"Enlightenment is only the beginning, is only a step of the journey. You can't cling to that as a new identity or you're in immediate trouble. You have to get back down into the messy business of life, to engage with life for years afterward. Only then can you integrate what you have learned. Only then can you learn perfect trust."
quoted by Jack Kornfield in After the Ecstasy, the Laundry
Jack is Mahayana, or at least this vision is basically a Mahayana vision. The Tibetans are Mahayana as well but it is they who also tell us that we are in a privileged position in the stream of life, very close to a doorway that can radically change your and my position in the universe. If we walk through that door, if we have the blessing and privilege of walking through that door we will rapidly alter our state of being and will no longer be visible from this side of the door. That is the Buddha's door and Hinayana Buddhism (Theravada) takes seriously that we have been directed to open that door and enter that path beyond it. Mahayana takes seriously instead what Buddha actually did, which was to refrain from entering the door and taking that path until his long life here was done.
I take both of these visions quite seriously though I am not Buddhist in my practice. I believe that Buddhism has hammered out a technology of spirit and their claim that you don't even need God is more or less the truth, at least to the point that God seems not to care if you engage in the spiritual walk without Him. Thus He is at least as pleased with high flying atheists as He is with the religious folk who take this whole thing seriously. He probably has to exercise infinite patience with most of us no matter what we profess. Infinite? Do I really mean infinite?? Of course I do.
It is a matter of destiny and fit to me. I think a person could find the door and then go beyond, and then turn and serve as likely as the Bodhisattva who refuses the threshold and turns on it to serve. The former is something like an "ascended master". There are opinions that the planet would have already crashed and burned had not the Masters turned their care to us. This is the Shambala story. I see nothing wrong with the idea. I claim I follow the Bodhisattva ideal. I don't claim I am good at it, nor do I necessarily think I must take the Buddhist explanations and directives as essential to a Bodhisattva path. I was directed quite explicitly in my youth to follow a template that is within me. Though I can fall short and use this as a way to avoid real commitment, I in the main have not done that. I do follow what was given me, though I realize more and more as I age how far I still have to go to really fit myself to this service. I had an inflated opinion in my youth, in my skill at overlooking stuff.
I know however, that I am very close to the door, have never been far from it, that the idea of a spiritual "shortcut" is quite true not only for me but for you in the human predicament, and that Buddhism is exactly right about that. I am not afraid to intend Bodhisattva. I assume however that I cannot do it from my side of the door, that if I ever manifest that state even for a moment that it is a gift from beyond the door, a state of grace, assistance from the Ascended Ones, from God Himself.
I believe there is a question. The Greater Vehicle (Mahayana) declares the Bodhisattva ideal, declares that it is the Way for most. The Lesser Vehicle (Hinayana) declares that Buddha told us to get across to the other side for real purchase on this thing, then decide whether service to the planet is the right thing. It may not be for any one of us who goes. There may be other concerns on that side of the door. Here is where destiny comes in. I know at least in this lifetime I am "supposed" to attend the Bodhisattva ideal. I also know that this is roughly a 75%-25% split or more if the numbers of practicing Buddhists are any guide. Mahayana is basically three fourths of all Buddhists, if I recall it correctly, though not everyone is explicitly aiming at the Bodhisattva path. That path is a monastic one and most Buddhists are not monastic.
Finally, the Caveat. I am not, repeat not a Buddhist and this essay is my tailored version of things to suit my own inner template. All I say here is me saying it for me, not an expert on Buddhism instructing you. I know what I know, I hope. It is enough for me but I am scientific enough that if I am told convincingly another truth, then I go there instead of here. I am responsible and hope I do not mislead. I don't think I am. But I am not able to protect against my own ignorance, nor yours.