The Founding of Mahayana Buddhism

The Three Councils

   The Buddhist texts, the three Pitaka or main body of texts in Buddhism(Tam ancient India writing was done on a broad left and a whole book was held in a basket) were compiled together in three council meetings by the disciples of Buddha.   

    After the passing of the historical Buddha (Siddhattha Gotama) in   483 B.C. the canon in Palī were first compiled and edited.  The first council, comprising of the finest disciples of the Buddha got together in Rajagaha, recited his sermon and put them together to form a canon.  The Suttapitaka (Kinh was said to be recited by Ananda, the former personal attendant and cousin of the Buddha.  The Vinayapitaka (Lua^.t was recited by the expert monk in monastic procedure, who was also the former barber of the Sakiyas called Upali.  The original canon's exact wording was not known, for in Ancient India instructions were passed on orally.

    The second council meeting in Vesali, around 383 B.C., was   responsible for inclusion of sermons and poems by monks and nuns into the canon.   The utterances of the Buddha were harmonized into fine verses of literature.   Although there were some changes in the wording and presentation of the canon, the second council committed to keep the orthodox view in seeing the Buddha's teaching as being in complete and final form. However, soon after the meeting of the second council, the first major split in Buddhism began with the emergence of different schools of thoughts.

    The third council meeting took place around 225 B.C. in Pataliputta.   This was the final major revision of the Buddhist texts.  The third council   also included scholastic works into mainstream Buddhist texts as the new and third basket of wisdom in Buddhism, the Abhidhammapitaka.  The Abhidhammapitaka. was comprised of seven individual books.  It contained analysis of all central terms into many subterms in the form of lists and charts.  The Abhidhammapitaka was comprised of "scientific" and "psychological" language, which differ from the two former Pitaka, which is comprised of conventional language.  The Abhidhammapitaka speaks not of "things" but elements, same as we called H2O instead of water.

    The compilation of Buddha's teachings into the the three Pitaka or baskets of wisdom was a major development in Buddhism.  Buddhist texts were passed on from generation to generation with surpassing unity in form and ideas were the results of these council meetings.  Arising from the council meetings were debates and discussions by influential scholars which later gave rise to the major divisions in Buddhism.

The Mahayana Schools

    In the first century B.C.the first division in major Buddhism thoughts appeared with the new conception of Mahayana Buddhism.  Mahayana Buddhism consisted of six different schools of thoughts that shared a centralized view of the Buddha as a projection of the absolute. 

Major School and Country of Origin Founder and   Language of Oldest Original Sources Still exist in Method for achieving Deliverance Interim Goal Ultimate Goal
Wisdom School (Co^? Pha'i Tri' Tue^.)        1st century A.D. in India


Sanskrit Tibet, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, China, Vietnam Realization of emptiness of the impirical person and all things by means of Wisdom, that is emptiness is the Absolute and liberation.   1)Pre-mortal      Nirvana

2)Post-mortal       Nirvana

Madhayamaka (Ta^n Pha'i Tri' Tue^.)  2nd century A.D. in India


Narajuna (2nd century A.D.)


As above As above   1)Pre-mortal      Nirvana

2)Post-mortal       Nirvana

Bodhisattva   1st century A.D. in India Sanskrit As Above Relief from unwholesome Karman through assistance of Bodhisattvas Out of gratitude of help from Bodhisattvas, one becomes a Bodhisattva oneself in order to help others. 1)Active Nirvana

2)Passive           Nirvana

Buddhism of Faith (Ti.nh -Do^. To^ng)  1st century A.D. in Japan In Japan: Honen-Shonin (1133-1212A.D.), Shinran-Shonin (1173-1265A.D.)


As Above Through faithful confidence in Transcendence Buddha(especially Amitabha or Amita Buddha) one obtain rebirth in Buddha's paradise. Rebirth in Buddha's paradise(especially Sukhavati)where the faithful matures towards Nirvana. Nirvana
Yogacara      (Duy Thu*'c To^ng)       3rd century A.D. in India Maitreyanatha (3rd/4th century A.D.)                  Asanga               (4th/5th century A.D.)


Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, China, Japan. (also found it Vietnam, but rare) Realizing that everything is in the "mind only" and returns to the pure mind(=liberation)   Nirvana
Zen (Thie^`n To^ng)            6th century A.D. in China Bodhidharma (Bo^` -De^` -Da.t Ma)        (6th century A.D.)


China, Vietnam, Korea, Japan. Realization by means of meditation that everything is "mind only" and return to the Pure Mind (=Buddha nature =Heart =liberation)   1)Pre-mortal      Nirvana

2)Post-mortal       Nirvana

    The major Mahayana Buddhism Schools were mostly founded upon new interpretations of the original texts in Sanskrit (translated from Pali) after the first century A.D. excluding Zen Buddhism.  Zen Buddhism was founded in China by a missionary monks who was said to hold the direct succession place of Supreme Teacher of Buddhism passed down from Siddhattha Gotama Buddha.  Some people sees Zen Buddhism as a deviation of Buddhism which does not practice and take into account the common interpretation of main stream Buddhism.  However, further into the discussion of Zen Buddhism, you will find that it proves itself to be just as much Buddhism as most of the other schools of Buddhism.

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