The term Theravāda means literally „School of the Elders“.
The initial form of Buddha’s teachings was compiled by arahants and arose in the first Buddhist council. The Theravāda school is the oldest authentic form of Buddha’s teaching that has been preserved from ancient until the modern times. One of the typical features of the Theravāda tradition is the conservative approach to the Buddha’s teachings, together with the emphasis on meditation practice and strict discipline (vinaya) The fundamental text of the Theravāda teaching is collected in the Tipiṭaka, the oldest known collection of the Buddhist texts, which was written in Pāli in the first half of the first century B.C in Sri Lanka.
The traditional name of the Pāli Canon, Tipiṭaka, refers to the initial Three “baskets” that preserved and contained the handwriting script of the rules for the monastic and lay Buddhist practitioners (the first basket), of the records of the Buddha’s teaching (the second basket) and of the teaching’s interpretation (the third basket). The text also preserved the Buddha‘s knowledge about how the human mind functions. Thus today we have an authentic body of knowledge reaching back more than two thousand years. Theravāda Buddhism evolved in Sri Lanka thanks to the mission initiated by the Indian Ashoka Emperor (268–232 B. C.) and from there it spread across all of southern Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand). Nowadays there is also a significant number of western practitioners and followers that identify with this branch of Buddhism in the USA, Canada, Australia and Europe.