From Sanskrit and Pali, a term used incorrectly to describe the introductory level of spiritual instruction, and is often mistranslated to mean "smaller vehicle." The Sanskrit components are yana, "vehicle" and hina "despicable," thus the literal definition is “vehicle of despicable quality.” This is a very disparaging, rude term used by opponents of a long lost school of Buddhism. That school was ridiculed because it focused only on the introductory aspects of the teaching, thus the term has been associated with the modern introductory schools, properly called Sutrayana, Theravada, Shravakayana, or Foundational Vehicle.
“According to Hinayana, the so-called “Smaller vehicle,” whose practitioners seek nirvana for their own sake, the mind should be trained to exercise a will strong enough to renounce samsara. The practitioner should pursue religious ethics and simultaneously practice meditative absorption and insight so that delusion and its seeds may be purged, ultimately, never to grow again. Thus, we attain nirvana.” - The 14th Dalai Lama
In other words, the Introductory Path is concerned only with oneself. In the next two phases of instruction (Mahayana and Tantrayana), the focus shifts towards benefitting others.
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