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Theravada Buddhism

Theravada Buddhism

Theravada Buddhism is strongest in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Burma (Myanmar). It is sometimes called ‘Southern Buddhism’.

The name means ‘the doctrine of the elders’ – the elders being the senior Buddhist monks.

This school of Buddhism believes that it has remained closest to the original teachings of the Buddha. However, it does not over-emphasise the status of these teachings in a fundamentalist way – they are seen as tools to help people understand the truth, and not as having merit of their own.

Theravada beliefs

  • The Supernatural: Many faiths offer supernatural solutions to the spiritual problems of human beings. Buddhism does not. The basis of all forms of Buddhism is to use meditation for awakening (or enlightenment), not outside powers.
    • Supernatural powers are not disregarded but they are incidental and the Buddha warned against them as fetters on the path.
  • The Buddha: Siddhartha Gautama was a man who became Buddha, the Awakened One – much in the same way as Jesus became Christ. Since his death the only contact with him is through his teachings which point to the awakened state.
  • God: There is no omnipotent creator God of the sort found in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Gods exist as various types of spiritual being but with limited powers.
  • The Path to Enlightenment: Each being has to make their own way to enlightenment without the help of God or gods. Buddha’s teachings show the way, but making the journey is up to us.