What Theravada Buddhists Believe

Central tenets of this Theravada Buddhism, based on the questions in the Belief-O-Matic quiz.

 

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  • Belief in Deity
    The concept of a supreme Creator God is rejected or at least considered irrelevant to Theravada Buddhism. Buddha, "the Awakened One," is revered above all--not as "God" but as supreme sage, model of a fully enlightened person.

    Incarnations
    Buddha was a human, a fully enlightened spiritual teacher and inspiration. As there is no belief in or relevant God, there are no incarnations of God worshipped.

    Origin of Universe and Life
    Buddhists consider it the job of scientists to explain origins of the universe and life. There is no contradiction with scientific discovery, however many maintain that the world creates and recreates itself millions of times every fraction of a second.

    After Death
    There is no transmigration of individual souls, but through the law of karma, one's wholesome or unwholesome intentions become imprinted in the mind. Negative mental states persist through continual rebirth until one's intentions become wholesome. Once fully enlightened, one is liberated from rebirths, reaching a state of absolute selflessness resulting in ultimate bliss called Nirvana--the "Deathless State." One becomes Buddha (or one with Buddha). Some Buddhists, especially modern Western, don't emphasize or believe in literal rebirth.

    Why Evil?
    People have free will to commit wrongs or rights. Evil doings may result when egoism, cravings, attachments, and ignorance are expressed as greed, hatred, and violence, which, if unmitigated, is perpetuated through rebirth.

    Salvation
    Enlightenment is an individual journey to Nirvana (complete bliss)--liberation from suffering and cycles of rebirth--acheived by following the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path. To eliminate karma, which causes rebirth, one must extinguish the belief in a separate self that give rise to cravings, desires, and attachments. The path to enlightenment includes loving-kindness and compassion, moral conduct, charity, wisdom, and meditation.

    Undeserved Suffering
    Unenlightened life is suffering, and the cessation of this suffering is the primary goal of Buddhism--to reach Nirvana, to end cycles of rebirth. Suffering is a result of past-life greed, hatred, and ignorance, which return as suffering (karma), while compassion toward others who suffer reduces the effects of karma.

    Contemporary Issues
    Abortion is considered murder, and all violent acts cause horrific karmic consequence. Homosexuality in itself is not specifically condemned by scripture, but opinions vary, especially among various Buddhist cultures--e.g., Buddhists in the United States are generally very accepting, while some Asian Buddhists are generally strongly opposed to homosexuality. It is believed that divorce wouldn't occur if one follows Buddhist precepts, but a couple is not condemned if they separate due to vast personal differences. In Theravada countries, gender roles are generally traditional (e.g. woman as child caretakers and men as providers), but less rigid as contemporary demands are made on women (e.g. working women).


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