Where water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing: There the stars do not shine, the sun is not visible, the moon does not appear, darkness is not found.
And when a sage, a brahman through sagacity, has known [this] for himself, then from form & formless, from bliss & pain, he is freed.
— Ud 1.10
Theravada, the "Doctrine of the Elders," is the school of Buddhism that draws its scriptural inspiration from the Tipitaka, or Pali canon, which scholars generally agree contains the earliest surviving record of the Buddha's teachings. For many centuries, Theravada has been the predominant religion of continental Southeast Asia (Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia, and Laos) and Sri Lanka. Today Theravada Buddhists number well over 100 million worldwide. In recent decades Theravada has begun to take root in the West.
The Tipitaka or Pali canon, is the collection of primary Pali language texts which form the doctrinal foundation of Theravada Buddhism. The Tipitaka and the paracanonical Pali texts together constitute the complete body of classical Theravada texts.
The 8 precepts
To refrain from harming any living, sentient beings – not to kill or intentionally hurt any person or creature, even an insect.
To refrain from taking what is not freely given – not to steal or ‘borrow’ without the consent of the giver; to accept what is offered and not try to change it or get more.
To abstain from sexual activity.
To practice noble silence and to refrain from harming by one’s speech – not to lie, gossip or use harsh or hurtful language.
To abstain from using alcohol, recreational drugs and other intoxicants that cloud the mind and harm the body. (This does not apply to prescription medicines.)
To refrain from eating after 12pm.
To refrain from dancing, singing, music, shows; from the use of garlands, perfumes, cosmetics and adornments.
To refrain from using high and luxurious seats and beds.
Nibbāna (nirvana) literally means “quenching” or “blowing out,” in the way that the flame of a candle is
blown out. What is extinguished is the triple fire of greed, hatred, and delusion which leads to rebirth. The simplest definition of nirvana-in-this-life is “the end of greed, hatred, and delusion”. The Buddha discouraged speculation about the nature of nibbāna and emphasized instead the need to strive for its attainment. Those who asked speculative questions about nibbāna he compared to a man wounded by poisoned arrow who, rather than pulling the arrow out, persists in asking for irrelevant information about the man who fired it, such as his name and clan, how far away he was standing, and so forth. The nature of final nibbāna remains an enigma other than to those who experience it. What we can be sure of, however, is that it means the end of suffering and rebirth.
the triple gem
The three refuges are also known in Buddhism as the three jewels, which means they are treasures of inestimable worth. The three jewels offer Buddhists the inspiration of the Buddha, the fully enlightened one. The truth of the Dhamma, the teachings expounded by the Buddha. The support of the Sangha, , the monastic order of Buddhism that practice Dhammas.
“Buddha” means “one who is awake.” What a buddha is awake to is the true nature of reality. The Buddha who lived 2,600 years ago was not a god. He was an ordinary person, named Siddhartha Gautama, whose profound insights inspired the world. Buddhism teaches that we all live in a fog of illusions created by mistaken perceptions and “impurities” — hate, greed, ignorance. A buddha is one who is freed from the fog. It is said that when a buddha dies he or she is not reborn but passes into the peace of Nibbāna, which is not a “heaven” but a transformed state of existence.
The Pali word “dhamma” is without doubt the most important and most commonly used term in Buddhism. Among the three jewels of buddha, dharma and sangha in which all Buddhists take refuge, the dharma is pre-eminent. It is a realization of the dharma that produces buddhas and it is the dharma that provides the pretext for the sangha (community) and binds it together. The dhamma can be defined as an interesting book to discovering the eternal dhamma as the final truth of our own inherent nature. The entire path, then, is encompassed and summarized in this single word.
A sangha is a community of friends practicing the dharma together in order to bring about and to maintain awareness. The essence of a sangha is awareness, understanding, acceptance, harmony and love. When you do not see these in a community, it is not a true sangha, and you should have the courage to say so. But when you find these elements are present in a community, you know that you have the happiness and fortune of being in a real sangha.