Virgo wrote:Out of these schisms mainly grew the Mahayana. It started as a sect that highly prized being Bodhisattvas.
Mahayana was not in its inception a singular movement. The "Mahayanist" monks existed within the framework of the exiting ordination lineages along side their Mainstream brothers. They just held funny beliefs.
That in itself is fine, but a few bad things happened. They decided not to teach a Sravaka path and by doing so they really got into cult like idealism of bodhisattvaness rather than Buddhas teachings.
If you read very early bodhisattva sutras, such as the Ugra, you'll see that that is not at all true. The path to arhatship was regarded as a legitimate, noble path to be taught. The way of the bodhisattva was for the very good men who were inspired to dedicate their lives to such a practice, but it was clearly not expected of everyone.
Unquestionably, there was a shift in attitude, maybe because the early Mahayanists were pretty much ignored by the Mainstream Buddhists:
"... even after its initial appearance in the public domain in the 2nd century
[Mahayana] appears to have remained an extremely limited minority movement - if
it remained at all - that attracted absolutely no documented public or popular
support for at least two more centuries. It is again a demonstrable fact that
anything even approaching popular support for the Mahayana cannot be documented
until 4th/5th century AD, and even then the support is overwhelmingly monastic,
not lay, donors ... although there was - as we know from Chinese translations - a large
and early Mahayana literature there was no early, organized, independent,
publicly supported movement that it could have belonged to."
-- G. Schopen "The Inscription on the Ku.san image of Amitabha and the
character of the early Mahayana in India." JIABS 10, 2 pgs 124-5
With the shift in attitude, the bodhisattva emphasis shifted greatly as did the characterization of the Mainstream Buddhists
Some other differences include that Mahayanists feel that it is perfectly OK to break your vows if it is done to help others. For example, if you know someone who drinks a lot, it is OK to have some drinks with them to befriend them and possibly bring them around to the path.
If you are going to criticize the Mahayana, try to do it accurately, rather than with such a caricature.
The difference in the understanding of emptiness is vast. Even among Mahayanists there is great debate about it and different schools that believe different things exist, yet they all think they have the right understanding of emptiness. There is a doctrine of "Two Truths" which basically says that there are two levels of reality. They are the conventional and the ultimate levels (this is borrowed from Theravada and other earlier sects) but they define these much differently than Theravada did. They say that on the conventional level, things are impermanent, dukkha, and so on and that actions have effects, but that on the ultimate level, all things are dream like, not real manifestations.
This is a distortion of the two truths. If there are Mahayanists who hold it as you say, they are not indicative of the Mahayana as a whole.
While there is much for which one might criticize the Mahayana, it is best to accurately portray that which you are criticizing. It is also worth keeping in mind there is also much within the Mahayana that worthy and of great value.