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The oldest of the two big branches in Buddhism. Theravada tries to follow the original teachings of Gautama Buddha as closely as possible

Theravāda (Pali, literally meaning "doctrine of the elders") is the oldest of the two big branches in Buddhism. Theravāda tries to follow the original teachings of Gautama Buddha as closely as possible. Theravāda's canon, the Pali canon, uses Pali as its liturgical language, not Sanskrit, as is the case with Mahayana's sutras.

Theravāda is sometimes also called Buddhism of the South since the countries where Theravāda is practiced mostly are located south of India where Buddhism originated. These countries are Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

There are two other names that are sometimes (wrongly) used for Theravāda. The first is Hīnayāna (meaning small vehicle) which is actually a derogative term, often used in contrast to the other large branch in Buddishm which is (meaning big vehicle). The second wrongly used term is Sthaviravāda, which is the ancestor school of Theravāda but has brought forth several other schools so cannot be regarded as being the same as Theravāda.

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