Theravada Buddhism is the religion of virtually all of the ethnic Khmers, who constitute about 90% or more of the Cambodian population.
Buddhism originated in what are now north India and Nepal during the sixth century B.C. Theravada Buddhism is a tolerant, non-prescriptive religion that does not require belief in a supreme being. Its precepts require that each individual take each individual take full responsibility for his own actions and omissions. Buddhism is based on three concepts: dharma (the doctrine of the Buddha, his guide to right actions and belief); karma (the belief that oneâ€™s life now and in future lives depends upon oneâ€™s own deeds and misdeeds and that as an individual one is responsible for, and rewarded on the basis of, the sum total of oneâ€™s acts and actâ€™s incarnations past and present); and sangha, the ascetic community within which man can improve his karma.
The Buddhist salvation is nirvana, a final extinction of oneâ€™s self. Nirvana may be attained by achieving good karma through earning much merit and avoiding misdeeds. A Buddhistâ€™s pilgrimage through existence is a constant attempt to distance himself or herself from the world and finally to achieve complete detachment, or nirvana. The fundamentals of Buddhist doctrine are the Four Noble Truths: suffering exits; craving (or desire) is the cause of suffering; release from suffering can be achieved by stopping all desire; and enlightenment â€“ buddhahood â€“ can be attained by following the Noble Eightfold Path (right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration), which constitutes a middle way between sensuality and asceticism.
Enlightenment consists of knowing these truths. The average layperson cannot hope for nirvana after the end of this life, but can by complying, as best he or she is able to, with the doctrineâ€™s rules of moral conduct-hope to improve his or her karma and thereby better his condition in the next incarnation.