The most important Theravada stories are about the life of Gotama Buddha and his previous lives; especially popular is the story of his life as Prince Vessantara. Popular religious stories also include hagiographies, national histories, and tales of moral instruction.
Ultimate Reality and Divine Beings
In Theravada, nibbana is understood to be real and distinct from samsara. Although most Theravadins believe in and worship deities, deities are understood to be inferior to the Buddha, who is a perfected human being and not a god.
Human Nature and the Purpose of Existence
Because Theravadins do not believe in an omnipotent, benevolent deity, the existence of suffering and evil is not a theological problem but a practical problem to be overcome through loving kindness and pursuit of the Buddhist path.
Suffering and the Problem of Evil
The human condition is characterized by dissatisfaction, impermanence, and the lack of an independently existing self. In the absence of a supreme deity, humans give purpose to their own lives, and the highest purpose is to seek nibbana.
Afterlife and Salvation
Although nibbana is their ultimate goal, most Theravadins' aspiration for their next life is to have a good rebirth as a human or deity. Many Theravadins hope to be reborn in the Tusita heaven and later to reborn on earth at the time of Buddha Metteyya.