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Theravada Buddhism

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Theravada (Pāli: थेरवाद theravāda; Sanskrit: स्थविरवाद sthaviravāda; literally, "the Way of the Elders") is the oldest surviving Buddhist school, and for many centuries has been the predominant religion of Sri Lanka (about 70% of the population[1]) and continental Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and parts of southwest China and of Vietnam and Bangladesh). It is also found in Malaysia and Indonesia. It is also gaining popularity in Singapore and Australia. Today Theravada Buddhists number over 100 million worldwide, and in recent decades Theravada has begun to take root in the West.



Origin of the School

The Theravāda school is ultimately derived from the Vibhajjavāda grouping which emerged amongst the older Sthavira group at the time of the Third Buddhist Council (circa 250 BCE), during the reign of Emperor Asoka in India. After the Third Council, the Vibhajjavādins gradually evolve into four groups: the Mahīśāsaka, Kāśyapīya, Dharmaguptaka and the Tāmraparnīya. Theravada is descended from the Tāmraparnīya, which means 'the Sri Lankan lineage'. On the other hand, some sources claimed that Mahīśāsaka, Kāśyapīya and Dharmaguptaka did not evolve directly from from Vibhajjavādins.


The name of Tamraparniya was given to the Sri Lankan lineage in India, and there is no indication that this referred to any change in doctrine or scripture, since the name points only to geographical location. The Theravadin accounts of its origins mention that it received the teachings that were agreed upon during the Third Buddhist Council, and these teachings were known as the Vibhajjavada.


Vibhajjavadins see themselves as the continuation of orthodox Sthaviras and after the Third Council continued to refer to their school as the Sthaviras/Theras ('The Elders'), although their doctrines is probably similar with the older Sthaviras but it is likely not identical. In the 7th century, Chinese pilgrims Xuanzang and Yi Jing refer to the Buddhist school in Sri Lanka as

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  • 1 year later...

I like the post. We shoud learn more about the faith in LOS.


I agree, but many visit just to get drunk and screw. They could be anywhere in the world really as they never experience anything outside of a small comfort zone. I've started reading a few books on the subject as the basic concepts of Buddhism appeal. Nice post from the OP.

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I knew nothing what so ever about Bhuddism before my recent visit to LOS.


Tours of a couple of temples in BKK, (those of the Reclining Bhudda and of the Jade Bhudda) with temple guides started to teach me something of the philosophy (OK microscopic amounts)


In Soi 6 in the mornings, as I sat on my balcony, I watched as girls from every bar set up their offerings. One day when we got up, early for a change, as she had decided I was going to have a haircut, she said "Today I take you to my temple if you want" So we went there and I was told to sit on the floor, not speak and not move, so I sat and watched as she went through her devotions, was surprised at the number of falangs there often with their GFs or wives, taking part. I didn't really understand much of what she was doing, but it was so plainly obvious that this hard tough lady of negotiable virtue was very devout and sincere. I then went off back to the loom as she disappeared to a salon to do all the things women do there, I'd actually given her a few baht and said make a day of it. Next, when we were visiting the Big Bhudda, she sent me on ahead to do camera, while she bought some birds to release. Walking along Beach Road, she sat me down with a drink while she went back and bought flowers for the shrine there. Now I was incredibly touched by all of this, I think her taking me to her temple and allowing me into her private world like that was such a touching act that it has made a great impression on me. One day we were out on a long drive she took me to The Princess' Temple. Obviously I had passed some sort of test now. At this point I must add that I have never considered myself in anyway religious or really spiritual, but respect totally everyone else's beliefs and in strange, to me, environments live in total fear of inadvertantly through ignorance offending others or showing disrespect.. As we went in she bought for me a candle, incense sticks and flowers. She lit her incense and candle, and I struggled to get mine to light, when I turned round, she was nowhere to be seen, so I tried to cope on my own, in total blind panic. I must have done something wrong, though I am not sure what, because within minutes I am dragged by the scruff of the neck out of the temple. She is shaking with rage. "You stupid stupid man. Why you not do it right. You not in Pattaya now, this real Thailand. Very holy temple" "Sorry, I was not sure what to do, I was scared of offending or showing disrespect" "Scared, what you mean, stupid, you just do same as other people do" I am mortified by this time. She is near tears. I calm things down, but have to endure frosty looks foir the rest of the day. She later did say that she had explained to people that stupid falang not understand, he kisjun" I was later forgiven, by her if not by myself.


On a later day we went to a place, and I have no idea of the name, out near the Underwater aquarium place. A series of big brightly painted buildings in very formal gardens with statues which seemed to represent many different faiths and traditions. I wasn't really given an explanation because as a stupid falang kisjun there is no way I could have understood, so no point explaining too much. It seemed to be a serious museum of religious faith, there was even on one of the walls a copy of the famous painting from St Pauls in Rome of God pointing across (sorry very vague) It was a beautiful place, and near the end we entered this area and on one side was a small room which was obviously a shrine, I kept looking across. "You want go in?" I had been forgiven obviously! "Of course" was my reply "OK, you do same same me and do not talk!!!" We go buy the flowers and offerings and enter. A large statue of what appears to be a female deity. Down on knees really feeble deep wais from me, trying desperately to do everything exactly right, then give the offering of flowers. Turn to our right and there is a woman, a nun? priestess? See I am ignorant. All dressed elaborately with complex make up and jewelry etc consisting of lots of proper swastikas etc

. We do a very deep wai with the floor touching thing. (If my feeble explanations cause offense they are most sincerely not intended to) She then gives us a blessing with a branch and water. That finished my lady starts to move away, so I follow, but the holy lady hasn't finished, she starts all over again with her blessing but in english. As we leave she gives me a truly beautiful smile - laughing at the fumbling nervous falang? I don't think so I like to think that she was pleased that I was at least trying in my incompetant way to show respect. I understand that that this shrine is related in some way to local traditional beliefs linked to the sea faring and fishermen's life. How I hate not knowing and understanding. There were other wonders in that place but that experience just blew me away


So I am beginning to very slowly learn a little about the philosophy and beliefs. It seems to me to be based very much on gentleness and caring (the release of the birds, is a powerful symbolic act) on acceptance, of the faults etc of others and concentrating addressing one's own faults. It does strike me as a religion of love. I really believe I am beginning on the road to becoming a believer!! If you knew me, you'd know what that means!


I do desperately want to learn more and to understand more, so any pointers, recommended reading would be more than welcome

But...what do I know?


Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

- Voltaire

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