Theravada Buddhism: Basic Terms and Concepts
Theravada Buddhism refers to the branch or school of Buddhism that draws its scriptural inspiration from the Tipitaka, or Pali canon, which is claimed to contain the earliest surviving record of the Buddha’s teachings. Theravada has been one of the predominant religions of Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Sri Lanka.
1. Theravada (from Pali words ‘thera,’ meaning ‘elders,’ and ‘vada,’ meaning ‘word’ or ‘doctrine’), the ‘Doctrine of the Elders,’ is the name for the school of Buddhism that takes its scriptural inspiration from the Pali Canon, or Tipitaka, which is generally acknowledged as the oldest record of the Buddha’s teachings.
2. Buddhism’s ‘Tripitaka’ (‘Tipitaka’ in Pali) is the earliest collection of Buddhist teachings and the only text acknowledged as canonical by Theravada Buddhism. The schools of the Mahayana (‘Greater Vehicle’) branch also revere it, yet regard as scripture additional writings that are not accepted by Theravada.
3. The first basket, the ‘Vinaya Pitaka’ (Discipline Basket) was recalled by a monk named Upali. The earliest and smallest basket, it provides for the rules and regulations for the monastic community (the ‘sangha’), comprising 227 rules for monks, supplementary regulations for nuns, and rules for the interaction between the sangha and the laity. These rules were basically taken from the Buddha's responses to particular situations in the community.