The origin of this name Mahayana is polemical there had been an origin debate about what the bona fide teachings of the Buddha religion were. As such, its use in any context except as that pertaining to a existing tradition is contentious amongst TheravA?din practitioners and some scholars. The first known talk about of Mahayana occurred in the Lotus Sutra that was between the first century BCE and the first century CE. However, some scholars such as Seishi Karashima propose the term first used in an earlier GandhA?ri Prakrit version of the Lotus Sutra was not Mahayana but the Prakrit word mahajana in the sense of mahajnana (great knowing). At a later stage when the early Prakrit word was converted into Sanskrit, this Mahayana being phonetically ambivalent, was mistakenly converted into Mahayana possibly by contamination arising through proximity to the famous Parable of the Burning House which talks of carts (Skt: yA?na).
Origin of Mahayana
The geneses of Mahayana are still not entirely implicit. Although the movement traces its origin way back to Gautama Buddha according to scholars, they believe that it originated in south India in the 1st century CE.Other scholars tip to evidence that Mahayana originated in north-west India in the 1st century CE as Some also scholars say that Mahayana could have primarily developed in the south-east of India as a non-monastic tradition, and that later it underwent a process of monasticization and emerged in the north-west of India as a monastic movement. Mahayana was first propagated into China by Lokaka??ema hence brought about the first translator of Mahayana sutras into Chinese during the second century CE.
There are three sources that appeared to have made momentous contributions to the rise of Mahayana Buddhism the first being The early Buddhist schools. Some significant Mahayana texts such as the PrajnA?pA?ramitA? habitually refer to doctrines associated with the SarvA?stivA?da, which were mentioned or incorporated into Mahayana texts. In terms of content, however, the MahA?saa?…ghika doctrine is closer to Mahayana contemplation, predominantly those of the sub-schools such as the LokottaravA?dins.Secondly is Biographical literature of the Buddha composed by people said to have belonged to the vehicle that praised the Buddha. This literature comprising of the jA?takas, avadA?nas and other texts describing the life of Buddha may have had its origins in the various early schools, but urbanized in ways that transcended the obtainable sectarian lines and contributed to the rise of Mahayana Buddhism. Buddhist poets had different way of writing their work with purposes different from those of scholars who were concerned with doctrinal issues, and they used literary expressions which transcended doctrinal lines between the schools. Thirdly is StA«pa worship. StA«pas which were primarily mere monuments to Gautama Buddha progressively more became places of devotion and of spreading Buddhism to the masses, the preponderance of whom were illiterate laymen. On the inside wall of a stA«pa, pictures were drawn or sculpted depicting the life of Buddha and his previous lives as a bodhisattva. This has given rise to devotion to the Buddha and the bodhisattvas, distinct from the purely monastic saa?…gha of the early Buddhist schools. However, the theory has been considered redundant by a number of scholars. Early Mahayanists may well have used the stA«pas that were not affiliated with the early Buddhist schools as a basis for proselytizing.
The habitually expressed misconception that Mahayana started as a lay-inspired movement is based on a discriminating reading of a very tiny sample of in existence Mahayana sutra literature. At present scholars have drifted away from this limited corpus of literature, and have started to open up early Mahayana literature which is very austere and elongates the ideal of the monk’s life in the forest. An intellectual consensus about the derivation of the Mahayana has not yet been reached, but it has been suggested that by the time Mahayana in India became mainstream in the 5th century CE, “it had become what it originally most strongly objected to: a fully landed, sedentary, lay-oriented monastic institution”. Before that, the Mahayana movement may well have been either a marginalized ascetic group of monks living in the forest, or a group of conservatives embedded in mainstream, socially engaged early Buddhist monasteries. Most scholars conclude that Mahayana remained insignificant movement until the 5th century CE.
