Chapter 14: JAINISM AND BUDDHISM
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
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
Jainism had 24 tirthankars, 1st was
Rishabdev, 23rd Parshvanath.
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
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.
Reality in Jainism is composed on Anekatva or plurality of mindset or multisidedness. This is beyond the scope of finite minds i.e. to know all aspects of our living.
All our judgments are necessarily relative. There is no certainty in any knowledge and Syad Vada is the wisest course to follow. There can be no absolute judgment on any issue.
Jainism views the universe as passing through a series of cosmic waves of progress and declines. It functions according to a eternal law.
Jains believe in the dualistic principle of Jiva (eternal soul) and Ajiva (eternal element) everywhere. The jiva acts and is affected by acts , it is a knowing self , the Ajiva is atomic and unconscious. Every object s an agglomeration of Ajiva with atleast one jiva enmeshed in it. Thus even stones and metals have souls.
The notion of jivas is further extended to a scheme of classification which varies somewhat in different texts.
Inanimate objects have 1 jiva. Plants and fruits have two jivas. Living animals have three jivas. Jains are permitted to eat things that have two jivas. Eating things with three jivas is forbidden.
Mahavir preached in Magadhi, the language spoken by the common people. His teachings were confined to the Gangetic valley. Though in later years they spread to different parts of the subcontinent. The main champions of the teachings were the trading communities.
Jain teachings were preserved through oral traditions but in the 3rd Century BC at a council convened at Patliputra it was collected and recorded. The final version was edited in 5th Century AD. The jains were divided in two sects Svetambar and Digambar. The Digambars refused to accept the rearranged version of the 12 Anagas in the 5th Century AD as valid.
Jainism was no able to spread as fast as buddhism did. One reason could be lack of patronage from kings as much as buddhism enjoyed. The jain monks were active in spreading their religion and they travelled extensively even uptil saurashtra on west coast. Bhadrabahu who was a jain monk and a contemporary of Chandragupta Maurya travelled to Shravanbelgola and settled there. Jainism then spread to different parts of the Andhra region and tamil country.
Jains also travelled to Kharavela kingdom where they enjoyed patronage for a short while. The caves in Udaygiri hills were given to jain monks for living.
Like buddhism jainism too developed image worship. Several well carved jain images and tablets of jain figures were discovered at Mathura.
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
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
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:
- World is full of sufferings
- Desire is cause of all sufferings
- Remove desire and remove sufferings
- 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
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
The existence of god is irrelevant to buddhism. In Buddhism nothing is left to divine intervention. Buddhism doesnt belive that god can be the creator of the world. Otherwise he would also be responsible for the miseries in this world.
Buddhism belives that soul is not immortal and dies with the body. There is no transmigration of the soul.
Buddha just like Mahavir also laid down Shilas or Codes of conduct which a person must follow in his life. Practically, buddhism took shape in the form of Viharas (monastaries) or Sanghas (church or assemblies) which were used to bring together monks and laymen.
Although initially hinayan buddhism was popular but at the time of Kanishka, Mahayan buddhism rose and became the more popular. Initial growth of mahayana buddhism was hindered due to opposition from Orthodox brahmins. The most popular exponent of Mahayana buddhism was Nagarjuna - it was with him that mahayana buddhism gained popularity.
Mahayana buddhism held firm to the spirit of buddhist teachings and hinayana to the actual words of buddhist teachings.
Hinayana considered the sangam at the center of all activities, but mahayana buddhism considered the individual to be at the center. Hinayana sculptures are mainly written in Pali and founded on Tripitakas and Mahayana are in sanskrit and founded in Sutras
Hinayana developed around the acts of buddha , mahayana around the symbolism and his life. Hinayana gave importance to laws of karma and mahayana considered laws of karuna or compassion to be above all. Hinayana considers arhat (one who strives for his own redemption) as the ideal. Mahayana upholds the ideal of Boddhisattva or savior i.e. one who delays own salvation in the favor of others. Hinayana also regards buddha as a man but with extraordinary knowledge and intuition. They only rever but do not worship buddha. However, Mahayana buddhism consider buddha to be a savior god , a being of supreme love and compassion. Buddha was worshipped as a god with elaborate rituals and traditions. Boddhisattva too were important as compassionate beings that were savior of humanity. The idea of Maitreya buddha also emerged that envisioned a tenth incarnation of buddha that shall come to save mankind. A line of boddhisattvas too emerged and gained prominence. Buddhist symbols declined and a personal image of buddha emerged which was worshipped. Doctrine of bhakti too became important in mahayana buddhism. However elaborate rituals and traditions replaced simple ideas like faith in god.
- First Buddhist council was Convened by
Ajatashatru at rajgir
- Second Buddhist council was Convened at Vaisali
- Third Buddhist council was convened at Patliputra
by Emperor Ashok. The Tri-Pitakas [Sutta, Vinaya and
Abhidhamma] were compiled.
- Fourth Buddhist council was convened by Kanishka
at Kashmir. Here a second sect of Buddhism emerged called
The Buddhism preached by Buddha and
propagated by Ashok was Hinayana.
Causes of decline of
Revival of brahminism and the rise of bhagavatism
Adoption of Sanskrit in place of pali by monks
Increase in sacrifice and idol worship due to advent
of Mahayana led to lowering of moral values
Destruction of Buddhist monuments by Huns and the
Buddhism to Indian culture:
Creation of chaityas and viharas in different areas
of the country. Stupa’s too were beautiful peice of art.
Concept of ahimsa became popular. It was the chief
contribution. It later became one of our nations cherished values.
Promotion of education through residential
universities like nalanda, vikramshila and taxila.
Language of pali and other local languages developed
through Buddhas teachings.
- Ajanta caves were discovered by british.
They had carvings of buddhas life. Jataka tales inscribed.
- Ellora caves: Hindu, Buddhist and Jain
- Bhimbetka: stone Age paintings.
- Elephanta: Shiva, Parvati deities
Most of the vedic gods and goddesses passed into oblivion. This was also a time when Brahmanical religion assumed new features which today are known as Hinduism popularly. The newer gods that came to the forefront were Brahma , Vishnu and Shiva. Soon however only vishnu and shiv remained at the fore and brahma declined in importance. The followers became of two types Shaivaites and Vaishnavaites. Both believed that the equation between god and the devotee should be of bhakti or devotion. Rituals declined and there was a shift towards bhakti.
Shiv became the god of destruction and sexuality. He is considered to have origins in the Tamil god Murugan or the rudra of the harappan age. The shiv linga and yoni are the male and female reproductive organs and they symbolise shiva. Sangam age regarded shiva as the most beloved although they praised him as Murugan. Satavahana kings also worshipped shiva. He had a female consort parvati and two songs the elder Karthik and the younger Ganesha.
Vishnu was the god who preserved and he had a female consort Lakshmi the goddess of wealth and a vehicle of naga. The various forms or avatar of vishnu came to the earth when there was strife. Out of this Rama and Krishna were the most revered.