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Subject Religion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631181392.1995.x


[ xi ] The most usual name for the B uddhism of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and south-east Asia. Theravada (Sanskrit: Sthaviravada ), ‘doctrine of the elders’, was upheld by one party in the first Buddhist schism (4th century bce ). Although some scholars believe the M ahayana to originate ultimately from the opposing M ahasanghikas , all extant branches of the Buddhist order (S angha ) derive from these original elders. The term is applied to one particular branch, a variety of Vibhajjavada (Sanskrit: Vibhajyavada ), ‘doctrine of analysis’, which claimed to preserve the authentic teachings of the original elders. This school was strong in ancient Ceylon; in fact the early history of the Theravada outside the island is not well known. In the 5th century ce it was widely distributed in southern India and south-east Asia, but the most authoritative centre was the Mahavihara at Anuradhapura in Ceylon. The Theravada closed its scriptural canon (T ipitaka ) in the 1st century bce , preserving the use of a Middle Indian language (P ali ). A more archaic scriptural tradition strengthened its claim to be a more authentic preserver of the teaching. The classical form of Theravada doctrine was established between the 5th and 10th centuries ce by a series of Pali commentators, notably B uddhaghosa and D hammapala , from the mainland as well as from Ceylon. A later school flourished in the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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