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The Path to Nibbana (Bangladesh)

Theravada and Mahayana


Describe Buddhism in contemporary world. 


During the 19th and 20th centuries, Buddhism responded to new challenges and opportunities that cut across the regional religious and cultural patterns that characterized the Buddhist world in the pre-modern period. A number of Buddhist countries were subjected to Western rule, and even those that avoided direct conquest felt the heavy pressure of Western religious, political, economic, and cultural influences. Modern rationalistic and scientific modes of thinking, modern notions of liberal democracy and socialism, and modern patterns of capitalist economic organization were introduced and became important elements in the thought and life in the contemporary world.
Buddhism and its role in the modern world is affected by the way people understand the nature of their lives. As a spiritual perspective, the principle of interdependence is a positive teaching aimed at curbing our deep-rooted egoism. It teaches that we cannot live simply for ourselves or without regard to others who make our lives possible.
We Buddhists must recognize the complexity of contemporary issues and call on our compatriots to resist simplistic and emotional responses to events and situations. It means we must call on our leaders to consider issues in their full context and not seek politically expedient solutions. The Buddhist principle of non-discrimination and equality is related to this understanding. When we recognize the complexity of causation that produces conflicts and suffering, we must treat each party to the problem equally and fairly. We must clarify the issues that will lead to reconciliation and the solution to the problem. Buddhists must make clear the superficiality of contemporary notions of globalism and interdependence and work to rectify injustices created by this process. We must promote equality and support the aspirations for a full life for all people, beyond economic and political power.


Mahayana emphases and adaptations

The Mahayana has focused on the Bodhisattva concept which means that one on the path to perfect Buddhahood, whose task is to help beings compassionately while maturing his or her own wisdom. In early Buddhism and still a Bodhisattva is seen as a rare heroic picture in the Theravada school, who by a longer, more compassion orientated route than that leading to Arahatship, sought to become eventually a perfect Buddha.
While wisdom is a key part of the Eightfold Path, and itself encompassed compassion the Mahayana developed a more philosophically sophisticated account of it, and made compassion an equal complementary virtue which is the motivation of the whole path. Mahayana texts sometimes criticize sravakas as concerned only with their own liberation. Nevertheless, even the Theravada acknowledges that aiming at the deliverance of all beings is more perfectly virtuous than working for one’s own deliverance. The Mahayana emphasizes, though, that in the vast universe, there is always a need for more Buddhas.

The Mahayana has its roots in the values broadly shared by all forms of Buddhism, but its greater emphasis on compassion has meant that it has accepted that this may, in certain circumstances, override the constraints of normal Buddhist morality. Japanese Buddhists sometimes like to say that Mahayanists are concerned to act from the ‘spirit’ rather than by the ‘letter’ of the precepts. The lay monastic distinction, whilst still important in Tibet and China, comes to be downgraded in Japan, while in Tibet it is modified by the elevation in status of certain non-celibate practitioners.


Summarization of Mahayana Buddhism

Theravada Buddhism focused primarily on meditation and concentration, the eight of the eightfold noble path; as a result it centered on a monastic life and an extreme expenditure of time in meditating. This left little room for the bulk of humanity to join in, so a new schism erupted within the ranks of Buddhism in the first century AD, one that would attempt to reformulate the teachings of Buddha to accommodate a greater number of people. They called their new Buddhism “the great vehicle”.
The Mahayanists didn’t see themselves as creating a new start for Buddhism rather they claimed to be recovering the original teachings of Buddha in much the same way that the protestant reformers of sixteenth century Europe claimed that they were not creating a new Christianity but recovering the original form, the Mahayanists claimed that their canon of scriptures represented the final teachings of Buddha.
The origins of Mahayana doctrine they represent a significant departure in the philosophy. The Mahayana managed to turn Buddhism into a more esoteric religion by developing a theory of gradations of Buddha hood. At the top was Buddha hood itself which was preceded by a series of lives the Bodhisattvas. The idea of the bodhisattva was one of the most important innovations of Mahayana Buddhism.
If there is a future Buddha that meant that the second Buddha is already on earth passing through life after life. Mahayana Buddhism establishes the arahant as the goal for all believers. The believer hears the truth, comes to realize it as truth and then passes into Nirvana. This doctrine of arahant hood is the basis for called Mahayana the great vehicle for it is meant to include everyone. Finally the Mahayanists completed the conversion of Buddhism from a philosophy to religion.




Summarization of Mahayana sutras

Mahayana sutras are a very broad genre of Buddhist scriptures that began to be compiled from the first century BCE. They form the basis of the various Mahayana schools and survive predominantly in primary translations in Chinese and Tibetan from original texts in Sanskrit.
From these Chinese and Tibetan texts, secondary translations were also made into Mongolian, Korean, Japanese and sogdian. Although there is no definitive Mahayana canon as such the printed in Chinese and Tibetan published through years have preserved the majority of known Mahayana sutras. Prajñāpāramitā sutras, heart sutra and the Diamond sutra are considered fundamental by most Mahayana traditions. The Sanskrit originals of many Mahayana texts have not survived to these days although Sanskrit versions of the majority of the major Mahayana sutras have survived.
Mahayana Buddhism believes that the Mahayana sutras with the possible exception of those with an explicit Chinese provenance are an authentic account of teachings by the Buddha. Generally scholars conclude that the Mahayana scriptures were composed from the first century CE onwards with some of them having their roots in other scriptures composed in the first century BCE.
The tradition of Mahayana further claims that the teachings of the Mahayana sutras are higher than the teachings contained in the Āgamas and suttapitaka and that people were initially unable to understand the Mahayana sutras at the time of the Buddha. Mahayana sutras are divided into a number of traditions. Prajñāpāramitā sutras are almost completely philosophical in nature. Others are texts based on lives of Bodhisatvās and Buddhas outlining their vows for the sentient salvations.

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