I struggle with the idea that Buddhism has two warring schools and wonder why they cannot make peace.

What are the issues on which Theravada and Mahayana cannot agree?

Just bullet points would be fine. I'm not inviting an argument about who is right, just asking for the facts. A summary of key doctrinal differences is what I'm after, if this is possible.

Issues such as which scriptures are authentic may be omitted since this is not a doctrinal difference, but differences in the interpretation of those scriptures would have to be included.


EDIT: Thanks for all the answers. They make fascinating reading. The question has been answered well enough for my purposes.

  • Possibly related -- in this topic I questioned an essay by Ven. Bodhi which described some alleged differences -- the answers in that topic tended to disagree with that description.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 11:57
  • What other questions are allowed now?
    – Lowbrow
    Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 14:21
  • 1
    @Lowbrow If that comment was a question to me, I didn't understand your question? I allowed PeterJ's question (the OP), as being an example of Questions asking for an answer to a controversy
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 15:55
  • 2
    I asked this question too but it wasn't allowed if I remember correctly. No worries though, it must be hard doing your job as we all change over time.
    – Lowbrow
    Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 16:52
  • 1
    You've got a sound question, but in a forum occupied by Theravadin/Pali followers. Agent Sankha, Dhammadhatu and Suminda are working for Theravada/Pali - their descriptions of Mahayana are all faulty, whilst Andrei for Tibetan-Buddhism - also, well, faulty. I believed you incline towards a scholastic study of subject with logical reasoning, it's hard here @PeterJ. To decipher the Morse code from all the "secret agents" (hahaa!) I suggest your enforcing the answerers must proclaim what schools they stood with and what Sutra/Sutta they studied, in the beginning of the answers Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 8:41

10 Answers 10


Just like with any other religion, when the author of the teachings is no longer alive to clarify what is authentic and what is not, the followers of the teachings will naturally come up with different interpretations and also mix things up with teachings of other religions or belief systems. Even in the time of the Buddha, Devadatta was able to have his own faction of monks. So Buddhism having different schools today is nothing to be surprised about.

The Mahayana school branches out to truck loads of many other schools like Vajrayana, Zen, Pureland etc. It seems to be a natural consequence of not being shy to change the original teachings of the Buddha. So these days when you say 'Mahayana', it's hard to get an idea of what you really mean.

But if you want to compare the fundamental practices of Mahayana with Theravada Buddhism, here are some differences:

  • Mahayana puts emphasis on attaining Buddhahood or becoming enlightened while another Buddha is alive. Theravada puts emphasis on working to become enlightened as soon as possible and actually making use of the Dhamma preached by the Buddha to do so, even when he is not alive anymore. Theravada tradition generally discourages those who aspire to become Buddhas out of ego or due to their lack of understanding of the enormity of the task. However, it does give blessings to handful of people who have proven their worthiness through mastery of the Dhamma at the highest level, if they have that aspiration.
  • Mahayana seems to give precedence to the quality of compassion. Theravada gives precedence to wisdom. Compassion is practiced as a supportive quality of the mind for the cultivation of wisdom.
  • It appears that Vipassana meditation, the meditation that leads to enlightenment is mainly practiced in the Theravada school. Comparatively, Mahayana school seem to give precedence to chanting, rights and rituals.
  • Vegetarianism appears to be a requirement in Mahayana. Theravada Buddhism keeps to the word of the Buddha and leaves it up to the individual and does not view one's food preference as an important factor in attaining enlightenment.
  • Theravada tradition as a principal tries to understand the teachings of the Buddha without changing them to suit the popular worldview of the time. As a result, it is widely regarded as the school which is closest to the original teachings of the Buddha.
  • Thanks. This seems to be a fairly typical view of Mahayana so is useful. Whether it is a correct view is not really the point here, it seems to summarise a common view and explains quite a lot. . .
    – user14119
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 10:59
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 2:40
  • I think it's also important to strength the claim of Theravada being closer to the original teachings. There are many sutras chanted and used in Mahayana practice, which are not attributed to the Buddha. This does imply that these teachings are of lesser quality
    – user279311
    Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 22:31
  • @user279311 That claim is just an assertion - a Mahayana follower could just as easily assert that the Mahayana scriptures not attributed to the Buddha are more refined through the generations of masters since the Buddha. Such statements contribute nothing, they only feed the flames of "us versus them".
    – Codosaur
    Commented May 26, 2021 at 9:54
  • 1
    Better move this discussion to chat section if you guys wish to argue any points Commented May 27, 2021 at 4:06

Traditionally from Mahayana perspective, the contrast with non-Mahayana is an important part of the teaching, so the differences is something we study in-depth, in order to understand and avoid non-Mahayana mistakes. For each of the following points, there's a traditional elaboration, explaining in detail how and why each side says what it says.

