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Key Term Mahāyāna
Hover Popup Choices Mahāyāna
Featured People NāgārjunaAsaṅgaŚāntideva
In Tibetan Script ཐེག་པ་ཆེན་པོ།
Wylie Tibetan Transliteration theg pa chen po
Devanagari Sanskrit Script महायान
Romanized Sanskrit mahāyāna
Tibetan Phonetic Rendering thekpa chenpo
Chinese Script 大乘
Chinese Pinyin dasheng
English Standard Great Vehicle
Richard Barron's English Term greater approach
Ives Waldo's English Term great vehicle
Term Type Noun
Source Language Sanskrit
Basic Meaning Mahāyāna, or the Great Vehicle, refers to the system of Buddhist thought and practice which developed around the beginning of Common Era, focusing on the pursuit of the state of full enlightenment of the Buddha through the realization of the wisdom of emptiness and the cultivation of compassion.
Has the Sense of It is known as the Great Vehicle in comparison to the earlier schools of Buddhism which aimed only to reach individual liberation. Thus, this system claims to be superior to the early Buddhist schools in terms of the philosophical understanding of reality and the moral scope of rescuing all sentient beings.
Related Topic Pages
Rangjung Yeshe's English Term Mahayana. 'Greater vehicle.' When using the term 'greater and lesser vehicles,' Mahayana and Hinayana, Mahayana includes the tantric vehicles while Hinayana is comprised of the teachings for shravakas and pratyekabuddhas. The connotation of 'greater' or 'lesser' refers to the scope of aspiration, the methods applied and the depth of insight. Central to Mahayana practice is the bodhisattva vow to liberate all sentient beings through means and knowledge, compassion and insight into emptiness. Mahayana's two divisions are known as Mind Only and Middle Way. The sevenfold greatness of Mahayana mentioned in Maitreya's Ornament of the Sutras are explained by Jamgön Kongtrül in his All-encompassing Knowledge: "The greatness of focus on the immense collection of Mahayana teachings, the greatness of the means of accomplishing the welfare of both self and others, the greatness of wisdom that realizes the twofold egolessness, the greatness of diligent endeavor for three incalculable aeons, the greatness of skillful means such as not abandoning samsaric existence and enacting the seven unvirtuous actions of body and speech without disturbing emotions, the greatness of true accomplishment of the ten strengths, the fourfold fearlessness, and the unique qualities of the awakened ones, and the greatness of activity that is spontaneous and unceasing." Mahayana, the Greater Vehicle, [Mahayana]; greater approach/ Mahayana; [Mahayana] supreme, comprehensive approach, universal / great vehicle
Tshig mdzod Chen mo བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་དཔའི་ཐེག་པ་སྟེ།་ཐེག་དམན་ཉན་རང་ལས་ཆེན་པོ་བདུན་གྱིས་འཕགས་པས་ཐེག་པ་ཆེན་པོ་ཞེས་བྱའོ།།
Wikipedia wikipedia:Mahayana
Other Definitions

84000 Glossary Definition The same as the Bodhisattva Vehicle, whose practitioners aim at complete buddhahood.

When the Buddhist teachings are classified according to their power to lead beings to an enlightened state, a distinction is made between the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle, which emphasizes the individual's own freedom from cyclic existence as the primary motivation and goal, and those of the Great Vehicle, which emphasizes altruism and has the liberation of all sentient beings as the principal objective. As the term “Great Vehicle” implies, the path followed by bodhisattvas is analogous to a large carriage which can transport a vast number of people to liberation, as compared to a smaller vehicle for the individual practitioner.

The “Great Vehicle” of Buddhism, called “great” because it carries all living beings to enlightenment of Buddhahood. It is distinguished from the Hinayāna, including the Śrāvāka­yāna (Śrāvaka Vehicle) and Pratyeka­buddha­yāna (Solitary Sage Vehicle), which only carries each person who rides on it to their own personal liberation.

Great Vehicle.

Literally the Sanskrit means “great way,” but in Buddhism this has developed the meaning of great vehicle, and so is translated literally into Tibetan as “great carrier.”