Author Topic: What is the difference between the 3 types of Buddhism  (Read 12603 times)

Aurore

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What is the difference between the 3 types of Buddhism
« on: July 04, 2012, 04:29:41 PM »
Saw this question on Facebook and I thought it was a question which most people new in Buddhism will ask but I cannot find the answer in this forum. I also thought it would be great to invite him over to read what other people have to say and participate in the conversation. Maybe you guys can give him your point of view and explain in simple language a newbie can understand?

hello. i have a question, i am a newbie in Buddhism but i am really confused cause Buddhism seems to have a lot of branches. examples would be Tibetan, Thailand and China Buddhism. can i know what's the difference between these three types of Buddhism and which is more pure?

Big Uncle

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Re: What is the difference between the 3 types of Buddhism
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2012, 05:33:35 PM »
Saw this question on Facebook and I thought it was a question which most people new in Buddhism will ask but I cannot find the answer in this forum. I also thought it would be great to invite him over to read what other people have to say and participate in the conversation. Maybe you guys can give him your point of view and explain in simple language a newbie can understand?

hello. i have a question, i am a newbie in Buddhism but i am really confused cause Buddhism seems to have a lot of branches. examples would be Tibetan, Thailand and China Buddhism. can i know what's the difference between these three types of Buddhism and which is more pure?

Instead of coming up with an explanation from my own head, I have done a bit of surfing for answers and here is a brief explanation of the different existing types of Buddhism that exist in these countries:-

Two major branches of Buddhism are recognized: Theravada ("The School of the Elders") and Mahayana ("The Great Vehicle"). Theravada has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. Mahayana is found throughout East Asia and includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Shingon, Tiantai (Tendai) and Shinnyo-en. In some classifications, Vajrayana—practiced mainly in Tibet and Mongolia, and adjacent parts of China and Russia—is recognized as a third branch, while others classify it as a part of Mahayana.

Theravada:-
Theravadins believe that every individual is personally responsible for their own self-awakening and liberation, as they are the ones that were responsible for their own actions and consequences (Sanskrit: karma; Pali: kamma). Simply learning or believing in the true nature of reality as expounded by the Buddha is not enough, the awakening can only be achieved through direct experience and personal realization. An individual will have to follow and practice the Noble Eightfold Path as taught by the Buddha to discover the reality for themselves. The ultimate theory of Theravada uses the Four Noble Truths, also known as the Four Sublime Truths. In the simplest form these can be described as the problem, the cause, the solution and the pathway to solution (implementation).

Mahayana:-
According to Jan Nattier, the term Mah?y?na ("Great Vehicle") was originally an honorary synonym for Bodhisattvay?na ("Bodhisattva Vehicle") — the vehicle of a bodhisattva seeking buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. The term Mah?y?na was therefore formed independently at an early date as a synonym for the path and the teachings of the bodhisattvas. Since it was simply an honorary term for Bodhisattvay?na, the creation of the term Mah?y?na and its application to Bodhisattvay?na did not represent a significant turning point in the development of a Mah?y?na tradition.

Vajrayana:-
Vajrayana can also be seen as the third of the three "turnings of the wheel of dharma":

1. In the first turning Shakyamuni Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths at Varanasi in the 5th century BC, which led to the founding of Buddhism and the later early Buddhist schools. Details of the first turning are described in the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta. The oldest scriptures do not mention any further turnings other than this first turning.
2. The Mahayana tradition claims that there was a second turning in which the Perfection of Wisdom sutras were taught at Vulture's Peak, which led to the Mahayana schools. Generally, scholars conclude that the Mahayana scriptures (including the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras) were composed from the 1st century CE onwards.
3. According to the Vajrayana tradition, there was a third turning which took place at Dhanyakataka sixteen years after the Buddha's enlightenment. Some scholars have strongly denied that Vajrayana appeared at that time, and placed it at a much later time. The first tantric (Vajrayana Buddhist) texts appeared in the 3rd century CE, and they continued to appear until the 12th century.

Vajrayana can be distinguished from the Sutrayana. The Sutrayana is the method of perfecting good qualities, where the Vajray?na is the method of taking the intended outcome of Buddhahood as the path.

Deity yoga (Tibetan: lha'i rnal 'byor; Sanskrit: Devata) is the fundamental Vajrayana practice. It is a sadhana in which practitioners visualize themselves as a deity or yidam. Deity Yoga brings the meditator to the experience of being one with the deity:

Deity Yoga employs highly refined techniques of creative imagination, visualisation, and photism in order to self-identify with the divine form and qualities of a particular deity as the union of method or skilful means and wisdom. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, "In brief, the body of a Buddha is attained through meditating on it".