In non-Mahayana, your primary goal is Nirvana for yourself, in Mahayana your primary goal is to help others.

In non-Mahayana, they recognize that self is not real (Anatta), but still consider other phenomena real. In Mahayana, all phenomena are interpretations-imputations.

In non-Mahayana, the practice is focused on removing emotional obscurations. In Mahayana, both emotional and mental obscurations are removed. In Mahayana there is a strong philosophical component designed to remove conceptual obscurations.

In non-Mahayana, Nirvana is ultimate peace. In Mahayana, Nirvana is not-abiding, having understood ultimate equality of Nirvana and Samsara, beyond peace.

In non-Mahayana, the rules and precepts are understood literally and must be followed strictly. In Mahayana, it is the "spirit" (the purpose) of precepts is what's really important, the letter of precepts can be broken when it conflicts with their purpose.

In non-Mahayana, Dharma is understood literally, in Mahayana it is understood as conceptual construct metaphorically describing subtle truths about our lives and our reality. Concepts are mere models, but if look deeper you can "get" what they point at.

Mahayana accepts most pre-Mahayana teachings but insists that they must not be understood superficially. Superficial understanding of pre-Mahayana teachings and rejection of deeper insights is what characterizes non-Mahayana.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 5:49
  • good answer, and i liked the inclusion of the fourth paragraph. i'm surprised there's been no mention of the atman doctrine here, is it not held by early mahayanists?
    – user2512
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 13:50

Mahayana vs Theravada, crucial differences


My position is of Mahayana the Chinese lineage, selected Sutras I studied, all or parts: Agamas (& some Pali Nikayas), Perfect Enlightenment, Avatamsaka, Surangama, Lotus Sutra, Lankavatara, Saṃdhi-nirmocana-sūtra, Mahayana Parinirvana, Amitāyurdhyāna-sūtra, Diamond Sutra, Platform Sutra, Prajna Paramita (by Kumarajiva), Madhyamaka, Mahisasakas Pratimoksa, Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra, Bodhidharma Bloodline Sastra, Samayabhedo-paracanacakra-śāstra, Śariputraparipṛcchā... Path of Liberation (the Pali Vimutti-magga is translated from Chinese) and meditation sutras/abhidharmas, etc.

On Theravada knowledge, parts and/or by scanning/skimming: Nikayas (or from Chinese Agamas), Buddhism SE, almost all the entries on Theravada in Wikipedia incl. its Abhidhamma, Dhammawheel, articles by the Bhikkhus such as Thanissaro, Buddhadasa, Brahm, Bodhi, Sujato, Henepola Gunaratana, Ashin Dr. Nandamalabhivamsa, Walpola Rahula, etc.

A. Scriptures

1) Mahayana inherits scriptures (excl. Tantra texts) encompassing the Three Turning of Dharma Wheels expounded by the Buddha himself in his 45 years of teaching, i.e., 1st the Agamas, 2nd the Prajna Paramita Sutras, and 3rd the Tathāgatagarbha Sutras. This saying records in almost all the Vinayas and some Sutras such as:

Three Turnings of the Twelve Sections of Dharma Wheels… attained perfect enlightenment for Buddha-hood — Sarvāstivāda Vinaya, translated by Mishu 米殊

Theravada inherits scriptures of the four Nikayas which almost equivalent to the Agamas, however Sutras of the 2nd and 3rd Wheel Turning are missing.

