CHAPTER-14 : Jainism and Buddhism

Ancient History of India
Short Notes or Revision Notes 

Rise of Jainism

  • Causes:
    • Kshatriya reaction against Brahmanical dominance.
    • Spread of new agricultural economy in northeast India.

Vardhamana Mahavira (c. 599 – c. 527 BCE)

  • Predecessors:
    • 24 tirthankaras (teachers): Rishabhadeva (first), Parshvanatha (23rd).
  • Life:
    • Abandoned royal life at 30, attained enlightenment (kaivalya) at 42.
    • Propagated Jainism for 30 years.

Jain Doctrines

  • Five Doctrines:
    • Non-violence (ahimsa).
    • Non-stealing.
    • Non-possession (aparigraha).
    • Celibacy (brahmacharya).
  • Split: Shvetāmbaras (white-clad) and Digambaras (naked).
  • Goal: Liberation from worldly bonds.
  • Three Jewels (Triratna):
    • Right knowledge.
    • Right faith.
    • Right action.

Jain Sects: Digambar vs. Shwetambar

  • Digambar Jains (Naked):
    • Believe monks should relinquish all possessions, including clothes.
    • Worship unclothed idols.
    • Monks eat only once daily at one house.
    • Deny women’s liberation in current birth.
    • Believe enlightened beings don’t need food.
    • Mahavira (founder) never married (according to them).
    • Consider Mallinath (Tirthankar) male.
    • Monks keep only 3 possessions.
  • Shwetambar Jains (White-Clad):
    • Monks wear white clothes.
    • Worship clothed idols with decorations.
    • Monks eat multiple times daily, collecting food from multiple houses.
    • Believe women can achieve liberation in this life.
    • Enlightened beings still need food (according to them).
    • Mahavira married (according to them).
    • Consider Mallinath (Tirthankar) female.
    • Monks keep 14 possessions.
  • Core Similarities:
    • Both follow Jain principles like ahimsa (non-violence).

Spread of Jainism

  • Mahavira’s Efforts:
    • Established an order of Jain followers (men and women).
    • Preached in Prakrit (commoner’s language).
  • Southward Expansion:
    • Attributed to Chandragupta Maurya (Emperor, 322-298 BC) – embraced Jainism.
    • Jain migration due to famine (200 years after Mahavira):
      • Led by Bhadrabahu – southern migrants became Digambaras.
      • Led by Sthalabahu – Magadha residents became Shwetambaras.
    • Other Regions:
      • Kalinga (Odisha): 4th century BC.
      • Tamil Nadu: 2nd-1st centuries BC.
      • Malwa, Gujarat, Rajasthan: Later centuries.

Jain Contribution

  • Language Promotion:
    • Used Prakrit for religious texts (helped its growth).
    • Composed early Apabhramsha works and its first grammar.
  • Other:
    • Vardhamana Mahavira (founder) spread message around 2500 years ago.
    • Jain philosophy emphasizes karma, asceticism, and monastic life for liberation.

Gautama Buddha (c. 567 – c. 487 BCE)

  • Life:
    • Contemporary of Mahavira.
    • Born into a royal Shakya family in Lumbini, Nepal.
    • Left home at 29, attained enlightenment at 35 in Bodh Gaya.
    • Delivered first sermon in Sarnath, passed away at 80 in Kusinagara.

Buddhist Doctrines

  • Goal:Nirvana (freedom from suffering and rebirth).
  • Cause of Suffering:
  • Eightfold Path:Path to eliminate suffering:
    • Right view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, concentration.
  • Five Precepts:Ethical code:
    • No violence.
    • No stealing.
    • No intoxicants.
    • No lying.
    • No sexual misconduct.

Features of Buddhism and its Spread

  • Openness:
    • Accepted people regardless of caste or gender (unlike Brahmanism).
  • Preaching Style:
    • Buddha’s calm demeanor and focus on good vs. evil attracted followers.
  • Language:
    • Used Pali (Prakrit) to make teachings accessible to common people.
  • Three Pillars:
    • Buddha (enlightened one).
    • Dharma (teachings).
    • Sangha (monastic community).
  • Spread under Ashoka (3rd century BCE):
  • Introduced Buddhism to Central Asia, West Asia, and Sri Lanka.

Decline of Buddhism in India

  • Gradual Shift:
    • Over time, Buddhist monasteries became less focused on strict practice.
  • Vajrayana Buddhism:
    • A new form of Buddhism emerged with some controversial practices.
  • Persecution:
    • Buddhism faced persecution in the 6th-7th centuries.

Significance and Influence of Buddhism

  • Social Impact:
    • Openness to women and Shudras challenged caste hierarchy.
    • Promoted non-violence and respect for animal life.
  • Intellectual Impact:
    • Encouraged critical thinking and questioning.
    • Led to the development of Hybrid Sanskrit, a new language.
  • Educational Impact:
    • Buddhist monasteries became centers of learning (Nalanda, Vikramshila).
  • Artistic Impact:
    • First human statues in India depicted the Buddha.
    • Entstehung (German for emergence) of Gandhara art (Greek-Indian collaboration).
    • Development of cave architecture (Barabar hills, Nasik).
    • Elaborate stupa construction (Sanchi, Amaravati).
  • Religious Impact:
    • Mahayana Buddhism emerged as a new school of thought.
    • Early temples with garbhagriha and shikhara were influenced by Buddhist structures.

Similarities between Jainism and Buddhism

  • Philosophical Roots:
    • Both influenced by Upanishads, Sankhya-Yoga concepts.
    • Shared ideas of:
      • Karma and transmigration.
      • Neglect of God (atheistic).
      • Duality of spirit and matter.
    • Social and Historical Context:
      • Both arose as reactions against Brahmanism in eastern India.
      • Appealed to Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras.
      • Founded by Kshatriya princes (Mahavira, Buddha).
    • Religious Beliefs and Practices:
      • Opposed caste system, rituals, and Brahmin supremacy.
      • Sought liberation (nirvana) from rebirth.
      • Rejected Vedas as sole authority.
      • Emphasized morality and non-violence.
      • Used common languages (Pali, Prakrit) for scriptures.
      • Encouraged monastic life.
      • Established orders for monks and nuns.

Distinctions Between Jainism and Buddhism

  • Age:
    • Jainism is considered older (24 Tirthankaras, Mahavira last).
    • Buddhism originated with the Buddha.
  • Soul:
    • Jainism: all things have souls (even stones and water).
    • Buddhism: no belief in soul.
  • Non-Violence (Ahimsa):
    • Jainism: stricter interpretation, avoids harming all living things.
    • Buddhism: more flexible, allows meat in some situations.
    • Buddhism emphasizes love for all beings, a more positive concept.
  • Caste System:
    • Buddhism more actively challenged caste distinctions.
  • Path to Salvation:
    • Jainism: strict asceticism.
    • Buddhism: Middle Path (avoiding extremes).
  • Attaining Salvation:
    • Jainism: only after death for householders (men and women).
    • Buddhism: possible in this life with detachment from worldly existence.
    • Jainism: Nirvana – freedom from body.
    • Buddhism: Nirvana – destruction of self or detachment from worldly existence.
  • Adaptability:
    • Buddhism: more adaptable, spread across Asia and incorporated local traditions.
    • Jainism: less adaptable, remained mostly in India.
  • Relation to Hinduism:
    • Jainism: closer to Hinduism in practice, minimal conflict.
    • Buddhism: challenged Hinduism, seen as rivals.
  • Spread and Decline:
    • Jainism: never spread beyond India, but still practiced there.
    • Buddhism: spread across Asia, but declined in India.

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