The Doctrine of the Elders, Theravada is one the schools of Buddhism that embarks on a spiritual journey of gaining inspiration from the Tipitaka. Tripitaka is the oldest form of Buddhist scripture of preachings from Buddha. For many centuries, Theravada has been dominant as a guide of religion in Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand. There are over millions of Theravada Buddhists around the world.
Theravada goes by different names. Buddha dictated the religion’s fundamental system of ethical and spiritual training also known as Dhamma Vinaya. According to the places it went and started being followed, there came the difference in different names of the Buddha religion. To understand this in detail let us understand the basic difference between Vajrayana, Theravada and Mahayana.
What’s The Difference Between Theravada, Mahayana And Vajrayana?
Theravada is the sect of Buddhism that means “The way of elders”. Theravada rests on the Buddhist teachings of the four noble truths and the eightfold path to enlightenment and the three traditions namely Buddha, Sangha and Dhamma. It also includes the concept of non-self, karma and rebirth. Along with this, Theravada also includes ethical perceptions and meditation practices. Since ancient times there have been ethical guidelines and Theravada beliefs placed up for the practitioners. Theravada is a monastic tradition that emphasizes renunciation and self-purification. The spiritual ideal is the arhat – the accomplished one. An arhat is an individual whose own efforts attain salvation. He can attain liberation from the constant suffering cycle of birth and rebirth. The disciplined life of the monastic approach can be reached to its highest level and like Buddha, you can not return but, experience nirvana at death and attain freedom from rebirth.
What Is Theravada?
Theravada has originated from northern India and has been sometimes also called southern Buddhism. It is spread across southern Asia namely Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Apart from Theravada religion has also become famous in Europe, America and beyond.
Theravada plays a greater role in cultivation sila – the ethical behaviour amongst its followers. Sila is one of the three factors of the noble eightfold path/ the three factors being the right speech, right action and right livelihood. Virtuous and compassionate behaviour is one of the imperative factors to develop concentration of mind. For laypeople, ethical behaviour is a significant practice to help them develop traditions.
Like every Buddhist tradition, Theravada has been constantly evolving through times and there are certain Theravada practices specific to the culture and places that have made the dharma flourish extensively. The traditions of Theravada continue to practice the power of transforming lives while maintaining the heart of Theravada teachings. They help individuals in their path to goal awakening and becoming an arhat and thereby attain nirvana.
Buddha’s Role In Theravada Tradition
Theravada lays emphasis on portraying Buddha as a historical figure. Theravada claims to be the oldest and unaltered form of Buddha tradition. Buddha and his earlier followers were focused on maintaining a way of life that is most faithful to Buddhism. The central idea of Buddha in Theravada has everything to do with the fact that its core lies in the Pali canon. It comprises the earliest recordings of the teachings of Budha as a human being. There are also certain commentaries by monks of ancient time which are followed by Theravada followers. The Theravada sutras are widely studied and chanted through the countries by followers.
Many Mahayana Schools of Buddhism and its followers consider the teachings of the Theravada followers to be authentic revelations of earlier scriptures. When an arhat is held up with being the role model of the Theravada school of traditions, Buddha and his teachings are always present, which includes the path to wisdom and knowledge that guides an individual towards the path of practice and enlightenment.
Morality Of Buddha
The story of Buddha and his life is the best example of a perfect life. He had a luxurious life from the day he was born and thus, held up the transformation once he went to the real world and saw the suffering. When he observed the suffering such as old age, sickness and death, he could not face the tough facts of life and decided to discover a path to humanity that can help you escape from these suffering of life.
The first time period of Buddha is a representative of morality and thus, it was basically decided with karma which indeed caused the morality of many previous lives. Buddha had the chance to live the perfect life. In addition to this, you must know that Buddha was born with the greater mission of seeking Dharma and liberating humanity from suffering and thereby attain Nirvana.
Theravada Buddhism is a philosophy about salvation. It comprises the core value of Buddhism. The first morality of Theravada Buddhism deals with three main aspects. The first one on the list is the necessity of salvation, the second, being the explanation of the nature of salvation and the third, being the methods of attaining salvation.
Teachings Of Theravada Buddhism
Theravada is the most ancient form of Buddhism and thus, appears across different traditions. Its roots are laid across the world with its guideless mentioned in sermons, tracing and discourses. The Pali canon, Theravada, is associated with the earliest written records of Dhamma. While other schools of Buddhism promote additional teachings Theravada is more selective and this plays great emphasis on the fundamental teachings in the form of four noble truths and the noble eightfold path.
- After the awakening, Buddha delivered his first sermon which laid out itself as the framework of Buddhism and its teachings. The sermon consists of the four noble truths of Dhamma. They emerged from Buddha’s words and penetrated the assessment of human life and the situation that took place around it. Following are the four noble truths of Buddha’s life.
- Dukkha: It includes suffering, unsatisfied work and pain of the real world. It is a characteristic of existence in samsara.
- Samudaya: It includes the origins and arising of humans. It comes together with the feeling of attachment, desire and craving.
- Nirodha: It is the ending of the dukkha which can be obtained with renouncement or letting go of the attachment.
- Magga: This is the description of a noble eightfold path that is here to lead you to leave dukkha and thereby attain calm.
These are traditionally described as the first teachings given by Buddha, They are the most important teachings in Theravada.
- The Middle way of Theravada Buddhism is to see the middle path between extreme, asceticism and sensual indulgence. This is basically the middle view seen between death and the idea of the external self.
- The eightfold path is the main outline of Buddhism and its path to awakening. The eight factors being Vision, Intention, Speech, Conduct, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness and Samadhi.
- The practice of taking refuge at the Sangha.
- It teaches the method of ending the suffering.
- Theravada had the doctrine of Karma that teaches the concept of intention where people who are awakened or enlightened will incarnate into another body. The type of realm you will be born in or if you can escape this constant life of birth and rebirth is determined by karma.
- The morality of Theravada Buddhism teaches the core value of Buddhism.
Buddha has left us with clear and simple guidelines to find our ways through religion. The turn of humans to the 21st century leaves us with wonderful opportunities and the study of Theravada. Buddha’s teachings are patiently studied and put into practice which can ultimately help humans attain nirvana.