2) Mahayana records in the Agama that the Sutras collected after the gathering of 500 Arhats in the Seven Leaves Cave were written down on white cloth to keep:

Mahakasyapa then selected 40 realized ones among all, relaying from Ananda to have the four Agamas, 1 Madhyama Āgama, 2 Dīrgha Āgama, 3 Ekottara Āgama, 4 Saṃyukta Āgama… each [was written] on 60 rolls of plain cloth. The Bhiksus said, “use these to write in the four scripts (perhaps the Brahmi, Prakrit, Kharoṣṭhī and Armanic scripts), let these be spreading in the world.” …individually writing the 12 sections of the Buddha Sutras, with the Vinayas and Dharmas ready… meeting Maitreya Buddha… for liberation… — Parinirvana Sutra, Agama, translated by Mishu 米殊

According to this plus several Sutras and Mahayana tradition, the four Agamas were spread immediately to lay the foundation, the 2nd and 3rd Turning mainly the Bodhisattvayana/Mahayana Sutras were reserved for approx. 100 years later, waiting until the new generation of disciples matured and Bodhisattva-teachers born to the world after the Buddha's nirvana.

Theravada says writing was not available 2500 years ago and only transmitted by oral recitation. The four or five Nikayas are all that the Buddha taught, nothing more.

3) Mahayana (of the Chinese lineage) preserves Sutras, Vinayas, Sastras and Abhidharmas from all the Early Eighteen Schools. All the scriptures are served as reference instead of presiding over any particular school.

Theravada inherits Suttas and works from the Vibhajyavāda (meant the separatist, a sect active esp. around 300CE teaching different/ newly interpreted doctrines that contradictory to the Early Eighteen Schools). In addition, Theravada its original name was Tambapaṇṇiya (meant Ceylon School), its scriptures and works are from the Mahāvihāravāsins (monks of a monastery in Sri Lanka) only:

The Mahavihara Theravādins of Sri Lanka are descendants of the Sthavira Vibhajyavādins in South India who used the Pali language... — Vibhajyavāda, Wikipedia

4) Mahayana (of the Chinese lineage) receives the scriptures written in Prakrit, Kharoṣṭhī, Gandhari and various Sanskrit scripts, translated to Chinese by Indian Buddhists worked together with the Chinese.

Theravada keeps the scriptures written in Pali, which according to the Theravadins, was close to or same as the Buddha's mother-tongue. However, according to the Chinese sources, that the "Pali" was Sinhalese:

...會誦集結三藏教典,並以僧伽羅文字將經典寫在貝葉上成書,首次將三藏集結成書面。[9]... 在公元五世紀,覺音尊者到錫蘭大寺學習,將僧伽羅語的五部尼柯耶轉譯為巴利語及作注釋。

...reciting the Tipitaka, and use Sinhalese to write the scriptures on leaves, collecting the Tipitaka as the book for the first time... in 500CE, Buddhaghosa studied in Mahavihara of Ceylon, translated the five Sinhalese Nikayas to Pali and wrote the commentaries. — Tipitaka, Wikipedia

B. Doctrines

1) Mahayana (excl. Tibetan-Buddhism) teaches the 8 consciousnesses, incl. the Tathāgatagarbha-consciousness (如來藏識) or Alaya-vijnana. As quoted the Ekottara Āgama of Sarvastidava stated:


...this is called Alaya. Said, loves Alaya, enjoys Alaya, rejoicing with Alaya, exhilarating in Alaya

Theravada teaches the 6 consciousnesses. Its consciousness is in an instant arising-ceasing mode. In order to facilitate the gap between the death of consciousness before the arising of the new consciousness its Abhidhamma invented the term Bhavanga, to stitch the two instant moments. It rejects Aalaya-vinnana, though similar sutta found in Pali Anguttara Nikaya (no. 128?):


... the sentient loves aalaya, enjoys aalaya, rejoicing with aalaya, exhilarating in aalaya

2) Mahayana teaches the intermediate state between death and rebirth. Theravada rejects the intermediate state. However, to answer how can a dead consciousness re-arise again (much like an extinguished fire cannot re-ignite) it puts the Bhavanga to mend the fault.

3) Mahayana teaches the Samyaksaṃbuddha discovered the Dharma that was taught by all previous Buddhas, he also has to receive the "mark" (endorsement or prediction) from previous Buddhas. This designates a world-system can only have one Samyaksaṃbuddha at one time.

