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Theravada (Doctrine of the Elders) is a self-chosen label for one of three main divisions within contemporary Buddhist traditions (Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana). With a global population of more than 150 million followers, it is the predominant religious affiliation in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. Theravada is also of central relevance to the religious traditions of contemporary Sakya and Vajracharya of Nepal; the Khmer Krom of Vietnam; the Baruas, Chakma, and Magh ethnic groups of Bangladesh; the Assamese of India; and the Shans of southern China. Among its most distinctive qualities are the liturgical practices of the Pāli language, the authoritative use of the Pāli canon (tipitaka), and rituals such as ordination lineages (nikaya) and the meditation of vipassana and samatha.

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