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Buddhism Traditions: Eastern Buddhism |Southern Buddhism |Northern Buddhism
 

THERAVADA BUDDHISM (SOUTHERN ASIA)

 
Theravada is the oldest surviving Buddhist school, and for many centuries has been the predominant religion of Sri Lanka and most of continental Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand). It is also practised by minorities in parts of southwest China (by the Shan and Tai ethnic groups), Vietnam (by the Khmer Krom), Bangladesh (by the ethnic groups of Baruas, Chakma, and Magh), Philippines, Malaysia, Nepal (amongst the Newari people) and Indonesia, whilst recently gaining popularity in Singapore and Australia. Today Theravada Buddhists number over 100 million worldwide, and in recent decades Theravada has begun to take root in the West.
 
It was long believed in Theravada tradition that the Pali language is equivalent to Magadhi, the eastern dialect of the kingdom of Magadha spoken by the Buddha. However, linguistic comparisons of the Edicts of Asoka and the language of the Pali canon show strong differences between the Magadhi of the Edicts and Pali. The greatest similarity to Pali is found in a dialectal variant of the Edicts written on a rock near Girnar in Gujarat.
 
 
Theravada is Pali for "the Doctrine of the Elders" or "the Ancient Doctrine". Theravada teaches one to encourage wholesome states of mind, avoid unwholesome states of mind, and to train the mind in meditation. The aim of practice, according to Theravada Buddhism, is the attainment of freedom from suffering, which is linked with Nirvana, the highest spiritual goal. Theravada teaches that the experience of suffering is caused by mental defilements like greed, aversion and delusion, while freedom can be attained though putting into practice teachings like the Four Noble Truths and especially the fourth one, the Noble Eightfold Path.
 
The Theravada school bases its practice and doctrine exclusively on the Pali Canon and its commentaries. The Sutta collections and Vinaya texts of the Pali Canon (and the corresponding texts in other versions of the Tripitaka), are generally considered by modern scholars to be the earliest Buddhist literature, and they are accepted as authentic in every branch of Buddhism.
 
 
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