By visualizing oneself and one's environment entirely as a projection of mind, it helps the practitioner to become familiar with the mind's ability and habit of projecting conceptual layers over all experience. This experience undermines a habitual belief that views of reality and self are solid and fixed. Deity yoga enables the practitioner to release, or 'purify' him or herself from spiritual obscurations (Sanskrit: klesha) and to practice compassion and wisdom simultaneously.

Recent studies indicate that Deity yoga yields quantifiable improvements in the practitioner's ability to process visuospatial information, specifically those involved in working visuospatial memory.

Vajraprotector

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Re: What is the difference between the 3 types of Buddhism
« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2012, 06:34:33 PM »
To add on to what Big Uncle said, I quote from Kalu Rinpoche’s Luminous Mind: The Way of the Buddha,
 
The Hinayana approach involves maintaining perfect discipline and ceasing to behave in a way that causes harm to oneself and others. This protects the practitioner from obstacles and distractions and allows for single-pointed meditation.

The Mahayana approach involves practicing compassion towards all beings as well as meditating on profound emptiness. These two are done simultaneously. On the basis of altruistic state of mind, or bodhicitta, we practice the six perfections: giving, morality, patience, enthusiastic perseverance, meditation, and wisdom.

The Vajrayana approach is a way of transmutation that purifies all activities- emotions, impure illusions – and allows us to quickly reach enlightenment through the Generation and Completion Stage meditations (of deity yoga).



The three vehicles use all kinds of more or less radical methods that can be compared to the three ways of cutting down the tree of ignorance, suffering and negativity: Hinayana gets rid of the leaves, Mahayana cuts the branches, and Vajrayana eliminates the tree from its roots.  All suffering occurs in mind. Directly realizing mind’s nature and removing the afflictions generated in mind is the Vajrayana approach.


Poonlarp

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Re: What is the difference between the 3 types of Buddhism
« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2012, 06:55:53 PM »
Thanks Big Uncle and Vajraprotector for the clear explanations.

I think since it came from the same source of Shakyamurni Buddha, there's no different among all for which types is more pure than another one, it's all from the same principle but just the approach is different.

I am a practitioner of Vajrayana, but I met a friend who tried Vajrayana before and couldn't accept it, she likes the Hinayana way instead. To her, Vajrayana is too complicated and she prefer to always meditate and know her own body and mind well. I congratulate her for finding the right path for herself and encourage her to follow the Hinayana path all the way. For me, we will meet in the end of our practice as we are going towards Buddhahood using different route. 

Ensapa

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Re: What is the difference between the 3 types of Buddhism
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2012, 06:20:16 AM »
The direction that someone takes in their Dharma practice actually bears little difference to the end result, but depending on their motivation to practice and also depending on how much effort they are willing to dedicate and put into their Dharma practice. Sometimes, it is not a real reason for them not choosing a certain path, but rather it is merely a cover for their own shortcomings with regards to Dharma practice. I have met many Theravardans who refuse to learn or explore Vajrayana or Mahayana for the reason that it is too complicated when they dont even take the time to learn or have gone through the basics and investigations first before making that statement. I have also met the ones who think that they are practicing the "pure" and "untainted" teachings of the Buddha by sticking to the "safe" teachings, teachings that the Buddha have actually taught based on scholarly discernment, or that is what they would like to believe. My question is, why use Buddhism to protect and strengthen our own ego? To study only the 'purest' even if it would not be of any benefit, but only to feel 'safe' is nothing short of self preservation which is but an extension of the ego and self cherishing. So...why practice the Dharma again?

With that said, there are people who genuinely prefer the theravarda tradition and they put a lot of effort into studying and practicing the teachings and they gain results from there. Those are genuine in their claims when they say that Theravarda is for them as the Theravarda's share of the tripitaka is quite vast as it contains all the Sutras (discourses), Abhidharma (philosophical commentaries on the Buddha's teachings) and Vinaya (the explanation of the monk and nun vows, rules and regulations as well as explanations related to the vows.) there are people who really study those and put those into practice as opposed to just saying they prefer theravarda and stopping there and only skirt around the basics instead of learning and practicing more. There are also Mahayana practitioners who discriminate against Theravarda, saying that they are lesser and inferior and dare not explore Vajrayana because they are afraid of learning "the wrong lineage" and they cannot turn back after that. Sometimes, its something we can observe in others but are powerless to stop.

