Chapter 14: JAINISM AND BUDDHISM

Introduction 

The complex rituals and sacrifices of the Brahmins in the later Vedic period weren’t acceptable to the common people. The sacrifices and rituals were too expensive and mantras and superstitions confused the people. The teachings of the Upanishads were philosophical in nature and weren’t easily understood. The common man needed simple, short and intelligible ways to salvation. The religious teachings should be in a language known to them. Jainism and Buddhism fulfilled this need.


The rigid caste system was also another reason that the new religions were accepted easily. The varna system gave highest status to Brahmins. This caused resentment in kshatriyas. The merchant class i.e. vaishyas wanted to improve their status in society as they were economically and socially more forward. The varna system didn’t allow this. It should be noted that this merchant class embraced these new religions.

Jainism had 24 tirthankars, 1st was Rishabdev, 23rd Parshvanath.


Vardhaman Mahavir


He is the 24th tirthankar of Jainism. His original birth was in a kshatriya family. He was married with a daughter. At age of 30 he gave up his old life and became an ascetic. After 12 years of wandering in the 13th year he attained salvation or highest spiritual level known as keval gnana. His followers called him Mahavir or Jina. They became the Jains. Mahavir preached for 30 years and died at 72 yrs at Pavna.


Triratnas of Mahavir: Right faith, right conduct and right knowledge.


Mahavir believed in five vows: truth, ahimsa, no stealing, no owning property and immoral life. He rejected the Vedas and Vedic rituals.


Jainsm believes that there is no god and world is without a creator. All objects have a soul and feel pain and possess life. The universe functions on a law.


Mahavir organised sangha to spread his teachings. The growth of Jainism is due to the work of Sangha. In


Bihar there was a famine and Bhadrabagu and ChandraGupta Maurya came to Sravana Belgola in Karnataka. The monks who remained were led by Sthulabagu. This created two sects in Jainism: Svetambar [white clad] and Digambar [sky clad or naked].



The first Jain council was held at Patliputra and held by Sthulabagu the leader of Svetambar. The second Jain council was held at Vallabhi and the final compilation of 12 angas of Jain literature was done. 


Buddhism:


The founder of Buddhism, Gautam Buddha was born in Lumbini. He too was of kshatriya clan. He was married with a son. But he left home to become an ascetic. He wandered for 7 years and under different teachers but couldn’t get enlightenment. Finally under the bodhi tree in bodh gaya on banks of niranjan river after deep penance he attained enlightenment.


He became Buddha or the enlightened one. Buddha means “A person who knows good,bad and suffereing”.


He gave his first sermon at Sarnath at deer park. He died at 80 in kusinagara. There are 29 Buddhas, Gautam is 28th and Maitreya was 29th.


The kings Bimbisara and Ajatashatru became his disciples. Buddha visited places like Benares, Rajagriha, Sravasti, Vaisali, Nalanda, Pataligrama and also Magadha too meet Bindusara.


Buddhist Chaityas are places of worship. viharas are monastery and Sangharam are monastary or school.


Boddhisattvas are yet to attain enlightenment. Stupas are dome shaped structures were mortal remains of monks are kept.


Four noble truths:


  1.  World is full of sufferings
  2. Desire is cause of all sufferings
  3. Remove desire and remove sufferings
  4. Desire can be removed from eight fold path


Buddha didn’t accept or reject god. He was a rationalist and didn’t believe in blind faith. He never dealt with metaphysical questions like god, soul but focused on problems concerning man. He believed karma. He was against any caste distinctions.


Buddha organised the religious disciples into sanghas. The work of these sanghas made Buddhism into a large religion. Two hundred years after Buddhas death Emperor Ashok embraced Buddhism and through missionary efforts spread it to west asia and Ceylon. Thus Buddhism became a world religion. 


Buddhist councils:

  1.  First Buddhist council was Convened by Ajatashatru at rajgir
  2. Second Buddhist council was Convened at Vaisali
  3.  Third Buddhist council was convened at Patliputra by Emperor Ashok. The Tri-Pitakas [Sutta, Vinaya and  Abhidhamma] were compiled.
  4.  Fourth Buddhist council was convened by Kanishka at Kashmir. Here a second sect of Buddhism emerged called Mahayana Buddhism.


 The Buddhism preached by Buddha and propagated by Ashok was Hinayana.


Causes of decline of Buddhism:


1.      Revival of brahminism and the rise of bhagavatism

2.      Adoption of Sanskrit in place of pali by monks

3.      Increase in sacrifice and idol worship due to advent of Mahayana led to lowering of moral values

4.      Destruction of Buddhist monuments by Huns and the Turkish invaders.

Contributions of Buddhism to Indian culture:


1.      Creation of chaityas and viharas in different areas of the country. Stupa’s too were beautiful peice of art.

2.      Concept of ahimsa became popular. It was the chief contribution. It later became one of our nations cherished values.

3.      Promotion of education through residential universities like nalanda, vikramshila and taxila.

4.      Language of pali and other local languages developed through Buddhas teachings.

Caves:

  1. Ajanta caves were discovered by british. They had carvings of buddhas life. Jataka tales inscribed.
  2. Ellora caves: Hindu, Buddhist and Jain paintings.
  3. Bhimbetka: stone Age paintings.
  4. Elephanta: Shiva, Parvati deities