(Skt, elder; Pāli, thera). One of the two main sectarian groups in early Indian Buddhism.the other being the Universal Assembly (Mahāsaṃghikas). The two groups went their separate ways at the Council of Pāṭaliputra (see Council of Pāṭaliputra I). The Sthaviras claimed to represent older more orthodox teachings that could be traced directly back to the Buddha.and they branded their opponents as heretics, although the Mahāsaṃghikas appeared to have been the more populous body. The Theravāda school claims direct descent from the Sthaviras but, although they share the same name (Thera and Sthavira being the Pāli andSanskrit forms of the same word meaning ‘elder’), there is no historical evidence that the Theravāda school arose until around two centuries after the Great Schism which occurred at the Council of Pāṭaliputra.