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Name given to the more conservative schools of Buddhism. A Sanskrit word meaning Lesser Vehicle (because it is concerned with the individual's salvation), it was first applied pejoratively to the established Buddhist schools by followers of the more liberal Mahayana (Greater Vehicle, because it is concerned with universal salvation) tradition. The ancient Hinayana schools continued to prosper after the rise of the Mahayana in the 1st century AD, but Theravada Buddhism was the only Hinayana school that maintained a strong position after the collapse of Indian Buddhism in the 13th century.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Hinayana, visit Britannica.com.