Theravada teaches the Sammāsambuddha only required to be self-awaken. It has no difference from a Paccekabuddha in terms of self-awakening except a Paccekabuddha doesn't teach. It is not certain how Theravada ensured multiple Sammāsambuddhas not spontaneously appeared in the world by requiring only self-awakening.

4) Mahayana teaches the Samyaksaṃbuddha with three kayas (bodies), and there are infinite Samyaksaṃbuddhas in the universe with the myriad of world-systems. Theravada teaches only one Sammāsambuddha in the whole world/universe.

5) Mahayana teaches 10 stages of enlightenment. An arhat is equivalent to the 7th stage, who realized Anatman, but still not realized Emptiness. Whilst before the 7th stage are called Bodhisattvas, after the 7th stage called Mahabodhisattvas who mastered the Dharani. Theravada doesn't have the 10 stages, with arahant as the highest enlightment. It also doesn't have Bodhisattva, only the Buddha before being Buddha was a Bodhisattva.

6) Mahayana teaches great many meditation methods. Though mentioned both in the Agamas/Nikayas, the ānāpānasmṛti, contemplation of foulness/ compassion are different from the Theravada's. Methods are such as White Skeleton, Dharma Door of Hearing, the 25 Doors in Surangama, and 12 meditations in the Perfect Enlightenment... etc. Theravada teaches anapanasati, vipassana and metta-bhavana... etc.

Mahayana scriptures covered all the meditation methods in details the Theravada has few paragraphs on, except the Goenka Vipassana, Mahasi "noting" and abodmen breathing which Mahayana scriptures not covered as that not categorized in the Buddha's teaching.

7) Mahayana the final goal is to attain Buddha-hood, all sentient have the potential to be the Buddha for all have the Tathāgatagarbha. Theravada the final goal is to be an arahant, Buddha-hood is the business for the Buddha only.

8) Mahayana teaches the path to Buddha-hood and one must track the path of a Bodhisattva. The training of a Bodhisattva is to serve all sentient beings, and help them to arrive at liberation. In order to serve, a Bodhisattva must learn and master all worldly skills and resources, this in turn helps to cultivate wisdom. Hence a Bodhisattva doesn't necessary be an ordained Bhiksu but can be in any walk of life.

Theravada the path to liberation is to reach arahantship and then go for nibbana. Hence only being fully ordained can have hope, the laypersons are just worldly followers working for better rebirth.

9) Mahayana accepts Hinayana (arhatship) the beginning stage of the path only, encourages one to reach the graduation that is Buddha-hood and Nirvana.
Theravada takes only the Hinayana goal and graduated as that.

10) Mahayana teaches not eating meat which is an extension of non-killing, following the teacher as the Buddha never ate meat. Theravada does not teach not to eat meat, but only teaches not to kill by oneself for eating the meat.

11) Mahayana teaches 5 precepts and 6 paramitas. One of the 6 is prajna-paramita (wisdom) therefore Mahayana also engages in metaphysics and philosophical contemplation. However Theravada teaches 5 precepts but not the 6 paramitas therefore often dismisses discussions by citing the poison arrow parable, emphasis is on liberating from suffering.

12) Mahayana teaches the ultimate as Suchness (Tathata), which is a fluid proposition as styled by Nagarjuna's "neither one nor different" (不一不異); it is not nondualism, nor Advaita Vedanta whose founding father Adi Shankara was born in the 8th century, 1000+ years later, making the Buddha copying any ideas from the future is absurd! Theravada teaches that the ultimate is an objective absolute reality, that nibbana is unconditional and nondual - transmundane.

  • Thank you for the answer. Is this still "a post yet awaiting elaboration"?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 5:29
  • Very helpful - Thanks.
    – user14119
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 10:27
  • I've finished the elaboration @ChrisW. Need to add a lot of references with quotes because this post is against the tide of favorite. Apart from backing with references I run short of ideas to shield from the enraged mass Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 15:18
  • the only point i'm unclear about is whether theravada says that there are no bodhisattvas? i thought it was a three vehicle system, just that theravada doesn't teach the bodhisattva's vehicle
    – user2512
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 12:49
  • @user3293056 Bodhisattva is the rehearsal to Buddha-hood. As Theravada said the goal is Arahant, not Buddha-hood, it implies there no place for Bodhisattva. However, it does call Gotama the Bodhisattva before he's the Buddha. It just shows Theravada had conflicting doctrines, many. Example, another conflict I stated in B.3), that if Buddha is only required self-awakening, logically many self-awakened Buddha could appear at the same time. However, it states only one Buddha for the world at one time, also self-contradictory Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 18:46

The main difference is the vehicle. In Mahayana, everyone aspires to be a Buddha. In Theravada, many aspire for just Arahathship than being Buddhas.


