I am interested in early Buddhism and the latest theories regarding the emergence of the Mahayana. Recently there have been a number of studies published and I am just wondering if anyone is up to date on all this - I just haven't got the time (or access) to read the vast amount of materials out there.
One theory is that the Mahayanists were actually forest monks trying to get back to the original teachings of the Buddha away from the Abidharmist influence. Another theory is that Mahayana arose as a result of lay communities centering on Stupa veneration. Another is that it arose out of the Sarvastivada etc etc.
Whats the latest research?