About Four Noble Truths

4. The Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering

When we speak of the paths common to the three vehicles of Buddhism--Shravakayana, Pratyekabud- dhayana and Mahayana--we are referring to the thirty-seven factors that bring enlightenment. When we speak specifically of the paths of the bodhisattvas' vehicle (Mahayana) we are referring to the ten levels and the six transcendent perfections.

We find the practice of the Hinayana path most commonly in Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka and so forth. Here the practitioners are motivated by the desire to achieve liberation from their own suffering. Concerned for themselves alone, they practise the thirty-seven factors of enlightenment, which are related to the five paths: the four close placements of mindfulness, the four miraculous powers and the four pure abandonments (which are related to the path of accumulation); the five powers and the five forces (the path of application); the seven factors of enlightenment (the path of seeing); and the eightfold path (the path of meditation). They are able to manifest thereby a cessation of the disturbing negative minds alone, attaining nirvana, individual liberation. This is the path and the result of the Hinayana.

The primary concern of followers of the Mahayana path is not merely their own liberation but the enlightenment of ail sentient beings. With this motivation of Bodhicitta--their hearts set on attaining enlightenment as the best means of helping others--these practitioners practise the six transcendent perfections and gradually progress through the ten bodhisattva levels until they have completely overcome both types of obscurations and attained the supreme enlightenment of Buddhahood. This is the path and the result of the Mahayana.

The essence of the practice of the six transcendent perfections is the unification of method and wisdom so that the two enlightened bodies--rupakaya and dharmakaya-- can be attained. Since they can be attained only simultaneously, their causes must be cultivated simultaneously. Thus together we must build up a store of merit, as the cause of the rupakaya, the body of form, and a store of deep awareness, or insight, as the cause of the dharmakaya, the body of wisdom. In the Paramitayana, we practise method grasped by wisdom and wisdom grasped by method, but in the Vajrayana we practise method and wisdom as one in nature.
(from the website www.fpmt.org)