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Theravada is the oldest-surviving denomination of Buddhism. It was founded in Nepal. It is relatively conservative, and generally closest to early Buddhism.[1] For many centuries it has been the main religion of Sri Lanka (now about 70% of the population[2]) and most of continental Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand). Theravada is also practiced by minorities in parts of southwest China (by the Shan and Tai ethnic groups), Vietnam (by the Khmer Krom), Bangladesh (by the ethnic groups of Baruas, Chakma, and Magh), Malaysia and Indonesia, while recently gaining popularity in Singapore and the Western world. Today Theravada Buddhists, who are also known as Theravadins, number over 100 million worldwide; in recent decades Theravada has begun to take root in the West[3] and in the Buddhist revival in Nepal.[4]


  1. Gethin, Foundations, page 1
  2. "The World Factbook: Sri Lanka". CIA World Factbook. Retrieved 2006-08-12..
  3. Bullitt, John. "What is Theravada Buddhism?". BuddhaNet. Retrieved 2010-08-15. "In the last century, however, the West has begun to take notice of Theravada's unique spiritual legacy and teachings of Awakening. In recent decades, this interest has swelled, with the monastic Sangha from the various schools within Theravada establishing dozens of monasteries across Europe and North America."
  4. - See the citations under 'Theravada Buddhism - World'