It appears Mahayana believes non-conceptuality is the highest thing.

  • There's a lot of downvoting going on here, even for one sentence answers. Yet this answer seems important and correct. . .
    – user14119
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 15:34

Buddha taught Dhamma. In Dhamma there exists no divergence. Every discrepancy is poorly understood human work.

  • either Dhamma or Dharma ;)
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 19:40
  • 1
    Both, Andrei ;)- Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 19:51

Theravada does not deny that there will be future Buddhas: the 'conflict' is whether the Buddha vehicle was instructed -- or just said to exist.

Though it gets a bit -- or less -- convoluted with the Lotus Sutra; it claims that Sakyamuni only taught the Buddha -- or one -- vehicle. The teaching of three vehicles was only a trick, or skillful means, because not everyone is or was ready for the truth.

Some Mahayanists will emphasize different teachings and Sutras.

So, in Mahayana -- unlike Theravada -- the Buddha taught how to reach liberation without a Buddha.

That sounds a bit like a paradox: how others can reach his nirvana. But not as knotted as how there can be happiness without a self.

nb I was asked to show who says "solitary buddhas" can appear with a buddha's teaching. An outline of the fourfold teachings p100 [translated by Daiichi Shobo], in the sectioned titled "Tripitaka Dcotrine":

Next I will explain the Stage of the Pratyekabuddha, or self enlightened. On meeting the Buddha when he appeared in the world he [the Pratyekabuddha] received the teaching of the Twelvefold Conditions of Dependent Origination [pratitya-samutpada]...

Emphasis added.

Through meditating on the twelvefold cponditions of dependent origination they realize the principle of the ultimate truth. Therefore they are called "those who achieve the realization of conditioned". Those who are called "self-enlightened" appear in a world where there is no Buddha. Living alone on a solitary summit, they meditate on the changing nature of things and realize by themselves the non-originnation [of all things]. Accordingly they are called "self-enlightened". Although the two names are different, they are the sane in regards to practice...

Emphasis added [p102].

So, two types of "Pratyekabuddha" realizing the same "truth" and at the same "stage" -- but one while a Buddha's teaching is still present, and so "called" self enlightened. I believe I have read that this was a Chinese gloss due to the similarity of 'Pratykebuddha' and 'pratitya-samutpada'.

I have seen no mention of the difference outside the 'Tripitaka doctrine'.

  • Do you mean 'Three Turnings'?
    – user14119
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 14:55
  • no @PeterJ i mean the three vehicles of buddhahood, arthatship, and solitary enlightenment.
    – user2512
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 14:57
  • read this if you like @PeterJ it may seem like a small point, but the difference -- between Theravada and Mahayana -- surely does lie in which vehicle or yana is being followed
    – user2512
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 15:05
  • The article states - "Yana is determined by capacity and propensity of the "precious human body" wrought by merit, not by a specific teaching or lineage..." This seems correct to me. So for me these are not 'vehicles' but levels of attainnment or degrees of ambition. I haven't come across them as 'three vehicles' but perhaps they may be seen as such.
    – user14119
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 15:16
  • 1
    It is vehicle. Or you may like to replace with "means". Like from Heathrow (samsara/ sentient) going to Oxford Street (nirvana/ buddha), you can take the tube (sravakayana, merely a passenger), the car (bodhisattva-yana, self-driving and carrying passengers), or motorcycle (pratyekabuddha-yana, riding by and with himself) Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 19:54

The difference between scriptures matters because the basis of scriptural authority matters. The scripture for the Tradition of the Elders is the Pali Canon and commentaries that make up the Tipitaka. The scriptures of the Greater Vehicle school include the writings of anonymous authors who, more or less, held what were effectively seances during their meditative states to attempt to communicate with the Buddha and buddhas of distant past eons. The Lotus Sutra involves Shakyamuni Buddha discussing his bodily death in the past tense, so it is clearly not a historical documents pertaining to the actual Buddha of history.

