The teaching forms the common basis of the major Buddhist schools, presumably going back to Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha. It is likely that the Buddha started out from the Upanishads and ancient yoga techniques.
The Mahayana has transformed this pluralistic philosophy of becoming into a monism. The philosopher Nagarjuna (2nd / 3rd century), the founder and main representative of the skeptical Madhyamika school, taught that the factors of existence, since they are transitory and only exist in dependence on one another, have no real reality; they are mere appearance, only nirvana is real. Samsara (the eternal cycle of rebirth) and nirvana are only different expressions of the all-one “emptiness” (Shunyata). The second most important philosophical school of Mahayana formed the Yogacarins (Vijnanavada). They represented a metaphysical idealism, according to which the consciousness its objects, z. B. the person that I myself produces. The later philosophy of Mahayana approaches Hindu ideas more and more in that it assumed something spiritual as the source of the illusory world. The end of development is then marked by systems in which, as in Nepal, the Absolute is identified with a primordial Buddha (Adibuddha) who, through his meditations ( Dhyana), calls into existence five “Dhyani Buddhas” who are then supernatural representatives of the five elements have a cosmic meaning.
According to fun-wiki.com, the Mahayana became the actual Buddhist world religion, because the Hinayana as a pure ascetic and monk religion did not meet the religious needs of the general population. In Mahayana, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas became heavenly, venerable deities. Leaving the world and an ascetic life were no longer a prerequisite for salvation; rather, access to salvation was open in every worldly profession.
The ethics of Buddhism is entirely directed towards self-alienation. For the layman, the five obligations are binding: not to kill, not to steal, not to lie, not to commit marriage and not to enjoy intoxicating drinks. The monks and nuns (Samgha) have to keep the same commandments in a more stringent form (complete chastity): Apart from their robes, an alms bowl, a razor, a needle and a water strainer, they are not allowed to call anything their own and have to forego any luxury.
The ultimate goal of the monks of Hinayana is to become a saint ( arhat) in this or in a later embodiment, who surrenders to immersion in order to finally enter nirvana. To the Mahayana, self-redemption seemed too low, because it was selfish. According to his teaching, man should strive to become a Bodhisattva, a being of enlightenment, who endeavors to help other beings and to lead them to enlightenment.
Since Buddhism does not require its followers to withdraw from other cult communities, there was no reason for it in the earliest times to create a Buddhist cult of its own for the lay people. The monks were satisfied with devotions with sermons, scripture exposition, confession and meditation. Later came the service of relics and images of Buddha and pilgrimages to places where Buddha or saints had stayed. Because Buddha, according to the Hinayana conception, is in nirvana is completely removed from the world, the cult in southern Buddhism today only has the goal of purifying the heart of the worshiper through the act of worship. If a pious person wants to ask for earthly goods, he can turn to the many ephemeral gods of popular belief. In Mahayana, with its tendency to develop the Buddhist doctrine of salvation into a belief encompassing all areas of religious life, the cult of the ephemeral deities was also included in the system and the bodhisattvas and Buddhas were given the character of helpers in need, who turn to them, give their grace. A rich ritual developed in the cult practice of tantric Buddhism, the Vajrayana (“Diamond Vehicle”) experienced a further increase.
The scriptures of the older Buddhist schools, written in Central Indian dialects, have mostly only survived in fragments. Only the canon of the Theravada school, which was drafted in Pali and is now considered an authentic reproduction of the Buddha’s words in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, is available in full. This collection called Tipitaka (“three basket”; Sanskrit: Tripitaka) was made in the 1st century BC. It is said to have been recorded in writing for the first time, comprises three sections: 1) The Vinayapitaka (“basket of religious discipline”) contains regulations for the monks, including a confessional form of 227 articles. 2) The Suttapitaka (“basket of discourses”), which is the sermons Buddhas, poems of the most ancient times and narrative pieces, is divided into five collections (Nikaya): a) Dighanikaya (collection of long discourses), b) Majjhimanikaya (collection of medium-length speeches), c) Samyuttanikaya (collection of grouped speeches), d) Anguttaranikaya (collection of speeches in ascending order of numbers), e) Khuddakanikaya (collection of short pieces, sayings of the Buddha, poems, legends). 3) The Abhidhammapitaka (“basket of teaching”) contains scholastic discussions of the teaching from a later period than the other works. – The Pali canon has been followed by a tremendous amount of commentary and discussion in Pali, Sinhala, and Southeast Asian languages.