Bridging the Two Vehicles

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Rev. Walasmulle Wajira M.A. Student, International Buddhist College, Thailand.


Theravada and Mahayana stand in dominant place throughout the Buddhist history over phase of development of Buddhist schools from ancient time. The two vehicles refer to the Hinayana which becomes reluctant word to call Theravada and Mahayana. The term “Hinayana” or lesser vehicle which denotes derogatory word has been used by the Mahayana Buddhist school to call not only Theravada but also all of the schools of Nikaya Buddhism. This derogatory word “Hinayana” originated in India in the course of a variety of Buddhist schools marked their emergence and yet in present that word is used to refer to only Theravada Buddhist school as a matter of convenience.

In this article, my proposition is to lay down groundwork to understand the relationship between Theravada which is called early form of the Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism which is called newly form of the Buddhism. It is worth noting that all the Buddhist schools are traced their origin back to the enlightenment of the Gautama Buddha who appeared in fifth (B.C) century. In this sense we can suggest that all the Buddhist schools struggled to preserve the essence of what the Buddha enlightened under the Bo tree. This is because, to come across the relationship between Theravada and Mahayana we have to look into the historical development of Buddhist schools in pushing the belief that our tradition and teaching is the best and most authentic one to back of our mind.

The Theravada Buddhist school maintained the essence of the enlightenment of the Buddha by postulating the concept of the Arahanth (Nirvana, Nibbana) as leaving the Buddha aside whereas the Mahayana Buddhist school maintained the concept of the Buddhahood by taking the Buddha as the embodiment of their salvation. On other hand we can point out that one Buddhist school strived to preserve the conservative teaching of the Buddha in contrast to other strived to maintain the teaching of the Buddha by adopting and modifying his teaching into social back grounds, cultural situation and mental pressure of the people who lived at respective period. It was required to be dressed itself as a reaction to the needs of the people who lived over the course of the stages of the development of the Buddhism.

Throughout this article, I am going to illustrate these two historical movements with regard to the Mahayana and Theravada Buddhist schools as to how establish a relationship between Mahayana teaching and Theravada teaching.