Early Buddhist school in India that anticipated the Mahayana tradition. Its emergence in the 4th century BC, about 100 years after the Buddha's death, represented the first major schism in the Buddhist community. Though accounts of the second Buddhist council attribute the split to a dispute over rules, later texts emphasize differences between the Mahasanghikas and the Theravadins (see Theravada) regarding the nature of the Buddha and sainthood. The Mahasanghikas believed in a plurality of buddhas and held that the Buddha in his earthly existence was only an apparition.
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