September 27, 2012
Noss and Grangaard refer to Buddhism as “a diverse array of beliefs and practices and implies a degree of uniformity that does not exist.”1 Throughout our studies of Buddhism we have learned the many different sects of this religion. There are two large sects within the religion, Theravada Buddhism, and Mahayana Buddhism. In this paper, I will discuss the primary beliefs and practices of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism while also constructing argumentation on the differences between these two sects, I will also discuss some of the schools that have evolved from Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism constructing how they are different.
Theravada Buddhism Theravada Buddhism spread throughout India and Southeast Asia, specifically in the areas of “Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.”2 Theravada is one of the original sects of Buddhism. Its meaning is the ‘school of the elders,’ or the ‘teaching of the elders.’ Theravadian Buddhism flourished immensely by the end of the first century, “and is today the sole surviving Hinayana sect of Indian Buddhism anywhere.”3 “Theravada uses scriptures recorded in Pali, and it was in this language that Buddhism spread from Sri Lanka to surrounding countries.”4 These scriptures were much needed, due to the fact that nothing had been written or transmitted on paper. During even life of the Buddha, the sect or religion as a whole needed some sort of writing to act as a force to unify the Theravada. The primary ideal or concept for Theravada Buddhist is the acknowledgement of enlightenment, and the effort to obtain it, through mediation. The ultimate goal would be to get to The Arhat, which “is one who has achieved enlightenment in this life.”5 At the core of the Theravada’s sacred writing is what is known as the threefold baskets, or “Tripitaka.”6 Although many different branches of Buddhism identify the validity of the Tripitaka, “it is only
Bibliography: Morgan, Diane. Essential Buddhism: A Comprehensive Guide to Belief and Practice. Santa Barbara: Praeger ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2010 Noss, David and Blake A. Grangarrd. History of the World’s Religions. New Jersey: Pearson Education, INC., 2012. Robinson, Richard and Willard Johnson. The Buddhist Religion: A Historical Introduction. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company