Talk:Yana (Buddhism)

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Western Buddhism : a new yana?[edit]

There is some talk that western Buddhism will come to represent a new yana - a new 'turning of the wheel' in Buddhist terminology. However it is probably a little early to tell whether this will be so.

Westerners are generally ecumenical and some eschew the traditional forms of Eastern Buddhism. The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order may be the most radical move in this direction which question whether aspects of Eastern Buddhism are truly Buddhist, or merely conventional and cultural. Some point out that such claims are itself sectarian and miss the universal nature of Buddhism expressed by different schools. This type of approach is typified in writing by Stephen Batchelor's book Buddhism without Belief which argues for a kind of agnostic Buddhism where nothing is accepted "on faith". Indeed, some traditional buddhist school makes distinction between "belief" and "trust" though they may not use Western lingo to express such idea. The contrast is most accute between Zen Buddhism which takes near absolute sceptic approach and Nichiren Buddhism which takes near absolute faith in the Lotus Sutra.

If we accept the FWBO as being a new yana, then we have to accept all Buddhist schools as being yanas. It is unlikely that this would be generally accepted as being in accordance with the meaning of Yana.

IMHO, It would be more useful for this article to examine the tension and distinctions between the terms of the analogy - i.e. path and vehicle. (20040302)

turnings of the wheel[edit]

In this list each yana is also talked about as a "turning of the wheel" which is a traditional India reference to the teaching of the Dharma. In the Pali Canon the first teaching is called the Dhammacakkappavatana Sutta or the First Turning of the Wheel of the Buddhist Teaching. The Mahayana then styled itself as a second, turning of the wheel, and the Vajrayana a third.

I am not sure about the accuracy of this paragraph. I thought that the four turnings of the wheel were more to do with philosophy than anything else (with (i think!) Abhidharma being a second turning, Madhyamaka beind the third, and Cittamatra/Yogacarya being cited as the fourth) comments? (20040302)
(I un-boxed the above for readability, at least on my browser). My comment is that I have only heard of three turnings; and hose were as you say philosophical not "vehicular", therefore I strongly suspect the passage you quoted is not accurate. The three turnings are mentioned in Kalupahana's Buddhist Psychology as something like the canon, Madhyamaka, and Yogacarya. I seem to recall a message on the H-Buddhism list that gave the primary source for those three turnings, and some further clarification in that thread about the "vehicular" interpretation of the turnings. --Munge 07:24, 2 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I found a reference to the "three turnings of the wheel". It originated in the Samdhinirmocana-sutra, according to *Tathāgatagarbha Thought: A Basis of Buddhist Devotionalism in East Asia (pdf file), Kiyota Minoru, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, June-September 1985, v12, n2-3, p212. (From the context of the article, Vajrayana/Tantrayana has nothing to do with the "three turnings".) --Munge 05:03, 25 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Path/vehicle and the origins of the "yana" metaphor[edit]

I agree w/20040302 that the article deserves some examination of "vehicle" and "path", but would like to understand more what 20040302 means by the "tensions between" these. I think it might be cleared up if you think of yana as being either a noun "vehicle", or a verb "going". Translators seem to find it convenient to substitute "path"

In Indian religions, yana can refer to methods or practices. This religious significance consists of a metaphor based on yana's secular definition, including the verbs "going", "moving", "riding", and nouns "journey", "conveyance", "road", or "path". See the Apte Sanskrit Dictionary and theMonier Williams Sanskrit dictionary at the University of Cologne. In contrast, the Pali Text Society definition of yana. contrasted with its definition of magga should make clear that, roughly speaking, yana in Pali is "going" or "means of motion" while magga is "path".

At the same time, I consider it equally important to correct the misleading statements that the "Origins of -yana...arises in early Mahayana sutras" and that "The one yana...idea comes from the late Mahayana...". You may rightly notice that my sensors are going off all the time about this kind of thing lately.

