Buddhism Sects Essay, Research Paper
The similarities and differences between Theravada and Vajrayana
Before we compare and contrast these two different sects of the same religion, we probably need to define the why first. There appears to quite a few different splinters of Buddhism, however they seem to all have the same goal, just a different way of achieving that goal. Why? I believe it all comes down to interpretation. Since Guatama Buddha did not have any written record of his teachings and the first documented record of his teachings didn’t appear until almost 150 years after his death, this leaves the door wide open for interpretation. I remember doing a game in grammar school when the teacher would line everyone up, tell the first person in the line a secret and then have them pass it on to next person in the line and so on. By the time the secret reached the last person, and was asked to reveal the secret, it was never the same as the original. I would deduce this to each child’s interpretation of the secret being told from his/her perspective and a possibly some forgetfulness. In some cases the core content would be totally lost.
I would like to first identify the similarities between these two sects, as this is probably simplest part. First and foremost these two religions are Buddhism and they both have as their common goal, enlightenment. They both utilize the same ideology of being vessels that take one across the great river of life to the ultimate, Nirvana. It is the here where I believe the basic similarity end.
There are two main divisions of Buddhism, Hinayana – Buddhism for the people (the big raft) and Theravada – The way of the elders (the little raft). Within Hinayana you will also find separate sects, one of which is Vajrayana. There are a few major differences between Hinayana and Theravada that first need to be established. Theravada Buddhist claims their division to be the purest form of the original teachings by which each person finds enlightenment by oneself and this is through wisdom. Hinayana claims that Buddha was a teacher (not an example to live by), one who shows the way to enlightenment and allows the followers to achieve Nirvana and remain in the same. This is found through compassion and through a universal effort.
Vajrayana (Tibetan Buddhism) is distinctly Hinayana in it’s core beliefs, however the differences between another Hinayana type Buddhist belief, like Zen, is not the type of vessel that you use to cross the river, but more like the style, color, and more importantly – speed. Tibetan Buddhism is Tantric at it’s core which originated from medieval Hinduism. Tantra in its purest form is the interwoven, intertwined, interpenetrating existence. Tibetan’s claim that by intensely focusing these energies, one can gain enlightenment in one lifetime. Again, this state is achieved not by oneself, as Theravada Buddhism would define, but through intertwining the energies of another. By intensifying and focusing these energies, one grows towards enlightenment along with assistance and assisting another (combined energies).
Tibetan Buddhism can be considered quite different in nature so much as it is called the third path of Buddhism. The Tibetans believed also that they had to include the elements of sites, sounds, and motion to help propel one towards enlightenment. While they admit that these three items could become a distraction, by the mere act of overcoming that possibility then enables you to utilize it as a benefit. They evoke these items in Meditation by utilizing deep, full-throated groans while their hands preformed stylized motions. The combination of these activities would propel one to such a deep level of consciousness that they could see their deity.
This shows the basic necessity of attaining enlightenment (not just understanding it to teach others (Theravada)), but achieve it, remain in it, and doing it in one lifetime. These differences, while limited in the broad spectrum of differences, are closely defined to root elements that dictate the vessel itself.