Two of the most well known branches of Buddhism are Theravadin and Mahayana Buddhism. Between the two there are many ideas the two branches agree on, making them Buddhist; however, there are those ideas that make them separate and make them two different branches. For a better understanding, think of Christianity (given that since we are from the West, Christianity is the most well known and best to use as a comparison), different denominations or branches would be Baptist, Protestant, or Catholic. In Buddhism the two happen to be Theravadin and Mahayana. Even though they both share the same general idea and origin, they make themselves different branches because of their differences. We must remember though, in Buddhism they do not see themselves as different branches, but more so different “lineages.”
Before discussing the differences between the two we must first know what it is they believe to begin with. Both, just like all of Christianity agree and believe regardless of branch that Jesus is the World’s Lord and Savior, all of Buddhism believe and accept Sakyamuni Buddha as the Teacher. They also agree and believe in The Four Noble Truths exactly the same. The Eightfold Path is also believed exactly the same in both Theravadin and Mahayana beliefs. Both, however, reject the idea that a single being such as God created and govern this world. (Rahula) Like in other religions there are many other common beliefs between branches but these I feel are the most important and are the essential truths of Buddhism.
The differences between the two are what obviously make them different under the religion of Buddhism. Note again before discussing their differences that neither branch think of themselves as branches but different lineages tracing back to great teachers and leaders who handed down the traditions they now follow. Theravada can be found more South in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Laos, and Cambodia. Theravadin only use Pali Canon and...