Buddhists believe that human life is a cycle of suffering and rebirth, but if one achieves enlightenment, it is possible to escape this cycle forever. According to Chattopadhyaya (2018), Buddhism, a religion and philosophy that originated in ancient India, has evolved and diversified over time and is now practiced in various forms worldwide. Each form of Buddhism has its unique characteristics and practices, but they all share the same ultimate goal of achieving enlightenment and the end of suffering. Buddhism is a religion and philosophy that originated in ancient India, and over time it has evolved and diversified into various forms. These forms of Buddhism, also known as “vehicles,” have developed in different countries and regions, each with unique characteristics and practices. This essay discusses the most popular and widely practiced forms of Buddhism, including Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana.
Theravada Buddhism is a form of Buddhism. Theravada Buddhism, also known as “The Way of the Elders,” is the oldest surviving form of Buddhism and is the dominant form of Buddhism in Southeast Asia, including countries such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand. According to Schonthar (2018), “Buddhism’s tolerant image is justifiable in many ways, and Buddhist leaders have been key activists for peace in many parts of Asia” (p.1). Theravada Buddhism emphasizes the importance of individual spiritual development and enlightenment through studying and practicing the Buddha’s teachings, known as the “Dharma.” Schonthar (2018) also claims that the main focus of Theravada Buddhism is the study of the Pali Canon, which contains the teachings of the historical Buddha. Monastic life is highly valued in Theravada Buddhism, and many followers choose to become monks or nuns to dedicate themselves to pursuing enlightenment fully. Theravada Buddhism places a strong emphasis on personal responsibility and self-reliance. This means that each individual is responsible for their spiritual development and that enlightenment cannot be attained through the help of a savior or a god. Instead, it is achieved through one’s efforts and practice. According to Krosby (2020), meditation is one of Theravada Buddhism’s essential practices. This practice is used to develop mindfulness and concentration, which helps to reduce distractions and increase focus. By becoming more mindful and aware of the present moment, one can acquire insight into the true nature of reality and come to understand the Four Noble Truths. Monks and nuns are expected to adhere to a strict code of ethics and to spend most of their time in meditation and study. Thus, Theravada Buddhism is a popular form of Buddhism practiced worldwide.
Mahayana Buddhism is another form of Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism, also known as “The Great Vehicle,” is the dominant form of Buddhism in East Asia, including countries such as China, Japan, and Korea. Mahayana Buddhism is another form of Buddhism. According to Shimizu (2021), “Mahayana Buddhism tells us that autonomous and independent subjectivity is an illusion, and the acceptance of this ontological understanding is a part of the healing process” (p.1). He also stated that Mahayana Buddhism emphasizes the concept of the “Bodhisattva,” or one who seeks to achieve enlightenment for oneself and for the benefit of all sentient beings. Mahayana Buddhism also emphasizes the use of rituals and devotional practices, such as the recitation of mantras and the worship of bodhisattvas and buddhas. According to Wang et al. (2021), one of Mahayana Buddhism’s essential practices is the recitation of mantras, which are words or phrases that are believed to have spiritual power. Mantras are often associated with specific deities, such as Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. By reciting mantras, practitioners can invoke the qualities of the god associated with the mantra and can also purify their minds and heart. Thus, Mahayana Buddhism is a form of Buddhism practiced worldwide.
Vajrayana Buddhism is another form of Buddhism. Vajrayana Buddhism, also known as “The Diamond Vehicle,” is a form of Buddhism developed in Tibet and practiced in parts of China, Bhutan, and Nepal. According to Makransky (2021), Vajrayana Buddhism is often considered a more esoteric and mystical form of Buddhism. It places a greater emphasis on the use of tantra and visualization practices to achieve enlightenment. According to Kochetkova (2021), one of Vajrayana Buddhism’s essential practices is visualization and mantra recitation. These practices involve creating a mental image of a deity or a saint and reciting mantras while focusing on this image. This practice is believed to help practitioners develop compassion and wisdom and is also thought to be a way to receive blessings and guidance from the deity or saint. In addition, these practices are believed to allow practitioners to access higher states of consciousness, which can lead to faster spiritual progress and enlightenment. Kochetkova (2021) also claimed that another essential aspect of Vajrayana Buddhism is the use of tantra. Tantra is a set of esoteric practices that involve ritual, symbolism, and visualization to transform one’s body, speech, and mind. These practices are believed to allow practitioners to access and harness the energies of the body and mind, which can lead to the attainment of spiritual powers, such as the ability to heal others and the ability to see into the true nature of reality. Thus, Vajrayana Buddhism is a form of Buddhism practiced worldwide.
In conclusion, Buddhism has evolved and diversified over time and is now practiced in various forms worldwide. Each form of Buddhism, Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana, has its unique characteristics and practices, but they all share the same ultimate goal of achieving enlightenment and the end of suffering. Theravada Buddhism emphasizes achieving individual enlightenment through the study and practice of the Buddha’s teachings and monastic way of life. Mahayana Buddhism emphasizes the Bodhisattva ideal and the goal of working for the liberation of all sentient beings. Mahayana Buddhism also emphasizes the recitation of mantras, visualization practices, and the concept of emptiness. Vajrayana Buddhism is known for its emphasis on the use of tantra and esoteric practices as a means to achieve enlightenment. Vajrayana Buddhism also emphasizes visualization, mantra recitation, and the guru-student relationship. One similarity among the various forms of Buddhism is the emphasis on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths are the fundamental teachings of Buddhism, which state that suffering exists, suffering arises from craving and attachment, it is possible to end suffering, and the Path to the cessation of suffering is the Eightfold Path. Another similarity among the various forms of Buddhism is the emphasis on meditation and mindfulness. Meditation is a crucial practice in Buddhism, and it is used to develop concentration, calm the mind, and gain insight into the nature of reality. Mindfulness, which is the practice of being aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, and surroundings in the present moment, is also an essential aspect of Buddhism. These practices are currently in all forms of Buddhism and are considered necessary for achieving enlightenment. These teachings are present in all forms of Buddhism and form the basis for pursuing enlightenment.
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Crosby, K. (2020). Esoteric Theravada: the story of the forgotten meditation tradition of Southeast Asia. Shambhala Publications.
Kochetkova, T. (2022). The impact of ideas on bodily processes. Lessons from mantra techniques. Towards a science of pictures: An inquiry into the emergence, evolution, and expansion of ideas and their translation into action, 53.
Makransky, J. (2021). Compassion in Buddhist psychology.
Schonthal, B. (2018). The Tolerations of Theravada Buddhism. Toleration in Comparative Perspective, 179-96.
Wang, Y. C., Chen, P. J., Shi, H., & Shi, W. (2021). Travel for mindfulness through Zen retreat experience: A case study at Donghua Zen Temple. Tourism Management, 83, 104211.