deux types de bouddhisme

From East to West, Buddhism is growing. Nowadays, the religion has approximately 300 million members, which can be divided into the following: the Theravada called the Lesser Vehicle and the Mahayana called the Greater Vehicle. Are these two categories of Buddhism sufficient to define Buddhism in a global context?

The Theravada or Small Vehicle

Theravada is the original form of Buddhism and was initiated by Emperor Ashoka, meaning “the Beloved of the Gods” or “the Pious”. It takes into account the early writings of Guatama Siddharta, known as Buddha. This first branch is mainly practiced in Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Sri Lanka and Laos. In the latter mentioned country, Laos, Theravada was the main royal religion, especially during the reign of Emperor Fa Ngum in the 14th century.

Also known as Hinayana, this current is inseparable from the first Agama Sutras, which reflect the teachings of the Buddha. His teachings are based on the “Tripitaka” which refers to the three parts of the Buddhist Canon. Furthermore, Theravada attaches great importance to monastic rules and recognizes that to achieve individual salvation, the rules of Shila must be followed. Indeed, salvation and Nirvana are complementary, because the only way to achieve them is to renounce physical desires. This doctrine, described as austere, links religiosity and a taste for life.

What Are The Two Types of Buddhism? style=

How to achieve Nirvana in Theravada Buddhism?

nirvana is the ultimate goal of Buddhism itself. This word has a broad meaning but the most common is “the state of permanent happiness”. It refers to the extinction of hatred, greed and ignorance. Brahmins see Nirvana as a means of maintaining world order and Buddhists see it as a means of ending suffering indicated in the Dharma.

There is the renunciation of all bodily desires and reincarnation stops at the same time to allow awakening to take place. Indeed, Buddha did this to better understand the world and the truth that concerns it. According to the Sutta Nipata, Buddha said:“Where there is nothing, where nothing can be grasped, that is the ultimate island. I call it Nirvana. The complete extinction of old age and death”. In Theravada Buddhism, Nirvana refers to the fourth noble truth: the path that leads to the end of suffering and optimizes vision, speech, thought, profession, action, attention, effort and contemplation.

The Mahayana or the Great Vehicle

The Mahayana appeared at the beginning of our era. This makes the big difference between Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana, unlike the Small Vehicle, salvation is done for the benefit of the community for the Greater Vehicle. He who attains enlightenment thus renounces nirvana to contribute to collective salvation. Indeed, Mahayana is opposed to Hinayana practices and promotes the well-being of living beings.

In other words, this type of Buddhism accepts that Buddhist practices aim to save humanity by following the path of the Bodhisattva. The latter is defined as the path of compassion. This current of Buddhism allows everyone to reach the path of salvation and inner liberation. In addition, the teaching of Great Vehicle Buddhism favors the notion of “ultimate truth” and “universal emptiness”, that is to say the universal bond which unites living beings.

How to achieve Nirvana in Mahayana Buddhism?

Some practitioners consider Buddhism to be Zen Buddhism. On this subject, Mr. Olivier Wang-Gehn, advances: “In Zen reality, there is no separation between oneself and the world and, every day, through sitting zazen meditation, we experience that it is here and now that we can free ourselves from suffering”. Indeed, he knows zazen very well since he is president of the International Zen Association (AZI), vice-president of the Buddhist Union of France (UBF). Zazen is the posture that Buddha had during his meditations.

In Mahyana, Nirvana is rather seen as a state of omniscience explained by the “bodhisattva”. Buddha became an enlightened being under the Bodhi tree and gave up his own nirvana to liberate human beings. Therefore, he showed understanding and compassion. It is the stage of reincarnation which allows one to reach nirvana in Mahayana Buddhism.

What is Tantric Buddhism?

Tantric Buddhism is known as Vajrayana. It is mainly practiced in Tibet but also spreads to Japan, China and Korea. Originating from Mahayana Buddhism, this Buddhist movement appeared in India in the 3rd century AD. Its objective is to achieve emptiness. In addition, it combines the practices of Mahayana Buddhism and the traditions of Indian yoga. Also called Diamond Vehicle, it is characterized by:

  • Meditation: it is an art which aims to purify the heart under the guidance of a master and to cultivate the roots of wisdom. Vajrayana meditation techniques are not classic;
  • The Mandala: it is the sacred circle which symbolizes the forces of the universe. It is a fundamental element of meditation because the mandala is the support of meditation;
  • Mantras: It is a sacred formula based on the sound recited during meditation exercises or during religious practices. Indeed, this formula has meaning and has the power to protect the reciter.

Some Buddhist practitioners consider Vajrayana a third branch of Buddhism, because it uses rituals like reciting mantras. Certainly, Nirvana can have several meanings in Tantric Buddhism, but the goal is the same: to achieve enlightenment, that is to say spiritual awakening.

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