One of the Buddhist schools which separated out from the Theravādins at the Second Council. The members rejected the Parivāra, the six sections of the Abhidhamma, the Patisambhidamagga, the Niddesa and some portions of the Jātakas (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 "Mahāsangitī." They were counted among the Anātmavādins, and later gave rise to the following schools: the
Originally they had only two divisions - the Ekabbohārikas 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 Mahādeva:
These articles of faith are found in the Kathāvatthu (173ff., 187ff., 194, 197), attributed to the Pubbaselas and the Aparaselas, opponents of the Mahāsanghika school.
According to Hiouen Thsang (Beal.ii.164), the Mahāsanghikas divided their canon into five parts: Sūtra, Vinaya, Abhidhamma, Miscellaneous and Dhāranī.
Fa Hsien took from Pātaliputta to China a complete transcript of the Mahāsanghika Vinaya. (Giles, p. 64, Nañjio's Catalogue mentions a Mahāsanghika Vinaya and a Mahāsanghabhiksunī Vinaya in Chinese translations, Cola. 247, 253. Ms. No.543).
The best known work of the Mahāsanghikas is the Mahāvastu. Their headquarters in Ceylon were in Abhayagiri vihāra, and Sena I. is said to have built the Vīrankurārāma for their use. Cv.1.68.