A schism is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization, movement or religious denomination. The word is most frequently applied to a split in what had previously been a single religious body, such as the East–West Schism or the Great Western Schism. It is also used of a split within a non-religious organization or movement or, more broadly, of a separation between two or more people, be it brothers, friends, lovers, etc.
A schismatic is a person who creates or incites schism in an organization or who is a member of a splinter group. Schismatic as an adjective means pertaining to a schism or schisms, or to those ideas, policies, etc. that are thought to lead towards or promote schism.
In religion, the charge of schism is distinguished from that of heresy, since the offence of schism concerns not differences of belief or doctrine but promotion of, or the state of, division. However, schisms frequently involve mutual accusations of heresy. In Roman Catholic teaching, every heresy is a schism, while there may be some schisms free of the added guilt of heresy. Liberal protestantism, however, has often preferred heresy over schism. Presbyterian scholar James I. McCord (quoted with approval by the Episcopalian bishop of Virginia Peter Lee) drew a distinction between them, teaching: "If you must make a choice between heresy and schism, always choose heresy. As a schismatic, you have torn and divided the body of Christ. Choose heresy every time
In Buddhism, the first schism was set up by Devadatta, during Buddha's life. This schism lasted only a short time, and Devadatta later apologized for his misdeeds. Later (after Buddha's death), the early Buddhist schools came into being, but were not schismatic, only focusing on different interpretations for the same monastic community. In the old texts, 18 or 20 early schools are mentioned. Later, there were the Mahayana and Vajrayana movements, which can be regarded as being schismatic in origin. Each school has various subgroups, which often are schismatic in origin. For example, in Thai Theravadin Buddhism there are two groups (Mahanikaya and Dhammayut), of which the Dhammayut has its origin partly in the Mahanikaya, and is the new and schismatic group. Both Mahanikaya and Dhammayut have many subgroups, which usually do not have schismatic origins, but came into being in a natural way, through the popularity of a (leader) monk. Tibetan Buddhism has seen schisms in the past, of which most were healed, although the Drukpa school centred in Bhutan perhaps remains in a state of schism (since 1616) from the other Tibetan schools.