Theravada Buddhist Societies

Donald K. Swearer

in The Oxford Handbook of Global Religions

Published in print October 2006 | ISBN: 9780195137989
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 Theravada Buddhist Societies

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The school of Buddhism known as Theravada (Teachings of the Elders) traces its origins to the Buddha himself whose traditional birth date is 543 BCE. Classified as one of the eighteen original sects of Indian Hinayana Buddhism, Theravadins believe that the orthodoxy of their tradition was upheld by the monastic ruling council at an assembly convened at Pataliputra by the great Indian monarch, Asoka, in 247 BCE. Although Theravadins believe that their canonical scriptures in the Pali language were codified at the council of Pataliputra, the definitive Theravada commentaries were written in the fifth century CE by monks associated with the Mahavihara. Of special importance was the South Indian pandit, Buddhaghosacariya. The most widely used ritual manual throughout the Theravada tradition, the Parittapotthaka, was also compiled by monks of the Mahavihara in Anuradhapura. In the late nineteenth century, new movements within the sangha promoted various reforms in Buddhist practice. They included the Dhammayuttika sect in Thailand, the Schwegyin sect in Myanmar, and the Ramanya sect in Sri Lanka.

Keywords: Buddhism; Theravada; Asoka; monks; Mahavihara; Buddhaghosacariya; Parittapotthaka; Dhammayuttika; Sri Lanka; reforms

Article.  3455 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Interfaith Relations ; Buddhism

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