“Why is the thegpa chenpo known as Mahayana or the great vehicle? There are many different explanations of why the Mahayana is a greater vehicle than the “Hinayana,” or Foundational Vehicle. The future buddha Maitreya summarizes all of these reasons in his teaching known as the Sutra Alamkara, or Dode Jen (mdo sde rgyan). In this teaching, Maitreya says that there are seven different reasons why Mahayana is the great vehicle. In contrast with the Hinayana, each of these seven qualities is greater or more developed in the Mahayana. The qualities are: 1) great joyful effort (pronounced as tsondrü chenpo in Tibetan); 2) great focus or object, which is pronounced migpa chenpo; 3) drubpa chenpo or great completion; 4) yeshe chenpo or great wisdom; 5) great skillful means or thab khe chenpo; 6) great fulfillment or trubpa chenpo; 7) tinley chenpo or great activity.
1. Great Joyful Effort
Let us investigate the meaning of these seven qualities. The first is joyful effort. Compared with the Hinayana, Mahayana practitioners have great joyful effort which lasts for three countless eons. They have great courage, commitment and joy to strive for the goal without becoming tired and bored by the many different circumstances and challenges that they face. They go on and on to fulfill the final goal. Depending on the individual capabilities of the Hinayana practitioners, often it is said that it can take three or seven lifetimes to reach arhathood. Since Hinayana practitioners don’t have the long-term goal of continuing to work for the enlightenment of all beings, they don’t have to make such long-term plans. This is why the Mahayana practitioners are said to possess great joyful effort.
2. Great Focus
The focus of the Mahayana is also great. The focus of Mahayana practitioners is great emptiness, which includes realizing the emptiness of both self or ego, as well as the emptiness of all phenomena. The Hinayana mainly focuses on realizing the emptiness of self. Mahayana practitioners realize that the nature of all existing phenomena, including the self is great emptiness. Since Hinayana practitioners don’t go further than realizing the emptiness of self, the view or focus of Mahayana is said to be greater than that of the Hinayana.
3. Great Completion
The next one is great completion. Mahayana practitioners try to accomplish the benefit of all living beings. In comparison, the Hinayana practitioners mainly think of releasing themselves from suffering by attaining arhathood. Since the Mahayana attempts to reach enlightenment in order to help all living beings, a Mahayana practitioner focuses on other beings’ well beings more than his or her own well-being. Therefore, the completion and accomplishment of the Mahayana is greater than that of the Hinayana.
4. Great Wisdom
The great wisdom of the Mahayana includes the wisdom of the egolessness of self and the egolessness of phenomena. This is known as the two wisdoms which realize the egolessness of self and the entire universe without any distinctions. On the other hand, Hinayana practitioners mainly realize the egolessness of the self without fully realizing the egolessness of all other phenomena. In addition, Mahayana wisdom is the union of wisdom and compassion. The wisdom of the Hinayana is without great compassion.
5. Great Skillful Means
The fifth quality is that of skillful means. According to the Mahayana teachings, there are many different skilful means one can apply to remove the obscurations of oneself and others , all in order to accomplish the benefit of all living beings. The skillful means of the Mahayana are based on the Buddha’s entire teachings. Mahayana practitioners apply skillful means based on emptiness meditation, as well as on one’s own activities. These activities include: rejoicing, dedicating merit, making aspirations, and performing the activities of the six paramitas or perfections, applied continually to all circumstances. There are numerous skillful means. The Mahayana’s skillful means are known as the skillful activities that are neither caught in the pain of samsara, nor in the tranquility of nirvana. They go beyond both samsara and nirvana. Hence, in comparison with, the skillful means of the Mahayana are greater than those of the Hinayana.
6. Great Fulfillment
Next is the quality of great fulfillment. By continually practicing and applying oneself according to the Mahayana path, the achievement will be Buddhahood, whereas the attainment of the Hinayana is arhathood. Buddhahood however, is completely free of all defilements and blockages, bondages and every type of habitual pattern. Both arhathood and Buddhahood are free from negative emotions. However, unlike arhathood, when you reach buddhahood there are no longer any shadows or stains of any type of obscuration that remain in one’s consciousness.
7. Great Activity
Once you reach the final goal of buddhahood, you continually engage with the world in order to benefit all living beings. This happens through the four kayas and the five wisdoms. Reaching buddhahood is reaching out to every living being without partiality. In contrast, in the Hinayana once you reach arhathood, your activity ceases. According to the Buddha’s teaching, there is nothing more than to accomplish or do for the Hinayana practitioner. These are the seven special reasons why the Mahayana is known as the great vehicle.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
Opening the Clear Vision of the Mind Only School (pgs 15-18)
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