Theravada is the branch of Buddhism is found in Sri Lanka and parts of South East Asia. The Buddha preached in north-east India in about the fifth-century BC. He claimed that human beings are responsible for their own salvation, and put foward 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 BC. There it became the religion of the Sinhala state, and from there it spread, much later, to Burma and Thailand.
Richard Gombrich's book, widely recognised as the classic introduction to the field of Theravada Buddhism, shows how Theravada Buddhism has influenced and been influenced by its social surroundings. He explores the influences of the Buddha's predecessors and the social and religious contexts against which Buddhism has developed and changed throughout history. This revised and updated new edition incorporates recent research, including recent controversies over the date of the Buddha, as well as reflecting recent social and political developments in Sri Lanka.