Some of this should go into an eventual article on ekayana but first things first.

Yana in the Vedas[edit]

The use of yana to refer to a spiritual journey may date to the Rig Veda, possibly composed circa 1500 BCE, whose 10th Mandala makes several references to devayana, (translators usually render this as the "path of the gods" or similar) and one reference to pitryana ("path of the fathers"). The fifth verse of Rig Veda 10.51 invokes Agni, the fire-god who inspires poets, to "make practiceable the ways that serve to go to the gods" (ehi manurdevayuryajñakAmo.araMkRtyA tamasi kSeSyagne sugAn pathaH kRNuhi devayAnAn vaha havyAnisumanasyamAnaH). (English translation per Willard Johnson; Sanskrit transliteration per this page. The first verse of the Rig Veda's burial hymn 10.18 translates approximately as "O Death, take the other path, which is distinct from the way of the gods" (paraM mRtyo anu parehi panthAM yaste sva itaro devayAnAt). The "other path" is the the pitryana, referred to in hymn 10.2 and alluded to in 10.14 and 10.16. (I have relied on Poetry and Speculation in the Rig Veda, Willard Johnson, University of California Press, 1980, p169; The Rig Veda, (partially) translated by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, Penguin Books, 1981; and The Rig Veda, translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith, 1896, available here)

The devayana and pitryana evolved from the ancient Rig Vedic concern for immortality to the classical Hindu concern with ending samsaric existence. Johnson cites the Rig Veda's 10.85 (marriage of sun and moon) as prefiguring the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 6.2.15 (sun; alluding to devayana; "for them, there is no return") and 6.2.16 (moon; alluding to pitrayana; "they only transmigrate"). Several clues to finding explicit references to yanas in Vedic literature can be found on this page.

Yana in the Upanishads[edit]

My (limited) understanding is that Upanishads are somewhat later than the Vedas. Here we have some unambiguous uses of devayana and the inferior (according to Radhadrishnan) pitryana path, notably in the Chandogya Upanishad V.10.2: "maasebhyaH saMvatsara\m+ saMvatsaraadaadityamaadityaachchandramasaM chandramaso vidyutaM tatpurushho.amaanavaH sa enaanbrahma gamayatyeshha devayaanaH panthaa iti", according to this Sanskrit transliteration. Max Muller translates this as "There is a person not human. He leads them to Brahman. This is the path of the Devas.". The context was set in V.3.2, wherein the teacher tests to see if the student is knowledgeable about "where the path of Devas (devayaanasya) and the path of the fathers (pitR^iyaaNasya) diverge".

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad makes various references to the devaloka and pitrloka (world of the gods, world of the fathers) but also refers to ekayanam, the one path, in II.iv.11 and IV.v.12, notably "vedAnAm.h vAk.h ekAyanam".

Yana in the Nikaya tradition[edit]

The Pali version of the Satipatthana Sutta, a rather influential text, might be the earliest usage in a Buddhist context. (scroll all the way to the bottom to section 32 which begins "Ekàyano ayaü bhikkhave maggo...". (Thanissaro Bhikku translates this passage as "This is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow & lamentation, for the disappearance of pain & distress, for the attainment of the right method, & for the realization of Unbinding -- in other words, the four frames of reference." I am concerned, however, that the good Bhikku is translating mainly for Theravada practitioners, not for the readers of encyclopedias, and I speculate that the opening phrase actually reads more like "This one vehicle (ekayano) conveys the bhikku along the path (maggo)..." where the "one vehicle" refers to the four frames of reference (body, feelings, mind, mental objects). Cf "four foundations of mindfulness" (Rahula 1959 p109) but of course "foundation" may be problematic in this context. Is "purification" (in Thanissaro Bhikku's translation) equally problematic? Any problem with vehicle here, or is this another kind of "going"?

