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Theravada Buddhism is composed of the Doctrines of the elders. These elders are senior Buddhist monks. Buddhism is common in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Burma. Buddhism has the following beliefs. Firstly, its followers do not believe in supernatural powers. Secondly, the Buddhists do not believe that faith provides solutions to spiritual problems that affect human beings. They believe that solutions to humanistic problems can only be found through meditation for enlightenment. Outside power cannot work in their context. However, they do not disregard supernatural powers. They accept their presence and warn their followers of the evil that may accompany them (Yamamoto, 1998).
Beliefs of Theravada Buddhism
Siddhartha Gautama was the man, who later became Buddha. He is believed to have awakened the society through his teachings. His coming is compared with the coming of Jesus Christ. However, the difference with Jesus Christ is that he did not resurrect as it is in Christianity. Since he did not rise back to life, the only way human beings can communicate with him is through his teachings. These teachings point to the awakening state of human beings. The third belief is that there is no any omnipotent creator. They point out that there is God, as it is the case in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Lan, 2005). They argue that God only exists in various types of spiritual beings. However, he has limited powers and does not control the entire universe. The path to enlightenment is another common believe among the Buddhists. Every being has the mandate to make his or her way to enlightenment without the help of the gods (Juergensmeyer, 2006). Buddha teachings are very clear in regard with how each being can make the way. It is a personal decision to follow the path of enlightenment.
Theravada Buddhism places great emphasis on the fact that liberation can only be achieved through individual efforts. Fundamental elements of the path to enlightenment are meditation and concentration. The ideal way is one to choose dedication to spend the whole time in the monastic life. The follower of Buddhism is supposed to abstain from all kinds of evil (Lan, 2005). They should only be engaged in what is good or something that will enable them to purify their minds. Meditation is the most important thing, as it is one of the tools, by means of which the Buddhists are transformed. A monk is required to spend his time in meditation in order to purify himself. Once an individual is liberated, he is considered as a “worthy person”. Indeed, Theravada Buddhism plays a great role in influencing his followers.
Mainly monks live the monastic life. The Theravada monks live as a part of monastic communities in order to live a pure life. Some people join these communities at a young age. However, one can join at an old age. Normally, a novice is referred to as a Samanera, while a monk is called Bikkhu. The entire monastic community is termed as the Sangha. Monks and nuns have to undergo through training staying there. The training consists of 227 rules. These rules are meant to ensure that the trainees adhere to the Buddhist way of life and remain pure. They include refraining from harming other living beings, avoiding taking something that is not given freely, refraining from any case of sexual misconduct and avoiding wrong speech, such as malicious gossips, lying, chattering and any form of harsh speech (Xinzhong 2000). Finally, they should avoid any intoxicating drinks and such drugs, which may result in carelessness and misconduct. The major rule, which is of great interest, is that Theravada monks and nuns are banned from taking any food after middle age and handling any money.
The eightfold path incorporates the right to knowledge that enables an individual to view the Buddha’s life differently as set out by the truth. They also have the right to truth. This describes good will and peacefulness that should be taken in order to have the desire and the rightful thought (Lan, 2005). The Buddhists have also the right to action. They are required to live according to the precepts and to take their own responsibility for their actions. One should be able to bear responsibility for the consequences of his actions. They also have the right to livelihood. This right states that one’s occupation should not bring harm to others. They should also have the rightful effort. They are required to take consistent efforts to curb hard situations and cultivate togetherness among societal members (Lan, 2005). Moreover, they have the right to mindfulness. This particular right puts into consideration things that are related to taking care, speaking, acting and creating awareness, which is not necessarily a desire of an individual. Lastly, they have the right to meditation. This includes intense meditation while following the path of Buddhism.
The Buddhists do not believe in the Creator God. They view the world as a cycle of birth and death without anybody being in control (Xinzhong 2000). This cycle also involves the re-configuration of energy. They do not believe in life after death or transfer of the soul as it is in Hinduism or Christianity. Just like in other religions, the Buddhists have their own festivals. The first festival is the fest of Vessa. This is when they celebrate the birth, the enlightenment and the culmination of the death of Buddha. It occurs on the first full moon day every year in May. The second festival is the festival of Vassa. This is when rains retreat as a result of the observance of three months during the Asia rainy season. Poson Day is celebrated to mark the introduction of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The final festival is known as Paranirvana Day. This commemorates the death of Buddha.
As a religion, Buddhism has its own definition concerning the way of salvation. Gautama, the founder of the religion, sought to answer various questions regarding the humankind. For instance, he was questioned why beings undergo pain and suffering while alive. Gautama stipulated that after death, one returns to the earthly life in another form of life, which is based on his good or bad deeds (Juergensmeyer, 2006). Thus, it can be viewed that the basic belief of Buddhism is according to what Gautama taught while answering several questions regarding human life. Major teachings comprised of the basic tenets are found in the Four Noble Truths and in the “Eightfold path” of Buddhism. The Four Noble Truths entail the following truths about human beings. The first is that the realization that pain and suffering are present in the nature and human life. Birth, death, sickness and old age are all painful. Throughout life, beings have to undergo various forms of suffering (Xinzhong 2000). Gautama argues that the root of suffering is desire. This is a resultant effect of desire on wealth and happiness, and human forms of enjoyment are the cause of sufferings. This is because desire cannot be satisfied as is rooted in human ignorance. However, he hopes that suffering can be stopped, when one refrains from any form of desire. This desire can be ceased by the “Eight Fold Path”. This describes the basic form of therapy designed to develop better habits that are caused by uncontrollable ignorance and craving.