By: Laura Dunnagan
My name is Ashoka, and I am studying to become a Buddhist monk. I am a member of the Theravada branch centered in Sri Lanka, where I live, even though our leader, Buddha, was born in Nepal. There are also hubs of Buddhism in Burma, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia, as well as Central Asia. As Buddhists, we believe that Buddah, known as Siddhartha Guatama, reached enlightenment underneath a Bodhi Tree in Bodh, India, so I hope to travel there one day to become closer to my own spiritual awakening.
As a Buddhist, I believe that that my purpose is to end suffering in the world, and I strive to reach Nirvana. Nirvana can only be reached once a person understands the Four Noble Truths. By following Buddha, we are taught that nothing lasts forever, and we grasp this transience to help us reach the end of sadness and ignorance. For a long time, our teachings were transmitted only orally, but they eventually were written down and compiled into the Tripitaka. Our main symbol as Buddhists is the ‘dharmachakra’ or the ‘wheel of the law’. It signifies overcoming obstacles, and it has eight spokes, each representing the Eightfold Path, which we follow and practice to become free from suffering. The spokes represent right view, right intention, right speck, right action, right effort, right mindfulness, right livelihood, and right concentration- eight of the most important things for Buddhists. Since I am studying to become a Buddhist monk, most of the time, I meditate, study the ways of Buddha, and practice our Buddhist values. Buddhist monks lead quiet lives, most of the time meditating, trying to reach Nirvana and the stage of enlightenment.