|Theravada Buddhism, tripatka, King
Asoka, Gautama Buddha, Maitreya Buddha
Buddhism Lord Maitreya Sanskrit Sri Lanka
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| Siddhartha Gautama, known to history as
Gautama Buddha, born circa 563 B.C.E. lived into his eighties,
having taught for more than forty years based on his
Buddha did not however leave behind him a fully recognised canon of religious writings. A Great Council was held at the time of Buddha's death in the hope of reaching an agreement as to what Buddha's teachings had actually been and also on the imposition of monastic discipline.
Notwithstanding the convening of this Council, and indeed of other Councils in later centuries, Buddhism fragmented, in the shorter time-frame, into some eighteen schools or approaches to faith. In the longer time-frame the foundations were laid for the eventual emergence of two major traditions - the Theravadan and the Mahayanan.
Theravada the Way of the Elders sees its origin as being within the first monastic community established by Gautama Buddha.
Mahayana began to more formally emerge in distinction to Theravada after a Third Council held at Patna circa 250 B.C. under the authority of the notable King Asoka.
King Asoka himself preferred Mahayana but tradition has it that it was a son of Asoka's, who lived as a Theravadan monk, who was responsible for a most significant and enduring conversion of the island of Sri Lanka to the Theravada interpretation.
Theravada regards the so-called Tripitaka (Three Baskets) of Sacred writings as being canonical as well as a very few other Texts. The Tripitaka writings were originally set down in Sanskrit and Pali, a variation of Sanskrit, some five hundred years after the times of Gautama Buddha.
Theravada places more emphasis on monastics who may, individually and in exceptional cases, become arhats - enlightened Sages - who have attained Nirvana.
Nirvana being a state where suffering is eliminated through the abandonment of desires - desires being the cause of suffering. The attainment of Nirvana is also held to bring release from an otherwise endless succession of rebirths. Each rebirth bringing with it a fair amount of suffering as each life would follow its due course.
(Lay persons may aspire in some future life to themselves live as monastics seeking Enlightenment).
Hence there is an emphasis towards wisdom attained by individuals, and these individuals are expected to be monastics. The Buddha is regarded as having been a supreme teacher and guide not particularly inclined towards the use of rituals. Theravada looks to the existence of one historical Buddha and possibly also a prophecied future Buddha - the Lord Maitreya.
Start of Theravada Buddhism
an outline history