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Buddhist Schools

The two great schools of Buddhism are the Hinayaana and the Mahaayaana. The Hinayaanists believe that the Theravaada or the way of the elders is identical with the three pitakas compiled at the first council at Raajagrha. The first council tried to relax the rigours of asceticism in the order, against great opposition. In the second council which took place at Vaishaali a hundred years later, the more progressive of the order tried to get the disciplinary rules relaxed again, for which they were condemned by the Sthaviras or the elders. This led to a split which caused the progressive party or the Mahaasangikaas to hold another council called the Mahaasangiti.

The Hinayaanists accuse the Mahaasangikaas of overturning the religion, breaking up the old scriptures, distorting the doctrines of the Nikhaayas and destroying the spirit of the Buddha's teaching. The main point of contention between the two schools is the question of attainment of Buddhahood. The Theravaadins believe that one should evolve to Buddhahood by strict observance of the rules of vinaya, while the Mahaasangikaas believe that Buddhahood is an inborn quality in every human being which could by adequate development, raise the possessor to the rank of the Tathaagata.

The culmination of the movement, which led to the secession of the Mahaasangikaas from the Theravaadins is the Mahaayaana. The Mahaayaana adheres to the canon drawn up by the council held at Jalandhara in Punjab during Kanishkaa's time.