known as the "Lesser Vehicle" because of its strict interpretation of the BUDDHIST CANON and emphasis upon the MONASTIC Order the SANGHA. It is the main rival to MAHAYNA BUDDHISM and is dominant in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and Cambodia. Arising as a result of controversy over the role of the Laity in the fourth century B.C. it claims to preserve the authentic teachings of the BUDDHA and to be the oldest and purest FORM of Buddhism. The Theravdn tradition began to take shape with the second BUDDHIST COUNCIL in 250 B.C. but took its classical form between the fifth and tenth centuries. When Buddhism was first encountered by the West in the nineteenth century it was this tradition which at first gained recognition because of its apparent RATIONALITY and essentially supposed modern rejection of the SUPERNATURAL.

Concise dictionary of Religion. 2012.

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