Theravada is a sect of Buddhism, and means "Teaching of the Elders." It focuses primarily on meditation, and seeking to break from the wheel of suffering and entering into Nirvana. Theravada clergy include monks and nuns.

Comparison chart

Buddhism versus Theravada comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartBuddhismTheravada
Place of worship Buddhist monasteries, temples, shrines. There is no worship in Theravada, though there are monastic temples.
Place of origin Indian subcontinent Indian subcontinent
Practices Meditation, the Eightfold Path; right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration Donation (alms-giving, etc.), Morality, and Meditation (insight). (Morality is nobler than donation and meditation is nobler than morality.)
Goal of religion To attain enlightenment and be released from the cycle of rebirth and death, thus attaining Nirvana. Deliverance of mind. Becoming an Arahant and freeing one's self from bondage, namely samsara.
Founder The Buddha (born as Prince Siddhartha) Siddhāttha Gotama
Use of statues and pictures Common. Statues are used as meditation objects, and revered as they reflect the qualities of the Buddha. Statues of the Buddha are objects of meditation.
Clergy The Buddhist Sangha, composed of bhikkhus (male monks) and bhikkhunis (female nuns). The sangha is supported by lay Buddhists. Sangha; ones who live according to the monastic codes. The concept of monk, or nun did not exist in earlier Buddhism. Those who chose to live under the guidance of the Tathāgata (Siddhāttha Gotama) parted from the worldlings.
Literal Meaning Buddhists are those who follow the teachings of the Buddha. Theravada means "teaching of the elders". It refers to the pure or original teachings of the Buddha over 2500 years ago.
Means of salvation Reaching Enlightenment or Nirvana, following the Noble Eightfold Path. Attaining Nibbāna through the Noble Eightfold Path, thus becoming an Arahant, an awakened one.
Belief of God The idea of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent creator is rejected by Buddhists. The Buddha himself refuted the theistic argument that the universe was created by a self-conscious, personal God. N/A
Life after death Rebirth is one of the central beliefs of Buddhism. We are in an endless cycle of birth, death and re-birth, which can only be broken by attaining nirvana. Attaining nirvana is the only way to escape suffering permanently. Reincarnation, Heaven/Hell are both temporary
Marriage It is not a religious duty to marry. Monks and nuns do not marry and are celibate. Advice in the Discourses on how to maintain a happy and harmonious marriage. One can marry and lead a moral life but should know that desire, attachments and cravings lead to suffering.
Status of women No distinctions between men and women. Women are equal to men, and men are equal to women in the Sangha. The Buddha gave Men and Women equal rights and a major part in the Sangha. Women can join the Sangha. In the Dharmic approach, the Buddha was the very first to allow women into monastic life.
Concept of Deity n/a. According to some interpretations, there are beings in heaven realms but they are also bound by "samsara". They may have less suffering but have not yet achieved salvation (nibbana) There are classes of beings. Some are called devas, higher life forms than human beings, though nothing supernatural. They are all stuck in their own samsara. There is no absolute entity, as an existing entity is seen as a conditioned phenomenon.
Human Nature Ignorance, as all sentient beings. In the Buddhist texts, it is seen that when Gautama, after his awakening, was asked whether he was a normal human being, he replied, "No". Human life is very hard to obtain, hence it is very important to practice. An ordinary human is called a puthujjana, a worldling. This kind is motivated by their illusory ego in all aspects of life.
View of the Buddha The highest teacher and the founder of Buddhism, the all-transcending sage. The Tathāgata is the worthy one. According to Theravada, Siddhāttha Gotama had the supreme enlightenment, which makes him superior to an Arahant. He's the one who propounded the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.
Religious Law The Dharma. There are no religious laws in Theravada, rather teachings of wisdom, and the Dhamma for those who are seeking liberation.
Confessing sins Sin is not a Buddhist concept. There is no concept of sin in Theravada. Kamma implies volitional action and all deeds have their fruits. Nevertheless, not being mentally attached to a certain misdeed was strongly adviced by the Buddha.
Geographical distribution and predominance (Majority or strong influence) Mainly in Thailand, Cambodia, Sri lanka, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Japan, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Other small minorities exist in other countries. Asia, Australia and North America.
Scriptures Tripitaka - a vast canon composed of 3 sections: the Discourses, the Discipline and the Commentaries, and some early scriptures, such as the Gandhara texts. 4 noble truths, 3 Jewels, 5 Precepts, eightfold path
Followers Buddhists Theravada Buddhists
Principle This life is suffering, and the only way to escape from this suffering is to dispel one's cravings and ignorance by realizing the Four Noble Truths and practicing the Eightfold Path. Enlightenment and Awakening.
Time of origin 2,500 years ago, circa 563 B.C.E. (Before Common Era) Southeast Asia,around 250 BCE

Further Reading

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