Mahayana Buddhism: Basic Terms and Concepts

Let us analyze the brief history, core teachings, fundamental beliefs, practices, and related issues of Mahayana Buddhism

Mahayana Buddhism: Basic Terms and Concepts
The following are some basic terms and concepts in Mahayana Buddhism:
1. Heart: Prajnaparamita-Hrdaya Sutra: One of the smallest sutras, and with the Diamond Sutra, one of the most popular of the 40 sutras, in the vast Prajnaparamita literature. Its emphasis is on emptiness.
2. The Six Perfections, or ‘paramitas,’ are virtues to be refined to strengthen practice and bring a person to enlightenment.
Collectively, they are the path of the Bodhisattva, that is, one who is devoted to serving the highest welfare of all living beings with the aroused heart of unconditional love, skillful wisdom, and all-encompassing compassion.
3. Sila Paramita (Perfection of Morality) is not about unhesitating obedience to a number of rules. Indeed, there are precepts in Mahayana Buddhism, but the precepts are somewhat like training wheels.
They guide people until they find their own balance. A bodhisattva or enlightened being is said to react correctly to every situation without having to refer to a list of rules.
In the practice of sila paramita, people are said to develop selfless compassion. Along the way, individuals are said to practice renunciation and achieve an appreciation for karma.
4. Mahayana holds that anyone can potentially attain Buddhahood, transcending personality and becoming one with the impersonal Ultimate Reality, which is Infinite Bliss (Nirvana).
5. The Chinese have thus decided not to permit adherence to and practice of Buddhism in Tibet and they have systematically set out to eradicate this Buddhism in Tibet.
6.“Founded by Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh in the 20th century, Engaged Buddhism seeks to apply Buddhist teachings in a more activist and social manner than has been traditional” (“Engaged Buddhism,” n.d.).
7.Also known as the Great Vehicle, Mahayana Buddhism is the branch of Buddhism prominent in North Asia, such as in China, Mongolia, Tibet, Korea, and Japan.
8. Brahma Net: Brahmajala Sutra. This contains the Ten Major Precepts of Mahayana followers, and the Bodhisattva Precepts.
9.‘Sunyata’ (also spelled ‘shunyata’) teaches that there is existence, but that phenomena are empty of ‘svabhava,’ a Sanskrit word that means self-nature, intrinsic nature, essence, or ‘own being.’
Very simply thus, ‘sunyata’ is the teaching that all phenomena are without self-essence.
10. The so-called ‘bodhisattvas’ or those humans and celestial spirits who sacrifice their imminent liberation (Buddhahood) to assist others to become liberated as well are revered or worshipped as gods by some.
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11. It is said that Taoism so intensely influenced early Zen that some philosophers and texts are claimed by both religions.
12. ‘Ch'an’ is the Chinese pronunciation of the Sanskrit word ‘Dhyana,’ which approximately means meditation. When the religion reached Japan, it has become known as Zen Buddhism because ‘Zen’ is the way the Chinese word Ch'an is pronounced in Japan.
13. Śīla (Sanskrit) or sīla (Pāli) is usually translated into English as "virtuous behaviour", "morality", "ethics" or "precept". It is an action committed through the body, speech, or mind, and involves an intentional effort.
14. Therefore, while Theravada gives emphasis to individual enlightenment, Mahayana underscores the enlightenment of all beings.
15. The Land of Bliss Sutra is specifically significant in Pure Land Buddhism. It conveys the story of Amitabha (Amida) Buddha's vow to help people attain nirvana, describes the Pure Land, and tells what a person must do to be reborn in the Pure Land.
16. Thus, the four truths are less prominent in the Mahayana traditions, which underline insight into the Bodhisattva-path as a chief element in their teachings.
Even though Mahayana Buddhism agrees that the four noble truths are basic teachings of the Buddha, they are not normally a key topic of Mahayana teaching, nor are they characteristically the emphasis of Mahayana meditative practices.
17. Virya Paramita (Perfection of Energy) is about making a brave, heroic effort to attain enlightenment. ‘Virya’ is energy or zeal, as it comes from an ancient Indian-Iranian word that means ‘hero.’
18. Vimalakirti: This is a philosophic dramatic discourse, in which basic Mahayana principles are presented in the form of a conversation between famous Buddhist figures, and the householder, Vimalakirti.
19. The Mahayana tradition reveres the Tripitaka as a sacred text, but adds to it the ‘Sutras,’ which distinctly reflect Mahayana beliefs and are used more often by Mahayana Buddhists.
20. Revered by most Buddhists, the Lotus Sutra is probably the most weighty of these sutras. It is said to describe a sermon delivered by the Buddha to a gathering of buddhas, boddhisatvas, and other celestial beings.

Copyright © by Jens Micah De Guzman

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