Going, path, vehicle[edit]

Yana is way older than the Mahayana, but what about the metaphor of it being a "vehicle", rather than it just meaning "to go"?...If there is an example that is unambiguously about a vehicle, rather than about "going", the article should cite it. All I've got is clues on that so far. The metaphor of the marga probably dates to pre-Buddhist, Hindu or Brahman literature. The wheel, the chariot...these are all pre-Buddhist images. Note that PTS def'n of yana notes that the Niddesa (attributed to Sariputra, I think) enumerates a bunch of different carts (including those drawn by an elephant, cow, goat...). And similarly for the Milindapanna. I can't say for sure but suspect that may also have some relevance to the upaya article. Much later, When Bhuddists came to China, the Chinese practiced "concept matching", and widely perceived marga/magga as an equivalent to "tao".

-user:munge 22:21 UTC, 2 Jan 2005 updated 03:26 UTC 3 Jan 2005, 06:03 UTC 4 Jan 2005, 06:36 10 Jan 2005, 06:53 18 Jan 2005


I deleted the following because it turned out to be based on a misreading: Buddhist use of yāna emerged from the pre-existing world-view of Sanskrit culture. The Pāli version of the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta serves as an example of the early use of yāna in a Buddhist context. In this classic text attributed to Śākyamuni, the historical Buddha prescribes a number of meditation techniques; near the end of the sutra, the phrase Ekāyano ayaṃ bhikkhave maggo.... appears. This passage translates approximately as "This is the direct way along the path of purification...". Thus, Nikāya Buddhism expressed at least some contrast between yāna (yāno in this Pali syntax) and mārga (maggo).

The text reads ekāyano (eka+ayana) not ekayāno (eka+yāna). The latter expression may not exist in Pāli. The former means "the only way", but it is an expression in ordinary speech, not a technical term. As it doesn't even contain the word yāna, it's difficult to justify its appearance in this article. RandomCritic 17:28, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

Need to fix: Yana in Buddhism: path or vehicle[edit]

Random Critic was right about a key point, and I was wrong [1]. Ayana is not the same as yāna in Pali. They seem to have a very similar meaning, and so ekayano...maggo does express the metaphor of religious practice as a journey. Yet it's not clear ayana and yāna share the same root. What is their relationship? Can it really be merely coincidence that two near-synonyms are near-homonyms? And did Chinese translators/readers use/see different characters for ekayano...maggo in the Agamas, compared to ekayana in the Lotus Sutra?

PTS dictionary does indicate a number of other interesting canonical uses for yāna in Pali, e.g. dhammayāna; yāna as means of transport as one of 14 gifts to a monk; etc.. My available sources don't use the same numbering scheme as PTS so I can't quickly look those references up & verify. Maybe someone can help? I try to be careful, but stuff like this still happens. --Munge 06:31, 23 October 2006 (UTC)

Charles Muller has 一乘 (login as "guest") as the Chinese term for both eka-yāna and ekâyana, specifically including ekâyana-mārga. My question/concerns about this is, if Chinese readers saw the same character in both the Agamas and the Lotus for the last couple thousand years, then perhaps for east Asian Buddhists ekâyana/ekayāna is a distinction without a difference? --Munge 07:01, 23 October 2006 (UTC)

OK, my solution was to create ekayana which discusses both ekayāna and ekayāna, and to delete references to ekayāna in the present article. For discussion of other changes to yāna, see below. --munge 05:47, 7 January 2007 (UTC)

6 January 2007 revisions to yāna[edit]

  • In the Bṛhadaraṇyaka Upaniṣad, vedānāṃ vāk ekayānam falls at end of several occurrences of ekayānam, all of which have the sense of a destination (water to ocean, sounds to ear, etc.)
  • I felt that the use of yāna in the Dana Sutra and similar texts merits inclusion.
  • Explicit use of dhammayānam in the Nikayas back-dates the metaphorical tenor of "vehicle".
  • Here's a translation of a key excerpt from a sutra, labeled as SN XLV.4. I am confused about the proper designation of the sutra, but I believe its name is the Brahmana Sutra.

