This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Which Buddhism?

Buddhism presents itself to us in various forms, from the Zen of the Far East to the various schools elsewhere in Asia to the strange and vague conceptions of Western adaptations going under that same name. We can disregard these Western adaptations as products of the imaginations of New Age charlatans and orientalists, but of the remainder we can divide them roughly into two groups: Mahayana and Hinayana. These can be translated as the the ‘Greater Vehicle’ and the ‘Lesser Vehicle,’ respectively, or else as the ‘Great Way’ and the ‘Little Way.’ The first question to ask, in the case of Buddhism, is which of the numerous schools is an accurate expression of the teachings of Shakyamuni himself. That is to say, if there is an ‘original’ Buddhism, which is it? Based on the work of Ananda Coomaraswamy we can say that the Hinayana school represents that doctrine which is most primitive, in the positive sense of being that which the Buddha taught to his followers, but this does not discount the Mahayana, which in a sense represents the complete fruition of the kernel preserved by the Hinayana. Such a distinction is of course over-simplistic.

Share This