Basic Teachings of Theravada Buddhism
What is Theravada Buddhism?
Theravada literally means ‘The Way of the Elders’ and is the oldest and most conservative of all the schools of Buddhism. It is known for being the school that most closely follows the original beliefs and practices of the Buddha and the early monastic elders. Theravada was found in 250 B.C.E. in India by the Third Counsel when they completed the Pali Canon. Theravada Buddhism is the only surviving representative of the historical early Buddhist schools.
Where is Theravada Buddhism practiced?
Theravada Buddhism is the predominant religion of Sri Lanka (about 70% of its population). It is also practiced in most of southeast Asia including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. The Theravada practices are also exercised by minorities in parts of southwest China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia. In addition, Theravada Buddhism is growing in popularity in Singapore and the western world. There are over 100 million Theravadins worldwide.
Who was Gautama Buddha?
Gautama Buddha (born Siddhartha Gautama) was born around 566 B.C.E, in the small kingdom of Kapilavastu to his father, King Suddhodana and his mother, Queen Maya. It was foretold by wise men that the young prince would one day become the next Buddha. This troubled the King as he wished for the prince to be a great ruler. In order to avoid the prophecy of the wise men, the King enticed Prince Siddhartha Gautama to stay in the palace by making the palace so pleasant that the prince will never want to leave. Prince Siddhartha Gautama married Princess Yasodhara at age 16 and was given three palaces so he would never think about living outside of the palace. As time passed, the prince decided to go out of the palace. It was noted that he left the palace four times and saw four different things. On his first time outside of the palace, the prince noticed the sick. On his second journey outside of the palace he noticed old age. On his third time leaving the palace, he noticed death. The fourth time leaving the palace, the prince met a wandering monk who had given up everything he owned to seek an end to suffering. The prince decided to be like the monk and began pondering the end of suffering.
For the continuing story, see the posting Who was Siddhartha Gautama Buddha…
What is the Pali Canon or Tipitaka?
The Pali Canon or Tipitaka (three baskets) is a collections of the primary texts which are in the Pali language. These doctrines are part of the foundation of Theravada Buddhism. As pictured below, the Tipitaka and the post-canonical works, which are commentaries, chronicles and other works) make the complete body of classical Theravada texts. The Pali canon is a vast body of literature: in English translation the texts add up to thousands of printed pages. Most of the Pali Canon has already been published in English over the years.
What are the Universal Truths?
What are the Four Noble Truths?
What is the Noble Eightfold Path?
What are the Triple Jewels?
What are the Five Precepts?
What are the Levels of Attainment?
What is the Wheel of Life?
Explain the Theravada Buddhist community?
How do Theravada Buddhists meditate?
What is the ultimate goal of Theravada Buddhism?
The Theravada tradition generally teaches that the highest goal, which most people can aspire to, is becoming an Arhat. The Mahayana tradition, however, teaches that the only worthy goal for all is the attainment of buddhahood.
Briefly explain the other schools of Buddhism?