(Sanskrit = Great Vehicle)
Along with Theravada Buddhism, one of the two main branches of Buddhism.
Its adherents named it the "greater vehicle" because its focus is on universal salvation for all beings, whereas Theravada Buddhism was "the lesser vehicle" (Hinayana), because it is focused on personal salvation.
1. It is the largest Buddhist tradition with 56% of practitioners — compared to 38% for Theravada and 6% for Vajrayana Buddhism.
2. It originated in India but spread to Bangladesh, China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Bhutan, Malaysia, and Mongolia. Over time it died out in India.
3. Its major traditions include Zen and Pure Land Buddhism.
4. Theravada is the branch of Buddhism that is most like the version propagated by the Buddha. Mahayana adds Bodhisattvas and makes the Buddha more of a godlike creature (sort of like the Jesus found in the Gospel of John vs. the more human-like one in Mark). It took on the qualities of a savior religion, which made it more attractive to converts, hence its popularity.