The Hīnayāna Fallacy

Bhikkhu Analayo


In what follows I examine the function of the term Hīnayāna as a referent to an institutional entity in the academic study of the history of Buddhism. I begin by surveying the use of the term by Chinese pilgrims travelling in India, followed by taking up to the Tarkajvālā’s depiction of the controversy between adherents of the Hīnayāna and the Mahāyāna. I then turn to the use of the term in the West, in particular its promotion by the Japanese delegates at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. I conclude that the current academic use of the term as a referent to a Buddhist school or Buddhist schools is misleading.

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