An article on differences between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism.
The one difference between the Theravadan school (Pali Scriptures) and the Vajrayanists is their stance toward Buddha in relation to time.
In Theravada, Buddha is recognized as a human being who, before he died, stated that what he taught was to be the guide, and in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta he assured disciples that he had taught everything they needed and had held nothing back.
Here is a translation from the Pali Mahaparinibbana Sutta
32 Yet, Lord, I still had some little comfort in the thought that the Blessed One would not come to his final passing away until he had given some last instructions respecting the community of bhikkhus."
32. Thus spoke the Venerable Ananda, but the Blessed One answered him, saying: "What more does the community of bhikkhus expect from me, Ananda? I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back. Whosoever may think that it is he who should lead the community of bhikkhus, or that the community depends upon him, it is such a one that would have to give last instructions respecting them. But, Ananda, the Tathagata has no such idea as that it is he who should lead the community of bhikkhus, or that the community depends upon him.
5. Then the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "It may be, bhikkhus, that one of you is in doubt or perplexity as to the Buddha, the Dhamma, or the Sangha, the path or the practice. Then question, bhikkhus! Do not be given to remorse later on with the thought: 'The Master was with us face to face, yet face to face we failed to ask him.'"
6. But when this was said, the bhikkhus were silent. And yet a second and a third time the Blessed One said to them: "It may be, bhikkhus, that one of you is in doubt or perplexity as to the Buddha, the Dhamma, or the Sangha, the path or the practice. Then question, bhikkhus! Do not be given to remorse later on with the thought: 'The Master was with us face to face, yet face to face we failed to ask him.'"
And for a second and a third time the bhikkhus were silent. Then the Blessed One said to them: "It may be, bhikkhus, out of respect for the Master that you ask no questions. Then, bhikkhus, let friend communicate it to friend." Yet still the bhikkhus were silent.
7. And the Venerable Ananda spoke to the Blessed One, saying: "Marvellous it is, O Lord, most wonderful it is! This faith I have in the community of bhikkhus, that not even one bhikkhu is in doubt or perplexity as to the Buddha, the Dhamma, or the Sangha, the path or the practice."
The Mahayanists came up with a "game changing' doctrine - that of Buddha's three bodies -- Trikaya. At first they argued this using the Pali Canons.
Vajrayana added a fourth body sv?bh?vikak?ya -- the "essence body"
And the Tibetan Buddhists give all kinds of stories of teachings hidden by Buddha for the benefit of future generations. Runs counter to the Mahanibbana Sutta, doesn't it.
Here's something interesting from The Inner K?lacakratantra: A Buddhist Tantric View of the Individual
In the commentary literature on the Kalachakratantra the term sv?bh?vikak?ya is sometimes used interchangeably with the term 'sahajakaya.'
"Form Body" Rupa Maya or Nirmana-kaya
At the beginning, there was only one Buddha in the Buddhist tradition. He is the historical Sakyamuni the Buddha. However, even during His lifetime, He made the distinction between Himself as the enlightened, historical individual, on one hand, and Himself as the Embodiment of Truth, on the other. The enlightened personality was known as the 'Rupa-kaya' (Form-body) or 'Nirmana-kaya' (Manifestation-body). This was the physical body of the Buddha who was born among men, attained Enlightenment, preached the Dhamma and attained Maha Parinibbana. The Manifestation-body or physical body of Buddhas are many and differ from one another.
"Enlightenment Body" Dharma-kaya
On the other hand, the principle of Enlightenment which is embodied in Him is known as Dharma-kaya or Truth-body. This is the essence of the Buddha and is independent of the person realizing it. 'Dhamma' in this expression means 'Truth', and does not refer to the verbal teachings which were recorded down in scriptures. The teaching of the Buddha also emanates from the 'Essence' or 'Truth'. So the real, essential Buddha is Truth or the principle of Enlightenment.
In the Buddha's lifetime, both the Nirmana-kaya and the Dharma-kaya were united in His. However, after His Parinibbana, the distinction became more pronounced, especially in the Mahayana philosophy. His Manifestation-body was dead and enshrined in the form of relics in stupas: His Dhamma-body is eternally present.
Then this doctrine became more elaborate
Enjoyment Body Sambhoga-kaya
n the Buddha's lifetime, both the Nirmana-kaya and the Dharma-kaya were united in His. However, after His Parinibbana, the distinction became more pronounced, especially in the Mahayana philosophy. His Manifestation-body was dead and enshrined in the form of relics in stupas: His Dhamma-body is eternally present.
Later, the Mahayana philosophy developed the 'Sambhoga-kaya', the Enjoyment-body. The Sambhoga-kaya can be considered as the body or aspect through which the Buddha enjoyed Himself in the Dhamma, in teaching the Truth, in leading others to the realization of the Truth, and in enjoying the company of good, noble people. This is a selfless, pure, spiritual enjoyment, not to be confused with sensual pleasure.
This 'Enjoyment-body' is not categorically mentioned in Theravada texts although it can be appreciated without contradiction if understood in this context. In Mahayana, the Enjoyment-body of the Buddha, unlike the impersonal, abstract principle of the Dharma-kaya, is also considered as a person, though not a human, historical person.
A comparison chart for Pali, Chinese Mahayana and Tibetan Mahayana scriptures.
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/25/2017 01:29AM by corboy.