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Theravada (Pali for “the Teaching of the Elders”) is one of Buddhism’s two main denominations, the other being Mahayana. Theravada Buddhism has about 124 million followers, comprising over a quarter of all Buddhists. With its roots in the 3rd century BCE Third Buddhist Council, Theravada is the oldest surviving Buddhist school, preserving many characteristics of early Buddhism. Theravada emphasizes religious practice for monks; the central religious obligation for the laity has traditionally been to support the monastic community. The tradition teaches that enlightenment is a result of self-discipline and free will, and that each person must achieve enlightenment for him or herself. For most adherents, only the Pali Canon (Tipitaka), the earliest Buddhist writings, is considered sacred scripture.