Mahāyāna (; Sanskrit for "Great Vehicle") is one of two main existing branches of Buddhism (the other being Theravada) and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice. This movement added a further set of discourses, and although it was initially small in India, it had long-term historical significance. The Buddhist tradition of Vajrayana is sometimes classified as a part of Mahayana Buddhism, but some scholars consider it to be a different branch altogether.
According to the teachings of Mahāyāna traditions, "Mahāyāna" also refers to the path of the Bodhisattva seeking complete enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, also called "Bodhisattvayāna", or the "Bodhisattva Vehicle". A bodhisattva who has accomplished this goal is called a samyaksaṃbuddha, or "fully enlightened Buddha". A samyaksaṃbuddha can establish the Dharma and lead disciples to enlightenment. Mahayana Buddhists teach that enlightenment can be attained in a single lifetime, and this can be accomplished even by a layperson.
Selected Mahayana Buddhist
Acharya Nāgārjuna (Telugu: నాగార్జున; Chinese: 龍樹; Tibetan: Klu Sgrub) (c. 150 - 250 CE) was an Indian philosopher, the founder of the Madhyamaka (Middle Path) school of Mahāyāna Buddhism, and arguably the most influential Buddhist thinker after Gautama Buddha himself.
His writings were the basis for the formation of the Madhyamaka (Middle Way) school, which was transmitted to China under the name of the Three Treatise (Sanlun) School. He is credited with developing the philosophy of the Prajnaparamita sutras, and was closely associated with the Buddhist university of Nalanda. In the Jodo Shinshu branch of Buddhism, he is considered the First Patriarch.
Little is known about the actual life of the historical Nagarjuna. The two most extensive biographies of Nagarjuna, one in Chinese and the other in Tibetan, were written many centuries after his life and incorporate much lively but historically unreliable material which sometimes reaches mythic proportions. Nagarjuna was born a Brahmin, which in his time connoted religious allegiance to the Vedas, probably into an upper-caste Brahmin family and probably in the southern Andhra region of India.
Manjusri (Ch: 文殊 Wénshū or 文殊師利菩薩 Wénshūshili Púsà; Jp: Monju; Tib: Jampelyang; Nepalese: मंजुश्री Manjushree) is a bodhisattva in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions of Buddhism, and is considered a yidam, or titular deity in Tibetan Buddhism specifically. Manjusri is the bodhisattva associated with wisdom, doctrine and awareness. Historically, Manjusri was a disciple of the Buddha. Interestingly, it is the origin of the ethnonym Manchu.
The Sanskrit term Mañjuśrī can be translated as "Gentle Glory". Mañjuśrī is also known by the fuller Sanskrit name of Mañjuśrī-kumāra-bhūta.
The Heart of Perfect Wisdom Sutra or Heart Sutra or Essence of Wisdom Sutra (Sanskrit: प्रज्ञापारमिताहृदयसूत्र Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya Sūtra; traditional Chinese: 般若波羅蜜多心經, Pinyin: Bōrĕbōluómìduō Xīnjīng; [[Japanese]: 摩訶般若波羅蜜多心経, Maka Hannyaharamita Shingyō; Korean: 반야심경, Banya Simgyeong, Vietnamese: Bát Nhã Ba La Mật Đa Tâm Kinh) (Tibetan: sNying mDo or shes rab snying po'i mdo) is a well-known Mahāyāna Buddhist sutra that is very popular among Mahayana Buddhists both for its brevity and depth of meaning.
Selected Mahayana Practice
Buddhist meditation encompasses a variety of meditation techniques that develop mindfulness, concentration, tranquility and insight. Core meditation techniques are preserved in ancient Buddhist texts and have proliferated and diversified through the millennia of teacher-student transmissions.
Non-Buddhists use these techniques for the pursuit of physical and mental health as well as for non-Buddhist spiritual aims. Buddhists pursue meditation as part of the path toward Enlightenment and Nirvana.
The closest words for meditation in the classical languages of Buddhism are bhāvanā and jhāna (Pāli; Skt.: dhyāna).
Given the large number and diversity of traditional Buddhist meditation practices, this article primarily identifies authoritative contextual frameworks – both contemporary and canonical – for the variety of practices. For those seeking school-specific meditation instruction, it might be most expedient to simply review articles listed in the "See also" section below.
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The Diamond Sutra (Sanskrit: वज्रच्छेदिका प्रज्ञापारमितासूत्र Vajracchedikā-prajñāpāramitā-sūtra; Chinese: 金剛般若波羅蜜多經 or short 金剛經, pinyin: jīngāng bōrě bōluómìduō jīng or jīngāng jīng; Japanese: kongou hannya haramita kyou or short kongou kyou; Korean: 금강반야바라밀경 (金剛般若波羅蜜經), or 금강경 (金剛經) for short; Vietnamese Kim cương bát-nhã-ba-la-mật-đa kinh or Kim cương kinh; Tibetan (Wylie): ’Phags pa shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa rdo rje gcod pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo; "The Sutra of the Perfection of Wisdom of the Diamond that Cuts Through Illusion") is a short Mahayana sutra of the Perfection of Wisdom genre, which teaches the practice of the avoidance of abiding in extremes of mental attachment. A copy of the Diamond Sutra, found sealed in a cave in China in the early 20th century, is the oldest known printed book, with a date of 868.
If, Mahamati, you say that because of the reality of words the objects are, this talk lacks in sense. Words are not known in all the Buddha-lands; words, Mahamati, are an artificial creation. In some Buddha-lands ideas are indicated by looking steadily, in others by gestures, in still others by a frown, by the movement of the eyes, by laughing, by yawning, or by the clearing of the throat, or by recollection, or by trembling - Lankavatara Sutra
Zen (Japanese: 禅) also known as Chán (Chinese: 禅) (see lengthy etymology below) is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism notable for its emphasis on mindful acceptance of the present moment, spontaneous action, and letting go of self-conscious and judgmental thinking.
It emphasizes dharma practice and experiential wisdom—particularly as realized in the form of meditation known as zazen—in the attainment of awakening. As such, it de-emphasizes both theoretical knowledge and the study of religious texts in favor of direct individual experience of one's own experience.
A broader term is the Sanskrit word "dhyana", which exists also in other religions in India.
The emergence of Chán (Zen) as a distinct school of Buddhism was first documented in China in the 7th century CE. It is thought to have developed as an amalgam of various currents in Mahāyāna Buddhist thought—among them the Yogācāra and Madhyamaka philosophies and the Prajñāpāramitā literature—and of local traditions in China, particularly Taoism and Huáyán Buddhism. From China, Chán subsequently spread southwards to Vietnam and eastwards to Korea and Japan. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Zen also began to establish a notable presence in North America and Europe.
In The News
- Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, has vowed to step down from his position if things "get out of control" in Tibet, where violent demonstrations against China have killed anywhere from 13 to 100 people.