The Pudgalavāda was a Buddhist philosophical view and also refers to a group of Nikaya Buddhist schools that arose from the Sthavira nikāya. The school is believed to have been founded by the elder Vātsīputra in the third century BCE. They were a widely influential school in India and became particularly popular during the reign of emperor Harshavadana. Harsha's sister Rajyasri was said to have joined the school as a nun. According to Dan Lusthaus, they were "one of the most popular mainstream Buddhist sects in India for more than a thousand years."
The term Nikāya Buddhism was coined by Masatoshi Nagatomi as a non-derogatory substitute for Hinayana, meaning the early Buddhist schools.
Examples of these groups are pre-sectarian Buddhism and the early Buddhist schools.
Early Buddhism in India is generally divided into various monastic fraternities, or nikāyas.
Conventionally numbering eighteen, the actual count varied over time.
The doctrinal orientation of each school differed somewhat, as did the number of piṭakas in their canon. An example of .
The early Buddhist schools are those schools into which the Buddhist monastic saṅgha initially split, due originally to differences in vinaya and later also due to doctrinal differences and geographical separation of groups of monks.
The original saṅgha split into the first early schools (generally believed to be the Sthavira nikāya and the Mahāsāṃghika) a significant number of years after the death of Gautama Buddha.
Later, these first early schools were further divided into schools .