Developments in Buddhist Thought - Mahayana Buddhism

What does the word ''Mahayana'' mean?
''The great vehicle''
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Where is Mahayana Buddhism most popular?
Tibet, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Mongolia.
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When did Mahayana Buddhism emerge?
1st and 2nd centuries BCE.
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What does ''Hinayana'' mean?
''The lesser vehicle''.
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What does ''Theravada'' mean?
The teaching of elders.
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What was the split between Hinayana and Mahayana referred to as?
The Great Schism
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What is a possible reason for the split?
We don't really know - the origins of Mahayana remain something of a mystery.
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What does ''upaya'' mean?
Skilful means/expedient means.
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What does upaya mean for Mahayana Buddhists?
It is simply a way of helping other to reach enlightenment. E.g, a doctor prescribing pills to someone wth depression but the pills do not do anything - they just make the patient believe they are getting better.
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What is interesting about upaya?
It can be something unconventional - something that is not normally associated with Buddhist doctrine or practice.
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What is the most important thing about upaya?
That actions are applied with wisdom and compassion and are applied in the appropriate time or place.
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What can upaya help people do?
A skilled bodhisattva: can help the stuck become unstuck and the perplexed to gain insight.
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What is the concept of upaya based on?
In Mahayana Buddhism - the concept of upaya is based on the understanding that the Buddha's teachings are only provisional as a means to enlightenment.
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What are the Buddha's teachings a foundation of?
Later Mahayana teachings.
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What is typically allowed as upaya?
Just about anything - including breaking the 5 Precepts.
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Give an example of upaya that's unconventional:
Zen history is full of accounts of monks realising enlightenment after being struck by a teacher. E.g a monk had his leg broken in a door by his teacher and instantly realised enlightenment.
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What's wrong with this approach?
It could potentially be abused.
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Where is the Burning House parable found?
Chapter 2/3 of the Lotus Sutra.
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What is the Burning House parable about?
Upaya
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What does the father represent in the story?
The Buddha - using skilful means to help others achieve Buddha-hood.
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Who are the children in the parable?
Buddhist monks but they are trapped by the ignorance of dependent origination.
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Is the father blameful for lying to his children?
No - because he used an expedient means to save them (Shariputra).
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Where is the Magic City parable found?
Chapter 7 of the Lotus Sutra.
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What happens in the Magic City story?
Long journey - travellers don't want to continue to the magic city since they're tired. The tour-guide conjures an illusion of a magic city. The travellers regain their determination to carry on.
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What does it represent?
The Buddha using skilful means as a way of getting us back on the Path when we have lost our determination.
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What does the real Magic City represent?
Attainment of nirvana/Buddha-hood.
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What is a Mahayana's goal?
To become a bodhisattva
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What is a Theravadin's goal?
To become an arhat.
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What does a bodhisattva strive to do?
Free all sentient beings from the cycle of birth and death (samsara).
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What does an arhat strive to do?
Achieve salvation for oneself. An arhat focuses on their own salvation and not on others.
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What does the bodhisattva vow do?
Helps a bodhisattva to realise their ideal and help them along the bodhisattva path. Helps them realise the desire to reach enlightenment for the sake of others.
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What is the basic bodhisattva vow?
''May I achieve Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings''
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What do bodhisattvas delay?
Enlightenment - they delay their own enlightenment to help other sentient beings achieve it first.
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What are the six perfections/paramitas a guide for?
A guide for Mahayana Buddhist practice. They are virtues to be cultivated to strengthen practice and bring one to enlightenment.
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What do the paramitas describe?
The true nature of an enlightened being.
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Are the six paramitas dependent on one another?
Yes - they each rely on one another but the order of them is also important.
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What are the first three perfections?
Generosity, Morality and Patience - these are virtuous practices for anyone.
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What are the second three perfections?
Energy, Meditation and Wisdom. These are more about spiritual practice.
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What is the first perfection and its name in Sanskrit?
GENEROSITY - Dana-paramita.
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What does it involve?
Generosity to all sentient beings in order for them to achieve enlightenment. Key in the bodhisattva ideal. Should not be selfish practice, put others first and be truly altruistic.
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What is the second perfection and its name in Sanskrit?
MORALITY - Sila-paramita
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What does it involve?
Being moral in all situations and using the Precepts as ''training wheels'' to do so. Cannot achieve enlightenment if you're not moral. Emphasises generosity and karmic merit.
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What is the third perfection and its name in Sanskrit?
PATIENCE - Ksanti-paramita
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What does it involve?
Literally means ''able to withstand''. Being able to deal with suffering and what life/Buddha's teachings throw at you. Awareness of FNT and TME.
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What is the fourth perfection and its name in Sanskrit?
ENERGY - Virya-paramita
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What does it involve?
Making a courageous effort toward enlightenment i.e focusing your ENERGY towards enlightenment.
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What is the fifth perfection and its name in Sanskrit?
MEDITATION - Jhana-paramita.
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What does it involve?
Focusing on the mind and developing intellect etc. Gain a greater clarity and insight. Foundation of wisdom.
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What is the final perfection and its name in Sanskrit?
WISDOM - Prajna-paramita
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What does it involve?
Represents a transcendent knowledge and ultimate and direct realisation of shunyata (all things are empty and independent)
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Who is Avalokiteshvara?
A celestial bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhists. Very important - the sun and moon are said to have come from his eyes. Features in Pure Land Buddhism as a disciple of Amitabha and also in the Lotus and Heart Sutra.
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Who is Manjushri?
Another celestial bodhisattva but he embodies the wisdom/prajna/ insight in Mahayana Buddhism. He features in the Lotus Sutra where he is given a place in the Pure Land.
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Who is Maitreya?
Another celestial bodhisattva who is regarded as a future Buddha of this world in Buddhist eschatology. According to Buddhist tradition, Maitreya will return to this world in the future, achieve full enlightenment and teach the full dharma.
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What is the Doctrine of the Three Bodies otherwise known as?
Trikaya
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What is the trikaya doctrine?
The idea that a Buddha can manifest themselves in 3 ways. It allows us to be in touch with the absolute whilst also appearing in the relative world for the benefit of suffering beings.
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What can the trikaya doctrine clear up?
Any uncertainties about Buddha-hood/Buddha-nature. Tells us that enlightened beings are both absolute and relative.
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What is the first body of the Buddha:
Dharmakaya = the truth body.
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What does it represent?
The absolute. The truth body is transcendent and representative of ultimate truth. Goes beyond existence and non-existence. Can be associated with the Buddha-nature in all beings (absolute and immaterial). Can also be associated with shunyata.
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What is the second body of the Buddha:
Sambhogakaya = the heavenly body.
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What does it represent?
Means ''bliss body'' - represents the bliss that the body feels during enlightenment. Acts as a point of interaction between the other two bodies. Not flesh and blood (immaterial) so can represent celestial bodhisattvas e.g ones in the Pure Land.
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What is the third body of the Buddha?
Nirmanakaya = the earthly body.
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What does it represent?
Represents the earthly form of a Buddha/bodhisattva. This is a physical body that is born, walks the earth and then dies. e.g Buddha. Forms Buddhas take to teach us the dharma.
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What can the three bodies be compared to?
The weather - truth body = atmosphere, heavenly body = clouds, earthly body = rain.
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Card 2

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Where is Mahayana Buddhism most popular?

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Tibet, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Mongolia.

Card 3

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When did Mahayana Buddhism emerge?

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Card 4

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What does ''Hinayana'' mean?

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Card 5

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What does ''Theravada'' mean?

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