Daniel Boucher

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online August 2011 | | DOI:

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The origin, nature, organization, and influence of the collection of Buddhist movements subsumed under the label “Mahayana” (Great Vehicle) have long been a matter of scholarly and insider debate. The Mahayana is most essentially thought to be characterized by a commitment to the bodhisattva path along with an acceptance of the canonical authority of at least a certain number of Mahayana texts. Scholarly consensus has generally dated the appearance of this movement to roughly the 1st century bce, and, since the late 20th century, the finds of Mahayana texts in Gāndhārī Prakrit from northern Pakistan, datable to the first two centuries ce, makes this date all the more likely. These movements are generally believed to have started as a loose confederation of small monastic fraternities within mainstream environments and to have remained very much a minority for the first several hundred years. The Mahayana appears prominently in the epigraphical and art-historical record around the 5th century ce and becomes increasingly mainstreamed within Indian monastic culture thereafter. Much of its most profound influence, however, took place outside India, particularly in Tibet and East Asia.

Article.  10741 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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