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Narrative Report on Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism

Mark Galang

Mark Lim

Hazel Tan

Charles Tiu

Lorraine Touzo

De La Salle University
I. Introduction

Understanding people is to understand their religion and cultures. The way

people interact with each other individually and as a society. It shaped our identities and

shaped political actions throughout history. There has been an abundance of different

religions in the world today, being in belief that there is a God or perhaps a creator to

those who deny that there is an existence of a higher power. Buddhism is part of the

major religions in the world today. It is the religion of spiritual enlightenment, it takes one

on the path of a spiritual journey and to become one with their soul. The researchers will

discuss Buddhism and its major denominations, Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.

Mahayana Buddhism

Mahayana Buddhism consists of a different schools and family of religions.

Mahayana Buddhism is the primary sector in East Asia. It is making its appearance in

Western cultures in different forms. An example of a sub-sect of Mahayana Buddhism is

Pure Land Buddhism, considering the faith that its followers would be reborn in Western

paradise before reaching true nirvana. Mahayana Buddhism’s ideal believes that

enlightenment is universally accessible to everyone. They believe that it is important to

save others before recognizing their own redemption.

Theravada Buddhism
Theravada Buddhism, also known as Southern Buddhism, is being practiced

much in Southeast Asia. It is the branch that holds most firmly the teachings of the

Buddha. Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand are predominantly Theravada Buddhists.

Believes that human existence is full of suffering and life just being short-lived. As a

result, the Buddha advised his followers to stay away from evil and seek only what is

good, eventually purifying their minds.

II. Music of Buddhism

Mahayana Buddhism

With the rise of populist Mahayana Buddhism, sutras come to treat music in a

more positive light. Mahayana Buddhist sacred texts were originally created in Sanskrit,

yet they have since showed up in each vernacular dialect in which Buddhism is

practised. Buddhist service are basically readings of

Doctrines, not events for venerate in the Western sense. Their serenade writings

incorporate words credited to the Buddha himself, critiques, explanations of pledges

and of confidence, commitments, mantras (recitation equations), and songs of acclaim.

Theravada Buddhism

Theravada Buddhism, music is fitting just when it is subordinated to the

message. Music has minimal liturgical function, yet chanting keeps on being practiced

to the preservation of the Pali Canon. The Buddha's First Sermon, including the Four

noble truth and the Honorable Eightfold Way, is regularly chanted in the form of

Dhamma Chakka Sutta (The Wheel of Dhamma/Truth).

III. Origin of Buddhism

The origin of Buddhism points to a single man, Siddhartha Gautama, the

historical Buddha, born in Nepal during the 5th century BCE. Siddhartha Gautama was

the founder and leader of a sect of wanderer ascetic, one of many sects that existed

during the time all over India. This sect came to be known as Sangha to separate it from

other similar communities. After Siddhartha Gautama passed away, the community he

founded slowly evolved into a religion-like movement and his teaching became the

basis of Buddhism. Historical figure suggests that Buddhism had a modest and humble

beginning. Apparently, it was a relatively minor tradition in India and some scholars

have proposed that the impact of Buddha in his own day was limited due to the scarcity

of produced written documents inscriptions, and archeological support from that time.

The Buddha’s teachings are often summarized in the Four Noble Truths, which form the

basis of the first sermon Siddhartha Gautama delivered after attaining enlightenment. In

the course of its long year history, Buddhism has experienced many schisms and

modifications; there are currently three major branches of the tradition – the Theravada

(“Doctrine of Elders”), the Mahayana (“Great Vehicle”), and the Vajrayana (“Diamond

Vehicle,” often tagged “Tibetan Buddhism”).

IV. Buddhism Denominations

World Religions often have different branches, which naturally have different

ideas and school of thought. The Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism are two major

subdivisions in Buddhism.
Mahayana Buddhism

Mahayana Buddhism can be seen as major movement in history of Buddhism

which has its origins in Northern India. It made up many schools and reinterpretations of

fundamental human beliefs, values and ideals not necessarily those of the Buddhist

teachings. Recorded starting point for Mahayana, also known as the “Great Vehicle”

because it embraces so much and assumed that this great wave of shifts even before

second century CE began to grow before that date, building on existing schools and

systems, and it continues today. Mahayana Buddhists believed Siddhartha Gautama

himself, which is a great teacher, secretly taught key principles to chosen people, to his

most dedicated followers, or to the most faithful who could completely interpret these

teachings. Although Mahayana’s exact origins are still not completely understood, but in

contrast, to precious Buddhist aspirations, great importance was placed equally on

doctrines of compassion and insight. Mahayana Buddhism aims to extend religious

authority to a more number of people. Mahayana is widespread in China, Mongolia,

Korea, Japan, and Tibet. With its openness to more traditional religious views, it has an

appealing factor to common people and gained tremendous grounds in forming one of

the most successful missionary religions in the world.

