The first Buddhist council took place in 483 BC at Sattaparni. Religious doctrine were compiled and embodied in Pali canon. The literature is known as Tripitakas. President of the council was Mahakashapa. Upali recited the Vinay Pitaka and Ananda recited the Sutta Pitaka. Vinay Pitaka was the rules of the order and Sutta Pitaka was the great collection of the Buddha's sermons on matters of doctrine and ethics. The second council was held in 383 BC, 100 years after Buddha's death at Vaishali under the presidentship of Sabbakami. Here Buddhism was divided into Sthaviras and Mahasanghikas. The third council was held in 250 BC at Patliputra in the reign of Ashoka. The president was Tissa Mogaliputta.
A decision was taken to send missionaries to various parts of the subcontinent. Here a new Pitaka or Abhidharmma Pitaka was added. Secondly canonical literature was precisely and authoritatively settled.
The fourth Buddhist council was held in the 1-2nd AD at Kundalavana, Kashmir in the reign of Kanishka under the leadership of Vasumitra and Asvagosha. Here Buddhism was divided into two broad sects the Mahayana and Hinayana. Hinayana treated Buddha as nothing more than a human being whereas Mahayanism treated him as God and worshipped his idol. Bodhisatva of Mahayanism was a saviour and would help every living organism in attaining Nirvana. The Mahayana sect adopted Sanskrit in place of Pali as their language. The earliest text is Lalitvistara. Later another sect Vajrayana appeared in eastern India. The chief divinities of this sect were the Taras. They did not treat meat, fish, wine etc as taboo in dietary habit and freely consumed them.
Ashoka, Kanishka, Harsha and Palas of Bihar and Bengal were great patron of Buddhism. Upagupta converted Emperor Ashoka to Buddhism. Ashvagosha was first biographer of Buddha who wrote Buddha Charitam in Sanskirt. Nagarjuna propounded the theory of Shunyavada. Pushyamitra Sunga persecuted the Buddhist. Shashanka the Gauda king cut the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya.