One of the Buddhist schools which separated out from the Theravádins at the Second Council. The members rejected the Parivára, the six sections of the Abhidhamma, the Patisambhidamagga, the Niddesa and some portions of the Játakas (KvuA. p. 4; Dpv.v.32ff).
The school was so called owing to the great number of its followers, which made a great assembly or "Mahásangití." They were counted among the Anátmavádins, and later gave rise to the following schools: the
Originally they had only two divisions the Ekabbohárikas and Gokulikas (Rockhill, op. cit., 182ff).
Their separation from the orthodox school was brought about by the Vajjiputta monks, and was probably due to difference of opinion on the ten points (for these see Vin.ii.294f) held by the Vajjiputta monks. According to Northern sources, however, the split occurred on the five points raised by Mahádeva:
These articles of faith are found in the Kathávatthu (173ff., 187ff., 194, 197), attributed to the Pubbaselas and the Aparaselas, opponents of the Mahásanghika school.
According to Hiouen Thsang (Beal.ii.164), the Mahásanghikas divided their canon into five parts: Sútra, Vinaya, Abhidhamma, Miscellaneous and Dháraní. Fa Hsien took from Pátaliputta to China a complete transcript of the Mahásanghika Vinaya. (Giles, p. 64, Nańjio's Catalogue mentions a Mahásanghika Vinaya and a Mahásanghabhiksuní Vinaya in Chinese translations, Cola. 247, 253. Ms. No.543).
The best known work of the Mahásanghikas is the Mahávastu. Their headquarters in Ceylon were in Abhayagiri vihára, and Sena I. is said to have built the Vírankuráráma for their use. Cv.1.68.