Eastern Spirituality

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"Small vehicle", A coinage by the Mahayana for the Buddhist doctrines concerned with the achievement of Nirvana as a Śrāvakabuddha or a Pratyekabuddha, as opposed to a Samyaksambuddha. While sometime thought as derogatory, it means in fact that the Hinayana doctrine is made to save but 1 individual, the one who follows it's teachings, just like a 1 place vehicle, while the Mahayana allow the monk to take other people along with him, like a bus or a grat plane.

Hīnayāna is a Sanskrit term literally meaning: the "Smaller Vehicle", applied to the Śrāvakayāna, the Buddhist path followed by a śrāvaka who wishes to become an arhat. The term appeared around the first or second century. Hīnayāna is often contrasted with Mahāyāna, which means the "Great Vehicle."

There are a variety of interpretations as to who or what the term Hīnayāna refers. Kalu Rinpoche stated the "lesser" or "greater" designation "does not refer to economic or social status, but concerns the spiritual capacities of the practitioner".

The Small Vehicle is based on becoming aware of the fact that all we experience in samsara is marked by suffering. Being aware of this engenders the will to rid ourselves of this suffering, to liberate ourselves on an individual level, and to attain happiness. We are moved by our own interest.

Renunciation and perseverance allow us to attain our goal."

The Chinese monk Yijing, who visited India in the 7th century, distinguished Mahāyāna from Hīnayāna as follows:

Both adopt one and the same Vinaya, and they have in common the prohibitions of the five offenses, and also the practice of the Four Noble Truths. Those who venerate the bodhisattvas and read the Mahāyāna sūtras are called the Mahāyānists, while those who do not perform these are called the Hīnayānists.

The term was widely used in the past by Western scholars to cover "the earliest system of Buddhist doctrine", as the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary put it. It has been used as a synonym for the Theravada tradition, which continues as the main form of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, but some scholars deny that the term included Theravada Buddhism. In 1950 the World Fellowship of Buddhists declared that the term Hīnayana should not be used when referring to any form of Buddhism existing today.

Glossary Contents: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z