Today we look into the most accepted and practiced form of Buddhism – Mahayana Buddhism.

In contrast to Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism is the more liberal and the largest branch of Buddhism practiced around the world. Mahayanists use the Sanskrit version of the Buddha’s teachings. These teachings emerged much later than the Pali Canon and are known as Sutras. They incorporate Pali texts as well as thousands of other volumes that contain extensions of the Buddha’s message. Taken as a whole, the texts often present complex and at times contradictory teachings. Therefore, there are more varied beliefs and practices among Mahayanist practitioners.

Basically the teachings through the Sutras maintain there are multiple universes and multiple Buddhas. They view the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) as a transcendent being, that spans time and concepts. The teachings focus more on transcending life through practice and The Sutras teach that the path to enlightenment is open to everyone. All people, not just monks, can attain nirvana. This is a fundamental concept and one The Buddha himself taught.

Mahāyāna Buddhism takes the basic teachings of The Buddha as recorded in early scriptures as the starting point of its teachings, such as those concerning karma and rebirth, anātman, emptiness, dependent origination, and the Four Noble Truths. It teaches that we can should utilize these concepts through our own actions and mindsets not just for the improvement of ourselves but the betterment of all and the moments we inhabit and share together.

Another significant element of Mahayana Buddhism is the introduction of bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvasare figures that have already attained nirvana, but instead of going there immediately, they have compassionately chosen to wait and assist individuals who cannot get there on their own for various reasons, such as lack of discipline or insufficient merit making. Compassion is one of the highest ideals within this branch. Mahayana Buddhism holds mass appeal and is practiced in many countries including China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.

Peace and Love, Jim

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