Mahayana texts are much more flexible in their interpretation, by design. The Vimalakirti Sutra suggests that a layman can be wiser than the historical Buddha's disciples were in their own lifetimes. The Lotus Sutra seems to imply that a future Buddha can be a young girl, or a dragon. The Mahayana school emphasizes "emptiness" and "non-dualism" especially in Zen. (In Zen, Shakyamuni Buddha is almost never quoted verbatim or cited as an authority.)

Other than source of scripture, I would say that the greatest difference is that Mahayana sects teach a "living" Buddha who sees present-day followers and can answer prayers; whereas a more ancient understanding of "tranquil extinction" precludes that possibility. The Rathaputta Sutra (and the Pali Canon in general) tells us that nobody, no matter how holy, has a savior or protector from sickness or suffering (so, implicitly, don't ask). However, the closing chapters of the Vimalakirti Sutra tell us that devout readers will have spirit guides who protect them from exploitation or harm.

As beautiful as both traditions are, it is inevitable that some differences of opinion would arise. If you introduce new writings as sacred, and change the meanings of key concepts, the more conservative adherents might think that you don't really believe in the faith and founder. However, in this case, both schools of thought are completely Buddhist; both believe in the Four Noble Truths, their twelve aspects, and the Eight-fold Path. Both believe in the Three Jewels, the ten good actions, the three poisons, the six perfections, the three marks of existence, and the eight difficulties. Therefore, neither school of thought is Wrong View. The only thing that is Wrong View is denying the Law of Karma according to the Buddha's Dharma.


Theravada and Mahayana are not warring factions.

There are only two main differences between them.

The first is that Theravada teaches to achieve arahathood, while Mahayana teaches to cultivate the full perfections to achieve full Buddhahood, and helping others become liberated along the way. In this answer, we see that Mahayana does not really delay liberation.

The second is that Theravada is very orthodox and sticks to the original nearly-verbatim teachings and monastic rules given by Gautama Buddha, while Mahayana has free creative expression to expand on the teachings and employ newer metaphors to express the original teachings of Gautama Buddha in different ways, and also to relax the monastic rules. Please read this question, this answer and this answer.

There is another comparison between the vehicles in this answer.


Well one of the most famous lack of understanding from the 3 main indian philosophers who invented mahayana by speculating on 1 of the abidhammas, is about their fantasy of the buddha nature, especially the claim ''everybody has the potential to be enlightened'' remains false, no matter how much they love to push for the contrary.

it is as if nibanna is raising your arm, those people would fantasize thus '' human has am arm, being enlightened is raising an arm, a human has the potential to raise an arm, therefore a human has the potential to be enlightened''.

The people who claim that ''everybody has the potential to be enlightened'' fail to understand that the potential to be enlightened has nothing to do with only being alive. The potential to be enlightened is about cultivating the right behavior, which is just lots of energy to cultivate guarding the senses, cultivate lots of samadhi and lots of wisdom, but that's already too hard for the indian philosophers and they even explicit refuse to do so and clinging to their speculations that they can be good people by not training their minds. It turns out that Following the path is what builds the potential for the nirodha of delusion, greed and aversion.

here is the points on they already struggle [and that's way before putting the ''intellectual understanding'' into practice, so no chance they will get the practice successful, even for doing meritorious activities.]:

  • the buddha says that puhutjjanas are not enlightened

  • the buddha says that puthujjanas have natural underlying tendencies for 7 things

  • the buddha says that puthujjanas have anuyasas not for nibanna and the things he claims are good, but The obsession of sensual passion, the obsession of resistance, the obsession of views, the obsession of uncertainty, the obsession of conceit, the obsession of passion for becoming, the obsession of ignorance.

  • the buddha says that puthujjanas do not have natural underlying tendencies for lack of delusion lack greed, lack of aversion, all the good things he says are good

  • the buddha says that anybody who cultivates the ''7 factors of enlightenment'' ''do not decline'' (from nibanna), like so The limb of wisdom that is mindfulness, the limb of wisdom that is investigation of the Norm, the limb of wisdom that is energy, the limb of wisdom that is tranquility, the limb of wisdom that is concentration, the limb of wisdom that is equanimity.

