Theravada Buddhism

Theravada Buddhism

Theravada Buddhism is the school closest to the original Dharma as prescribed in the Tripitaka, the original 3 volumes of Buddhist teaching written in the Pali dialect (of Sanskrit). Theravada requires individual responsibility for understanding and practice of the Dharma. There should be no additional texts or teachers required to interpret the canon.

As the Buddha repeated in his sermons multiple times, it is the responsibility of each person to prove the validity or correctness of the teachings. Self-proclaimed experts, monks, or historic writers are irrelevant to this endeavor beyond a role of explaining (not interpreting).

The core of the Dharma for the layman is a few basic teachings and practices, which are conceptually easy to understand but sometime difficult to carry out. The Buddha intended his teachings to be easily accessible by the ordinary person.

In addition to the Dharma, the other essential of Theravada is the practice of Vipassana (or Insight) meditation. In this form, the person meditating frees the mind to accept all stimuli without filtering. Senses, emotions, and thoughts are allowed to surface within the 'mind's eye.' Each should not be dwelt on, analyzed, or assigned qualities like good or bad. They are acknowledged and the mind is allowed to move on.

The purpose of the meditation is to help an individual prove the basic teachings to him or herself - to accept that everything is impermanent, that there is no self, that existence involves suffering and dissatisfaction, and that all these can be overcome with the right practices and behaviors.

Vipassana is usually combined with Samadhi meditation where the purpose is almost the opposite: the focus the mind and exclude all external stimuli. Samadhi is the older form of meditation, and the Buddha is credited with making Vipassana central to the practice of Buddhism.

The core of the Teravada teachings is outlined below.


  • Nothing is ever lost in the universe.
  • Everything changes constantly.
  • Every action leads to a consequence that is often dissatisfying and the cause of suffering.



  • Transiency (anicca) — Everything is impermanent
  • Sorrow (dukkha) — All life experiences sorrow or suffering
  • Selflessness (anatta) — There is no permanent self


  • The First Noble Truth   Dissatisfaction and suffering exist and are universally  experienced.

  • The Second Noble Truth  Desire and attachment are the causes of dissatisfaction and suffering.

  • The Third Noble Truth  There is an end to dissatisfaction and suffering when attachment to desire ceases

  • The Fourth Noble Truth   Freedom from suffering can be attained by journeying on the Noble Eightfold Path.


  • Right View/Understanding  (Understanding the Four Noble Truths) - See things as they truly are without delusions or distortions for all things change. Develop wisdom by knowing how things work, knowing oneself and others.

  • Right Thinking  Decide to set a life on the correct path. Wholehearted resolution and dedication to overcoming the dislocation of self-centered craving through the development of loving kindness, empathy and compassion.

  • Right Speech  Abstinence from lies and deceptions, backbiting, idle babble and abusive speech. Cultivate honesty and truthfulness; practice speech that is kind and benevolent. Let your words reflect your desire to help, not harm others.

  • Right Conduct (Following the Five Precepts) - Practice selfless conduct that reflects the highest statement of the life you want to live. Express conduct that is peaceful, honest and pure showing compassion for all beings.

  • Right Livelihood  Earn a living that does not harm living things. Avoidance of work that causes suffering to others or that makes a decent, virtuous life impossible. Do not engage in any occupation that opposes or distracts one from the path. Love and serve our world through your work.

  • Right Effort  Seek to make the balance between the exertion of following the spiritual path and a moderate life that is not over-zealous. Work to develop more wholesome mind states, while gently striving to go deeper and live more fully.

  • Right Mindfulness  Become intensely aware of all the states in body, feeling, and mind. Through constant vigilance in thought, speech and action seek to rid the mind of self-centered thoughts that separate and replace them with those that bind all beings together. Be aware of your thoughts, emotions, body and world as they exist in the present moment. Your thoughts create your reality.

  • Right Concentration  Deep meditation to lead to a higher state of consciousness (enlightenment). Through the application of meditation and mental discipline seek to extinguish the last flame of grasping consciousness and develop an emptiness that has room to embrace and love all things.



The Five Precepts are basic ethical guidelines for the followers of Theravada Buddhism. They are undertaken voluntarily, rather than as commandments from a god.

Essentially, these precepts promote harmony and reduce suffering between ourselves and others. The underpinning moral code has two qualities: compassion (karuna) and loving kindness (metta), which are used as the guiding principles in life.

  • I undertake the training to intend not to take away any breath.

  • I undertake the training to intend not take away what is not given.

  • I undertake the training to intend not to abuse the other’s beloved ones.

  • I undertake the training to intend not harm others by speech.

  • I undertake the training to intend not to harm my consciousness with substances that intoxicate and lead to carelessness.

Theravada Buddhism Came Directly from Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
Krabi Area May Have Been Primary Point of Introduction

Buddha Image in Dharmachakra Position
Turning the Wheel of Dharma
(Teaching the Dharma)
Buddhist Wheel of Dharma (Dharmacakra)
Lotus Flower, Symbol of Purity
Bhikkhu Buddhadasa in Meditation
Founder of Suan Moke
Meditation Center in Surat Thani

Photo from Suan Moke Archives

Summary of Eightfold Path