Theravada Buddhism

Theravada is the only remaining school from early Buddhist period. Theravada

Buddhism is strongest in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. It is

sometimes called “Southern Buddhism.” The name means “Doctrine of Elders” – the
elders being the senior Buddhist monks. This school of Buddhism believes that it has

remained closest to the original teaching of Buddha. Its origin can be traced back as far

as the 3rd century BCE and it derives from a Buddhist school no longer existent named

Sthaviravada. One of the important features of this Buddhist school is the use of Pali as

a sacred language and the Pali Buddhist canon which is the highest scriptural authority.

This school claims to have preserved the original teachings of Siddhartha with pristine


V. Sacred Scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism

The Buddhist canon consists of the Sutras: the oral teachings of Buddha. The

canon of Mahayana Buddhism consists of The Tripitaka (Pali Canon), Mahayana

Sutras, Sutras Pitaka (Discourse), Vinaya Pitaka (Discipline), and Abhidharma Pitaka

(Ultimate Doctrine). One of the most known texts in Mahayana Buddhism is the Lotus

Sutra. The Lotus Sutra is presented as a discourse send forth by Siddhartha Gautama

before his death. It holds the most definitive teachings of the Buddha. Buddhism

highlights in the sutras that everyone possess “Buddha nature” or Buddha-hood” and

that enlightenment is open to each one of us. In Theravada Buddhism, the only

collection of scriptures that still survives is the Pali Canon or the Tipitaka. These

teachings were passed down orally until the monks commits on writing the teachings of

Siddhartha. These books were incorporated by the Buddha’s teachings. The language

that he used is presented to be Magadhi. The teaching of the Buddha was passed on

down from generation to generation.

VI. Buddhism in Philippines

Buddhism is a minor religion in the Philippines. There are several Buddhist temples

in Philippines. There is one in Masangkay St Tondo, Manila and at the Heiwa Kannon

Shrine in Pampanga. The Buddhist population in the Philippines is 46,558 according

to the 2010 Census. Also, the Philippines ranked 20th in Buddhist population on Earth

at 2 percent. Most of the Buddhist artifacts found in the Philippines was dated to the

9th century. The artifacts reflect the iconography of the Srivijaya empire’s Vajrayana

Buddhism which was popular to the country.

VII. Beliefs and Doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism

In Mahayana Buddhism people believe in other contemporary and popular

Buddhas apart from Siddhartha Gautama.

Trikaya pertains to the teaching of Mahayana Buddhism about the nature of the

Buddha and reality. Trikaya states that each Buddha has three bodies that consists


1. Dharkaya- body of absolute truth which means that buddha is transcendent

2. Sambhogakaya- body that experiences bliss of enlightenment

3. Nirmanakaya- body that manifests the world

Bodhisattva or teaching about an enlightened is the way for any Buddhist to live

in this world. They promise not to enter Nirvana until the point when all creatures enter

Nirvana together. In Theravada place a great emphasis on self-liberation where there is

a total reliance on one’s self to eradicate sufferings. In Mahayana adherents to assist

other sentient beings in their quest for liberation.

Maitreya is the only accepted bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism, while oriental

Mahayana Buddhism has other four principal bodhisattvas namely, Avalokiteshvara,

Manjushiri (embodiment of wisdom), Ksitigarbha (liberates people from evil) and

Samanthabhadra(representation of love, virtue, and diligence).

The following are the Four Vows of the Zen school:

1) Beings are numberless, I vow to save them.

2) Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to end them.

3) Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them.

4) Buddha's way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it.

A bodhisattva must pass 10 bhumis before it can attain “Buddha-hood.” Bhumis

are extensions of the “Eightfold Path”. Bhumis are commonly partnered with paramitas

(“perfections”) crossing from the “sea of suffering” to the “shore of happiness”. There

are six paramita and five of it are concerned with the accumulation of merits while the

sixth paramita involves the attainment of wisdom.

Beliefs and Doctrines of Theravada Buddhism

Theravada Buddhism is focused primarily on ethics and self-understanding

because people do not ask for any support of any supreme being. In this religion, it

has no place for God as salvation altogether exists in anybody's control.

Buddhists believe that they have no soul or atman as they live in a state of

anatman or having no soul. The mark of impermanence or anitya states that all

things on Earth are temporary.