These, monks, are the seven conditions that lead to non-decline. https://obo.genaud.net/a/dhamma-vinaya/pts/sn/05_mv/sn05.46.025.wood.pts.htm#p1

ie they ''slide towards nibanna'' http://obo.genaud.net/dhamma-vinaya/pts/an/04_fours/an04.037.wood.pts.htm#p1 “Mendicants, suppose a tree slants, slopes, and inclines to the east. If it was cut off at the root, where would it fall?”

“Sir, it would fall in the direction that it slants, slopes, and inclines.”

“In the same way, a mendicant who develops and cultivates the noble eightfold path slants, slopes, and inclines to extinguishment.

And how does a mendicant who develops the noble eightfold path slant, slope, and incline to extinguishment? It’s when a mendicant develops right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion, which rely on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripen as letting go. That’s how a mendicant who develops and cultivates the noble eightfold path slants, slopes, and inclines to extinguishment.” https://suttacentral.net/sn45.152/en/sujato

same thing with the ''four qualities", from which ''a monk is incapable of falling away and is right in the presence of Unbinding'' https://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/anguttara/04/an04-037.html Even lay followers have their "Seven points of behavior on which a lay follower may decline or not" https://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/anguttara/07/an07-029.html

  • the buddha does not say that a human is ''on the verge on the unbinding'' just because this human is alive

So anybody who cultivates the ''7 factors of enlightenment'' has the potential to be enlightened, because ''having the potential to be enlightened'' means only being skilled in those ''7 factors of enlightenment'', ie fighting the bad inclinations that puthujjanas have naturally.

Anybody who does NOT cultivate those ''7 factors of enlightenment'' does NOT have ''the potential to be enlightened'', because ''having the potential to be enlightened'' never ever means ''just being alive'', and is inclined towards bad things.,

Most people you see around you do not have this ''potential to be enlightened''. most people you see around do not even care about that.

Anybody who claims that ''everybody has the potential to be enlightened'' speaks falsely and you will never ever progress on the path by listening to their creative lies.

That's the most famous wrong view they keep spreading. The next wrong view they love to spread is their obsession with non-duality. Sometimes they get so confused that they have a hard time fantasizing about the difference about mahayana and advaita. Sometimes the Mahayanists even say they do not see a difference between the two, that's how bad it gets.

With their wrong view comes their wrong practice, with their obsessions about objects

The last fantasy of their doctrine being the fantasy of the ineffability of nibanna. This puts a mysterious veil on their doctrine, allowing their appalling ''crazy wisdom'' and puts their audience in awe. But at the end of the day, they remain only puthujjanas who love to speculate ad nausean to the point of creating super long suttas which have nothing to do with the dhamma.

However all their wrong views are pretty normal. Daydreamers will always cling to their love for fantasizes and will always try to salvage them. It did not take long for people to be confused about the dhamma and after few generations after the death of the of the buddha, people already did what they love to do : speculating about what arahants can do and cannot do. Today they say 18 schools have been created, with people creating subschools, subsubschools, then schisms and sometime even slight mergers. If all those schools survived, today you would have to read 18 abidhamma pitakas, 18 vinnaya pitakas and 18 sutta pitakas and you would be left just as confused as you are today... It would be horrible.

  • To summarise, this answer says in its first paragraph that there's a mahayana doctrine about "buddha-nature" that "everybody has the potential" -- after which, there is a long bit intended to contradict that (i.e. explaining why you think that particular invention/speculation/fantasy is wrong), which says that it's not everybody who has the potential, but only those who have the right inclination, which is not most people.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 15:09
  • Lastly it identifies, as being typical mahayana confusions: "non-duality"; "distinguishing mahayana from advaita"; something (unspecified) to do with "wrong practice" and "objects"; and the ineffability of nibanna (leading to confusion and, maybe, awe-struck superstition).
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 15:09
  • I promised not to argue but I really cannot follow the argument here. Nor am I sure why you assume I'm confused. But it's a useful answer that sheds light on the disagreement so thanks. . ,
    – user14119
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 10:36

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