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Buddishm Essay, Research Paper

Buddhism is one of the major religions of the world. Like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, it has influenced many live and many cultures. Buddhism has also been a driving social force in many countries, including India, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Tibet. In all these areas, Buddhism has incorporated different aspects of other religions, for example Hinduism and Shinto. To western society, Buddhism is a very mystical and misunderstood religion. Few people are aware of the beliefs, structure, and doctrine of Buddhism.

Buddhism consists of many traditions. The two most common are Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. These two beliefs are essentially the same religion. But they are also unique from each other. Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism are two parts of the same religion. Buddhism is a religion, which has been around for many years, and has been a powerful driving force in the world.

A person named Siddharta Gautama founded Buddhism in India in about 500 BCE. Gautama was at one point a part of the rich and powerful class of India. When he was 29 years of age, he left his family to find religious enlightenment. After six years of wandering, Siddharta Gautama. experienced enlightenment. (To himself), he discovered the way to escape this unhappy existence called life. After enlightenment, people called him the Buddha, which means, ?enlightened one.?

Various Buddhist schools have developed after the founding of Buddhism. The two most common schools are the Mahayana and the Theravada. They have much in common. But also they differ in very important ways.

The actual meaning of the word Theravada is ? Way of the Elders.? It is the oldest of all traditions. It is the primary practice in countries such as, Cambodia, Burma, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Theravada sees Buddha as a historical figure. This means instead of seeing Buddha as a divine figure, they see him as a great man who taught the world many things. They also like to emphasize a monastic life and the authority of the Tripitaka. The Theravadas believe that the ultimate kind of Buddhist is like a saint, called arhat. Theravada is often seen as the most conservative of all the traditions. The basic belief of Theravada Buddhism is that people must work towards salvation without the help of gods or other divine beings. Theravada?s believe that the only path to Nirvana is through the way Buddha attained it. That is, to acquire wisdom through meditation. That is why in Theravada Buddhism, a monk or nun?s life is an ideal one because they spend their time learning and meditating. As mentioned before, the ultimate kind of Buddhist is an arhat, or a person who has tasted Nirvana. The way to achieve being an arhat is through the eight-fold path. Theravada Buddhism retains much of their beliefs of early Buddhism, such as not embracing other deities. That is why a strong missionary force did not come out of Theravada Buddhism.

Mahayana means ?great Vehicle.? That is why they often refer to Theravada Buddhism as Hinayana, or ?lesser vehicle.? In comparison to its conservative sibling. Mahayana Buddhism is a very liberal. Most of the followers of Mahayana Buddhism reside in Japan and other countries of East Asia. Mahayana Buddhism appeared about one hundred years after Siddharta Gautama?s death. Instead of seeing Buddha as only one person. Mahayanas believe that there are many Buddhas. Mahayanists believe that these Buddhas can save people through grace and passion. The Mahayanists accept the Tripitaka, but they believe that their own scriptures reveal a higher truth. Mahayanists believe the ultimate follower is someone called a bodhisattva. A bodhisattva is a person who vows to be a Buddha by leading a life of virtue and wisdom.

Mahayanists differ from Theravad Buddhism in many ways. Theravada Buddhism is against lay people to participate in rituals and meetings. Mahayanists wanted to reconcile Buddhism with other popular religious practices, but Theravad?s wanted to stick true to its original origin. Lastly, Mahayanists taught the Buddha himself was a compassionate being. Mahayansists believe Theravadans are self-concerned and uncompassionate. These are just a few differences between the Mahayanists and Theravadins. There are many more minor disputes among these two traditions.

The basic thing in common between Theravadins and Mahayanists is that they are both deities. They ultimately believe in the same thing but with differences. Both traditions have the same common goal in life, but with different ways to get there.

Buddhism, as a whole, is no different from the other major religions of the world. It has different sections and beliefs. It is a great religion and its practices and goals are not different from what western culture wants.


1. Loretta Pastva, Great Religions of the World (Minnesota: Saint Mary?s Press, 1986) 87.

2. Robert S. Ellwood, Many People Many Faiths (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1996) 97.

3. Loretta Pastva, Great Religions of the World (Minnesota: Saint Mary?s Press, 1986) 89-93

4. Robert S. Ellwood, Many People Many Faiths (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1996) 98.

5. Loretta Pastva, Great Religions of the World (Minnesota: Saint Mary?s Press, 1986) 98.


1. Ellwood, Robert S. Many People Many Faiths,

New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1996,

2. Pastva, Lorretta. Great Religions of the world

Minnesota: Saint Mary?s Press, 1986.

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