As I explain in my book “Buddhish: A Guide to the 20 Most Important Buddhist Ideas for the Curious and Skeptical,” Mahāyāna is the most popular type of Buddhism in the world today.

How is Mahāyāna different?

There has been considerable scholarly debate about precisely how the Mahāyāna emerged. Early Buddhism in India advocated that followers apply themselves to the practice of meditation to become enlightened individuals, or “arhats.” Scholars believe that Mahāyāna emerged in the first centuries A.D. as a movement among devout monastics who were interested in methods that would allow one to progress toward enlightenment more rapidly than through meditation alone.

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