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For the Native American Yana tribe see Yana (native American tribe) .
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Yana is a Sanskrit word meaning vehicle. In Buddhism, it represents an augmentation to the analogy of the spiritual path, to include the idea of various vehicles that can take the practitioner along that path.


Origins of -yana: Vehicles and Paths

It appears that the distinction between vehicles and paths arises in early Mahayana sutras, such as the Lotus Sutra, where it is stated that there is one path - the path to Nirvana -, but there are different vehicles. In this sense, the vehicles are described as representing the fruit of three types of Buddha found in Nikaya sutras. For instance, in Chapter three of the Lotus Sutra, there is a parable of a father promising three carts to lure sons out of a burning building, where the goat-cart represents Sravaka-Buddhahood; the deer-cart, Pratyeka-Buddhahood; and the bullock-cart, Samyaksam-Buddhahood.

Yana has been used subseqently in a number of schematicizations of the Buddhist teachings in which there have been one, three, five, six, and nine vehicles.

The one yana

This idea comes from the late Mahayana and refers to teachings contained in texts such as the White Lotus Sutra and the Avatamsaka Sutra which claim to unite all the different teachings into a single great way. Hence they are callled Ekayana which is Sanskrit for 'one vehicle'

The two yanas

The two vehicles in Mahayana Buddhism are occasionally used to indicate the Mahayana (Bodhisattvas) and the Hinayana (Sravakas/Pratyekas). See the more normal tripartite division that follows.

The three yanas

Two different schemata of three yanas are used:

Firstly is the three yanas from the point of view of the Mahayana which paths to liberation as culminating one of the three types of Buddha:

  • Sravakayana: The Hearer vehicle: A path that meets the goals of a Sravaka-Buddha – an individual who achieves liberation as a result of listening to the teachings (or lineage) of a Bodhisattva Buddha. Sravaka-Buddhas are not able to turn the wheel of Dharma for the first time.
  • Pratyekayana: The individual vehicle: A Solitary Buddha (Pratyeka-Buddha) is an indidividual who achieves liberation, but does not teach other beings. Pratyeka-Buddhas do not depend upon the teachings of others, but achieve Nirvana through personal self-discovery alone. Pratyekabuddhas are not interested in turning the wheel of Dharma for the first time.
  • Bodhisattvayana : The Samyaksam-Buddha wishes to benefit as many beings as possible, so the individual relinquishes the path of a Sravaka, in order to turn the wheel of Dharma for the first time.

A second classification came into use with the rise of the Vajrayana, which created a hierarchy of the teachings with the Vajrayana being the highest path. The Vajrayana itself become multilayered especially in Tibetan Buddhism.

In this list each yana is also talked about as a "turning of the wheel" which is a traditional India reference to the teaching of the Dharma. In the Pali Canon the first teaching is called the Dhammacakkappavatana Sutta or the First Turning of the Wheel of the Buddhist Teaching. The Mahayana then styled itself as a second, turning of the wheel, and the Vajrayana a third.

The four yanas

The four yanas are the two different schemes of the three yanas subsumed:

The five yanas

This is a Mahayana list which is found in East Asian Buddhism.

  • purisayana - the human vehicle. This is the very beginning of the spiritual path
  • devayana - the practice of ethics and meditation
  • Shravakayana - the practice of renunciation and the Four Noble Truths
  • Pratyekayana - practice concerned with dependent arising (pratitya-samutpada)
  • Bodhisattvayana - practice of the six perfections

The six yanas

The five yanas plus the Vajrayana. This schema is associated with Shingon Buddhism in Japan. It was invented by Kukai in order to help to differentiate the Vajrayana teachings that he imported from China in the early 9th century. Kukai wanted to show that the new teachings were entirely new.

The nine yanas

The Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism has nine yanas, a list made by combining the first type of three yanas, and adding the six classes of tantras.

  • Shravakayana
  • Pratyekayana
  • Mahayana
  • Vajrayana (consisting of)
    • Outer Tantras
    • Kryatantra
    • Upatantra (Tibetan spyod rgyud) ‘practice tantra’ and the Ubhayatantra (gnyis ka’i rgyud), ‘dual tantra’, because it practices the view of the next vehicle, Yogatantra, together with the action of the former.
    • Yogatantra
    • Inner Tantras
    • Mahayoga
    • Anuyoga
    • Atiyoga (also Dzog Chen)

The twelve yanas

  1. Sravakayana
  2. Pratyekabuddhayana
  3. Bodhisattvayana
  4. Kriyayoga
  5. Charyayoga, or Upayoga
  6. Yogatantra
  7. Mahayoga
  8. Anuyoga
  9. Atiyoga, or Mahasandhiyoga; in Tibetan, Dzogpa Chenpo
  10. Semde
  11. Longde
  12. Mengagde

See also: Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana

External links

  • Unification of the Twelve Yanas
  • Buddhism: Three Yanas (Vehicles)
  • Developing Buddhist Traditions in America and the West: The Seven Waves by Brett Greider

Last updated: 02-16-2005 09:17:12
Last updated: 02-28-2005 01:46:07