<a href="http://members.andiamo-tel.com/~byblos/watlao.htm">Directory of Lao Buddhist temples (wats) located outside
"Wherever there's a Lao wat, there's a Lao community dedicated to preserving and practicing Buddhist precepts."
Traditionally, the majority of Lao-speaking people have been Theravada Buddhists. In recent years, Lao Buddhist temples
(wats) have sprung up around the world to care for the spiritual needs of Lao immigrants. Below is a directory of known Lao
Buddhist temples and their locations. Buddhist temples welcome all seekers of knowledge regardless of ethnic background.
<a href="http://www.accesstoinsight.org/">Access to Insight Readings in Theravada Buddhism</a>
The non-doing of any evil,
the performance of what's skillful,
the cleansing of one's own mind:
this is the teaching
of the Awakened. — Dhp 183
What is Theravada Buddhism?
Source: Transcribed from a file provided by the author.
Copyright © 2005 John Bullitt
Access to Insight edition © 2005
For free distribution. This work may be republished, reformatted, reprinted, and redistributed in any medium. It is the
author's wish, however, that any such republication and redistribution be made available to the public on a free and unrestricted
basis and that translations and other derivative works be clearly marked as such.
Theravada (pronounced — more or less — "terra-VAH-dah"), 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.1 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.2 In recent decades Theravada has begun to take root in the West.
Many Buddhisms, One Dhamma-vinaya
The Buddha — the "Awakened One" — called the religion he founded Dhamma-vinaya — "the doctrine and discipline."
To provide a social structure supportive of the practice of Dhamma-vinaya (or Dhamma for short [Sanskrit: Dharma]), and to
preserve these teachings for posterity, the Buddha established the order of bhikkhus (monks) and bhikkhunis (nuns) —
the Sangha — which continues to this day to pass his teachings on to subsequent generations of laypeople and monastics,
As the Dhamma continued its spread across India after the Buddha's passing, differing interpretations of the original teachings
arose, which led to schisms within the Sangha and the emergence of as many as eighteen distinct sects of Buddhism.3 One of
these schools eventually gave rise to a reform movement that called itself Mahayana (the "Greater Vehicle")4 and that referred
to the other schools disparagingly as Hinayana (the "Lesser Vehicle"). What we call Theravada today is the sole survivor of
those early non-Mahayana schools.5 To avoid the pejorative tone implied by the terms Hinayana and Mahayana, it is common today
to use more neutral language to distinguish between these two main branches of Buddhism. Because Theravada historically dominated
southern Asia, it is sometimes called "Southern" Buddhism, while Mahayana, which migrated northwards from India into China,
Tibet, Japan, and Korea, is known as "Northern" Buddhism.6
Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy?
The Buddha referred to his teachings simply as Dhamma-vinaya — "the doctrine and discipline" — but for centuries
people have tried to categorize the teachings in various ways, trying to fit them into the prevailing molds of cultural, philosophical,
and religious thought. Buddhism is an ethical system — a way of life — that leads to a very specific goal and
that possesses some aspects of both religion and philosophy:
It is a philosophy.
Like most philosophies, Buddhism attempts to frame the complexities of human existence in a way that reassures us that
there is, in fact, some underlying order to the Universe. In the Four Noble Truths the Buddha crisply summarizes our predicament:
there is suffering, it has a cause, it has an end, and there is a way to reach the end. The teachings on kamma provide a thorough
and logically self-consistent description of the nature of cause-and-effect. And even the Buddhist view of cosmology, which
some may at first find farfetched, is a logical extension of the law of kamma. According to the Dhamma, a deep and unshakable
logic pervades the world.
It is not a philosophy.
Unlike most philosophical systems, which rely on speculation and the power of reason to arrive at logical truths, Buddhism
relies on the direct observation of one's personal experience and on honing certain skills in order to gain true understanding
and wisdom. Idle speculation has no place in Buddhist practice. Although studying in the classroom, reading books, and engaging
in spirited debate can play a vital part in developing a cognitive understanding of basic Buddhist concepts, the heart of
Buddhism can never be realized this way. The Dhamma is not an abstract system of thought designed to delight the intellect;
it is a roadmap to be used, one whose essential purpose is to lead the practitioner to the ultimate goal, nibbana.
It is a religion.
At the heart of each of the world's great religions lies a transcendent ideal around which its doctrinal principles orbit.
In Buddhism this truth is nibbana, the hallmark of the cessation of suffering and stress, a truth of utter transcendence that
stands in singular distinction from anything we might encounter in our ordinary sensory experience. Nibbana is the sine qua
non of Buddhism, the guiding star and ultimate goal towards which all the Buddha's teachings point. Because it aims at such
a lofty transcendent ideal, we might fairly call Buddhism a religion.
It is not a religion.
In stark contrast to the world's other major religions, however, Buddhism invokes no divinity, no supreme Creator or supreme
Self, no Holy Spirit or omniscient loving God to whom we might appeal for salvation.1 Instead, Buddhism calls for us to hoist
ourselves up by our own bootstraps: to develop the discernment we need to distinguish between those qualities within us that
are unwholesome and those that are truly noble and good, and to learn how to nourish the good ones and expunge the bad. This
is the path to Buddhism's highest perfection, nibbana. Not even the Buddha can take you to that goal; you alone must do the
work necessary to complete the journey:
"Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as
your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge."
— DN 16
Despite its non-theistic nature, however, Buddhist practice does call for a certain kind of faith. It is not blind faith,
an uncritical acceptance of the Buddha's word as transmitted through scripture. Instead it is saddha, a confidence born of
taking refuge in the Triple Gem; it is a willingness to trust that the Dhamma, when practiced diligently, will lead to the
rewards promised by the Buddha. Saddha is a provisional acceptance of the teachings, that is ever subject to critical evaluation
during the course of one's practice, and which must be balanced by one's growing powers of discernment. For many Buddhists,
this faith is expressed and reinforced through traditional devotional practices, such as bowing before a Buddha statue and
reciting passages from the early Pali texts. Despite a superficial resemblance to the rites of many theistic religions, however,
these activities are neither prayers nor pleas for salvation directed towards a transcendent Other. They are instead useful
and inspiring gestures of humility and respect for the profound nobility and worth of the Triple Gem.