How is it that 3 separate schools of Buddhism that developed they're own separate characteristics and sometimes even developed different fundamental teachings are taught as lower, middle and greater yanas by some teachers in Tibetan Buddhism?

Isn't it a fundamental teaching of the Buddha to not be partial or judgemental? How is this not an example of partiality?

  • 1
    In Tibetan Buddhism, these three vehicles are considered to be levels of motivation, the "lower" motivation of escaping suffering for oneself only, the "middle" motivation of escaping rebirth, the "upper" motivation of freeing all beings from suffering and rebirth before leaving the cycle yourself.
    – hellyale
    Feb 8, 2018 at 16:43
  • "the "lower" motivation of escaping suffering for oneself only"- this is trying to refer to The Buddha's actual teaching? The Buddha was for what works. The Buddha was practical. Helping others escape suffering is helping yourself and helping yourself is helping others. Where did the Buddha teach these 3 motivations?
    – Lowbrow
    Feb 8, 2018 at 17:16
  • Yes, it will work eventually, it just will work much slower than the other vehicles, and eventually, you will have to get into the other vehicles anyway. It is progress but slow progress.
    – hellyale
    Feb 8, 2018 at 17:18
  • Are you implying that eventually an arahant must become a Buddha? I am fine with becoming an arahant so why would I "have to get into the other vehicles"?
    – Lowbrow
    Feb 9, 2018 at 17:02
  • you don't have to do anything.
    – hellyale
    Feb 9, 2018 at 17:10

3 Answers 3


I do not understand if it's Tibetan Buddhism saying lower, middle, or greater yanas, or only Tibetan Buddhism only.

Reference to the Chinese Sutras I studied, it would be Śrāvaka, Bodhisattva and Buddha yanas. Or sometimes five yanas: Śrāvaka, Arhat, Pratyekabuddha, Bodhisattva and Buddha. These yanas are depending on the nature/inclination of the students that they naturally choosing their vehicles. In general, Sravaka, Arhat and Pratyekabuddha responding to life as an abode to be escaped from, their main concern is a jailbreak, or liberation. But the Bodhisattva and Buddha are liberation and enjoyment, or total mastery. All yanas have happy ending, just that they have different taste buds, like some people like beer, some wine, some whisky... :)

So this is not the Buddha be partial or judgemental, just providing all different drinks for all different drinkers that pleased the most their taste buds. It wouldn't be a good bar if only offering one type of drink, huh?

  • Saying one is greater and the other is lower sounds partial to me. Why say that? That's so blatantly not what the Buddha taught . Also these yana's teachings conflict greatly between each other, how could they be so compatible?
    – Lowbrow
    Feb 7, 2018 at 15:43
  • My 1st paragraph stating that's probably Tibetan B. way of lower, middle, greater... but obviously someone was unhappy downvoted ;). I didn't read the Buddha said this way "lower/middle/greater yana" in the Chinese Sutras, but recalled he described what was 上上乘(the most supreme vehicle). Yana = 乘(vehicle), a transportation mean. Like Śāriputra representing Sravaka, but the Buddha marked(授記) him will be Buddha too, since he graduating to the Bodhisattva yana. So the yana just a mean, when matched best with the student then it is the best. Likely the "yana" meaning is different in TB and CB. Feb 8, 2018 at 17:54
  • Though off-putting to me some TB teachers bragging TB is Tantra (secret), or Vajrayana, whilst other Mahayana just, Maha. I read in the Vinaya some disciples suspecting the Buddha kept his secret (best) teaching only for those chosen few, like Ananda... the Buddha replied that his hands open, kept nothing from anyone. (The greatest secret is always in plain sight ;). Worldly "secret" so & so is always a convenient breeding ground for corruption and exploitation. My emphasis and response to you is, it's probably TB, not the Buddha :). I'm afraid most of the Eng. Mahayana is, not. Feb 8, 2018 at 18:05

A yana is a particular teaching methodology and a conceptual framework in support of that. "Higher" refers to more depth and fewer concepts; in the extreme case (not real, just to make a point) teacher just looks the student in the eye and says: "here, got it?" and the student says "yup", and then as you go "lower" there are more concepts and more words, and all kinds of practices.

The usual pattern is that what seems real on lower yanas, looks like a lot of obvious and unnecessary BS from the perspective of higher yanas.

That's because higher yanas by definition get closer and closer to the essence or the real meaning of Dharma, what the concepts are pointing to, in real life.

Again, I emphasize, all these yanas are just a way to explain the different degrees of insight, regardless of school. There are enlightened people in Theravada, there are parrots repeating words in Mahayana.

  • Fair enough. Any books on essential teachings you could recommend?
    – Lowbrow
    Feb 8, 2018 at 17:26
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    Try "Vivid Awareness: The Mind Instructions of Khenpo Gangshar" by Khenchen Thrangu
    – Andriy Volkov
    Feb 8, 2018 at 17:57

How is it that 3 separate schools of Buddhism that developed they're own separate characteristics and sometimes even developed different fundamental teachings are taught as lower, middle and greater yanas by some teachers in Tibetan Buddhism?

There is just one Buddha Dhamma, one path to liberation. How such is caused? Disrespect, selfoverestimation, non-devotion torward ones father: in short foolishness.

Isn't it a fundamental teaching of the Buddha to not be partial or judgemental?

No either. If so it would have no grave effects to abrove foolishness. It's importand and even the highest quality to be right judgemental and only partial to what is real and leads to secure: e.g. liberation.

How is this not an example of partiality?

A dog is always after his tail. Watch them and learn how ease foolish ideas could be solved and how difficult it is for a fool to get the exit. Some love and prefer the live as Don Quixote and are seeking for their Sanchos to help carry their burdens...

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gains by means of trade and exchange.]

  • Every Buddha is a Don Quixote, friend Johann. A Don Quixote changing people's lives.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Feb 13, 2018 at 3:27
  • Well then, calling the Buddha Don Quixote there is no more to wonder in regard of respect, not to speak about fathers. But it shows well the thoughts and virtue of secretarians... Buddha-nature, they call defilements. Feb 13, 2018 at 10:13
  • I am obviously implying unwholesome partiality.
    – Lowbrow
    Feb 13, 2018 at 12:56
  • And my person whats you all to escape from suffering and rebirth here first, before leaving the nonsenseby my self... or simply follow the fathers wise advices. My person wonders why ants give birth and birth again, and so many others... maybe it's better to chance to a higher vehicle and take on a Don Quixote job. Any Sancho here? It's for a great aim! We need many of you, there are a lot of enemies to be made into windmilles here. Feb 13, 2018 at 13:30
  • Don Quixote? What?
    – Lowbrow
    Feb 13, 2018 at 14:25

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