Buddhism: Theravāda


Primary Author
Chara Scroope,

Buddhism is a religion founded upon and inspired by the teachings of the individual referred to as ‘Buddha’. The tradition originated in northern India as a countermovement to the dominant religion at the time (approx. 6th to 4th century BCE). Buddhism eventually spread throughout Asia and has since played a formative role in the political, cultural and social aspects of many Asian countries. As Buddhism spread through many regions, it developed into multiple separate traditions. The transmission of the religion to the south saw the emergence of the tradition known as ‘Theravāda’ (‘Way of the Elders’). This was introduced to South and South East Asia, including Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

Reverence towards the founding teacher, the Buddha, is central to Theravāda Buddhism. The foundational concepts of kamma (also known as karma), rebirth and liberation from suffering (nibbāna) tend to form the basis for many practices within the tradition. Such concepts come from the main set of texts known as the ‘Pāli canon’, which contains rules of monastic discipline, philosophical commentaries, and the teachings of the Buddha. Some Buddhists regard the teachings of the Buddha as spiritual guidance while others consider the tradition as a philosophy, psychology of mind or a practical way of life.

Get a downloadable PDF that you can share, print and read.

Guaranteed secure stripe badge

A unified, searchable interface answering your questions on the world's cultures and religions

Sign up for free