The soul is made up of 5 mental or physical aggregates or khandas:

1) physical form or corporeality

2) feelings or sensations

3) understanding or perception

4) will or mental formation

5) consciousness

Four Noble Truth

1) Origin of suffering (Dukkha)

Suffering comes in many forms. Three evident sorts of agony relate to the initial three

sights the Buddha saw on his first trip outside his royal residence: maturity, infection,

and demise. Notwithstanding when we are not experiencing outward causes like

sickness or loss, we are unfulfilled, unsatisfied. This is reality of misery. A few people

who experience this educating may think that it's cynical. Buddhists think that it's

neither hopeful nor critical, however reasonable. Luckily, the Buddha's lessons don't

end with anguish; rather, they go ahead to reveal to us what we can do about it and

how to end it.

2) Cause of suffering (Samodāya)

The Buddha taught that the root of all suffering is craving or desire, tanhā. This

explains the endless dissatisfaction of humans. This comes in three forms, which he

described as the Three Roots of Evil, or the Three Fires, or the Three Poisons.

The three roots of evil are the following:

· Greed and desire, represented in art by a rooster

· Ignorance or delusion, represented by a pig

· Hatred and destructive urges, represented by a snake

3) Cessation of suffering (Nirodha)

The Buddha showed that the best approach to desire or craving, which causes

suffering, is to liberate oneself from attachment. The Buddha was a living illustration

this is conceivable in a human lifetime.

4) Path to the cessation of suffering (Magga)

The fourth noble truth directs to the path or magga leading to the solution for the


Noble Eightfold Path is divided into three aspects, namely, wisdom, morality, and

For path of wisdom, that includes Right Understanding (Sammā ditthi)- accepting

Buddhist teachings. Right Intention(Sammā san̄kappa) - Free one's self from hostility,

savagery, and untruthfulness

For path of morality, that includes Right Speech (Sammā vācā)- Abstain from

untruthfulness, tale-bearing, harsh language, and vain talk. Right Action (Sammā

kammanta)- Behaving peacefully and harmoniously; refraining from stealing, killing

and overindulgence in sensual pleasure. Right Livelihood. (Sammā ājīva)- Living in a

way not harmful to any living thing

For path to meditation, it consists of Right Effort (Sammā vāyāma)- Avoid evil

thoughts and overcome them, arouse good thoughts and maintain them. Right

Mindfulness (Sammā sati) -Developing awareness of the body, sensations, feelings

and states of mind. Right Concentration (Sammā samādhi)- Developing the mental

focus necessary for this awareness.

VIII. Law of Dependent Origination

It is also called as Paticca-samuppada. It is one of the most insightful teachings

of Buddha. It means that every cause has a definite effect. In other words, nothing

comes into being by mere accident and actions do not happen in a random way.

IX. Rituals and Traditions of Mahayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism

Mahayana Buddhism
Mahayana Buddhist engaged in a lot of different rituals including mediation,

pilgrimage, and mantra recitation. When a Buddhist enters a room with a statue of a

Buddha, they bow in respect. They also give offerings of vegetarian food and light

incense as a gesture of respect. With regards to marriage ceremonies, the couple

should recite the Vandana, Tisarana, and Pancasila in Pali or in English.

Theravada Buddhism

Theravada traditions offers a unique approach to understanding Buddhism.

Attainment of salvation for any Buddhist is by way of one’s own action with the absence

of assistance of any supernatural being. Monks and laypeople are engaged in different

rituals. Laypeople give offerings and support for the monks. Providing them with meals.

Monks chant and meditate on a daily basis.

X. Symbolism of Mahayana Symbolism and Theravada Buddhism

Mahayana Symbolism

There are eight auspicious symbols in Mahayana Buddhism that was originated

in Indian iconography. These symbolize the gifts of the gods to Buddha after his

enlightenment (O’Brien, 2017). The Eight Auspicious Symbols consist of the following:

1. Parasol or chattri: The parasol symbolizes royalty and protection against

the heat of defilement and from suffering, illness, destructive emotions, harmful forces,
and obstacles. Wisdom is what the dome signifies, and compassion represents the

hanging silk of it. It also representation of whoever underneath it is important. Based on

the beliefs of Buddhists, they believe that the center of the universe is the one, whether

it is a person or symbol under it.

2. Pair of Golden fishes or suvarnamatsya: The pair of golden fishes

signifies fearlessness, freedom, and happiness because they can freely swim without

drowning and fear in the bodies of water. They also symbolize fertility and abundance

because of the rapid multiplication. The two golden fishes also represents Ganges and

Yamuna, which are the two main holy rivers in India.

3. Treasure Vase or kalasha: The treasure vase represents wealth, health,

longevity, prosperity, and wisdom. It also known as the vase of inexhaustible treasures

because the vase remains full no matter how many is removed. It symbolizes the

inexhaustible treasure because of the abundant riches found in the teachings of

4. Lotus Flower or padma: The lotus flower symbolizes purity and

enlightenment because it purifies the body, speech, and mind from the defilements,

emotional hindrances, and mental obscuration. It also epitomizes how wholesome

deeds blossom in a state of ecstacy from liberation.

