Overview

The followers of Theravadin themselves usually refer to their teaching as the Teaching of the Elders.  Theravada was one of the schools within the Theravadin; it is however, the only one still existing today.  Theravada is also referred to as Southern Buddhism, since it is prevalent chiefly in countries of southern Asia (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Kampuchea, Laos).

The Theravada school developed between the death of the Buddha and the end of the first century B.C.E. According to it adherents it represents the original, pure teaching as it was taught by the Buddha.  Its doctrines are essentially based on the sutras, which are said to have been spoken by the Buddha himself.  

The Theravada presents primarily the path to liberation.  Philosophical speculations have no role in this; on the contrary, they are considered a hindrance on the path.  The Theravada teaching provides an analysis of the human situation, the nature of existence, and the structure of individuality, and show methods for the resolution of suffering.

The Buddha is regarded by these schools as a historical person, an earthly man and teacher, not as a transcendent being.

The essence of the teaching is expressed in the four noble truths, the doctrine of dependent arising, the teaching of anatman, and the law of karma.  The basic practice of the Theravada is described in the teaching of the eightfold path.