So which is the more believable view, the Theravada or Mahayana, in light of the whole?
I can only answer this Q from my life experience:
Taking my own case:
Way back in 1986 when I was in a fren's house, his mom had an altar to Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and the moment I saw that image
, (the one that his mom had was a better reconstruction than the original in that link) it was like as if I fell into a trance-like state. I just couldn't stop staring at the Image and the more I stare at it, the more peaceful I was and felt tears coming down my eyes. Both my fren n his mom were shocked as they could not shake me from that 'state' and even I couldn't explain it. That Image imprinted itself on my mind from that year onwards until I took Refuge and Precepts in 1999.
No matter what I did, I could not lose that Image and it became more vivid as time rolled on to the point I would just sketch it out just from my mind.
In 1989, just a week after my Baptism, I had a recurring dream for over a month. In that dream, it showed me 3 things:
Firstly, it showed me an altar to the Buddha
Secondly, it showed me that by the time I start my career, I would have been a Buddhist.
Thirdly, there will be a very fierce persecution in store for me but encouraged me to be steadfast.
Then in 1997 until mid 1999, after numerous failed efforts to get rid of 'Avalokitesvara', I realised that I was staring at the prospect of studying Buddhism. My first encounter was with Theravada via accesstoinsight.org and further learned it via the Sri Lankan Maha Vihara and Thai Theravada and correspondence with various Monastics and Laity from the Theravada persuasion. Yes, I had read on Mahayana and Vajrayana, but somehow, it never had any charm nor impact on me and like some beginners, I only wanted the 'purest' form of Buddhism. Today, I laughed back at myself for even thinking about it
But, the Image was still sitting in my mind....my encounter with the Mahayana started with this curious incident:
Towards the near end of 1999, I felt that I had a reasonable grasp of what Buddhism was and was seeking to formalise that commitment to the Triple Gem. And then something happened...
I went to a prominent Vihara and relayed to a Monk my intentions and this was his response: "Go back to Church! It's all the same! No need to do this!" For a while, I was stumped and when I found back my tongue, I told him:
"Venerable, if u don't want to do it it's fine but to disparage my Bodhicitta, that is not acceptable!" With that, I walked off.
There was a temple (Fo Guang Shan, of the Linji Ch'an Lineage) near my residence and I met this most kind and unassuming Chief Abbess and after hearing my story, she immediately scheduled an appointment for the Refuge and Precepts to be done solely in English just for me as she feared that the Chinese version would leave me blinking. So, finally, I was conferred the Refuge and Precepts and from that moment, the Image faded...
That was how the 'Buddhayana' worked for me...looking back at how it worked for me...I can never ever disparage any form of Buddha Dharma because that was how my life encountered and was transformed by It.....
The Buddha told Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva,
"Good man, if living beings in this land must be saved by means of someone in the body of a Buddha...a Pratyekabuddha...a Hearer...the Brahma King...of Shakra...the God of Sovereignty...the Great God of Sovereignty...a great heavenly general...of Vaishravana...a minor king...of an Elder...a layman...a minister of state...a Brahman...a Bhikshu, Bhikshuni, Upasaka or Upasika...the wife of an Elder, of a layman, of a minister of state, or of a Brahman...a pure youth or a pure maiden...a heavenly dragon, yaksha, gandharva, asura, garuda, kinnara, mahoraga, human, or nonhuman, and so forth...a Vajra-wielding spirit...
Guanshiyin Bodhisattva will manifest the body of a Buddha...a Pratyekabuddha...a Hearer...the Brahma King...of Shakra...the God of Sovereignty...the Great God of Sovereignty...a great heavenly general...of Vaishravana...a minor king...of an Elder...a layman...a minister of state...a Brahman...a Bhikshu, Bhikshuni, Upasaka or Upasika...the wife of an Elder, of a layman, of a minister of state, or of a Brahman...a pure youth or a pure maiden...a heavenly dragon, yaksha, gandharva, asura, garuda, kinnara, mahoraga, human, or nonhuman, and so forth...a Vajra-wielding spirit...and speak Dharma for them.
"Inexhaustible Intention! Guanshiyin Bodhisattva has accomplished merit and virtue such as this and, in all manner of forms, roams throughout the land, saving and liberating living beings.
In the Chinese Mahayana's Great Compassion Repentance, there is one line in the liturgical bowing, which we offer one full bow and a half, that says: WITH ONE MIND, I BOW TO MAHAKASHYAPA AND THE IMMEASURABLE, INNUMERABLE GREAT SOUND-HEARER SANGHA.
(Sanskrit: Śrāvaka Saṃgha or Pali: Sāvaka Saṅgha)
And with both quotes from the Lotus Sutra in my earlier post, my answer would be both