beings labour under constant illusion of perceiving things where in fact there
is only emptiness. This emptiness or void (sunyata) is all that truly exists, and
hence the Madhyamikas were sometimes also called Sunyavadins (exponents
of the doctrine of emptiness). Nagarjuna’s Madhyamika Karika forms the
basic text of this school.
    The Vijnanavada school, founded by Maitreyanatha, was an idealist
school of thought. According to it the whole universe exists only in the mind
of the perceiver. It is possible for a monk in meditation to raise before his
eyes visions of every kind that have as much vividness and semblance of
truth as have ordinary perceptions; yet he knows that they have no objective
reality. Perception therefore is no proof of the independent existence of any
entity, and all perceptions may be explained as projections of the percipient
mind. This school, though less influential than the former (Madhyamika),
produced many important philosophers and logicians such as Asanga (his
Sutralankara is the earliest text of the school, fourth or fifth century AD),
Vasubandhu (younger brother of Asanga), Dignaga and Dharmakirti.
    Although the terminology structure is different, the metaphysics of
Mahayana Buddhism has much in common with the doctrines of the some of
the Upanishads and of the 9th century philosopher Sankara. The latter
probably learned much from Buddhism, and was in fact called by his
opponents a ‘crypto-Buddhist’ .
Comparison of Hinayana and Mahayana
Hinayana held firm to the letter of Buddha’s teachings, Mahayana to the
Hinayana developed with the Sangha as the centre, Mahayana with the
Hinayana scriptures are written mainly in Pali and are founded on the
Tripitaka; Mahayana scriptures, written in Sanskrit, are the Sutras;
Hinayana believes in salvation by works, that each man must work out his
own salvation; Mahayana in salvation by faith;
Hinayana is centred round the acts of Buddha, Mahayana round the
symbolism of his life and personality;
Hinayana stressed righteous action and the law of karma; Mahayana held
that over and above the law of karma was the law of karuna or compassion;