Mahayana Buddhism in India came into two periods that is early Mahayana Buddhism and late Mahayana Buddhism where the early period of Mahayana Buddhism concerns the origins of Mahayana and the contents of early Mahayana sutras, while the late period of Mahayana Buddhism came with four major types of thought that were developed, this were Madhyamaka, Yogacara, Buddha nature (TathA?gatagarbha), and Buddhist logic as the last and most current. The two main theoretical schools of the Mahayana were the Madhyamaka and the later Yogacara.that is in India, Although there are clams by Harvey that there were no great Indian teachers associated with Buddha nature thought, whereas others such as Williams tip out the centrality of RatnagotravibhA?ga (Uttaratantra) to the Buddha nature tradition. However, he states: “One of the features of Tibetan Buddhism in contrast with that of East Asia is the brawny tendency to approach the sutras circuitously through the medium of exegetical treatises if at all the RatnagotravibhA?ga has played a comparatively tiny role in East Asian Buddhism, where the dominance has always been given to sutra study.
Hardly any, things can be supposed with certainty about Mahayana Buddhism, especially its early Indian form, other than that the Buddhism practiced in Vietnam, Tibet, Korea, China, and Japan is Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana can be described as a loosely spring bundle of numerous teachings. This looseness has enabled it to contain the various contrasting ideas in those conflicting teachings. Mahayana is a outsized religious and theoretical structure. It constitutes an inclusive conviction characterized by the adoption of new Mahayana sutras in addition to the earlier Agama texts, and a shift in the basic purpose and concepts of Buddhism. Mahayana sees itself as trenchant further and more profoundly into the Buddha’s Dharma. Tendency arose in Mahayana sutras to regard devotion to these sutras as generating spiritual benefits greater than those which arise from being a follower of the non-Mahayana approaches to Dharma thus the AsrA«mA?lA? SA«tra claims that the Buddha said that devotion to Mahayana is intrinsically superior in its intrinsic worth to the following of the A›ravaka or pratyekabuddha path.
Mahayana Buddhist schools nevertheless de emphasized the ideal of the discharge from suffering and the accomplishment of nirvana as found in the early Buddhist schools. The elementary principles of Mahayana doctrine were based on the possibility of universal liberation from suffering for all beings and the existence of Buddhas and bodhisattvas embodying Buddha nature. Some schools reduce to bare bones the expression of faith by allowing salvation to be on the other hand obtained through the grace of the Buddha Amitabha by having faith and devoting oneself to chanting to Amitabha. Pure Land schools strongly emphasized this devotional lifestyle of Buddhism and indeed it has greatly contributed to the success of Mahayana in East Asia, where spiritual rudiments traditionally relied upon chanting of a Buddha’s name, of mantras or dhA?raa?‡A«s; reading of Mahayana sutras and mysticism. Most Mahayana schools have this believe in a pantheon of quasi-divine bodhisattvas that dedicate themselves to individual excellence, decisive knowledge, and the salvation of humanity and all other attentive beings like animals, ghosts, and demigods. In Mahayana, the Buddha is seen as the final highest being present in all times, in all beings, and in all places, and the bodhisattvas come to represent the universal ideal of unselfish excellence.
The main differences between Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism are that in Theravada there are individual efforts that leads to enlightenment while Mahayana believes in Working towards enlightenment, also Theravada believes in Striving for wisdom first while Mahayana believes that Compassion is the highest virtue, Theravada Centers on meditation, and requires personal dedication such as being a monk or nun while the Mahayana Encourages practice in the world and among the general community .There language of transmission differs as Theravada Tripitaka is only in Pali as well as the teaching and are supplemented by local language while Mahayana Scriptures are translated into local language also in Theravada the Bardo (Limbo) is rejected while in Mahayana its taught with all schools and in their non Buddhist influence the Theravada have Mainly pre-Buddhist Indian influences like concepts of karma, sangha, etc. Unlike the Mahayana who are heavily influenced by local religious ideas as transmitted to new cultures (China, Japan, Tibet).Another noteworthy difference comes with the emphasis on the Bodhisattva, or spiritual guide where by the Buddha referred to the concept of Bodhisattvas before his death, but it was not crucial to the original Buddhists. while with the development of the Mahayana Buddhism, the Bodhisattvas became a significant part of the new thinking.