What is Theravada Buddhism?

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Notes

  1. Buddhist Religions: A Historical Introduction (fifth edition) by R.H. Robinson, W.L. Johnson, and Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Belmont, California: Wadsworth, 2005), p. 46.
  2. This estimate is based on data appearing in CIA World Factbook 2004. South Asia's largest Theravada Buddhist populations are found in Thailand (61 million Theravadans), Myanmar (38 million), Sri Lanka (13 million), and Cambodia (12 million).
  3. Buddhist Religions, p. 46.
  4. Mahayana today includes Zen, Ch'an, Nichiren, Tendai, and Pure Land Buddhism.
  5. Guide Through The Abhidhamma Pitaka by Nyanatiloka Mahathera (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1971), pp. 60ff.
  6. A third major branch of Buddhism emerged much later (ca. 8th century CE) in India:Vajrayana, the "Diamond Vehicle." Vajrayana's elaborate system of esoteric initiations, tantric rituals, and mantra recitations eventually spread north into central and east Asia, leaving a particularly strong imprint on Tibetan Buddhism. See Buddhist Religions, pp. 124ff. and chapter 11.
  7. Modern scholarship suggests that Pali was probably never spoken by the Buddha himself. In the centuries after the Buddha's death, as Buddhism spread across India into regions of different dialects, Buddhist monks increasingly depended on a common tongue for their Dhamma discussions and recitations of memorized texts. It was out of this necessity that the language we now know as Pali emerged. See Bhikkhu Bodhi's Introduction in Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press, 1999), pp. 1ff, and n. 1 (p. 275) and "The Pali Language and Literature" by the Pali Text Society (http://www.palitext.com/subpages/lan_lite.htm; 15 April 2002).
  8. Great Disciples of the Buddha by Nyanaponika Thera and Hellmuth Hecker (Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 1997), pp. 140, 150.
  9. Buddhist Religions, p. 48.
  10. The Hindu Vedas, for example, predate the Buddha by at least a millennium (Buddhist Religions, p. 2).
  11. Buddhist Religions, p. 77.
  12. Anandajoti Bhikkhu, personal communication.
  13. See Dhp 1-2.
  14. This description of the unified role of samatha and vipassana is based upon the Buddha's meditation teachings as presented in the suttas (see "One Tool Among Many" by Thanissaro Bhikkhu). The Abhidhamma and the Commentaries, by contrast, state that samatha and vipassana are two distinct meditation paths (see, for example, The Jhanas in Theravada Buddhist Meditation by H. Gunaratana, ch. 5).
    It is impossible to reconcile these divergent views from studying the texts alone; any doubts about the roles of samatha and vipassana are best resolved through the actual practice of meditation.

©2005 Anonymous.

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