in Vietnam

    This page was created by Harriet Vu , courtesy of the works by Professor Hans Shumann.