This is a quick break down of some of the basics of Theravada Buddhism as taught by monks I have spoken with here in Thailand.
- Doesn’t believe in an Almighty Creator God-King who we must answer to as his unique creation
- Doesn’t answer the question “why” the world is the way it is, just accepts it as “natural”
- Buddha taught that he could not help anyone…that all must “depend on themselves”
- Teaches people to “be good” by keeping five precepts, but no one on the street expects to be able to keep them
- Teaches that ignorance is the main problem of man and enlightenment comes from Buddhist teaching
- Teaches four truths about suffering and its origin from craving/desire and an 8 fold path leading to nirvana
- The elimination of every desire (both good and bad) is the only possible way to “escape” the wheel of continual rebirth
- Meditation is a technique taught to help eliminate desire, but must be practiced continually to even give minor assistance (in regards to attaining freedom from samsara and entering into nirvana)
- Believe that any breaking of the 5 precepts (killing animals, adultery/lust, stealing, lying, using any intoxicants including alcohol) must be paid for in the hell realms. Accumulated merit eventually runs out in the heaven realms
- Contrary to many people’s perceptions, teaches about many horrible hells awaiting those who don’t keep the 5 precepts
- Believes in “heaven realms” where angels and “gods, who take delight in their creations” live and play
- Anything that happens to you in this life is a result of karma and no one can help you out if you are receiving payment for bad karma
- The ultimate aim is Nirvana which is essentially ceasing to be, the end of all craving, the snuffing out of the candle
In summary, Thai Buddism draws you a map to the place they say you should want to go, but there is no one to take you there.
You are on your own. If anything good happens in this life, it was due to accumulated merit.
Any kind of suffering, accidents, handicaps, tragedy, life threatening accidents, ect in this life is due to past or “old” karma. (you must have done something really bad to suffer like this…ect)
What the future holds for you depends on accumulated merit you have gained and stored up here in this world.
The best ways to accumulate merit is to ordain as a monk for the majority of your life (sorry ladies), or give lots of money to help build a temple.
Otherwise, your merit offerings are accepted by the cosmos somehow and forms of meditation can help temporarily in some ways, but they are tokens compared to what is really needed for full liberation into Nirvana, otherwise known as ceasing to exist.