Mahayana buddhism

Thank you for that great post.

Do you have any recommendations of good Mahayana texts to read for the sake of development of sila-samadhi-panna for someone who mostly has an EBT background? Maybe a top 3 or so?

I would start with avadana literature, which isn’t strictly speaking Mahayana but influenced Mahayana writings quite strongly. This would be texts like Jatakas and the Mahavastu as well as stories about the past lives of monks and nuns, etc. Foundational Mahayana texts will be the Prajnaparamita Sutras, especially the Astasahasrika (8,000-line sutra) and Pancavimsati (25,000 line sutra). These can be read with the Commentary composed/translated by Kumarajiva, a third of which was translated to English by the Tibetan nun Chodron.

Then, from there, there are some English translations of later Mahayana texts like the Maharatnakuta collection and the Avatamsaka Sutra, which has the Gandavyuha attached to it.

Then, perhaps one could move on to Nagarjuna’s and Asanga’s works that have been translated. At that point, one will need to have a passing understand of the Sarvastivada Abhidharma tradition to fully appreciate what they were writing. Which is a tall order still since most of those texts are untranslated. Most people fall back to Vasubandhu’s Abhidharma Kosa to get a summary of it.


Speaking about the Buddhist nun Chodron, she has written a book - extensively consulted with the Theravada monk Bhikkhu Bodhi - about the different extant Buddhist traditions that I would highly recommend as a general overview of the differences and similarities between the traditions:


“This book will reward those who study it carefully with a deep and wide understanding of the way these traditions have mapped their respective visions of the path to enlightenment.”

– Bhikkhu Bodhi, translator of In the Buddha’s Words

If you are already familiar with Theravada I would recommend this book first and see if it gives the account of the Theravada accurately to your mind before diving into Mahayana. Why? Because if it gives an accurate account to your mind, that will give faith that the Mahayana is also described accurately and from this you can choose to embark on further exploration or not. Without a guidebook like this it can get pretty confusing studying more than one tradition in my experience. Good luck!



i was thinking the same. someone who us versed in Mahayana and the EBTs told me these

the way of bodhistava shanti deva
padma kara translation
Tibetan book of the dead first complete translation
heart sutra

to be honest I started reading and listening but nothing beats the Buddha. I get inspired by the Buddha’steachings and still don’t understand if we have the best why look elsewhere. But insid try to get myself interested in Mahayana but i just couldn’t resonate. Maybe the Tibetans are used to it from past lives

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I think cdpatton’s recommendations are good if you want to read a lot.

But if you only wish to read a little, I’d recommend the Upāsakaśīla-sūtra / Sūtra on the Upāsaka Precepts. Its English translation is about 200 pages and notwithstanding the title actually covers much more ground than just śīla.


Whatever you do, don’t give up on Buddhism. When you Awaken, you’ll be very thankful that all this is here, the Kindness of Gautama, and the fact that the Road you’ve chosen has led you to a place where you’ll always be able to help others. Mahayana and Theravada have the same message in a nutshell, the difference is for whom the message is meant for. The Early Teachings are the Foundations for the Later ones, and the Later Teachings cannot be accepted unless one fully accepts Theravada Buddhism as it is. Buddhism is Buddhism. Viewing it through the Vehicle of the Buddha, the Buddhayana or the Ekayana, you can tell that the Buddha was always fully honest.

This about the same nature of formations, is also what EBT teaches. I have seen that. In sutta’s it is taught (in my own words): ‘consider any rupa, vedana, sanna, sankhara and vinnana as hollow, void and insubstantial’. (for example, SN22.95). It does not say: see only unwholesome formations as insubstantial, hollow, void. No, all, any kind, as the sutta says, so also the wholesome.

Can one reach enlightment if one does not enter into this kind of seeing or contemplation?

Anyway, threating all formations as having the same nature is surely something taught in the sutta’s.

I do not believe that the validity of conventional dualities is really denied. I think what they mean is: such dualities as wholesome and unwholesome formations are only meaningful in a context of grapsing and the establising of those formations in the mind. In other words, when such formations really become motivational and make ones way of thinking, speaking and acting wholesome or unwholesome.

In a context of not grasping and feeding, not establishing, they do not become motivational.They are mere formations arising and ceasing.

I find this a great way to see at things but i also feel a bit worried that people feel completely safe and protected while greed, hate can still arise, even thought that would not become motivational.
In that sense i feel for the EBT who teaches that things must be uprooted till it does not arise anymore.
But maybe i do not know and see how one can still be safe with greed and hate anusaya present.