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Three vehicles

Mahayana texts such as the Lotus Sutra present three vehicles as different skillful means to reach the ultimate goal of enlightenment. This classification scheme is emphasized in East Asian Buddhism.

  • Śrāvakayāna (“the vehicle of the listeners and hearers”) – this vehicle is for those motivated by renunciation; it leads to the state of arhat.
  • Pratyekabuddhayāna (“the vehicle of the solitary realizer”) – Pratyekabuddhas do not depend on a teacher and can discover the Dharma even if they do not encounter a buddha.
  • Bodhisattvayāna (“the vehicle of the bodhisattva”) – for those motivated by the wish to attain liberation for the benefit of all sentient beings. This path leads to complete enlightenment.


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