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Theravada Buddhism

Literally meaning 'The Way of the Elders’, Theravada Buddhism is one of the two major schools of Buddhism. Theravada Buddhism symbolizes an entire sect in itself as it is based on the original beliefs and practices of the Buddha and the early monastic Elders. Also known as the Hinayana, it emerged between the 3rd –7th century CE. It is primarily followed in southern Asia particularly in Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Like the Mahayana, Theravada is also based on the Pali Canon, which includes an early collection of the Buddha's teachings in India.

A new form of the Buddhist religion, here the Buddha is a human, who with self-discipline shows the way towards nirvana.  At this stage there is no trace of a god. Buddhism in India include the Theravadas have a single aim in life, to become an arhat. Arhat is the one who has attained nirvana and will not be born again. For this, they follow a painstaking existence in the form of ascetism and relinquish their post for the world.

Theravada Buddhism emphasized on bodhisattva symbolizing empathy for all beings. It stressed on drawing mandalas or 'magic' circles, symbolic hand gestures known as mudras, recitation of phrases or mantras and need for an experienced teacher to spread Buddha’s teachings. According to the Theravada or the 'Lesser Vehicle', it is impossible for a layman to achieve the state of Nirvana. There are the following four stages through which a Theravada Buddhist can become an arhat :

Sotapanna (Stream-enterer) : Sotapanna is the stage where the person is a convert. To attain this stage, one has to defeat the false beliefs in life like desire, jealousy, ignorance and lust or worldly cravings.

Sakadagamin (Once-returner) : The stage of Sakadagamin is that of rebirth. This stage can be achieved only by conquering lust, hatred and illusion.

Anagamin (Never-returner) : The stage of being reborn in heaven is known as Anagamin. It is the stage where he becomes an arhat.

Arhat (Worthy one) : The last stage is known as Arhat. At this stage, the person has attained perfect enlightenment and will never be born again.