Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Turning the Wheel...


Turnings of the Dharma Wheel

Mahayana Buddhists speak of the Three Turnings of the Dharma Wheel. The first turning was the teaching of the Four Noble Truths by Shakyamuni Buddha, which was the beginning of Buddhism.

The Second Turning was the doctrine of sunyata, or emptiness, which is a cornerstone of Mahayana. This doctrine was expounded in the Prajnaparamita sutras, the earliest of which may date to the 1st century BCE. Nagarjuna (ca. 2nd century CE) fully developed this doctrine in his philosophy of Madhyamika.

The Third Turning was the Tathagatagarbha doctrine of Buddha Nature, which emerged in about the 3rd century CE. This is another cornerstone of Mahayana.

Yogacara, a philosophy that originally developed in a Sthavira school called Sarvastivada, was another milestone in Mahayana history. The founders of Yogacara originally were Sarvastivada scholars who lived in the 4th century CE and who came to embrace Mahayana. 

Sunyata, Buddha Nature and Yogacara are the chief doctrines that set Mahayana apart from Theravada. Other important milestones in the development of Mahayana include Shantideva's "Way of the Bodhisattva" (ca. 700 CE), which placed the bodhisattva vow at the center of Mahayana practice.

Over the years, Mahayana subdivided into more schools with divergent practices and doctrines. These spread from India to China and Tibet, then to Korea and Japan. Today Mahayana is the dominant form of Buddhism in those countries.


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