Theravada Buddhism is the longest
surviving Buddhism tradition, and for many centuries has been the
predominant religion of countries such as Sri
Lanka, Thailand, Burma and continental Southeast Asia (parts
of southwest China, Cambodia, Laos, Malayasia, Indonesia and Vietnam).
It is also gaining popularity in Singapore and Australia. It emerged
from the split which occurred at The Second Buddhist Council after
the passing away of the Buddha. The term Theravada, which literally
means "The Way of the Elders", first appears in writing
in the 7th century CE in the school's own manuscripts and implies
that the school attempts to maintain the Buddha's teachings as authentically
as possible. Adherents trace their lineage back to the Sthaviras
(Pali: Theras; "Elders") of the First Buddhist Council
when 500 arahants, including Mahakasyapa chose a position of orthodoxy
to keep all the "lesser and minor" rules set by Gautama
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During the reign of Emperor Asoka in India, the third Council was
held in Pataliputra (250 BCE). The President of the Council, Moggaliputta
Tissa, compiled a book called the Kathavatthu attempting to refute
what he saw as the heretical, false views and theories held by some
sects. The teaching approved and accepted by this Council was known
as Theravada. The Abhidhamma Pitaka was included at this Council.
Thus the modern Pali Canon was now essentially completed. It was
brought by Venerable Mahinda to Sri Lanka in 246 BCE and was committed
to writing in 110 BCE. It is still in use today by Theravadins.