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The religion of Buddhism with its
origins from India has taken off to become one of the most prominent religions
in the world. However, unlike some religions which may take the historical
existence, evidences and accounts of their religion as something that’s just as
important as their teachings— to the Buddhist, this is not the case. This is
due to the inherent “timelessness” of the Buddha throughout history and whose
teachings were thought by not just one Buddha but many reincarnated ones in
many lifetimes which is true for both of those who may practice Theravada
Buddhism or the Mahayana Buddhism despite all of their differences.

“Buddha’s
life is less important than their mythological and symbolic significance”
(Nadeau, 2014, p.143)

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This timelessness, though true for
both Theravada and Mahayana may mean different things. Particularly, for the
Mahayana this timelessness of existence is embodied through their cosmic and
powerful mahasattvas— great beings. For the Mahayana, this makes it possible for
there to be multiple Buddha’s to exists simultaneously while the same cannot be
said about the Theravada. For the Theravada there is but one Buddha for every
lifetime whose most recent incarnation took the form of Siddhartha Gautama.

However, one of the most notable distinction between these two are the basis of
their teachings. Although both types of Buddhism promote wisdom, compassion and
ease of suffering in its teachings, for the Theravada, this can be done through
the following in everyday life of the holy Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path
may be summarized through the acquisition of wisdom by accepting the Four Noble
Truths (prajna), practicing of the right conduct (sila) and having the mental
discipline to develop the mind and body (Samadhi). Compared to the Eightfold
Path and the Four Noble Truths of the Theravada, the Mahayana in comparison
whose live a good and moral life that is guided by the Five Precepts which is
through and guided by their “great beings” whose traditions appear to have more
concerns with the world in a bigger picture.

“The Mahayana tradition developed a
great cosmic system of multiple realms featuring mythical mountains, parallel
worlds, layered destinies of richly described heavens and hells.” (Nadaeu, 2014, p.181)

For the Mahayana, ease of suffering
is a collective goal that is shared between all people and so their goal is to
delay their “complete disappearance” (pari-nirvana) until this goal is achieved
by everyone.

The Mahayana and the Theravada and
most especially their distinctions and central teachings and characteristics is
the first time I am ever really hearing about it through writing this paper. In
terms of preference between the two, I would say that I like the simplicity of
the teaching of the Theravada since it is the most that I think is the most
grounded with the reality that I live in and so it is easier to follow. What
most stood out for me is although both of them have their own distinctions, the
central teachings is still the promotion of compassion and understanding of not
just of the world but of ourselves as well.

 

 

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