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Hinayana Buddhism

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Theravada Buddhist Monk in Meditation

Theravada Buddhist Monk in Meditation by Stuck in Customs via Flickr

Hinayana (lesser vehicle) was a derogatory term used by the emergent Mahayana (greater vehicle) school of Buddhism around 200 CE. The Mahayanists challenged the existing arhat ideal of personal liberation.

The Hinayana group, also known as Theravada Buddhists, maintained that theirs was the true teaching of the Buddha. The Mahayanists believed that Buddha’s teaching was perfected through the bodhisattva ideal of universal liberation.

Because of its pejorative connotations, some Theravadins want the term “Hinayana” to be dropped altogether:

We must not confuse Hīnayāna with Theravāda because the terms are not synonymous. Theravāda Buddhism went to Sri Lanka during the 3rd Century BC when there was no Mahāyāna at all. Hīnayāna sects developed in India and had an existence independent from the form of Buddhism existing in Sri Lanka. Today there is no Hīnayāna sect in existence anywhere in the world. Therefore, in 1950 the World Fellowship of Buddhists inaugurated in Colombo unanimously decided that the term Hīnayana should be dropped when referring to Buddhism existing today in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, etc. This is the brief history of Theravāda, Mahayāna and Hīnayāna.¹

To this Lee the buddhist blogger adds:

I would say that that Mahayana buddhism is actually very compatible with Hinayana Buddhism. I think a better way to describe Hinayana buddhism would be “fundamental path.”

For example, if someone wanted to go to college, they would need to go to high school first, so college and high school are compatible. In the same way, someone would need to study Hinayana tenets before moving onto Mahayana. Hinayana is not a very good term though, fundamental path I think is more appropriate for this beautiful tradition. ²

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinayana

² https://earthpages.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/hinayana-buddhism/#comments

Related Posts » Eightfold Path, Four Noble Truths, Theravada Buddhism

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One thought on “Hinayana Buddhism

  1. I would say that that Mahayana buddhism is actually very compatible with Hinayana Buddhism. I think a better way to describe Hinayana buddhism would be “fundamental path.”

    For example, if someone wanted to go to college, they would need to go to high school first, so college and high school are compatible. In the same way, someone would need to study Hinayana tenets before moving onto Mahayana. Hinayana is not a very good term though, fundamental path I think is more appropriate for this beautiful tradition

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