Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What is Theravada Buddhism?

Theravada (pronounced more or less "terra-VAH-dah"), the "Doctrine of the Elders," is the school of Buddhism that draws its scriptural inspiration from the Tipitaka, or Pali canon, which scholars generally agree contains the earliest surviving record of the Buddha's teachings. For many centuries, Theravada has been the predominant religion of continental
Southeast Asia (Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia, and Laos) and Sri Lanka. Today Theravada Buddhists number well over 100 million worldwide. In recent decades Theravada has begun to take root in the West.

The Buddha (A human being with compassion and intellectualism)
Among the founders of religions the Buddha (if we are permitted to call him the founder of a religion in the popular sense of the term) was the only teacher who did not claim to be other than a human being, pure and simple. Other teachers were either God or his incarnations in different forms, or inspired by him. The Buddha was not only a human being; he claimed no inspiration from God or any external power either. He attributed all his realization, attainments and achievements to human endeavor and human intelligence. Man and only a man can become a Buddha.

Man’s position, according to Buddhism, is supreme. Man is his own master, and there is no higher being or power that sits in judgment over his destiny.

Freedom of Thought
Buddhism is well regarded by the intellectual community for freedom of thought, and tolerance. Buddhism is never for extremists nor extremists ever acclaim Buddhism.

Is Buddhism or religion or philosophy?
The question has often been asked: Is Buddhism or religion or philosophy? It does not matter what you call it. Buddhism remains what it is whatever label you may put on it. The label is immaterial. Even the label ‘Buddhism’ which we give to the teaching of the Buddha is of little importance. The name one gives it is inessential.

Doctrine of Anatta (Not-self/No-soul)
Buddhism stands unique in the history of human thought in denying the existence of such a Soul, Self, or Atman. According to the teaching of the Buddha, the idea of the self is an imaginary, false belief which has no corresponding reality, and it produces harmfull thoughts of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, selfish desire, craving, attachment, hatred, ill-will, conceit, pride, egoism, and other defilements, impurities and problems. It is source of all the troubles in the world from personal conflicts to wars between nations. In short, to this false view can be traced all the evil in the world.

Scientific analysis of existance of all beings
On this principle of conditionality, relativity and interdependence, the whole existence and continuity of life and its cessation are explained in a detailed formula which is called, Paticca-samuppada ‘Conditional Genesis’:

When this is, that is ;
This arising, that arise
When this is not, that is not
This ceasing, that ceases

Practice of Damma
1. Genoricity (Dana)
This simply means 'Giving' or helping others. This can be practiced in many different ways.Even giving something as simple as a smile can help another if it cheers them up and brightens their day. You can always lend a hand to anyone who needs help.However, try to do all this without regret, discrimination or ulterior motives. Practice Dana with kindness, compassion and empathy.

2. Morality (Sila)
This means 'Morality' and the Buddha has advised us to observe the Five Precepts in the cultivation of Sila :
1. Abstain from killing any living beings.
2. Abstain from taking what is not given.
3. Abstain from sexual misconduct.
4. Abstain from lying and false speech.
5. Abstain from the abusive consumption of intoxicants and drugs.
These Precepts are not commandments, but are rules that Buddhists take upon themselves to observe. They are observed not through fear of punishment but because we realize that such actions harm others as well as ourselves.

3. Meditation (Bhavana) :
Bhavana means the practice of 'Mind Cultivation' or simply meditation. Meditation can be said to purify the mind by making it easier to develop Generosity and Compassion, and then to finally acquire Wisdom.

This Damma web blog is intended to share my experience and views on good and reliable Theravada Buddhist resources in the Web.

This blog is supplemented by which is published by the same author.

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