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Hinayana

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Hinayana (Sanskrit lit. lesser vehicle) is a term often used to identify Early Buddhist Schools that are now mostly extinct. There are various views on the use and meaning of the term Hinayana.

Table of contents
1 The Tibetan View on Hinayana
2 Theravada view on Hinayana
3 The Hinayana today
4 Bibliography
5 External links

The Tibetan View on Hinayana

The Tibetan translation of Hinayana is T'eg sMad, which is literally translated as lesser vehicle.

According to various teachers (such as Tsongkhapa; Lamrimchenmo - Snowlion p130), or Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche (http://www.nalandabodhi.org/three_yanas.html ), many Mahayana schools do not identify Hinayana as inferior in any way at all. The term indicates two of the three paths and three classes of liberation. These three classes of liberation are all identified as freedom from samsara. These are:

The Mahayana schools group the first two paths together, as the result is a state of Arhat. Whereas the last path is identified as distinct, because the result is a state of Buddha. The usage of 'Hina-' as a prefix therefore covers those paths that do not result in Buddhahood. So the reason why the paths were called 'low' was that Buddhahood was not a result; (though some schools say that after an inordinate period of time, Arhats then 'wake-up' to follow the Mahayana path).

Many Mahayana texts say that there are many followers of Mahayana schools who are actually following Hinayana paths. This is not bad in itself - these followers will still achieve liberation.

The 18,000 verse perfection of wisdom sutra (a mahayana sutra) states: "Bodhisattvas should practice all paths - whatever is a path of a sravaka, a pratyeka or a Buddha - and should know all paths." Tsongkhapa goes on to say (LRCM) "Mahayana followers must practice all those things taught in the Hinayana scriptures, with a few exceptions, such as diligently seeking blissful peace for ones-self alone."

This so far concerns the definition of the word Hinayana as it is used in terms of the motivation or purpose of the practitioner.

Tibetans do acknowledge that the term is also used for schools or traditions that traditionally reject the Mahayana sutras. In this context, most Tibetans now prefer to use the term 'Nikaya', as it does not have a pejorative connotation.

Theravada view on Hinayana

As the sole surviving school which adheres to the so-called Hinayana doctrines some Theravadins see the term as a slander.

Hinayana is often thought of as pejorative - the word hina means "lower, inferior; poor, miserable; vile, base, abject, contemptible, despicable" (Pali Text Society Dictionary). According to the Theravadins, the term was coined by the Mahayana schools solely as a way to differentiate themselves from the schools with which they were in doctrinal dispute.

Theravadins claim that Mahayana texts, such as the Lotus Sutra, and the Vimalakirti Nirdesha contain polemics against formalism and disputed doctrines which are directed at those groups of Buddhists for which they coined the term Hinayana.

The Hinayana today

However the term is still in current use to describe traditions that aspire to Arhatship, especially in some Tibetan Buddhist circles because they inherited texts and teachings from all of the 'yanas' and simply adopted the terminology of the Mahayana Sutras.

Many Buddhist schools today are adopting the terms "Nikaya" or "Shravakayana" when referring to the Theravada and other schools of the past, since Hinayana has been seen to be offensive by the Theravada and their followers, while some modern Mahayana Buddhists insist this was never the purpose of the term.

See also: Early Buddhist Schools, Yana, Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana, Buddhist polemics

Bibliography

External links