Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 10, 2022, 7:46

Upon the demise of Gautama Buddha, a famous religious leader, in 400 BC (Before Christ), the Buddhist community split into two sects: Hinayana and Mahayana. The Mahayana sect, which implies 'Great Vehicle' in the Sanskrit language, believed in the divinity of the Gautama Buddha. The sect promoted idol adoration in Buddhism.

On the other hand, the Hinayana sect, which implies 'Small Vehicle' in Sanskrit, did not believe in the divinity of the Gautama Buddha. It emphasized individual redemption through mediation and self-discipline.

Keep reading the article below to read more about the Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana.

What do we mean by Mahayana?

  • Mahayana is a Sanskrit phrase that signifies "Great Vehicle"
  • The Mahayana community believed in the godhead of the Gautama Buddha
  • The sect promoted idol adoration in Buddhism and Bodhisattvas symbolizing Buddha's Nature
  • Mahayana believes in the law of kindness (karuna) over and above the law of karma
  • Mahayana supports the purposes of Boddhisatva/the redeemer who remained concerned about the redemption of others
  • Mahayana Buddhism is spread across India, Japan, China, Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, and Bhutan

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What do we mean by Hinayana?

  • The Hinayana sect implies 'Small Vehicle' in the Sanskrit language
  • Hinayana did not believe in the deity of the Gautama Buddha. It acknowledges the original teaching of Buddha or the Principle of elders
  • Hinayana does not believe in Idol adoration and endeavours to attain personal redemption through self-discipline and introspection
  • The Hinayana intellectuals used Pali, the language of the groups. Hinayana scriptures are composed in Pali and based on the Tripitaka
  • Hinayana emphasizes moral activity and the law of karma
  • Hinayana believes in attaining salvation by deeds that each man should work for his redemption
  • Hinayana or Theraveda practices are followed in Laos, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and other Southeast Asian nations
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Understanding the Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana

Below is a tabular representation of the Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana.

Mahayana

Hinayana

Mahayana Buddhism deems Gautama Buddha to be a holy being who will assist his disciples to attain nirvana

Hinayana Buddhists believe Gautama Buddha is a normal human being who attained Nirvana

Supporters of Mahayana Buddhism can be found in (South) Korea, China, Japan, and Tibet

Hinayana Buddhism is practised in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia

Scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism were composed in Sanskrit

Scriptures of Hinayana Buddhism were penned in the Pali language

The three primary bodies of a Buddha are acknowledged in Mahayana Buddhism. These bodies are as follows:

  • Nirmanakaya
  • Sambhogakaya
  • Dharmakaya

Hinayana does not believe in these three primary bodies of a Buddha as they think a person must find their way to salvation

The ten prevalent perspectives in Mahayana are as follows:

  • Generosity
  • Self-Discipline
  • Patience
  • Perseverance
  • Mental Stability
  • Wisdom
  • Skills in Means
  • Aspirational Prayers
  • Strengthening
  • Deep Awareness

The ten prevalent perspectives in Hinayana are as follows:

  • Generosity
  • Self-Discipline
  • Patience
  • Perseverance
  • Being True to one's words
  • Wisdom
  • Renunciation
  • Resolution
  • Love
  • Equanimity

In Mahayana Buddhism, immense happiness is the wish that others have the pleasure of unending enlightenment

In Hinayana Buddhism, immense joy implies rejoicing in the delight of others without any envy and not anticipating anything in return

Mahayana Buddhism started to thrive around 500 BC

Hinayana Buddhism started to thrive around 250 BC

 

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FAQs on the Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana

Q.1. What is the Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana?

The Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana is as follows -

The Mahayana sect, which implies Great Vehicle' in the Sanskrit language, believed in the divinity of the Gautama Buddha. The sect promoted idol adoration in Buddhism.

On the other hand, the Hinayana sect, which implies Small Vehicle' in Sanskrit, did not believe in the divinity of the Gautama Buddha. It emphasized individual redemption through mediation and self-discipline.

Q.2. What is the Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana based on beliefs?

The Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana based on beliefs is that Mahayana Buddhism deems Gautama Buddha as a holy being who will assist his disciples in attaining Nirvana, whereas Hinayana Buddhists believe Gautama Buddha is a normal human being who attained Nirvana.

Q.3. What is the Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana based on their origin?

The Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana based on their origin is that while Mahayana Buddhism started to thrive around 500 BC, Hinayana Buddhism began to thrive around 250 BC.

Q.4. What is the Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana based on their supporters?

The Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana based on their supporters is that supporters of Mahayana Buddhism can be found in (South) Korea, China, Japan, and Tibet, whereas Hinayana Buddhism is practised in Myanmar Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.