Until fairly recently, Theravada was usually described by university professors and pundits as the only surviving school of Hinayana Buddhism. Although the Ven. Dr. W. Rahula in “Gems of Buddhist Wisdom” suggests that Theravada is no different from the Mahayana tradition.¹
The term was widely used in the past by Western scholars to cover “the earliest system of Buddhist doctrine” as the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary (Oxford, 1899) put it. It has been used as a synonym for the Theravada tradition, which continues as the main form of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and South-East Asia, but some scholars deny that the term included Theravada Buddhism. In 1950 the World Fellowship of Buddhists declared that the term Hīnayana should not be used when referring to any form of Buddhism existing today.²
Myself, I’ve never had too much interest in Buddhism. Yes, I flirted with it in my youth, along with a myriad of other paths. But ever since I realized that Buddhists generally don’t believe in God or individuality, it seemed to me that the Buddhist path could only take me so far. So if interested, visit here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theravada for more info.
¹ Buddhist Missionary Society, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 1996.
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