Despite this proliferation in beliefs, Mahayana Buddhism still boils down to two general flavors -- the Madhyamika and the Yogacara (from Sanskrit). The term Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) refers to those who have reached the final stage of transmigration and awakening, just prior to Buddhahood. Such is the case with Animism, Judaism, Hinduism, and many of the ancient Chinese religions.
In contrast to Theravada Buddhism (with its emphasis on monastic life), the Mahayana school promises salvation to all who sincerely seek it -- monk and laity alike. Mahayana holds that not only priests (those having taken the Buddhist vows) but also the laity can attain enlightenment.
In Mahayana Buddhism, those who become Bosatsu will certainly achieve Buddhahood, but for a time, they renounce the blissful state of Nirvana (freedom from suffering), vowing to remain on earth in various guises (reincarnations) to help all living beings achieve salvation. Along with Mahayana Buddhism, the Vajrayana traditions are often referred to as the Northern Traditions of Buddhism.
When these religions began to record their beliefs, rituals, and practices, we find the oldest recorded religion to be Animism, but the oldest oral tradition to be Judaism, which, like many of the other major world religions, traces its roots back to monotheism or one single God or Deity-creator.
The Mahayana tradition embodies the Bodhisattva Ideal -- the desire to liberate all beings from suffering -- whereas the Theravada tradition embodies the Arhat Ideal. In Japan, Mahayana Buddhism spread fast under the patronage of Imperial Prince Shotoku Taishi (574 - 622 AD; more correctly spelled ShA?toku), who is attributed with the construction of the famous HA?ryA«-ji (Horyu-ji) Temple in Nara, as well as many other temples throughout Japan. In either flavor, the path to enlightenment is long and arduous, requiring followers to build up merit in this life to be reborn in the next life with better karma -- only after countless lives of karma-building and right-thinking does one attain enlightenment.


Japan first learned of Buddhism from Korea, but the subsequent development of Japanese Buddhism and Buddhist sculpture was primarily influenced by China. The worldly Bodhisattva (Bosatsu) is one who delays heavenly retirement (the rest of Nirvana) and remains on earth in various guises (reincarnations) to assist those seeking salvation and enlightenment.
Even so, the Mahayana doctrines still represent a quicker path to enlightenment than do the traditions of Theravada Buddhism. According to tradition, Buddhism was introduced to Japan in 552 AD (other sources say 538 AD) when the king of Korean sent the Japanese Yamato a¤§a’? court a small gilt bronze Buddha statue, some Buddhist scriptures, and a message praising Buddhism.
In contrast, the heavenly Buddha (Nyorai) are portrayed in Mahayana literature as concerned only remotely with worldly affairs. The Pure Land Sects claim that anyone who chants the name AMIDA will be granted entrance to the Pure Land (paradise) -- even those who fail to practice any Buddhist teachings during their life and only repent on their deathbed. Those who live in Amida’s Western Pure Land of Bliss, also called Jodo or Gokuraku -- a land devoid of worry or toil -- can focus their entire energies on attaining Buddhahood. They also brought their art (paintings, sculptures, etc.) and their techniques for carving and reproducing Buddhist texts and icons.
Here, in the Pure Land, they need not worry about rebirth in the Six States of Existence -- for as inhabitants of the Pure Land, they are no longer trapped in the cycle of death and rebirth (Skt.
Three texts were of particular influence in Japan, the Lotus Sutra, the Sutra of Golden Light and the Benevolent Kings Sutra. But the path to becoming a Bodhisattva or Buddha is open to all, including the laity.Mahayana Buddhism is an umbrella concept for a great variety of sects, from the Tantric Sects found in Tibet and Nepal (secret Yoga teachings), to the Pure Land Sects found in China, Korea and Japan (reliance on simple faith in Amida Tathagata).


The Mahayana school of India also gave birth to inward-looking Chan Buddhism (China), which then crossed the straights to Japan and flowered as Japanese Zen. Further, Confucian ideas from Han China had been current in the Japanese court since the 5th century AD. Nichiren adherents claim that the Pure Land Sects are mistaken, that the chanting of Amdia’s name is only a first step, a preliminary practice, in religious advancement.
Indian Mahayanist philosophers, such as Nagarjuna, directed Buddhism back towards Hinduism, away from the rigid atheism of Theravada Buddhism.
As a result, some of the earlier schools in Japan, such as Shingon, Kegon and Tendai, had largely Hindu pantheons (known as the Tenbu in Japan). In addition, the Mahayana scriptures are in Sanskrit, unlike the earlier Theravadin canon, which is in Pali, and numerous Sanskrit inscriptions can therefore be seen in Japanese temples, and sometimes on rocks in the mountains.
For example, of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune whose temples people visit at New Year, three are Hindu: Daikoku (Mahakali), Bishamon (Vaishravana) and Benten, Benzaiten or, most formally, Bensaiten-sama (Sarasvati). Smith, Huston The Religions of Man 1958 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions14.



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