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Mahayana is one of the two major Buddhist traditions and the form most widely adhered to in China, Korea, Japan, and Tibet. There were precedents in earlier schools of Buddhism.

Mahayana Buddhism offers means of enlightenment for laypersons. The goal of a Buddhist is to work toward salvation. There is intense focus on these virtues or Perfections (paramitas): generousity (dana); morality (sila); patience (ksanti); energy, vigour (virya); meditation, focusing (dhyana); and wisdom (prajna). The Ten Perfections of Buddhism also include truthfulness (sacca), determination, gentleness (metta), and equanimity. One should try to manifest all of them; hence, stick-to-it (gentle perseverance) could well be added to the list.

The idea that nirvana is samsara, correctly understood, comes through Nagarjuna.

In Mahayana Buddhism, Buddha is not just a historical sage, but supramundane. There is likewise focus on Avalokitesvara, also called Kuan Yin, and on other Buddhas, such as Amitabha of Infinite Light, the Sun and Cosmos, medicine, and healing.

One should go for merits; through such as fit generosity (dana) a person can gain karmic merit and build a better future too. It is held that many merits can be transferred. There are also philosophical developments not found in Theravada.

The Mahayana scriptures were composed mainly in Sanskrit. Mahayana contains other sutras (texts) than Theravada Buddhism, in Sanskrit and Chinese.

  • The Nirvana Sutra, also called Mahaparinibbana Sutta, is one of the major texts of Mahayana Buddhism.
  • The Lotus Sutra is one of the most popular Buddhist sutras throughout East Asia. It says that Buddha is eternal and omnipresent.
  • The Prajna-paramita (Perfection of Wisdom) Sutras emphasise the concept of sunyata, which is often understood as emptiness and void - but there is no need for that in some schools of Buddhism. In them, sunyata is of Essence, and there are very good reasons for saying that outlook makes sense. The entire Prajnaparamita is a series of about forty works, expanded on and then condensed by many anonymous authors at the beginning of the Common Era. The Heart Sutra and Diamond Sutra are each condensations of the Prajnaparamita:
  • The Heart Sutra is regularly chanted in Zen. It includes the line "Form is sunyata, sunyata is form", but not "form is form," which is more basic anyway.
  • The Diamond Sutra is there too, but not in Theravada.
  • The Platform Sutra tells of the life and teachings of Huineng, the so-called 6th Patriarch of Chan (Chinese for dhyana (contemplation). In Japanese the word turned into Zen. This is the one sutra that does not claim to be the words of Buddha. It is written in Chinese. Philip Yampolsky has made a good translation of it into English.
  • The Vimalakirti Sutra is a story of the enlightened layman, Vimalakirti.
  • The Lankavatara Sutra reflects the Buddhist Yogacara (Consciousness-Only) philosophy.

Mahayana Eastwards

Ch'an Buddhism in China and Korea and Zen in Japan, for a thousand years, have been powerful in moulding the spiritual, ethical and cultural life of great nations. Mahayana Buddhism was called Ch'an in China, and Zen in Japan. Tibetan Mahayana stems from Indian Buddhism. The Mahayanic teachings of the so-called Sixth Patriarch, Hui-neng, similarly derive from Indian Buddhism at the back of things. Great riches of solvency may be had by students of Mahayana doctrine and teachings.

The self-realisation of Noble Wisdom is a worthy goal, and you do not have to become pessimistic to be a Buddhist. To the contrary. "What type of Buddhism is best adapted to meet modern questions and modern problems?" is a question. "The forms of Buddhism that make adherents cheerful and proficient beings, and not wholly focused on material rewards and other forms of profit," is a weighty answer. To be good for goodness' sake is not to be wholly forgotten in a quest for profit and merit - whatever.

The original texts of these Scriptures may be obscure. Books written by competent and sympathetic Buddhist scholars on subjects covered may offer assistance..

There are certain Sanskrit words that are difficult to translate easily, without deeper understanding of the setting and matrix of thought they appear in originally. For those who want to access the material squarely it is a mistake not to learn such terms. It is recommended to take a look at what key terms like Dharma, Dharmakaya, Buddha, Tathagata, Prajna, Bodhi, Jnana, Manas, and so on stand for (see on-site dictionary). There is a link in the upper left of a page too, on most pages that deal with Buddhism.

From A Buddhist Bible

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In 1932 Paul Goddard published the first edition of A Buddhist Bible in Vermont. The book contains favorite texts of Mahayana Buddhism. These abstracts may be used for non-commercial purposes. The book has contributed to the growth of Buddhism in the English-speaking world in the 1900s and later. The first edition was focused on source documents of Zen Buddhism. A substantially enlarged edition appeared in 1938. Goddard aimed at presenting masterpieces.


Mahayana Buddhism, Literature  

Berzin Archives, the: The Buddhist Archives of Dr. Alexander Berzin (On-line)

Chau, Thich Minh, Bhiksu. The Chinese Madhyama Agama and the Pali Majjhima Nikaya: A Comparative Study. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1991.

Garma Chen-Chi Chang, ed. A Treasury of Mahayana Sutras: Selections from the Maharatnakuta Sutra. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1983.

Chang, Garma C. C., ed and tr. Teachings and Practice of Tibetan Tantra. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2004.

Goddard, Dwight, ed. A Buddhist Bible. Thetford, Vt.: Dwight Goddard, 1932.

Hsuan Hua, ed. The Shurangama Sutra with Commentary. 1st ed. Burlingame, CA: Buddhist Text Translation Society, 2003.

Kosho Yamamoto, tr, and Tony Page, ed. The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra. 12 vols. London: Nirvana Publications, 1999-2000. (On-line).

Yampolsky, Philip, tr. The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. The Text of the Tun-Huang Manuscript. New York: Columbia University, 1967.

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