Śrāvakayāna | Shravakayana


1. Śrāvakayāna

Śrāvakayāna is one of the 3 Yānas known to Indian Buddhism:

It translates literally as the "vehicle of listeners [i.e. disciples]". Historically it was the most common term used by Mahāyāna Buddhist texts to describe one hypothetical path to Enlightenment.

Śrāvakayāna is the path that meets the goals of an Arhat—an individual who achieves Liberation as a result of listening to the teachings (or lineage) of a Samyaksaṁbuddha.

2. Use of the term

Scholars assert that although the Mahāyāna very occasionally referred contemptuously to earlier Buddhism as the Hīnayāna, the Inferior Way, the preponderance of this name in the secondary literature is far out of proportion to occurrences in the Indian texts.

Instead, the term Śrāvakayāna was the more politically correct and much more usual term used by Mahāyānists.

Hīnayāna (the "lesser vehicle"), however, was used to include both Śrāvakayāna and Pratyekabuddhayāna in contrast to the Mahāyāna.

3. In Early Buddhist schools

At least some of the early Buddhist schools used the concept of 3 vehicles including Śrāvakayāna.

For example, the Vaibhāṣika Sarvāstivādins are known to have employed the outlook of Buddhist practice as consisting of the Three Vehicles:

1. Śrāvakayāna
2. Pratyekabuddhayāna
3. Bodhisattvayāna

The Dharmaguptakas regarded the Path of a Śrāvaka (Śrāvakayāna) and the Path of a Bodhisattva (Bodhisattvayāna) to be separate. One of their tenets says:

"The Buddha and those of the Two Vehicles, although they have one and the same Liberation, have followed different noble paths."

4. In Mahāyāna traditions

In the 4th century Mahāyāna Abhidharma work Abhidharma-samuccaya, Asaṅga describes those who follow the Śrāvaka Vehicle:

These people are described as having weak faculties, following the Śrāvaka Dharma, utilizing the Śrāvaka Piṭaka, being set on their own liberation, and cultivating detachment in order to attain liberation.

While those in the Pratyekabuddha Vehicle are portrayed as also utilizing the Śrāvaka Piṭaka, they are said to have medium faculties, to follow the Pratyekabuddha Dharma, and to be set on their own Personal Enlightenment.

Finally, those in the Mahāyāna are portrayed as utilizing the Bodhisattva Piṭaka, as having sharp faculties, following the Bodhisattva Dharma, and set on the perfection and liberation of all beings, and the attainment of Complete Enlightenment.