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Hinayana Buddhism

("Small Vehicle"). Originally a derogatory designation used by representatives of the Mahayana ("Great Vehicle") for early Buddhism. The followers of Hinayana themselves usually refer to their teaching as the Theravada (Teaching of the Elders). Hinayana is also referred to as Southern Buddhism, since it is prevalent chiefly in countries of southern Asia (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Kampuchea, Laos). According to its adherents, the Hinayana represents the original, pure teaching as it was taught by the Buddha. Its doctrines are essentially based on the sutras, which are said to have been spoken by the Buddha himself. The Hinayana teaching provides an analysis of the human situation, the nature of existence, and the structure of individuality, and it shows methods for the resolution of suffering. Liberation from the suffering-ridden cycle of rebirth and the attainment of nirvana are seen as the supreme goal. This can only be achieved through one's own effort, by renouncing the world and overcoming it. For this, the adherent of Hinayana must enter into homelessness, that is, lead a monastic life. For the layman, the attainment of nirvana is not possible. (from The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, Michael H. Kohn, trans., Boston: Shambhala, 1991)

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