only used with ref. to the bhikkhus of Gotama Buddha’s community
(adj.) senior Vin.i.47, Vin.i.290 (th. bhikkhū opp. navā bh.), Vin.i.159 (th bhikkhu a senior bh. opp. to navaka bh. a novice), Vin.i.187, Vin.ii.16, Vin.ii.212. Therânutherā bhikkhū seniors & those next to them in age dating not from birth, but from admission to the Order). Three grades are distinguished thera bh., majjhima bh., nava bh., at DN.i.78
■ See also AN.ii.23, AN.ii.147, AN.ii.168; AN.v.201, AN.v.348; DN.iii.123 sq., DN.iii.218; Dhp.260, Dhp.261. In Sangha-thera, used of Bhikkhus not senior in the Order, the word thera means distinguished Vin.ii.212, Vin.ii.303. In Mahāthera the meaning, as applied to the 80 bhikkhus so called, must also have some similar meaning Dpvs.iv.5 Psalms of the Brethren xxxvi. Ja.v.456. At AN.ii.22 it is said that a bhikkhu, however junior, may be called thera on account of his wisdom It is added that four characteristics make a man a thera-high character, knowing the essential doctrines by heart, practising the four Jhānas, and being conscious of having attained freedom through the destruction of the mental intoxications. It is already clear that at a very early date, before the Anguttara reached its extant shape, a secondary meaning of thera was tending to supplant that of senior-that is, not the senior of the whole Order, but the senior of such a part of the Sangha as live in the same locality, or are carrying out the same function
Note. thera in thero vassiko at SN.iv.161 is to be read tero-vassiko.

  • -gāthā hymns of senior bhikkhus, Name of a canonical book, incorporated in the Khuddaka-Nikāya. Theratara very senior, oppd to navatara, novice DN.ii.154
  • -vāda the doctrine of the Theras, the original Buddhist doctrine MN.i.164; Dpvs.iv.6, Dpvs.iv.13.

Vedic sthavira. Derivation uncertain. It may come from sthā in sense of standing over, lasting (one year or more), cp. thāvara old age, then “old = venerable”; (in meaning to be compared w. Lat. senior, etc from num. sem “one” = one year old, i.e. lasting over one and many more years). Cp. also vetus = Gr. ε ̓́τος year, E. wether, one year old ram, as cpd. w. veteran old man. Or it may come from sthā in der. *stheṷā in sthūra (sthūla: see etym. under thūla) thus, “strong venerable”