In reality Theravada Buddhism is highly atomised. The basic units are chapters of monks and communities that support them. Of course kings like to impose rule and regulation, but in Southeast Asia rulers and dynasties have tended not to last very long. Continuity has come instead from the practices underlying these communities _ the rituals for defining sacred space, the importance placed on ordination, the role of monk as teacher and exemplar, and lineages as linkages across time. Commonality comes from networking, especially the movements of texts and monks from place to place, and the occasional ventures in religious diplomacy between Burma, Siam and Sri Lanka. In one of the many beautiful illustrations in this book, two monks chat as their ships pass in opposite directions between Siam and Sri Lanka. A catalogue of texts at a Cambodian temple includes several canonical works in Pali, but many other texts translated from Thai.
From: Buddhism, or whatever it is, Bangkok Post. A review of "How Theravada is Theravada?" by Skilling et al
In the past, people referred simply to "the religion" or "the teachings". The label Buddhism was invented by Western scholars when they wanted to compare it to other religions.
BuddhaSoup wrote:The Theravada is descended from the Tāmraparnīya, which means "the Sri Lankan lineage." In the 7th century CE, Chinese pilgrims Xuanzang and Yijing refer to the Buddhist schools in Sri Lanka as Shàngzuòbù (Ch. 上座部), corresponding to the Sanskrit "Sthavira" and the Pali "Thera."[c] The school has been using the name [b]Theravada for itself in a written form since at least the 4th century, when the term appears in the Dipavamsa.[d]
[d] It is used in the Dipavamsa (quoted in Debates Commentary, Pali Text society, page 4), which is generally dated to the 4th century.
I admit, the above taken from a Wikipedia article, but I cannot accept that the term "Theravada" was invented by an Irishman in the 20th century, as a posting above states.
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