next important tradition is Mahayana, meaning Great Vehicle,
which grew out of the Savakayana and began to emerge as
a separate movement between the 1st century BC and the
2nd century AD. The factors that led to its emergence
are complex and obscure. A major factor may have been
the gradual working out of the full implications of what
the Buddha had taught. Other factors were the shift in
emphasis from meditation to philosophical speculation,
accommodating the needs of the lay community and the need
to respond to the challenge of the revival of Hinduism
from the 3rd century onwards. Mahayana has developed
a wide variety of doctrines, so wide in fact that it is
difficult to summarise any that are common to all of its
schools. Mahayana eventually became the dominant Buddhism
throughout India (except in South India where Theravada
prevailed until the 12th century) but it broke into
numerous schools and proved to be unable to cope with
the triumphant Hinduism to which it gradually succumbed
after the 9th century AD. From the 2nd century Mahayana
spread to central Asia, China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam.
The 20th century has presented many challenges to Mahayana.
In China stagnation and internal corruption from the 16th
century onwards and Nationalist and Communist hostility
in the 20th century has led to its serious decline. In
Vietnam and particularly in Korea it has lost many followers
to Christianity and in Japan withdrawal of State support
and corruption in the 19th century and secularisation
in the 20th century has left it rather insipid. In Taiwan
however, Mahayana is at present undergoing a major revival.
The only Mahayana school that has had a significant appeal
in the West is Zen.
Williams, Mahayana Buddhism. London, 1989.