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Schism appeared early in the history of Buddhism due in part to the Buddha's refusal to appoint a successor as leader of the monastic order (Saṃgha) and his reluctance to impose a rigid discipline in matters of monastic practice. He counselled his followers to be ‘lamps unto themselves’ and Buddhism has never recognized a supreme source of authority in matters of doctrine or practice. Technically, a schism (saṃghabheda) is defined as occurring when nine fully ordained monks leave a community together as a result of dissent and perform their own ecclesiatical services. If the number is less than nine there is ‘dissent’ rather than schism. To cause a schism maliciously or from selfish motives is considered a grave offence and one destined for swift retribution (ānantarya-karma). On the effects of schism in Buddhism see Eighteen Schools Of Early Buddhism.

Subjects: Buddhism.

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