Hinayana or Lesser Vehicle dates back to around 500 BCE, making it one of the oldest forms of Buddhism still in existence. It can still be found in Sri Lanka and some areas of Southeast Asia and focuses on monasticism and the struggle to achieve a saintly life. It is because it is focused on this, rather than on attaining complete enlightenment and Buddhahood it is called the "Lesser Vehicle." Hinayana Buddhism follows the basic principles of the Pali canon and is often likened to primitive Buddhism. It focuses on the four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path that places it closer to the original teachings of Buddha instead of Mahayana that has always strives to reinterpret Buddha's esoteric doctrine and make it universally acceptable.
Although helping other sentient beings is accepted as an important Buddhist practice, the main motivation for following the spiritual path is to achieve liberation for oneself - Nirvana. Due to the negative connotation of the term Hinayana, the World Fellowship of Buddhists decided that the term Hinayana should be dropped to refer to Buddhism existing today, and the term Theravada should be applied, also because the term Hinayana has a negative connotation.