A big change occurred in Buddhism in the first century.
A school called Mahayana came to grow, develop, and deploy to more vast regions.
Mahāyāna (literally the "Great Vehicle") is one of the three main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice. Mahāyāna Buddhism originated in India, and some scholars believe that it was initially associated with one of the oldest historical branches of Buddhism, the Mahāsāṃghika.
The Mahāyāna tradition is the largest major tradition of Buddhism existing today, with 56% of practitioners, compared to 38% for Theravāda and 6% for Vajrayāna.
The origins of Mahāyāna are still not completely understood. The earliest Western views of Mahāyāna assumed that it existed as a separate school in competition with the so-called "Hīnayāna" schools.
Scholars have suggested that the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras, which are among the earliest Mahāyāna sūtras, developed among the Mahāsāṃghika along the Kṛṣṇa River in the Āndhra region. The earliest Mahāyāna sūtras to include the very first versions of the Prajñāpāramitā series, along with texts concerning Akṣobhya Buddha, which were probably written down in the 1st century BCE in the south of India.
Few things can be said with certainty about Mahāyāna Buddhism,[note 11] especially its early Indian form, other than that the Buddhism practiced in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Korea, Tibet, and Japan is Mahāyāna Buddhism.[note 12] Mahāyāna can be described as a loosely bound collection of many teachings with large and expansive doctrines that are able to exist simultaneously.
The Buddha lived and taught in the eastern part of India between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE.
His teaching was about the way in which an individual achieved enlightenment to conquer pains of living and existence and enter eternal peace and repose. It was intended to be practiced by an individual for his own salvation of soul.
But around the first century a new movement emerged among Buddhists. The background was that around the first century Buddhism became a religion for special people who could renounce the world and leave their families to devote themselves to practicing spiritual training. Conversely, ordinary or poor people forced to work for their masters and families could not be saved. Accordingly, people wanted another form of enjoying merit of Buddhism.
So, people came to revere followers of Buddhism who carried out hard spiritual training for salvation not only of their own souls but also of others' souls. Those followers were respected as bodhisattvas. And this school of Buddhism adopted a theory that people who continued to be engaged in worldly lives could also grasp the wisdom of Buddhism and reach enlightenment through their efforts. The core of this teaching is wider salvation of souls.
However, the largest difference between this school, called Mahayana, and other sects of Buddhism lies in that the former uses Mahayana sutras but the latter doesn't.
Yet, how this difference came to exist has been a mystery. There is a huge gap between the direction Mahayana faces and that other sects do. What made it possible for Buddhism to realize this quantum leap?
One theory to solve this enigma is that around the first century Buddhists changed their method of handing down the teaching. It was a change from an oral method to a writing and copying method.
Wider introduction of religious texts as a means of keeping and communicating teachings paved the way for more detailed and structured study of Buddhism. Different from a traditional practice of learning the teaching through individual ascetic practices where contents of the religion were stored in the brain of an ascetic monk, written teachings allowed for cooperation and discussion on the religion by many people, including laymen. Further, documents opened a new space for human thinking. It created a new world. Religious practices were no longer restricted to individual's narrow space of his existence. Study of Buddhism could now expand human and natural boundaries.
For this reason, Mahayana or Great Vehicle of Buddhism came to spread among peoples in different culture and traditions, such as Tibetans, Mongolians, Vietnamese, Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese.
From a different perspective, the history of Mahayana is comparable with that of Christianity that began in the first century. And Theravada (Hinayana or Small Vehicle) or other sects that keep more original form of the teaching of Buddhism might be comparable to Judaism in the analogy of the relationship of these religions.
Even Christianity probably could not spread without the Gospels or the New Testaments. And the Old Testament could be accepted by Christians as it is written material. There is no need to be Judaists to learn the teaching of Judaism.
*** *** *** ***
Luk 5:16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
Luk 5:17 And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.
Luk 5:18 And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.
Luk 5:19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.
Luk 5:20 And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.