Many unique schools of Buddhism were established in the first century after Buddha's death. Of these original forms, only Theravada Buddhism -- the "Doctrine of the Elders" -- still survives. 1 It later spread from northern India throughout most of Southeast Asia: Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Thailand. The other major yana (vehicle or path) in Buddhism is Mahayana; it was created about a century after the Buddha's death in an attempt to make the religion more accessible to the general population.
The goal of followers of Theravada Buddhism:
Monks focus on a personal goal to become an arhat -- an enlightened person without worldly desires or suffering. Author Jacky Sach wrote:
"Theravada Buddhists relied on rationality, rules and education...Theravada emphasizes wisdom, scholarship and intellectual training.
There are two main methods by which a monk attempts to become an arhat:
* Meditation and insight (vipashyana-dhura). This involves "... insight meditation, the practice of tranquility and the quieting of the mind."
* Study (gantha-dhura). This involves "... the study of the Buddhist canon, the scriptures, and the path to knowledge and wisdom."
Theravada Buddhism initially reserved the practice of meditation to monks. The laity were "... encouraged to engage in merit-making activities to improve their future rebirth status." However, in recent times, the laity have embraced meditation and aspire "to more dramatic progress along the path to nirvana."
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