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Comparison chart

Differences — Similarities —
Mahayana versus Theravada comparison chart

Mahayana Theravada

Belief There is the belief that some There are no beliefs. However,
celestial beings exist in other there is a faculty of conviction
realms but cannot help people that is required for a worldling in
order to start their practice.
Initially, it has to be embraced
that the Buddha is fully
enlightened, thus actual
investigation might follow.

Goal of religion Becoming a Buddha, hence Deliverance of mind. Becoming

fulfilling the destiny of a an Arahant and freeing one's self
Bodhisattva, enlightenment & from bondage, namely samsara.
inner peace.

Place of worship Temples and monasteries. There is no worship

in Theravada, though there are
monastic temples.

Practices Meditation, regularly visit to Donation (alms-giving, etc.),

temples to make offerings to the Morality, and Meditation (insight).
Buddha. (Morality is nobler than donation
and meditation is nobler than

Place of origin India Indian subcontinent

Founder Siddhartha Gautama Siddhāttha Gotama

Literal Meaning Mahayana means "Great vehicle" Theravada means "teaching of

the elders". It refers to the pure or
original teachings of the Buddha
over 2500 years ago.

Concept of Deity There are deities, celestical There are classes of beings.
beings, but nothing like creator Some are called devas, higher
gods of theistic religions. Though life forms than human beings,
Mahayana versus Theravada comparison chart

Mahayana Theravada
it is believed that some devas are though nothing supernatural.
able to help lower beings. They are all stuck in their own
samsara. There is no absolute
entity, as an existing entity is
seen as a conditioned

God's role in Mahayanists don't believe in a Theravada rejects the concept of

salvation Supreme Being Who is the creator god. Beings are heirs of
Creator of the universe. Some do their own kamma.
believe in numerous devas.

Clergy Monks, Nuns, Laypeople , Clergy- Sangha; ones who live according
People, , disciples & Monastics to the monastic codes. The
concept of monk, or nun did not
exist in earlier Buddhism. Those
who chose to live under the
guidance of the Tathāgata
(Siddhāttha Gotama) parted from
the worldlings.

Means of Becoming a Buddha, through the Attaining Nibbāna through the

salvation path of the Bodhisattva. A Noble Eightfold Path, thus
Bodhisattva is an enlightened becoming an Arahant, an
being to an extent, seeking full awakened one.
enlightenment out of compassion
for all beings.

Status of women Equal to men, are able to become Women can join the Sangha. In
clergy-people. Anyone of any sex the Dharmic approach, the
or gender identity can become a Buddha was the very first to allow
Mahayana Buddhist, Sex and women into monastic life.
Gender are both impermanent and

Use of statues Statues are used for meditation Statues of the Buddha are
and pictures and prayers. objects of meditation.

Marriage Not required. Marriage is viewed One can marry and lead a moral
as a secular concept. life but should know that desire,
attachments and cravings lead to
Mahayana versus Theravada comparison chart

Mahayana Theravada

Religious Law Dharma is a set of instructions for There are no religious laws in
those willing to follow, not a set of Theravada, rather teachings of
laws. wisdom, and the Dhamma for
those who are seeking liberation.

Confessing sins Confessing is not relevant, but There is no concept of sin in

meditation practice may eliminate Theravada. Kamma implies
negative impressions in mind volitional action and all deeds
created by harmful actions. have their fruits. Nevertheless,
not being mentally attached to a
certain misdeed was strongly
adviced by the Buddha.

Geographical Asia, Australia and North America. Asia, Australia and North
distribution and America.

View of There are no specific views of There are no specific views of

Abrahamic Abrahamic religions in the Abrahamic religions in the
religions Mahayana tradition of Buddhism. Dhamma of the Theravada.
They respect all beliefs. Though they reject theism for

Belief of God Non-Thestic, Some Atheists, N/A

Some believe in gods.

Life after death Reincarnation. Reincarnation, Heaven/Hell are

both temporary

Status of Adam N/A N/A

About Inner Peace, Enlightenment, Spiritual awakening one's self

Wisdom. through meditation.

Angels No Angles N/A

Identity of Jesus N/A. Regular Person who preached

peace, love, and acceptance

Birth of Jesus Normal Birth Normal Birth, Regular Person.

Promised Holy N/A. None.

Mahayana versus Theravada comparison chart

Mahayana Theravada

Concept of God No gods N/A

Death of Jesus Death by Crucifixion Death by Crucifixion

Ressurection of N/A Denied


Human Nature Every human (or any other being) Human life is very hard to obtain,
is driven by illusory disturbing hence it is very important to
emotions, ignorance and ego. On practice. An ordinary human is
the other hand each being has called a puthujjana, a worldling.
indestructible perfect potential This kind is motivated by their
(sometimes called a state of illusory ego in all aspects of life.
Buddha) that is their true nature.

Clothes Some people wear robes while Robes, Clothes comfortable for
others wear long clothing. Clothes meditation; not reveling.
shouldn't be revealing to anyone.

