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Classical Theravada is term that was created to define a number of Theravada Buddhists who maintain a more literal interpretation of the texts of the Tipitaka and rigid adherence to the rules of the Vinaya.
Mode of practice
The classical Theravada places emphasis on study. Many who might be called Classical Theravadins study Pali and read and study the scriptures of Buddhism (specifically the Pali Canon) extensively. (This is not to say that Modern Theravadins do not know or study Pali; in fact there are many Modern Theravadins who are well-versed in Pali, but as a general rule, there is less emphasis on learning Pali completely in Modern Theravada.)
The practice generally proceeds with the formula of:
- Learn Pali
- Sila (morality)
- Dana (generosity)
- Bhavana (meditation practice)
- Nibbana (the goal)
Differences with other Theravadins
Classical Theravada is at odds with Modern Theravada on several issues, but is probably the best at preserving the Dhamma from getting diluted with other teachings, from the watering down of the teachings that can come with syncretism, which can happen in multi-cultural societies.
Classical Theravada considers only the Pali Canon as Buddhist scripture and tends to see other scriptures, especially those of the Mahayana as virtually heretical, schismatic, and in opposition to the Buddha's teachings. Classical Theravada also highly values the early commentaries of the Pali Canon. The Visuddhimagga, in particular, is held in high esteeem.
Origin of the term
The term Classical Theravada may have originated first at E-Sangha where there was a sub-forum in Theravada called Classical Theravada. The information is also posted at the discussion forum for The Dhamma Encyclopedia, at Dhamma Wheel.