5. Conch Shell or sankha: The conch shell represents the deep and

melodious sound of the teachings of Buddhadharma. Whoever hears it rouse from

ignorance and encourages fulfillment of the wellbeing of others and their own. The white

conch shell that turns to the right are scarce and considered sacred. Its movement

replicates the motion of the sun, moon, planets, and stars.

6. Endless Knot or Mandala: The endless knot epitomizes the connection

and interrelation of everything. It also represents the never-ending wisdom of Buddha,

because it has neither beginning or end. Compassion and wisdom being united also

symbolizes it.
7. Victory Banner or dhvaja: The victory banner signifies the victory of

Buddha over the demon Mara. In Buddhism, Mara symbolizes passion, lust, and pride.

It also represents how the teachings of Buddha won over all the negativities in the

world, such as ignorance, disharmony, and death. It serves as a reminder that in order

to reach enlightenment, one must defeat their own passion, lust, and pride.

8. Dharma Wheel or dharmachakra: The dharma wheel is the representation

of Buddha and it symbolizes Buddhism universally. Its eight spokes epitomizes The

Eightfold Path.

Theravada Symbolism

Buddhist art in Theravada remain in the realm of representational and historic

meaning. Relic, spatial, and representational memorials are the divisions of cetiya,

which is the remainders of Buddha. “The 32 signs of a Great Man” followed by 80

Secondary Characteristics symbolizes the traits that appeared from the representations

of Siddhartha Gautama.

XI. Places of Buddhism

Mahayana Buddhism
Mahayana Buddhism is mainly found throughout China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia,

Nepal, Russia, Tibet, and Vietnam with 360 million followers.

Theravada Buddhism

Theravada is widespread among the countries in Southeast Asia (Thailand,

Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos), and Sri Lanka with 150 adherents.

XII. Place of Worships of Buddhism

Stupas which are commemorative monuments which is having sacred relics

associated with Siddhartha himself. These burial mounts predate Buddhism as ancient

Indian kings and heroes were housed. The cremation of body of Siddhartha and

distribution of his ashes among eight followers. The design of the Stupa shows the path

to enlightenment and became pilgrimage sites. Buddhism integrates an assortment of

religious practices and devotional rituals with the objective of helping worshipers in their

journey towards enlightenment. In Buddhist temples, they pray and chant to pay their

respect to the Buddhas. Buddhist can worship both at home or at a temple. At home,

Buddhists will set aside a room as a shrine. There will be a statue of Buddha, candles,

and an incense burner.

XIII. Buddhism Views on Women

Generally, women are looked upon as inferior to men. The peculiar stigma

embedded to women can be linked to religious biases. Almost all over the world, the

prejudices that woman encounter seem to be similar. One of them prohibits women to
read religious scriptures. But a satisfying element about Buddhism is that the Buddha

considered women equal to men. Freedom is given to women, and responsibility holds

both genders credible to contribute to the society. The Buddha was the first religious

teacher who gave women unfettered opportunities in the religious field. He had given

women due credit to their potentials and capabilities. The Buddha highlights the

important role women can play as a wife and making her family a success.

XIV. Hierarchy of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism

The levels of hierarchy are:

● Buddhist Monasteries

● Buddhist Monks

● Buddhist Nuns

● Buddhist Lay People

● Buddhist Pilgrims

Buddhist Monasteries

- This is the living place for people that devoted themselves fully to the religion.

Many buddhist children often go to the monasteries to read and write. The Monks

are usually the teachers in the monasteries, giving them knowledge and

education about buddhism, along with other education. A usual monastery

consist of the main prayer hall, dorms, a crematorium, libraries and rooms for the

statue of Buddha. Local monasteries support from the local lay community.

Buddhist Monks
- They are highest in positions in the buddhist religious hierarchy. Monks are

respected by everyone in the buddhist societies. They live with other Monks in

the monasteries, teaching children all about the religion.

Buddhist Nuns

- They are second in rank in the Buddhist hierarchy. They act as assistants to the

Monks. They handle little responsibility as compared to the Monks. They spend

most of their time in study and meditation.

Buddhist Lay People

- A relationship exist between the monks and the Buddhist Lay People. They

provide food, lodging and medicines to the Monks. They cater to every needs

and requirements of the Monks, in return the Monks teach them the religion in


Buddhist Pilgrims

- They travel to different important religious sites such as the buddha's birthplace

ect. They visit different monasteries in order to get knowledge about teachings of


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