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| Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, born circa 563
B.C.E., lived into his eighties, having taught for more than
forty years based on his Enlightenment experiences.
A Great Council was held at the time of Buddha's death in the hope of reaching an agreement as to what Buddha's teachings had actually been and also on the imposition of monastic discipline.
Notwithstanding the convening of this Council, and other Councils in later centuries, Buddhism fragmented into some eighteen schools or approaches to faith. In the longer time-frame the foundations were laid for the eventual emergence of two major traditions - the Theravadan and the Mahayanan.
Mahayana began to more formally emerge in distinction to Theravada after a Third Council held at Patna circa 250 B.C.E. under the authority of the notable King Asoka.
Mahayana upholds the Bodhisattva, rather than the Arhat as the desirable role for those who make spiritual progress. Bodhisattvas, who can come from lay as well as monastic backgrounds, are held to be spiritual adepts who themselves, out of an infinite compassion, deliberately pause upon the brink of attaining Nirvana such that they may use their energies toward helping many other persons to achieve salvation themselves.
Because of this pausing on the brink the view of Nirvana is adapted to allow the Bodhisattva to make a successful progress toward Nirvana by virtue of this compassion towards others. The Buddha is regarded as being a saviour.
Mahayana tends towards the use of ritual, of images, of prayers and of ritual chanting. Mahayana regards a wider range of scriptures than Theravada as being canonical. These other scriptures include the Lotus of the Wonderful Law, or Lotus Sutra, a Sutra that is immensely influential in extensive and populous regions of East Asia.
Mahayana accepts that there might be more than one Buddha in history and looks forward with expectation to the times when Lord Maitreya will live and give guidance.
Tantric - Tibetan Buddhism
Tantric Buddhism is an adaption that arose in the seventh century A.D. through a fusion with folk practices in northern parts of India. It places great emphasis on sacraments, including initiation ceremonies, and the performance of chanting rituals. Images, Diagrams, and Songs.
One of the most significant of these diagrams being the Mandala which can be seen as representing the universe.
Tantric (Vajrayana - Diamond Vehicle) Buddhism became
prominent in Tibet after the seventh century A.D. and still forms
- in some four main schools - the basis of Tibetan
The Pure Land School
The Pure Land School is notable in China and Japan. It has as central figure of its devotions Amitabha or Amita Buddha - Buddha of Infinite Light.
Start of Mahayana Tibetan
an outline history