Theravada Buddhism is widely recognised as the classic introduction to the branch of Buddhism found in Sri Lanka and parts of South East Asia. The Buddha preached in north-east India in the ﬁfth-century bce.
He claimed that human beings are responsible for their own salvation, and put forward a new ideal of the holy life, establishing a monastic Order to enable men and women to pursue that ideal. For most of its history the fortunes of Theravada, the most conservative form of Buddhism, have been identiﬁed with those of that Order. Under the great Indian emperor, Asoka, himself a Buddhist, Theravada reached Sri Lanka in about 250 bce. There it became the religion of the Sinhala state, and from there it spread, much later, to Burma and Thailand. Richard Gombrich, a leading authority on Theravada Buddhism, has updated his text and bibliography to take account of recent research, including his discovery of the date of the Buddha and recent social and political developments in Sri Lanka. He explores the legacy of the Buddha’s predecessors and the social and religious contexts in which Buddhism has developed and changed throughout history. Above all, he shows how it has always inﬂuenced and been inﬂuenced by its social surroundings in a way which continues to this day. Richard F. Gombrich is Academic Director of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, and one of the most renowned Buddhist scholars in the world. From 1976 to 2004 he was Boden Professor of Sanskrit, University of Oxford. He has been President of the Pali Text Society and was awarded the Sri Lanka Ranjana decoration by the President of Sri Lanka in 1994 and the SC Chakraborty medal by the Asiatic Society of Calcutta the previous year. He has written extensively on Buddhism, including How Buddhism Began: the Conditioned Genesis of the Early Teachings (Routledge 2005); and with Gananath Obeyesekere, Buddhism transformed: Religious change in Sri Lanka (1988).