Jainism and Buddhism

Jainism and Buddhism | History

Causes for the Rise of Jainism and Buddhism

  • The complex rituals and sacrifices advocated in the Later Vedic period were not acceptable to the common people.
  • The sacrificial ceremonies were also found to be too expensive.
  • The superstitious beliefs and mantras confused the people.
  • The people needed a simple, short and intelligible way to salvation for all people.
  • Such religious teaching should also be in a language known to them.
  • This need was fulfilled by the teachings of Buddha and Mahavira.
  • Higher classes enjoyed certain privileges which were denied to the lower classes.
  • The Kshatriyas had resented the domination of the priestly class.
  • Buddha and Mahavira belonged to Kshatriya origin.
  • The growth of trade led to the improvement in the economic conditions of the Vaisyas.
  • They wanted to enhance their social status but the orthodox Varna system did not allow this.
  • They extend support to Buddhism and Jainism.


Life of Vardhamana Mahavira (539 – 467 B.C.)

  • Vardhamana Mahavira was the 24th Tirthankara of the Jain tradition.
  • He was born at Kundagrama near Vaisali to Kshatriya parents Siddhartha and Trisala.
  • He married Yasoda and gave birth to a daughter.
  • At the age of thirty, he became an ascetic and wandered for twelve years.
  • In the 13th year of his penance, he attained the highest spiritual knowledge called Kevala Gnana.
  • He was called Mahavira and Jina. His followers were called Jains and his religion Jainism.
  • He preached his doctrines for 30 years and died at the age of 72 at Pava near Rajagriha.

Teachings of Mahavira

  • The three principles of Jainism also known as Triratnas (three gems) are
  • Right faith
  • Right knowledge
  • Right conduct
  • Right faith is the belief in the teachings and wisdom of Mahavira.
  • Right, Knowledge is the acceptance of the theory that there is no God and that the world has been existing without a creator and that all objects possess a soul.
  • Right conduct refers to the observance of the five great vows
  • Not to injure life
  • Not to lie
  • Not to steal
  • Not to acquire property
  • Not to lead an immoral life.
  • Both the clergy and laymen had to strictly follow the doctrine of ahimsa.
  • Mahavira regarded all objects both animate and inanimate have souls and various degrees of consciousness.
  • They possess the life and feel pain when they are injured.
  • Mahavira rejected the authority of the Vedas and objected to the Vedic rituals.
  • He advocated a very holy and ethical code of life.
  • Even the practice of agriculture was considered sinful as it causes injury to the earth, worms and animals.
  • The doctrine of asceticism and renunciation was also carried to extreme lengths by the practice of starvation, nudity and other forms of self – torture.

Spread of Jainism

  • Mahavira organised the Sangha to spread his teachings.
  • He admitted both men and women in the Sangha which consisted of both monks and lay followers.
  • The rapid spread of Jainism was due to the dedicated work of the members of the Sangha.
  • It spread rapidly in Western India and Karnataka.
  • Chandragupta Maurya
  • Kharavela of Kalinga
  • the royal dynasties of south India such as
  • the Gangas
  • the Kadambas
  • the Chalukyas
  • the Rashtrakutas patronized Jainism.
  • Many Jain monks led by Bhadrabagu and Chandragupta Maurya came to Sravana Belgola in Karnataka.
  • Those who stayed back in north India were led by a monk named Sthulabahu who changed the code of conduct for the monks.
  • This led to the division of Jainism into two sects
  • Svetambaras (white-clad)
  • Digambaras (Skyclad or Naked).
  • The first Jain Council was convened at Pataliputra by Sthulabahu the leader of the Digambaras in the beginning of the 3rd century B.C.
  • The second Jain Council was held at Valabhi in 5th century A.D.
  • The final compilation of Jain literature called Twelve Angas was completed in this council.

Important Tirthankara (Name) with Symbols

  • Rishabha – bull
  • Ajita – elephant
  • Arishtanemi or Nemi (cousin of Krishna) – conch
  • Parsva – hooded serpent
  • Mahavira – lion


Life of Gautama Buddha (567- 487 B.C.)

