Aemilius wrote:I see your point, but I have seen it all differently. There are certain necessities why the Mahayana, or what is described as Mahayana, took place on Earth, in Jambudvipa or in India, roughly 2500 years ago. Hinayana was a politically acceptable creation of some later arhats, it was created purposefully by arhats who were a split-off group from the original teaching and the original community. I am quite certain of this, that the Mahayana was and is a historical movement started by Buddha Shakyamuni.
You'll be hard pressed to prove this to any sufficiently read Buddhist or scholar. What you propose is simply based on faith and not the available history and extant literature.
A lot of the Mahāyāna literature represents "transcendental thinking" where it is the subtle idea and not coarse historical events that matters.
In the absence of inherent entities and people, a single individual and their teaching career dissolves into a far more profound and expansive chain of causes and conditions where the tathāgata "manifests" as scriptures and other such expedient means which liberate beings from this illusory albeit all too painful reality. This was not just the Buddha as a single man who became enlightened under the Bodhi Tree, but a vast immeasurable unimaginable array of causes and conditions before him together with the later likewise immeasurable outcomes. The flesh and blood teacher was a visible and clear manifestation of the the dharmakāya which was immediately available to beings in a tangible and readily understood form. However, as the Mahāyāna literature constantly teaches, buddhas and bodhisattvas of sufficient calibre manifest in multiple bodies and forms (the Mahāsāṃghika had more or less the same idea, which is why many of them accepted Mahāyāna scriptures).
This doesn't mean showing up in robes with a name and title, but rather it is a transcendental albeit quite active engagement with reality on very subtle levels that are difficult for ordinary peoples to even really grasp. There are two kinds of saṃsāra. One "delimited", which is how ordinary beings experience it, and the other a kind of "transmundane" or "transformative", which is how advanced bodhisattvas operate. The literature which details the latter stresses how subtle and difficult it is to grasp for ordinary beings. It is transcendental and engaging reality with multiple bodies simultaneously. In the absence of self-identity and a single point of reference one is neither a being nor non-existent.
The Buddha set in motion patterns with every single word he spoke that would have absolutely profound impacts throughout time and space. From our limited perspective he was one sage, but from a greater perspective just a single sentence of his could, in the span of twenty-five centuries thus far, result in immeasurable beings liberated, immeasurable stupas built, immeasurable libraries filled with works of wisdom and immeasurable very positive effects on history. In the absence of a self and identity, was the tathāgata just the flesh and blood sage, or was it both the sage and all the results of his words and actions such as the scriptures, stupas, libraries, monasteries, statues and so on?
A Buddha is not a being, but a kind of force amongst sentient beings, akin to the sun which provides nourishing light to all without regard for whether they ask for it or not. So in that more transcendental perspective, it really isn't so important whether Śākyamuni Buddha directly taught the Mahāyāna because indirectly it was the Buddha's speech and actions which set in motion the patterns which produced the Mahāyāna and subsequent scriptures which consequently result in many beings liberated and inspired to emulate him.
Was that his intention or not? That of course is an article of faith. I believe it was his intention because he was omniscient by his own admission and would have known the outcome of his teachings.
However, I can't say that conventionally Śākyamuni directly taught everything that is attributed to him.