Mahayana and Hinayana

images (1)It is currently deemed politically incorrect to use the term Hinayana  to identify followers of some historical Dharma lineages. I concur without reservations that it is inappropriate to label fellow Buddhists as such, based on their allegiance to a particular scriptural canon or sect. However, the term Hinayana is still helpful and necessary in monitoring our own view, meditation, and conduct.

The Hinayana (Lesser Path or Vehicle) and Mahayana (Great Path or Vehicle) are not defined by scriptural or sectarian allegiances, but rather by the scope and intention of our practice: Mahayana practitioners aspire to complete enlightenment to benefit all sentient beings.

Jonang Masters have instructed us that one can claim a Mahayana view while actually practicing the Hinayana, and one can have an apparent Hinayana identity while practicing the Mahayana.

  • When we deny the Buddha Nature of any sentient being, we abandon the Mahayana and step onto the Hinayana.
  • When we exclude any sentient being from our love and compassion, we abandon the Mahayana and step onto the Hinayana.
  • When we strive solely for individual liberation, disregarding the suffering of all sentient beings, we abandon the Mahayana and step onto the Hinayana.
  • When we develop sectarian attitudes, belittling and despising the views and practices of others, we abandon the Mahayana and step onto the Hinayana.
  • When we kill, oppress, persecute, torture, hate, or denigrate human and non-human sentient beings because of their species, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, we abandon the Mahayana and step onto the Hinayana.

Instead of labeling others, we should ask ourselves every night, before taking rest: “Have I stepped onto the narrow path today, or have I walked on the Great Path?”

About Tashi Nyima

I am a Dharma student, and aspire to be a companion on the path. I trust that these texts can offer a general approach and basic tools for practicing the Buddha's way to enlightenment. ||| Soy un estudiante del Dharma, y aspiro a ser un compañero en el sendero. Espero que estos textos ofrezcan a algunos un mapa general y herramientas básicas para la práctica del sendero a la iluminación que nos ofrece el Buda.
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7 Responses to Mahayana and Hinayana

  1. Greg says:

    Tashi – thanks so much for the clarifying perspective on what I’m sure is a sensitive topic for most. It seems a great deal of unproductive conflict can arise from using our limited understanding of Buddha Dharma to judge others, while very productive conflict can arise from the same application to our own actions and intentions.

    I recently came across this translator’s note in the introduction to the Shobogenzo that addresses Master Dogen’s use of the term Hinayana, which – if Rev. Nearman’s explanation is correct – seems wholly appropriate.

    “Dōgen often uses the terms Mahayana and Hinayana (translated as ‘the Greater Course’ and ‘the Lesser Course’). A widely voiced view is that references in Mahayana writings to those who follow a Lesser Course denote practitioners of the Theravadan Buddhist tradition. The Theravadan tradition, however, was not active in medieval Japan during Dōgen’s lifetime. Also, the Pali Canon upon which the Theravadan tradition is grounded was known to Dōgen through Chinese translations and was held in great esteem by him. Allusions in Dōgen’s writings to ‘those who follow the Lesser Course’ are clearly to persons whom trainees may well encounter in their daily life. Thus it is likely that he is referring to shravakas (those who merely seek to gain an intellectual understanding of Buddhism) or to pratyekabuddhas (those who undertake some aspects of Buddhist practice but only for their own personal benefit).” http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf/Shobogenzo.pdf

    As one who has spent two many hears on the path of the shravaka, it’s helpful to have this course put in its correct contextual position.

    Greg

  2. paulfarma says:

    Ven. Bhanthe Tasshi nyima, This post is attractive to me because I joined the Theravada Buddhist nearly 2 years ago. Formerly I was a Moslem. I see Buddha Sakyamuni as my Great Teacher who is most compassionate and the Dharma makes my new way of life. Actually I do the Sutrayana together with the Mantrayana as my daily practice. I do hope that the Theravada and Mahayana one day may come to- gether and dissolve their different opinions in a way profitable for Buddhism. In other religions it is the same situation and brings only bad things. Namo Buddhaya, Paul Kandio L. Great Middle Way 於 2014年04月27日 (週日) 9:01 PM 寫道﹕ WordPress.com Tashi Nyima posted: “It is currently deemed politically incorrect to use the term Hinayana  to identify followers of some historical Dharma lineages. I concur without reservations that it is inappropriate to label fellow Buddhists as such, based on their allegiance to a parti”

  3. Ven. Tasshi,

    “Instead of labeling others, we should ask ourselves every night, before taking rest: “Have I stepped onto the narrow path today, or have I walked on the Great Path?”

    Yes indeed, this is a wonderful message! Thank you for sharing.

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