  • Gautama or Siddhartha the founder of Buddhism was born in 567 B.C. in Lumbini Garden near Kapilavastu.
  • His father was Suddodhana of the Sakya clan and mother Mayadevi.
  • As his mother died at childbirth, he was brought up by his aunt Prajapati Gautami.
  • At the age of sixteen, he married Yasodhara and gave birth to a son Rahula.
  • The sight of an old man, a diseased man, a corpse and an ascetic turned him away from worldly life.
  • He left home at the age of twenty-nine in search of Truth.
  • A bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya and did intense penance, after which he got Enlightenment (Nirvana) at the age of thirty-five. Since then he became known as the Buddha or ‘the Enlightened One’.
  • He delivered his first sermon at Sarnath near Benares and for the next forty-five years he led the life of a preacher. He died at the age of eighty at Kusinagara.
  • The most important disciples of Buddha were Sariputta, Moggallanna, Ananda, Kassapa and Upali.

Teachings of Buddha

  • The Four Noble Truths of Buddha are
  • The world is full of suffering.
  • The cause of suffering is desire.
  • If desires are get rid off, suffering can be removed.
  • The Eightfold Path consists of right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
  • Buddha neither accepts god nor rejects the existence of God.
  • He laid great emphasis on the law of karma.
  • He argued that the condition of man in this life depends upon his own deeds.
  • He taught that the soul does not exist.
  • He emphasized Ahimsa.
  • By his love for human beings and all living creatures, he endeared himself to all.
  • He was a rationalist who tried to explain things in the light of reason and not on the basis of blind faith.
  • Buddhism was more a social than religious revolution.
  • It taught the code of practical ethics and laid down the principle of social equality.

Spread of Buddhism

  • Buddha had two kinds of disciples – monks (bhikshus) and lay worshippers (upasikas).
  • The monks were organized into the Sangha for the purpose of spreading his teachings.
  • The membership was open to all persons, male or female and without any caste restrictions.
  • There was a special code for nuns restricting their residence and movement.
  • Sariputta, Moggallana and Ananda were some of the famous monks.
  • The Sangha was governed on democratic lines and was empowered to enforce discipline among its members.
  • Owing to the organised efforts made by the Sangha, Buddhism made rapid progress in North India even during Buddha’s lifetime.
  • Magadha, Kosala, Kausambi and several republican states of North India embraced this religion.
  • Asoka also embraced spread Buddhism into West Asia and Ceylon.

Buddhist Councils

  • The first Buddhist Council was held at Rajagraha under the chairmanship of Mahakasapa immediately after the death of Buddha.
  • Its purpose was to maintain the purity of the teachings of the Buddha.
  • The second Buddhist Council was convened at Vaisali around 383 B.C.
  • The third Buddhist Council was held at Pataliputra under the patronage of Ashoka. Moggaliputta Tissa presided over it.
  • The final version of Tripitakas was completed in this council.
  • The fourth Buddhist Council was convened in Kashmir by Kanishka under the chairmanship of Vasumitra. Asvagosha participated in this council. The new school of Buddhism called Mahayana Buddhism came into existence during this council.
  • The Buddhism preached by the Buddha and propagated by Ashoka was known as Hinayana.
  • They are known as the Tripitakas. namely the Sutta, the Vinaya and the Abhidhamma Pitakas.
  • They are written in the Pali language.
Buddist Council Place of Meeting Presided over by
First Rajagraha Mahakasapa
Second Vaisali
Third Pataliputra Moggaliputta (patronage of Ashoka)
Fourth Kashmir Vasumitra


Causes for the Decline of Buddhism in India

  • The revival of Brahmanism and the rise of Bhagavatism led to the fall of popularity of Buddhism.
  • The use of Pali, the language of the masses as the language of Buddhism was given up from the 1st century A.D. The Buddhists began to adopt Sanskrit the language of the elite.
  • After the birth of Mahayana Buddhism, the practice of idol worship and making offerings led to the deterioration of moral standards.
  • The attack of the Huns in 5thand 6th  centuries and the Turkish invaders in the 12th  century destroyed the monasteries.

Contribution of Buddhism to Indian Culture

  • Buddhism has made a remarkable contribution to the development of Indian culture.
  • The concept of ahimsa was its chief contribution.
  • It became one of the cherished values of our nation.
  • Its contribution to the art and architecture of India was notable.
  • The stupas at Sanchi, Bharhut and Gaya are wonderful pieces of architecture.
  • Buddhism takes credit for the chaityas and viharas in different parts of India.
  • It promoted education through residential universities like those at
  • Taxila
  • Nalanda
  • Vikramasila
  • The language of Pali and other local languages developed through the teachings of Buddhism.
  • It had also promoted the spread of Indian culture to other parts of Asia.

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