--munge 09:39, 6 January 2007 (UTC)

To do[edit]

  • What is the proper designation of sutra(s) mentioning/referring to dhammayana? SN IV.4 or SN XLV.4? Or are both of those designations the same sutra, perhaps in 2 different systems?
  • Based on the Pali link, I think the sutra mentioning dhammayana is called the Brahmana Sutra. If so, why? Is that brahman in the sense of a spiritual enigma (as in Willard Johnson) or was that word also used in the more mundane sense of "metaphor", or...?
  • Does the Metta Sutta use the word yāna? The translator uses the phrase "loving-kindness as a vehicle (of expression)". If so, why "of expression" rather than "of awakening"?
  • I have an idea that the child's bullock-cart is actually a vehicle to the attainment of a bodhisattva, and that it is the cart driven by the white ox that is the vehicle to the attainment of a samyaksambuddha.
  • "White lie" link doesn't really work.
  • Should Pure Land/Jodo be counted as also inspired by ekayāna?
  • Note that pre-Buddhist sources use the specific metaphor of a chariot (but possibly using the word ratha rather than yāna), e.g. RV 10.135

--munge 09:39, 6 January 2007 (UTC) modified 06:22, 7 January 2007 (UTC)


"Are you Brahmins prepared to change places with us Untouchables? Only by leaving Hinduism can we find a better life. Our Buddhism will be a neo-Buddhism, a Navayana.", B.R. Ambedkar, 1956, quoted by Suzanne Lacy at [2]. See also Dalit Buddhist movement

Inspired by Amedkar, Christopher Queen [3] [4] lauds Ambedkar, and calls engaged Buddhism (term attributed to Thich Nhat Hanh) both a "fourth yana" and a "fourth turning of the wheel".

This should explain some of the confusion above (first two articles on on this Talk page). Navayana ("new yana") certainly does not refer to "Western Buddhism" (let alone the FWBO). With all due respect, nevertheless I have a hunch that the phrase "fourth yana" was popularized by the professor, not by the activist. –munge 07:17, 7 January 2007 (UTC)


I've added this word at the very beginning of the article to (a) facilitate linking from the word "vehicle" in the Tibetan Buddhism article and (b) to help readers of the Yana article be less thrown off by the term if unfamiliar from the start. I note the excellent etymology section later in the article, but do not propose this to pre-empt that - only to prime the reader for it. I hope this is convenient and helpful.

Moonsell (talk) 16:01, 5 May 2008 (UTC)

Vedic origins of -yāna as a spiritual journey[edit]

It seems that someone has confused a prior use of a particular word in a particular language with one religion influencing another, is there any support for the latter idea? Mitsube (talk) 02:58, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

Three Yanas[edit]

  • Quote: "A second classification came into use with the rise of the Vajrayāna, which created a hierarchy of the teachings with the Vajrayāna being the highest path.[citation needed] The Vajrayāna itself became multilayered especially in Tibetan Buddhism."

What and when is -please- "the rise of the Vajrayana"?

-- (talk) 15:31, 5 May 2009 (UTC)

According to Shamar Rinpoche the three categories Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana are not mentioned neither in the Kangyur (T.: bka' gyur) nor in the Tängyur (T.: bstan' gyur). It has been only the first Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche who -in one of his books, entitled treasure of wisdom (T.: shes bya mdzod)- mentioned somebody who categorizes the three yanas in this way, commenting that it might be okay. Shamar Rinpoche says, that most probably this naming system startet with Prof. Evans-Wentz.

Austerlitz -- (talk) 10:58, 10 May 2009 (UTC)

Engaged Buddhism[edit]

Some scholars regard socially engaged Buddhism as so new and significant that it ought to be considered as a fourth vehicle (Edelglass & Garfield, Buddhist Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2009, page 373). Peter jackson (talk) 10:24, 19 June 2009 (UTC)

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