Over the period of time Buddhism got divided into three sects – Hinayana or Lesser Wheel, Mahayana or Greater Wheel, Vajrayana or Vehicle of Thunder Bolt.
Its followers believed in the original teachings of Buddha. They sought individual salvation through self- discipline and meditation. They did not believe in idol worship. The oldest school of Hinayana, Buddhism is the Sthaviravada or the Doctrine of the Elders .Its Sanskrit counterpart is known as Sarvastivada or the doctrine that maintains the existence of all things, physical as well as spiritual. Pali the language of the masses was used by Hinayana sect also the concept of Bodhi Sattva is intrinsic to the sect.
The followers believed in the heavenliness of the Buddha and sought the salvation of all through the grace and help of Buddha and Bodhisattvas. It believes in idol worship and that nirvana is not a negative cessation of misery but a positive state of bliss. Mahayana had two chief philosophical schools the Madhyamika and the Yogachara.Madhyamika philosophical Nagarjuna.It propounded school is a midway between uncompromising realism of Hinayanism and idealism of Yogacharya. Yogacharya school was founded by Maitreyanatha.This school completely rejected the realism of Hinayanism and maintained absolute idealism. Sanskrit the language of scholars was used by Mahayana Buddhists. Rulers like Kanishka and Harshvardhana patronized this sect.
The followers believed that salvation could be best attained by acquiring the magical power called vajra. The chief divinities of the sect were the Taras.The sect became popular in Bengal and Bihar.