Difference Between Hinayana and Mahayana

By K Balaji|Updated : December 2nd, 2022

The prime difference between Hinayana and Mahayana is that the former believes in the divinity of Gautam Buddha and his three primary bodies, whereas the latter did not believe in the divinity of Gautam Buddha and the three primary bodies, they believed each one can find their way to salvation. 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. Another striking difference between Hinayana and Mahayana is that the Mahayana sect, which implies 'Great Vehicle' in the Sanskrit language and promotes idol adoration in Buddhism. On the other hand, the Hinayana sect, which implies 'Small Vehicle' in Sanskrit, emphasized individual redemption through mediation and self-discipline.

We have facilitated the complete difference between Hinayana and Mahayana to aid the candidates in getting an in-depth cognizance of the meaning, definition and concept. The scriptures pertaining to the Mahayana sect have been penned in the Sanskrit language, and for the Hinayana sect, the scriptures have been written in the Pali language.

Table of Content

Difference Between Hinayana And Mahayana

The main 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. The other key differences have been mentioned here that will enlighten the candidates to gain knowledge of the whole concept. Another difference between Hinayana and Mahayana 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. Walk through the table to get in touch with other remarkable differences.

Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana

Mahayana

Hinayana

In accordance with the beliefs of Mahayana Buddhism, Gautam Buddha deems to be the holy being who will aid his disciples to lead toward and attain nirvana.

On the basis of beliefs of Hinayana Buddhism, Gautam Buddha is regarded as a normal human being who gained Nirvana

Mahayana Buddhism supporters are usually found in China, Japan, [South] Korea, and Tibet.

The individuals who practice Hinayana Buddhism are usually found in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

Mahayana Buddhism scriptures have been composed in Sanskrit.

Hinayana Buddhism scriptures have been penned in the Pali language.

Mahayana Buddhism acknowledges three primary bodies. The primary bodies have been mentioned here-

  • Nirmanakaya
  • Sambhogakaya
  • Dharmakaya

The concept of primary bodies of Buddha is not followed in Hinayana Buddhism, they believe that the person must seek their path 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 desire that others possess the delight of eternal enlightenment

In Hinayana Buddhism, immense joy implies cherishing the delight of others without any envy and not anticipating anything against it.

Mahayana Buddhism started to thrive around 500 BC

Hinayana Buddhism initiated to thrive around 250 BC

What is 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.

Difference Between Hinayana and Mahayana PDF

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

What is 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 endeavors 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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FAQs on Difference Between Hinayana and Mahayana

  • The difference between Hinayana and Mahayana is 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.

  • Mahayana Buddhism believes in three primary bodies that are Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Dharmakaya. Hinayana Buddhism believes in tracing their own path to salvation. 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.

  • The key difference between Hinayana and Mahayana 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.

  • The scriptures pertaining to the Mahayana sect were penned down in the Sanskrit language, and the scriptures related to the Hinayana sect were penned in the Pali language. Both sects of Buddhism believe in different ideologies of Buddhism.

  • Mahayana Buddhism believes in attaining happiness through the pleasure of unending enlightenment for others. On the other hand, Hianayan Buddhism believes in the concept of attaining happiness by cherishing the happiness of others, without being envious or expecting in return. The ten perspectives of Mahayana Buddhism are Generosity, Self-discipline, patience, perseverance, wisdom, mental stability, skills in means, aspirational prayer, strengthening, and deep awareness. The perspectives of Hinayana perspective are Generosity, Self-Discipline, patience, perseverance, wisdom, renunciation, being true to their words, resolution, love, and equanimity.

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