Theravāda school ［上座部］ (Pali; Sthaviravāda; Jōza-bu): “Teaching of the Elders.” One of the two schools formed by the first schism in the Buddhist Order that took place about one hundred years after Shakyamuni’s death in India. The other is the Mahāsamghika school. According to The Great Commentary on the Abhidharma, a dispute arose within the Buddhist Order over a five-point modification of doctrine advanced by a monk called Mahādeva. As a result, the Order split into the Theravāda school, which rejected the new interpretations, and the Mahāsamghika school, which accepted them. (Another account, however, attributes the schism to controversy over a more flexible interpretation of the precepts advocated by the monks of the Vriji tribe in Vaishālī.) Of the two schools, the Theravāda school claimed a greater percentage of the elder monks and was more conservative, emphasizing strict adherence to the established precepts and a literal interpretation of doctrine. According to The Doctrines of the Different Schools, the Sarvāstivāda school, which developed the abhidharma, or exegetical commentary section of the canon, later broke away from Theravāda; under pressure from the Sarvāstivādins, the Theravāda school moved to the Himalayan region where it was thereafter called the Haimavata (Himalaya) school. The Haimavata school later declined.
The Theravāda teaching was also introduced to Sri Lanka by King Ashoka’s son Mahendra, where it developed and eventually spread to other parts of South and Southeast Asia. What is called Theravāda, or Southern, Buddhism, can be traced to these teachings introduced to Sri Lanka. See also five teachings of Mahādeva; ten unlawful revisions.