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?”