The Buddha spoke of five vehicles, or paths, whereby sentient
beings may practice Dharma in accordance with their karma and
capacities. The five vehicles are that of human beings, devas,
shravakas, the pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas. Of these five,
the shravaka vehicle is associated with the path of personal
liberation (in nirvana), and the bodhisattva vehicle is associated
with the Mahayana path.
The shravaka seeks personal liberation as an arhat and aspires
to attain the bliss of nirvana. Bodhisattvas, on the other hand,
vow to liberate all sentient beings before attaining their own
liberation. In practicing the bodhisattva path, one does not
renounce the shravaka path. In fact, the aspiration to self-enlightenment
(bodhicitta) is one of the necessary elements of the bodhisattva
path. The Mahayana path does not renounce the self-liberation
of the shravaka. For a bodhisattva to renounce the shravaka
path would be contradictory; the fourth vow of the bodhisattva
is, in fact, "I vow to attain supreme buddhahood."
is not only the taste of liberation. It is also
the way of the bodhisattva. Moreover, buddhadharma
has various levels and types of teachings to respond
to the various dispositions of sentient beings.
Sometimes this includes a graded path of Buddhism,
but all of the gradations, systems and different
ways to organize the Buddhist teachings point
Of paths by which sentient beings may practice Dharma, two
- The shravaka vehicle, associated with Theravadan
Buddhism, is the path of personal liberation; the shravaka
seeks personal liberation as an arhat and aspires to attain
the bliss of nirvana.
- On the bodhisattva path of Mahayana Buddhism
(including Chan) one vows to liberate all sentient beings
before attaining one's own liberation.
then bring ourselves to maturity, transcend ourselves
and transform ourselves from ordinary sentient
beings to Bodhisattvas.