Mahayana Buddism

Asian Behavior and Thought Fall 2011

Mahayana Buddhism – Essential Teachings
Mahayana Buddhism, which is the Buddhism that spread into East Asia, developed new texts, new concepts, new doctrines, and new practices (rituals and worship) to reach a larger, lay audience.   In East Asia it developed new schools of Buddhism.

Bodhisattva – “enlightenment being”.   That is, a being intended for enlightenment who has taken the Great Vow of Compassion to save all beings from suffering.   May exist at the second body/form of Buddha (Sambhoga-kaya).   Dispenses aid and grace to those in need.   Bodhisattvas make use of “skillful means” (or expedient means; upaya) to help people, which is a prominent doctrine in the Lotus Sutra.

Trikaya Doctrine – Three Bodies of the Buddha (or three forms of the Buddha).
  1. Historical Buddha – earthly manifestation (Nirmana-kaya); Siddhartha Gautama
  2. “Heavenly Buddhas” – Bliss body or celestrial manifestations (Samhoga-kaya).   Buddhas such as Maitreya, Amitabha, or bodhisattvas such as Avalokiteshvara/Kwan-yin/Kannon.   Aid or “save” people in need.   May be prayed to.
  3. Dharmakaya – Eternal Buddha, or Buddha-nature present in all beings.   Literally: truth or reality body of the Buddha.

Sunyata (Emptiness)
      Doctrine that all things are empty of a separate permanent essence or self.
      Identified with doctrine of Dependent Origination (“Interbeing”), that everything arises and exists in interrelation or interdependence on all other things.   Also expressed as tathata (suchness) and non-duality.
      A major source of suffering is conceptual discriminations which are emotionally laden and separate us from, or hide, our immediate experience of things as they are (tathata).
      A prominent doctrine in Prajnaparamita literature (e.g., Heart Sutra) and in the arguments of Nagarjuna (Madhyamika Buddhism).

Samsara and Nirvana are one   – Samsara as seen or experienced from enlightenment is nirvana.   All...