One of the two major vehicles of Buddhism.
Mahāyāna (Sanskrit: महायान mahāyāna, literally the "Great Vehicle") is one of two (or three, under some classifications) main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice. The Buddhist tradition of Vajrayana is sometimes classified as a part of Mahayana Buddhism, but some scholars may consider it as a different branch altogether.
According to the teachings of Mahāyāna traditions, "Mahāyāna" also refers to the path of the Bodhisattva seeking complete enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, also called "Bodhisattvayāna", or the "Bodhisattva Vehicle." A bodhisattva who has accomplished this goal is called a samyaksaṃbuddha, or "fully enlightened Buddha." A samyaksaṃbuddha can establish the Dharma and lead disciples to enlightenment. Mahayana Buddhists teach that enlightenment can be attained in a single lifetime, and this can be accomplished even by a layperson.
The Mahāyāna tradition is the largest major tradition of Buddhism existing today, with 53.2% of practitioners, compared to 35.8% for Theravāda and 5.7% for Vajrayāna in 2010.
In the course of its history, Mahāyāna Buddhism spread from India to various other Asian countries such as Bangladesh, China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Bhutan, Malaysia, and Mongolia. Major traditions of Mahāyāna Buddhism today include Zen, Chinese Chán, Pure Land, Tiantai, and Nichiren. It may also include the Vajrayāna Buddhist traditions of Shingon, Tendai and Tibetan Buddhism, which add esoteric teachings to the Mahāyāna tradition.