View of the Founder of Buddhism. "Buddha" The Tathāgata is the worthy one.
Buddha can also be understood as a According to Theravada,
nature of mind inherent in any Siddhāttha Gotama had the
being or any being that realised supreme enlightenment, which
that state. makes him superior to an
Arahant. He's the one who
propounded the Four Noble
Truths and the Noble Eightfold

Second coming N/A Denied.

of Jesus

Introduction main existing branches of (Pali, literally "school of the elder

Buddhism and a term for monks") is a branch of Buddhism
classification of Buddhist that uses the teaching of the Pāli
philosophies and practice. The Canon, a collection of the oldest
Buddhist tradition of Vajrayana is recorded Buddhist texts, as its
sometimes classified as a part of doctrinal core, but also includes a
Mahayana Buddhism, but some rich diversity of traditions and
scholars may consider it as a practices
Mahayana versus Theravada comparison chart

Mahayana Theravada
different branc

View of theistic Mahayana Buddhists respect all The Buddha stated in doctrine
religions beliefs, though they see them as that such theistic ideas and
mistaken. overall organized religion have
the potential to drive someone
insane, thus causing fanaticism
or self-harm. According to
Theravada, such theistic ideas
originate out of false ego-belief.

Teachings Mahayana Buddhists usually Theravadins follow Siddhāttha

follow Siddhartha Gautama (The Gotama's teachings only. Their
Buddha) or sometimes Amitābha canonical texts are the Pali
who is a canonical figure, usually Canon, namely Tipitaka.
described as a celestical Buddha.
Prajñāpāramitā Sutras are one of
the main canonical texts of the
Mahayana tradition.

Mahāyāna (/ˌmɑːhəˈjɑːnə/; Sanskrit for "Great Vehicle") is one of two (or three, if Vajrayana is
counted separately) main existing branches of Buddhism (the other being Therevada) 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.[1] The
Buddhist tradition of Vajrayana is sometimes classified as a part of Mahayana Buddhism, but some
scholars consider it as a different branch altogether.[2]
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".[3][note 1] 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.[4]
The Mahāyāna tradition is the largest major tradition of Buddhism existing today, with 53.2% of
practitioners, compared to 35.8% for Theravada and 5.7% for Vajrayana in 2010.[5]
In the course of its history, Mahāyāna Buddhism spread from India to various
other South, East and Southeast Asian countries such
as Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Taiwan, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malays
ia and Singapore. Mahayana Buddhism also spread to other South and Southeast Asian countries,
such as Afghanistan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, the Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Iran and
other Central Asian countries before being replaced by Theravada Buddhism or other
religions.[6] Large Mahāyāna scholastic centers thrived during the latter period of Buddhism in India,
between the seventh and twelfth centuries.[1] Major traditions of Mahāyāna Buddhism today
include Chan Buddhism, Korean Seon, Japanese Zen, Pure Land Buddhism, Nichiren
Buddhism and Vietnamese Buddhism. It may also include the Vajrayana traditions
of Tiantai, Tendai, Shingon Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism, which add esoteric teachings to the
Mahāyāna tradition.


 1Etymology
 2History
o 2.1Origins
o 2.2Earliest Mahayana sutras
o 2.3Earliest inscriptions
o 2.4Early Mahāyāna Buddhism
o 2.5Late Mahāyāna Buddhism
 3Doctrine
o 3.1Bodhisattva
o 3.2Expedient means
o 3.3Liberation
o 3.4Buddha nature
 4Scriptures
o 4.1Āgamas
o 4.2Turnings of the Dharma Wheel
o 4.3Early canon
 5Theravāda school
o 5.1Role of the Bodhisattva
o 5.2Theravāda and Hīnayāna
 6See also
 7Notes
 8References
 9Sources
 10Further reading
 11External links

According to Jan Nattier, the term Mahāyāna ("Great Vehicle") was originally an honorary synonym
for Bodhisattvayāna ("Bodhisattva Vehicle")[7] — the vehicle of a bodhisattva seeking buddhahood for
the benefit of all sentient beings.[3] The term Mahāyāna (which had earlier been used simply as an
epithet for Buddhism itself) was therefore adopted at an early date as a synonym for the path and
the teachings of the bodhisattvas. Since it was simply an honorary term for Bodhisattvayāna, the
adoption of the term Mahāyāna and its application to Bodhisattvayāna did not represent a significant
turning point in the development of a Mahāyāna tradition.[7]
The earliest Mahāyāna texts often use the term Mahāyāna as a synonym for Bodhisattvayāna, but
the term Hīnayāna is comparatively rare in the earliest sources. The presumed dichotomy
between Mahāyāna and Hīnayāna can be deceptive, as the two terms were not actually formed in
relation to one another in the same era.[8]
Among the earliest and most important references to Mahāyāna are those that occur in the Lotus
Sūtra (Skt. Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra) dating between the 1st century BCE and the 1st century
CE.[9] Seishi Karashima has suggested that the term first used in an earlier Gandhāri Prakrit version
of the Lotus Sūtra was not the term mahāyāna but the Prakrit word mahājāna in the sense
of mahājñāna (great knowing).[10][11] At a later stage when the early Prakrit word was converted into
Sanskrit, this mahājāna, being phonetically ambivalent, was mistakenly converted into mahāyāna,
possibly because of what may have been a double meaning in the famous Parable of the Burning
House, which talks of three vehicles or carts (Skt: yāna).[note 2][10][12]