The Differences/Similarities Of The Major Buddhist Sects: Mainly Mahayana And Theravada

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The Differences/Similarities of the major buddhist sects: mainly Mahayana and Theravada


Major differences exist between the two main sects of Buddhism, Theravada (The Teachings of the Elders) and Mahayana (The Great Vehicle). According to theravada sect, Monastic life is necessary to become Arhat but in Mahayana, even laity could become Bodhisattva. Mahayana worships various Bodhisattva &Buddha, while Theravada worships the Historical Buddha. Mahayana Buddhism is a strong sect of buddhism in China, Tibet, Japan, Taiwan, Mongolia, and Korea. It is not only a group but a set of traditions of Budhism: Pure Land Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, and Zen Buddhism are all types of it. While, theravada buddhism is a strong sect of buddhism in Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Burma and Laos. It is also denoted as “Southern Buddhism”. Mahayana Buddhism is separated in 02 schools of thought: the Yogacara and the Madhyamika. This paper discusses the differences/similarities of the major Buddhist sects: Mahayana and Theravada. It also discusses how women fit into them.


The Theravada and Mahayana schools share a fundamental belief in the paramis (perfections of the Buddha). Theravadins describe 10 paramis in a list that differs somewhat, however, from the usual Mahayana paramitas, but there is considerable overlap. Theravadins hold that, from the moment when he vowed to become a Buddha for the good of all beings, Gautama set about developing these 10 attributes to a high degree of perfection. When they appear in any being's life, they signal that some spiritual progress has been made, though their attainment remains a continuing spiritual task throughout life. (Bechert, 25-35)

[Existance of Mahayana and Theravada sects]


Theravada was founded in 5th century B.C.E. Rebirth in the human realm can be gained through possession of some minimum of morality and generosity. This realm is considered the most propitious for spiritual practice since it has enough suffering to be motivating and enough happiness to prevent becoming overwhelmed. Those with highly developed morality and generosity can inhabit the realms of devas, or lesser gods. The brahma realms are attained through mental purity, such as being highly concentrated on beautiful states of mind. All of these realms are temporary and fall short of the fruition of nibbana (nirvana), which is explained below. (Gombrich, 36-40)

Theravada is the dominant form of Buddhism in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka, and Thailand. It remains a central component of the Buddhism of Vietnam, even after its formal unification with MAHAYANA forms in the 1960s. The tradition is followed by the Baruas, Chakma, and Magh ethnic groups in Bangladesh, and the Shans of southern China. Historically, the Theravada school was also important in South India, and had a wider presence in South and Southeast Asia more generally, including Indonesia. In the modern period, Theravada has spread worldwide through diaspora and mission. The school has been instrumental in the Buddhist revival in India and has begun to replace traditional Newari Buddhism in the Kathmandu valley of Nepal which makes the follower women to easily practice their Theravada religion. Missionary monks worldwide serve ...
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