Śrāvakayāna is one of the three yānas known to Mahāyāna Buddhism. It translates literally as the "vehicle of hearers [i.e. disciples]". Historically it was the most common term is used by Mahayana Buddhist texts to describe one hypothetical path to enlightenment. Śrāvakayāna is the path that meets the goals of a Arhat – an individual who achieves liberation as a result of listening to the teachings (or lineage) of a Bodhisattva Buddha.

Scholar Isabelle Onians asserts that although "the Mahāyāna . . . very occasionally referred contemptuously to earlier Buddhism as the Hinayāna, the Inferior Way," "the preponderance of this name in the secondary literature is far out of proportion to occurrences in the Indian texts." She notes that the term Śrāvakayāna was "the more politically correct and much more usual" term used by Mahāyānists.[1] "Hīnayāna" (the "lesser vehicle"), however, was used to include both Śrāvakayāna and Pratyekayāna in contrast to the Mahāyāna.

In a Theravadin context, the Śrāvakayāna is said to lead to Śrāvakabuddha-hood. In that context, Śrāvakabuddhas are not able to be the first in their age to turn the wheel of Dharma.


  1. Isabelle Onians, "Tantric Buddhist Apologetics, or Antinomianism as a Norm," D.Phil. dissertation, Oxford, Trinity Term 2001 pg 72

See also

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