Skt., mahayana: Great Vehicle
Tib., theg-pa chen-po
Jap., daijo

The so-called greater vehicle and the major, "Northern Branch" of Buddhism. The term is used to differentiate these teachings from those of the earlier Hinayana, from which it developed (during the 1st century BCE) by way of the Mahasanghika and Sarvastivada schools. The concept of Mahayana-Buddhism as great vehicle refers to its many-sided approach to liberation, offering different ways and means for different types of people; where types refers to psychological make-up rather than to gender, caste, nationality or race.

From the 1st century onwards, its teachings spread in several waves to Burma, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand, Tibet and Vietnam, countries in which Mahayana actually came to flourish and where it gave rise to a great variety of schools.

The Mahayana teachings have developed into many offshoots and comprise such different developments as Vajrayana of Tibet and its neighboring regions, the schools of Ch'an and Pure Land Buddhism in China (only remnants are active today), the Pure Land, Zen, and Shingon schools of Japan; plus the Buddhist folk religions of Korea and Taiwan.

According to Mahayana schools, their teachings represent the "Whole Word", whereas Hinayana is seen as a preliminary teaching only and is known as the "Half Word".

The following alphabetical list of Mahayana schools does not include such large systems as Tibetan Vajrayana, Chinese Ch'an, Japanese Zen and their respective sub-divisions.

Avatamsaka, Chai-chiao, Chen-jen, Ch'ing-t'u-tsung, Fa-hsiang, Hosso, Hua-yen, Jodo-shu, Jodo-shin-shu, Kegon, Liu-chia ch'i-tsung, Madhyamaka, Mi-tsung, Nichiren-shu, Nichiren-shoshu, Nipponzan Myohoji, Oryo-ha, Pai-lien-tsung, Prasangika, Rissho Koseikai, San-chieh-chiao, San-lun, Sanron, Shingon, Soka Gakkai, Svatantrika, Svatantrika Yogachara, Tachikawa, Tendai, T'ien T'ai, Ti-lun (Northern & Southern branches), Won-Buddhism and Yogachara (or Vijnanavada).