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Jainism And Buddhism

5.  Jainism and Buddhism


5.1.  Rise of Jainism and Buddhism


527 BC: Prince Siddhartha Gautama attains enlightenment and becomes the Buddha

500 BC: The ascetic prince Mahavira establishes Jainism in northern India

5.2. Rise of Jainism

Although Hinduism was widely followed in India, not everyone  agreed  with  its  beliefs.  Some  unsatisfied people and groups looked for new religious ideas. One such group was the Jains (JYNZ), believers in a religion called Jainism (JY-ni-zuhm). 

Born into the Kshatriya varna around 599 BC, Mahavira was  unhappy  with  the  religion  placing  too  much emphasis on rituals. Mahavira gave up his life of luxury, became  a  monk,  and  established  the  principles  of Jainism. Jainism was based on the teachings of Mahavira.

The Jains try to live by four principles: injure no life, tell the truth, do not steal, and own no property. In their efforts not to injure anyone or anything, the Jains  practice nonviolence, or the avoidance of violent actions. The Sanskrit word for this nonviolence is ahimsa (uh-HIM-sah). Many Hindus also practice ahimsa.

The Jains emphasis on nonviolence comes from their belief that everything is alive and part of the cycle of rebirth. Jains are very serious about not injuring or killing any creature humans, animals, insects, or even plants. They do not believe in animal sacrifice.   Because they don t want to hurt living creatures, Jains are vegetarians. They do not eat any food that comes from animals.

5.3 Rise of Buddhism

Born around 563 BC in northern India, near the Himalayas, Siddhartha was a prince who

grew up in luxury. Born a Kshatriya, a member of the warrior class, Siddhartha never had to struggle with the problems that many people of his time faced. However, Siddhartha was not satisfied. He felt that something was missing in his life. Siddhartha looked around him and saw how hard other people had to work and how much they suffered. He saw people grieving for lost loved ones and wondered why there was so much pain in the world. As a result, Siddhartha began to ask questions about the meaning of human life. He     seated himself under a   fig   tree (Mahabodhi tree)            anddecided not to get up unless he found answers to his questions. His enlightenment is said to have  come  suddenly  and  was exceedingly simple - viz., that all pain is caused - by desire, and therefore peace comes when one ceases to crave for anything. This thought was new at that age and it struck him with blinding force, and not only influenced his future life but left a lasting   imprint   on   Buddhist   philosophy. Freedom from all desires was said to release a person from the cycle of re-birth and lead to his salvation (Nirvana).  After the  revelation (Bodhi),  Gautama  came  to  be  known  as Buddha  or  Gautama  Buddha (Meaning -enlightened one).


-The imposing pyramidal Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya in Bihar.

The tower soars to a height of 180 ft.


5.4 The Buddhist Sangha and Morality

Buddhism is unique among religions in a fundamental sense. It does not advocate
invocation of any God. Salvation can be attained by controlling one's desire; as desire is

the cause of suffering. The original Buddhism had neither God nor Devil. The emphasis was not on prayer but on controlling one's mind. In this sense it was more a worldly philosophy rather than a religion. But with the passage of time it acquired the nature of a religion complete with dogmas and rituals. Buddha's life-story is an eventful one. The most potent institution that Buddha established during his lifetime was the Sangha (monastic  order)  into  which  men  were  admitted  irrespective  of  their  caste.  The members of the Sangha who were known as Bhikkus (beggars) had to lead a rigorous life devoid of all desires. Their daily needs were limited to those necessary for physical survival. Their only possessions were a begging bowl, yellow colored loin cloth, a walking stick if necessary and a pair of sandals for the more delicate. They were to sustain themselves by the alms they received but were forbidden from expressly begging for alms. Alms were to be accepted if given willingly and if not the Bhikkus were to move on to the next house. Thus came into being a clergy, but which unlike its Hindu counterpart was not based on caste and which was oriented towards missionary activities rather on the performance and upholding of rituals.


5.5 Sarnath

This place is also known as Isipatana or "Deer Park" situated 5 km north of Varanasi, where the Buddha is said to have preached his first sermon.

Buddhism took the form of non-recognition of any personified Gods, spirits or the devil, and the near absence of rituals, repudiation of the caste system and the intense missionary activity of the monks which included rendering social service with the aim of alleviation of human suffering. Another significant aspect was that in the early stages all followers of Buddha were enrolled as members of the Sangha hence it was completely a missionary religion.

5.6 Four Noble Truths

At the heart of the Buddha s teachings were four guiding principles. These became known as the Four Noble Truths:

1 Suffering and unhappiness are a part of human life. No one can escape sorrow.

2 Suffering come from our desires for pleasure and material goods. People cause their own misery because they want things they cannot have.

3 People can overcome desire and ignorance and reach nirvana (nir-VAH-nuh), a state of perfect peace. Reaching nirvana frees the soul from suffering and from the need for further rebirth.

4 People can overcome ignorance and desire by following an eightfold path that leads to wisdom, enlightenment, and salvation.

5.7. The Eight Fold Path

1. Right Thought Believe in the nature of existence as suffering and in the Four Noble Truths.

2. Right Intent Incline toward goodness and kindness.

3. Right Speech Avoid lies and gossip.

4. Right Action Don t steal from or harm others.

5. Right Livelihood Reject work that hurts others.

6. Right Effort Prevent evil and do good.

7. Right Mindfulness Control your feelings and thoughts.

8. Right Concentration Practice proper meditation.

From  its  inception Buddhism  received royal patronage.  In the lifetime  of Buddha Ajatashatru the king of northern India's most powerful kingdom Magadha (in presentday Bihar) patronized Buddhism during Buddha's lifetime, and a few years after Buddha attained Nirvana (Salvation), the first religious council of the Buddhists was held at the town Rajagriha, which was the capital of Magadha from where Ajatashatru ruled. Councils such as this one were occasions for formulation and revision of the Buddhist religious code which was supposed to be adhered to by all followers. Thus it kept a check on the emergence of sub-sects- a tendency which was a hallmark of Hinduism. The second such council was held at Vaishali also in Magadha, about a hundred years after the first council i.e. in the 5th century B.C.E.

Major Royal Patrons of Buddhism - Samrat Ashok Maurya, Kanishka, Harsha Vardhana

The   growth   of Buddhism received a tremendous boost  in  the 3rd  century B.C.E.when Samrat Ashoka   


Maurya  whose empire covered nearly the  whole   of   India (including present-day Pakistan  and Afghanistan)   was converted to Buddhism.Samrat Ashoka elevated Buddhism to the level of a state religion and sent missionaries not only to all parts of India but also to Sri Lanka, West Asia, Central Asia and China. In his days Buddhism is said to have spread in varying degrees up to Egypt and Southwestern Russia. Since the days of emperor Ashoka, Buddhist missionaries  built  majestic  monasteries  known  as  Viharas, Stupas and Chaityas.

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