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Mahayana Background Mahayana stems from the Theravada School of Buddhism Mahayanists believe that the Theravada-ist to be Hinayana meaning the lesser vehicle Mahayanists consider themselves followers of the greater vehicle Mahayanists also accept much of the scripture and ritual that the Theravada-ist developed but they believe their own scriptures to be of higher value and truth No one knows the origins to Mahayana Buddhism although the movement was probably started by small groups of religious individuals in northern India as well as Central Asia Presently most followers live in East Asia The majority of Buddhist follow the Mahayanistic doctrine Mahayana Doctrine The fundamental doctrine for Buddhism is the Four Noble Truths It has always been the nucleus of this religion from its primitive states to the developed form of Mahayanism through its long history of twenty-four centuries Tachibana 14 However there are many other Buddhist doctrines besides the Four Noble Truths one being the bodhisattva doctrine Early Buddhism had the term referring to the belief in just one Buddha but as time passed the term came to encompass the belief in many Buddhas Many forms of the religion uphold the bodhisattva doctrine but the Mahayana bodhisattva doctrine differs from the rest in that the Mahayana insistence that the goal of all religious practice is Buddhahood itself making all those whose conceive of the aspiration to be liberated bodhisattvas or future Buddhas Buddhism 459 The Mahayana bodhisattva doctrine is centered around the goal of liberation from suffering People who set their eyes on this goal commit themselves to ceaseless work for the benefit of others They concentrate and aspire to reach perfect awakening the bodhicita Buddhism 369 In trying to reach perfect awakening these people are also pressing towards actually becoming bodhisattvas As travelers walk along their paths they are helped along by celestial bodhisattvas Celestial bodhisattvas are powerful beings far advanced in the path so perfect that they are free from both rebirth and liberation
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