Definition - What does Theravada mean?

Theravada is one of the two major traditions of Buddhism: the other is Mahayana. Whereas Mahayana is sometimes referred to as Northern Buddhism, Theravada is called Southern Buddhism for its prominence in the more southern countries of Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, among others.

The name comes from the Pali language and is translated as “doctrine of the elder monks.” Theravada claims to be the oldest school of Buddhism and the one that remains closest to the Buddha's original teachings, having descended from the Buddha's own disciples.

Yogapedia explains Theravada

In Theravada Buddhism, the goal is to become an enlightened saint who has attained nirvana. According to Theravada doctrine, experience, knowledge and reasoning all develop one's spiritual insight.

Theravada believes that the nature of the individual self (anatman) is delusion, and to reach the state of nirvana, or bliss, one must follow a spiritual path to free oneself of delusion. That begins with knowledge (learning) and is followed by vipassana (insight meditation), a practice of self-observation of the physical and mental.

Unlike Mahayana, which has many sects, Theravada does not have major divisions and only variations of practice among temples.

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