Fourth Council It was convened in Kashmir under the patronage of
Kanishka (first century AD) and under the chairmanship of Vasumitra who
was helped by Asvaghosha (author of Buddhacharita). Its purpose was to
settle the differences among all the 18 sects of Buddhism and to compose the
commentaries. Its results were: (i) division of all the Buddhists into two
major sects, with Sarvastivadins (popular in Kashmir and Mathura regions)
and Mahasanghikas together forming the Mahayanists (followers of the
Greater Vehicle), and the rest, including Sthaviravadins, forming the
Hinayanists (followers of the Lesser Vehicle); (ii) codification of the
Sarvastivadin doctrines as Mahavibhasa (it was inscribed on copper plates,
which were later deposited in the stupa built for that purpose); (iii) conduct of
the deliberations of die council in Sanskrit instead of Pali; and. (iv) spread of
Buddhism to other countries—Mahayanism in Central Asia, China and Japan;
Hinayanism in Ceylon, Burma, Thailand and other parts of South East Asia.
Schisms in Buddhism
One of the earliest schisms in Buddhism came at the second council at
Vaisali, and resulted in the division of the Buddhists into Sthaviravadins and
Mahasanghikas. But the major schism came at the fourth Buddhist council in
Kashmir and resulted in the division of Buddhists into Mahayanists and
Hinayanists. Further, in the 8th century AD a new sect, viz. the Vajrayanists
(followers of the Vehicle of the Thunder Bolt), came into existence.
Minor Schism
During the second and third centuries after the death of the Buddha new
subdivisions gradually came into being, with the result that as many as
eighteen sects appeared out of the original two groups (Sthaviravadins and
Mahasanghikas) by the time of the Third Council. The following lists, based
on Vasumitra’s book on ‘Eighteen Sects’, indicates the emergence of the
different sects.
    The Mahasanghikas gave rise to the following sects:
    1. Ekavyaharikas