I'm considering spending some time in the future in retreats to have a taste of what monastic life is like. It seems that Theravāda is the current tradition most related and compatible to my moral principles and philosophical ideas.

But before spending too money on flight and residence without complete certainty on the differences and traits of schools around the globe, I'd like get enough information.

So, as I've written in the title, what are the main differences between schools, lineages, branches and sects in the Theravāda tradition?

Also, only if possible -and if it's allowed by the forum's rules-, if you were to go forth, what monastery would you choose, and why? (Just in case, I'm not asking what tradition is better or what is the closest one to the original teachings, because every sect can say that they're the ones).

Thanks for your time! Have a nice day!

2 Answers 2


It appears that some teachers and traditions are more focused on samatha and jhana like Pa Auk Sayadaw and Ajahn Brahm.

And then there are other teachers and traditions that are more focused on vipassana like Mahasi Sayadaw, Ledi Sayadaw, Sayagyi U Ba Khin and his student S.N. Goenka, Ajahn Tong Sirimangalo and his student Yuttadhammo.

Samatha is cultivation of concentration and vipassana is cultivation of insight.

Ultimately both are needed.


It is important to know what the original teachings are because one cannot practise aimlessly. As for ordaining, I would choose an Ajahn Chah monastery due to its proven history of providing good training & producing excellent virtuous Western monks (who appear quite free to teach Dhamma as they individually view it).

  • In the Ajahn Chah monastery there are a lot of people who are believing in literal rebirth. Wasn't Ajahn Chah opposed to rebirth?
    – Val
    Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 10:10
  • Ajahn Chah taught Dependent Origination to monks how Buddhadasa would explain it however occasionally Ajahn Chah is said to have mentioned traditional rebirth to the village lay people. Ajahn Chah's senior disciples connected with his senior disciple Ajahn Sumedho did not teach reincarnation however, yes, as the Ajahn Chah tradition is more exposed to lay people to more the newer monks seem to teach reincarnation. Even Ajahn Amaro surprisingly occasionally mentions it now and even Ajahn Jayasaro. Of course, Ajahn Brahm appeared to break out on his own quite early. Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 10:31
  • But yes, particularly in the West where there are wealthy Asian supporters, the monks often teach "rebirth" because this is what the lay people want to hear. Ajahn Kalayano seems to teach both versions of Dependent Origination; saying both should not be in conflict.... Recently I heard talks by Ajahn Achalo and it was hard core reincarnation and godly realms and past life kamma. Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 10:39

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