Buddhism : dharta Gautama, BuddhFounded by Sidism developed into three major forms in the course of its more than 2,500-year history: Theravada (“Way of the Elders”), also called in derogation Hinayana (“Lesser Vehicle”); Mahayana (“Greater Vehicle”); and, stemming from it, Vajrayana(“Thunderbolt Vehicle”; also “Diamond Vehicle”). A belief in saints prevails in all three groups.
Theravada Buddhism, claiming strict adherence to the teachings of the Buddha, recognizes as saints (arhats) those who have attained nirvana(the state of bliss) and hence salvation from samsara (the compulsory circle of rebirth) by their own efforts. The Buddha himself—having obtained nirvana (“the destruction of greed,hate,and illusion”)—is viewed as the first Buddhist saint. Disciples of the Buddha who reached nirvana after him also are considered holy men. Furthermore, in early Buddhism there were also women regarded as holy, including Prajapati, the Buddha’s aunt and stepmother—whose repeated requests finally caused the Buddha to permit women to enter his order—and his wife Yashodhara.
Mahayana Buddhism, originating about the beginning of the Christian era, rejected the Theravada belief that only monks may attain salvation. In Mahayana belief there is a path to redemption for all people, irrespective of their social standing. Salvation and the way to redemption are conceived in terms more liberal than those of Theravada. Mahayana Buddhists believe in an otherworldly paradise that allows for personal existence and in which dwell heavenly buddhas (those who have attained nirvana in previous worlds) and bodhisattvas .