What are Hinayana Buddhism beliefs?

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It would be a dismiss to not mention Hinayana Buddhism belief and the ultimate goal of Hinayana Buddhism while discovering Buddhism sects. Nowadays, as the Buddhism cultivators, it is very essential for us to search all of Buddhism sects (Theravada, Mahayana Buddhism, Hinayana Buddhism, Esoteric Buddhism…) because their beliefs and practices reflect a variety of approachment and methods to the enlightenment.

From Hinayana Buddhism perspective, it is the ancient Buddhism sect and called “Smaller Vehicle”.

In fact, it would be better to not call this sect as “Hinayana” or “Smaller Vehicle” as these terms are the representative of binary mindset or distinction. According to Buddhism history, even “Hinayana Buddhism” and “Mahayana Buddhism” were not written in Pali scripture – Nikaya, and Sanskrit scripture – Agama. Thus, we should consider the terms in Buddhism as the methods for us to have a deeper level of consciousness of Buddhism.


What are Hinayana Buddhism Beliefs in The First Period?

The first period of Hinayana Buddhism is also the ancient Hinayana Buddhism.

The first period of Hinayana Buddhism was from 450 BC to 350 BC. In this time, Buddhism had spread from the Western cities to Eastern cities in Indian. For examples, they were Kajangala, Campa, Rajagaha, Gaya, Kasi, Nalanda, Pataliputta, Vesali, Savatthi, Avanti, Malla, Mathura, etc.

According to Hinayana Buddhism beliefs, Buddha is the perfect wonderful being who has miracle powers/supernatural powers that are achieved by practicing Buddhism meditation. And the existence of Buddha in life is such the rare fortune for all of humanity. Why can we say that? As it takes innumerable kappas for one Buddha to appear in our world.

From the Hinayana Buddhism’ doctrines, it included Trilasksana (or Three Characteristic Marks of the Buddha’s Teachings), Ariyasacca (the Four Noble Truths), Paticasamuppada (the dependent origination), Atthangikamagga (The Eightfold Noble Paths), Bodhipakkhika Dhamma (37 supporting methods for the cultivation divided into three parts – Sila (Morality), Samadhi (Meditation), and Panna (Wisdom).

For more details, Trilasksana consists of Anicca, Dukkha, and Anatta. Anicca is the theory of Impermanence, Dukkha is the theory of Suffering, and Anatta is the theory of egolessness.


First of all, let us get used to Anicca.

The short Heraclitus’s quote reflects the theory of Anicca exactly: “The only thing that is constant is Change”. Another Heraclitus’s sentence does, too: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

From Buddhism’s world vision, all of the phenomena in the world are under the control of the law of impermanence. It means they perpetuate changing for every sec. As a human, we can not resist the organic cycle of birth, growth, decay, and death because our lives are impermanent. It is also very important to remind us that our fate just looks like a breath. No more breathing, no more be alive.

In the Pacapitaka, Buddha asked the Bhikkhus: “How long does one human fate take?”

The first Biskkhus answered: “In several days”. Buddha replied: “You don’t still understand Dharma”.

Then, the second Biskkus said: “In one meal’s time”. Buddha also replied: “You don’t still understand Dharma”.

Next, the last one answered: “A human fate just lasts within one breath.” Finally, Buddha complimented on the last one’s answer: “Absolutely right. You do really understand Dharma”.

Another fact: there is at least 1,500 sperm produced in the body for a second. From the cell’s perspective, our body is also changing continuously. According to Buddhism, our body repeats the progress of birth and death for 6,400,099,980 times so fast that we can not be aware.


Second of all, let us get used to Dukkha.

Have you ever wondered why the more you try your best to get rid of suffering or look forward to achieving happiness, the closer suffering comes into your mind?

The appearance of suffering is the center of The Four Noble Truths. In other words, the suffering looks like an unwelcome guest to your home. It is such a hard task for you to handle, from the day you were a cell in your mother’s womb until you breathe your last breath. It can be said that “Life is the beach of suffering”, as it is the truth that Buddha had mentioned. However, Buddha also showed us useful tips to get out of the beach of suffering. And we can totally find the pathway to this place by “enlightening ourselves”. It is really hard for us to enlighten ourselves, but it’s worth, and you are really the only one who can save yourself.

swimming in the beach of suffering
Living in this life looks like swimming in the beach of suffering, and we really need to enlighten to save ourselves.


Third of all, let us get used to Anatta.

If you realize that nothing really belongs to you in this life, you can understand “Anatta” partly.

There is a story that might help you.

Once a day, a spirit one who had cultivated for thousand years coming to meet God.

God asked this spirit one: “Who’s this

The spirit one answered: “I

Who is I?”

I am me”.

Then, God replied: “There is not enough atmosphere for you and me here.”

Thus, this spirit one had to come back to the sentient world in order to keep on cultivating.

One thousand years later, this spirit one came to meet God again.

God asked: “Who’s this?”

The spirit one answered: “I

Who is I?”

I am you.

Finally, God opened the door and let this spirit one come in.
egolessness is really the truth.
You may think you have a bright ego or a dark ego… However, egolessness is really the truth.

In the development of spiritual life, understanding and achieving the harmony between you and the whole universe is extremely important. Chances are you have heard about this harmony while searching or practicing meditation, Yoga, etc.. In this harmony, you are no longer “I” or “me”. In fact, if you really understand the theory of impermanence, you will also realize that you are not you. Thus, no “self”, no “ego”, no “owing”. Besides that, if you understand this truth, you will be no longer affected by any external factors.

For examples, if someone says bad words; as usual, you might feel bad because it hurt “your ego”. You might ask yourself: “Why did I (a good/successful/beautiful person) have to suffer from these bad word?”. Or, “Why did they dare to treat me like that?

On the other hand, if you don’t care about a thing called “I”, or “my ego”, nothing can make you hurt. A word just a word.

What is The Ultimate Goal of Hinayana Buddhism?

From the Hinayana Buddhism’s ultimate goal, this is to become Arahant or Pacceka Buddha. And Nibbana or Nirvana is the state of complete pure bliss and calmness.

Becoming Arahant is the ultimate goal of Hinayana Buddhism.
Becoming Arahant is the ultimate goal of Hinayana Buddhism.

The ultimate goal of Hinayana Buddhism is closely connected to the Three Characteristic Marks of the Buddha’s Teachings. As you can see, as the cultivators, if we can totally be aware of the impermanence of life, we can end our suffering. As suffering is just the state of your mind. Moreover, because we know that nothing belongs to us in this life, and everything will be changed forever, we will be no longer trapped by the greed, hatred, or illusion. And, deleting the ignorance is really such a great achievement for the cultivator to “attain enlightenment”.

That is the reason why Hinayana Buddhism is different from other Buddhism sects. It aims at the ancient Buddha teachings that guide people on how to enlighten themselves. When each cultivator attains enlightenment and becoming Arahant, their ultimate goal is completed. Thus, Arahant is not the one who tries to save others, but each cultivator has to be responsible for their enlightenment.

In conclusion, Hinayana Buddhism beliefs aim at Three Characteristic Marks of the Buddha’s Teachings: Impermanence, Suffering, and Egolessness. Thanks for understanding three theory deeply, it can lead us a step closer to “enlightenment“, at first, for our daily lives.

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