Hinayana & Mahayana

A Yana is a vehicle. A Hinayana is a lesser vehicle while a Mahayana is a Great vehicle.


  • The other names of Hinayana are: Deficient Vehicle, Abandoned Vehicle or Defective Vehicle.
  • It believes in the original teaching of Buddha or Doctrine of Elders.
  • Does not believe in Idol worship and tries to attain individual salvation through self discipline and meditation. Ultimate aim of Hinayana is thus nirvana.
  • Stharvivada or Thervada is a Hinayana sect.
  • Asoka Patronized Hinayana.
  • Pali, the language of masses was used by the Hinayana scholars.


  • Mahayana or “great vehicle” believes in the heavenliness of Buddha and Idol worship of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas embodying Buddha Nature.
  • It spread from India to various countries including China and South East Asian nations.
  • Zen, Pure Land, Tiantai, and Nichiren, Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism are traditions of Mahayana.
  • Mahayana believed in universal liberation from suffering for all beings (hence the “Great Vehicle”). Ultimate aim of Mahayana is “spiritual upliftment”.
  • It allows salvation to be alternatively obtained through the grace of the Amitābha Buddha by having faith and devoting oneself to mindfulness of the Buddha.
  • It believes in Mantras. Language of Mahayana was predominantly Sanskrit.

Similarity between Hinayana versus Mahayana

Both adopt one and the same Vinaya, and they have in common the prohibitions of the five offenses, and also the practice of the Four Noble Truths.

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