First Excellence: The Path of the Theravada

Also known as “Doctrine of the Elders,” this school of Buddhism draws its scriptural inspiration from the Tipitaka, or Pali canon. The consensus among scholars is that these sacred writings are the earliest surviving record of the Buddha’s teachings. Theravada has been the predominant religion of continental Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka.

The framework of these teachings consists of the Four Noble Truths. These four fundamental principles of nature emerged from the Buddha’s assessment of the human condition, an assessment that remains as accurate today as it was during the time of Buddha.

Under Theravada Buddhism, one attains self-liberation through one’s own efforts, which is blocked and thwarted through the negative emotions of desire and craving. Here, we train in contentment and reducing cravings. The vital element to achieve enlightenment is developing renunciation through meditation and concentration practices. A “worthy person” is one who achieves liberation. In the First Excellence, we contemplate the Four Noble Truths as well as the Four Applications of Mindfulness, an important meditation practice of the Theravada school.