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The Great Vehicle: Mahayana Buddhism Essay

1072 words - 5 pages

As Dr. Madhu Bazaz Wangu, founder of Mindful Writers Group indicates and professor of religions in India, indicates, Buddhism is a path to spiritual discovery (8). Being that Buddhism is a non-theistic religion; its disciples follow the monotheistic doctrine demonstrating that they believe in only one deity. Siddhartha Gautama, mostly acknowledged as Buddha––the enlightened––, is the one deity Buddhists believe in. As Dr. Wangu writes, Siddhartha practiced severe self-denial and meditation before he could accomplish Nirvana (state of mind that ends the path of suffering) (8). Siddhartha came to the conclusion that to reach Nirvana one should be capable of eliminating desire by doing right and thinking right. This could be done by following the Dharma (the law of Buddhism). Because the Buddha never wrote down any of his teachings, his disciples memorized his words. Nevertheless, hundreds of years later after the Buddha’s death, his teachings were written down. By that time, two different forms of Buddhism had already appeared; Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism. As viewonbuddhism.org explains, Theravada Buddhism follows more firmly the Buddha’s teachings while Mahayana Buddhism adapted the Buddha’s teachings more freely. Unlike Theravada Buddhists who teach how to become arhats (perfect saints) to obtain Nirvana, Mahayana Buddhists teach how to become Bodhisattvas, saints who delay Nirvana to help other obtain it as well.
Although the origins of Mahayana Buddhism are not clearly known, Richard Hughes Seager, professor of religious studies at Hamilton College, writes, Mahayana Buddhism has it origins in India around 100 C.E. (23). Because the Buddha initiated his teachings in India, the different forms of Buddhism emerged from there including the Mahayana. After the Buddha’s death, many disciples started to practice his teachings; consequently, they became masters innovating new philosophies based on the Buddha’s teachings. One of the masters that contributed to Mahayana Buddhism is master Nagarjuna. He created the Mahayana philosophy on Shunyata¬¬¬––emptiness––proving that everything is void; furthermore, it became the base for the Mahayana’s teachings. As viewonbuddhism.org explains, emptiness is the reality of the existence of ourselves, and all the phenomena around us (np). Because Shunyata teaches that everything is independent and that understanding only this concept will allow to eliminate disturbing emotions to reach Nirvana, it is the primordial philosophy in Mahayana. Shunyata can be realized by purification, practice of ethics, and single-pointed concentration; this will allow the individual to understand him/her self as an independent “I”. Moreover, it allows realizing that society does not shape an individual, but an individual shapes his/her self by comprehending shunyata.
Even though Mahayana Buddhists believe in Buddha, they believe in a different form of Buddha; Bodhisattva––Being of Wisdom. As Heinrich Dumoulin, a...

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