Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana

Upon the death of Gautama Buddha in 400 BC, Buddhism divided into two sects: Mahayana and Hinayana

The Mahayana sect, which means ‘Great Vehicle’ in Sanskrit, believed in the divinity of the Buddha. The sect encouraged idol worship in Buddhism

The Hinayana sect, meaning ‘Small Vehicle’ in Sanskrit, did not believe in the divinity of the Buddha. It stressed on individual salvation through self-discipline and mediation.

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Diifeerence Between Mahayana and Hinayana - UPSC History

Keeping the IAS Exam in mind, this article will further discuss the difference between Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism               

Aspirants can also refer to a few important history-related difference between articles for their Mains GS 1 preparation:

                                                                Differences between Mahayana and Hinayana



Mahayana Buddhism consider Gautama Buddha to be a divine being who will help his followers to attain nirvana Hinayana Buddhist consider Gautama Buddha as an ordinary human being who attained Nirvana
Followers of Mahayana Buddhism can be found in China, (South) Korea, Japan and Tibet Hinayana Buddhism is followed in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos
Scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism were written Sanskrit Scriptures of Hinayana Buddhism were written in Pali
The three bodies of a Buddha are accepted in Mahayana Buddhism. They are as follows:

  • Nirmanakaya
  • Sambhogakaya
  • Dharmakaya
Hinayana does not believe in the three bodies of a Buddha as they believe an individual must find its own path to salvation
The ten-far reaching attitude in Mahayana is as follows:

  • Generosity
  • Self-Discipline
  • Patience
  • Perseverance
  • Mental Stability
  • Wisdom
  • Skills in Means
  • Aspirational Prayers
  • Strengthening
  • Deep Awareness
The ten-far reaching attitude in Hinayana is as follows:

  • Generosity
  • Self-Discipline
  • Patience
  • Perseverance
  • Being True to one’s words
  • Wisdom
  • Renunciation
  • Resolution
  • Love
  • Equanimity
In Mahayana Buddhism, immeasurable joy is the wish that others have the joy of unending enlightenment In Hinayana Buddhism, immeasurable joy means rejoicing in the happiness of others without any jealousy and not expecting anything in return
Mahayana Buddhism began to flourish around 500 BC Hinayana Buddhism started to flourish around 250 BC

Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism are broadly covered under Indian History as well as the Art and Culture segment of the IAS Exams. You can find the study materials for  both these segment and related articles through the links given below:

Difference Between Mahayana and Hinayana – Download PDF Here

Aspirants can become familiar with the general pattern of the IAS exam by visiting the IAS Syllabus page. For more preparation materials they can refer to the links given in the table below:

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