For me, I choose Vajrayana because i know it encompasses both the Theravarda and Mahayana. I did my investigations of all 3 traditions, and I know what all of them are about in a nutshell, and I have decided that Vajrayana is the tradition i belong to as it answers most of my questions and feels more complete in a sense that the text does not look it was truncated or edited to remove certain elements that are deemed superstitious or due to lack of understanding from the editor.

Aurore

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Re: What is the difference between the 3 types of Buddhism
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2012, 06:14:07 PM »
Thanks Big Uncle and Vajraprotector for the clear explanations.

I think since it came from the same source of Shakyamurni Buddha, there's no different among all for which types is more pure than another one, it's all from the same principle but just the approach is different.

I am a practitioner of Vajrayana, but I met a friend who tried Vajrayana before and couldn't accept it, she likes the Hinayana way instead. To her, Vajrayana is too complicated and she prefer to always meditate and know her own body and mind well. I congratulate her for finding the right path for herself and encourage her to follow the Hinayana path all the way. For me, we will meet in the end of our practice as we are going towards Buddhahood using different route. 

I know of someone who prefers to meditate too. However, meditation alone cannot bring us to Buddhahood, but selfless acts and mind transformation can. It is also said that without a teacher, one cannot reach Enlightenment. In line with this statement, how does one attain Buddhahood with the Theravadan and Mahayana path since all methods are supposed to bring one to Enlightenment as they are all Buddha's teachings without a teacher?

I have heard that Theravadan is similar to secondary school, Mahayana similar to college and Vajrayana is similar to university. Then it could also mean they have a different levels of practice and difficulties. From what I understand, Theravadan's practice is to gain enlightenment for oneself, while Mahayana is for others. Vajrayana is for the sake of all sentient beings but the method to reach enlightenment is the fastest. Therefore, the level of difficulties in the Vajrayana path is much more than the other two. In that case, do you think that practitioners of Vajrayana may have practiced the Theravadan path in their previous lives and slowly advanced to Mahayana and then Vajrayana?

pgdharma

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Re: What is the difference between the 3 types of Buddhism
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2012, 07:29:03 AM »
While all of the different types of Buddhism have the same goal and same basis for their beliefs, the way that Buddhahood is obtained varies from sect to sect.

The biggest aim in Theraveda  is to use meditation to train the mind, and to encourage freedom of the mind from suffering. This freedom from suffering will allow us to reach the greatest spiritual goal - Enlightenment

The second type is Mahayana. This sect not only teaches the Pali Canon (which is the religious text of Theraveda Buddhism) but also includes additional texts and beliefs. In order to reach Nirvana, Mahayana Buddhists believe that a person must practice universal compassion, which is the altruistic quest of the Bodhisattva to attain the "Awakened Mind" of Buddhahood.

The third type is Vajrayana. This type uses both the Mahayana and Theraveda scriptures, as well as a number of Buddhist Tantras - all of which are aimed at attaining Buddhahood in just one lifetime instead of requiring many reincarnations.

All  has slight variations and as the destination is the same, it is up to each individual to  find and choose their own vehicle to reach that destination.

Dondrup Shugden

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Re: What is the difference between the 3 types of Buddhism
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2015, 08:26:00 AM »
Knowledge of the major schools of Buddhism will result in understanding how each group practises the Dharma.

No right or wrong paths as at the end, it all leads to virtuous living and eventual enlightenment which is the goal of all practising Buddhists.

I choose the Vajrayana is because I was lucky to have found the teacher who makes Buddhism something good for self and others.  A great sharing for a better world and end of sufferings.

Kim Hyun Jae

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Re: What is the difference between the 3 types of Buddhism
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2015, 07:44:12 AM »
There is no more to add in the explanation of the 3 types of Buddhism here as Big Uncle and Vajraprotector had explained them here.

However, I also believe from certain dharma teachings that those who are attracted to Vajrayana and its teachings are through karmic imprints they had from previous lives and by being born human again, we are activating the seeds to be reconnected back to our lineage gurus, teachers or lamas to continue the same path.

We may have previously made aspiration prayers from Yonten Shigyurma (below) or in our dedication:-

In all lives may I never be parted
From perfect Masters and enjoy the glory of Dharma
Perfecting realizations of the paths and stages
May I swiftly gain the state of Vajradhara.

Dondrup Shugden

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Re: What is the difference between the 3 types of Buddhism
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2015, 04:17:30 PM »
You are correct, Kim Hyun Jae, it is still so clear in my mind the first time I met my root Guru, there was some kind of a magnetic attraction which was surreal.

Although through my life I have been to many Thai temples and my family had Thai monks coming to the home to do house blessing, I never had any impact.

May I once again meet my Lama if I am fortunate to be reborn in the human realm.