"Vehicle" is often used as a preferred translation as the word that provides the least in the way of presuppositions about the mode of travel.
In specifically Buddhist contexts, the word yāna acquires many metaphorical meanings, discussed below.
1.33 And then the Lord came to the River Ganges. And just then, the river was so full that a crow could drink out of it. And some people were looking for a boat, and some were looking for a raft, and some were binding together a raft of reeds to get to the other side. But the Lord, as swiftly as a strong man might stretch out his flexed arm or flex it again, vanished from this side of the Ganges and reappeared with his order of monks on the other shore.
1.34 And the Lord saw those people who were looking for a boat, looking for a raft, and binding together a raft of reeds to get to the other side. And seeing their intentions, he uttered this verse on the spot:
Yana is determined by capacity and propensity of the "precious human body" wrought by merit, not by a specific teaching or lineage, as Gampopa states:
Therefore, because of the difficulty of its attainment, of the uneasiness of its breaking down, and of its great usefulness, we should think of the body as a boat and by its means escape from the ocean of Saṃsāra. As is written:
Mahayana texts are very rich in images of vehicles that serve in metaphors for journeys to awakening.
§ The three laws are the Four Noble Truths, the Twelve Causes, and the Six Pāramitās...; the four merits are srota-āpanna, sakṛdāgāmin, anāgāmin, and arhat...; and the two ways the Great-vehicle, or Mahayana, and the lesser vehicle, or Hinayana.
Mahāyāna Buddhists often express two different schemata of three yanas. First, here are three paths to liberation that culminate as one of the three types of Buddha:
Mahayana Buddhists sometimes refer to four yanas that subsume the two different schemes of the three yanas:
The head of the Nyingma school, Dudjom Rinpoche emphasizes the eight lower vehicles are intellectually fabricated and contrived: