UPSC History Religious Movement - Jainism, Bhudhism, Bhagavatism and Brahmanism NCERT Extracts - Jainism and Buddhism

NCERT Extracts - Jainism and Buddhism

Category : UPSC


Causes of Origin


  • Numerous religious sects arose in the middle Gangetic plains in the second half of the sixth century B.C. We hear of as many as 62 religious sects.
  • Of these sects Jainism and Buddhism were the most important, and they emerged as the most potent religious reform movements.
  • The real cause of the rise of these new religions lay in the spread of a new agricultural economy in north-eastern India.


Vardhamana Mahavira and Jainism


  • According to the Jainas, the origin of Jainism goes back to very ancient times.
  • They believe in twenty-four tirthankaras or great teachers or leaders of their religion.
  • The first tirthankara is believed to be Rishabhadev who was bom in Ayodhya.
  • Vardhamana Mahavira was a contemporary of Gautama Buddha.
  • According to the Jaina tradition, most of the early tirthankaras were bom in the middle Ganga basin and attained nirvana in Bihar.
  • The twenty-third tirthankara was Parshvanath who was bom in Varanasi.
  • Mahavir is said to be the twenty-fourth.
  • Vardhamana Mahavira was bom in 540 B.C. in a village called Kundagrama near Vaishali, which is identical with Basarh in the district of Vaishali, in north Bihar.
  • His father Siddhartha was the head of a famous kshatriya clan called Jnatrika.
  • Mahavira "s mother was named Trishala, sister of the Lichchhavi chief Chetaka, whose daughter was wedded to Bimbisara.
  • In the search for truth Vardhamana abandoned the world at the age of 30 and became an ascetic. During next twelve years he meditated, practised austerities of various kinds and endured many hardships.
  • In the thirteenth year, when he had reached the age of 42, he attained kaivalya (Juan). Through kaivalya he conquered misery and happiness.
  • Because of this conquest he is known as Mahavira or the great hero or jina, i.e. the conqueror, and his followers are known as Jainas.
  • He passed away at the age of 72 in 468 B.C. at Pavapuri near modem Rajgir.


Doctrines of Jainism

  • Jainism taught five doctrines: do not commit violence, do not speak a lie, do not steal, do not acquire property, and observe continence (brahmacharya).
  • It is said that only the fifth doctrine was added by Mahavira: the other four were taken over by him from previous teachers.
  • Jainism attached the utmost importance to ahimsa or non-injury to living being.
  • Jainism was divided into two sects: shvetambaras or those who put on white drees, and digambaras or those who keep themselves naked.
  • Jainism recognized the existence of the gods but placed them lower than the jina
  • Jainism mainly aims at the attainment of freedom from worldly bonds.
  • No ritual is required for acquiring such liberation. It can be obtained through right knowledge, right faith and right action
  • These three are considered to be the Three Jewels or triratna of Jainism.


Spread of Jainism

  • In order to spread the teachings of Jainism, Mahavira organized order of his follower which admitted both men and women.
  • The spread of Jainism in Kamataka is attributed to Chandragupta Maurya.
  • Chandragupta Maurya became a Jaina, gave up his throne and spent the last year of his life in Kamataka as a Jaina ascetic.
  • The second cause of the spread of Jainism in south India is said to be the grea) famine that took place in Magadha 200 years after the death of Mahavira.
  • The famine lasted for twelve years, and in order to protect themselves many a Jains went to the south under the leadership of Bhadrabahu, but the rest of them stayed back in Magadha under the leadership of
  • In order to sort out differences and to compile the main teachings of Jainism council was convened in Pataliputra, modem Patna, but the southern Jainas boycotted the council and refused to accept its decisions.
  • From now onwards, the southerns began to be called digambaras, and the Magadham Jainism spread to Kalinga in Orissa in the fourth century B.C., and in the first century B.C., it enjoyed the patronage of the Kalinga king Kharavelaj.


Contribution of Jainism                                                       

  • Jainism made the first serious attempt to mitigate the evils of the varna order and the ritualistic Vedic religion,                                
  • They adopted Prakrit language of the common people to preach their doctrines.
  • Their religious literature was written in Ardhamagadhi, and the texts were final compiled in the sixth century A.D. at Valabhi (in Gujarat), a great centre of education
  • Many regional languages developed out of Prakrit languages, particularly Shaurasen out of which grew the Marathi language.
  • The Jainas composed the earliest important works in Apabhramsha and prepared its first grammar.
  • Initially, like the Buddhists, the Jainas were not image worshippers. Later they bega to worship Mahavira and also the twenty-three tirthankaras.
  • Beautiful and sometimes massive images in stone were sculpted for this purpose especially in Kamataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
  • Jaina art in ancient times is not as rich as Buddhist art, but Jainism contribute substantially to art and architecture in medieval times.
  • Uttaradhyayana Sutta is a Prakrit text of Jainas.


Gautama Buddha and Buddhism


  • Gautama Buddha or Siddhartha was a contemporary of Mahavira.
  • He was bom in 563 B.C. in a Shakya kshatriya family in Lumbini in Nepal near Kapilavastu, which is identified with Piprahwa in Basti district (UP).
  • Gautama's father seems to have been the elected ruler of Kapilavastu, and headed the republican clan of the His mother was a princess from the Koshalan dynasty.
  • Since his early childhood Gautama showed a meditative bent of mind.
  • At the age of 29, like Mahavira again, he left home.
  • He kept on wandering for about seven years and then attained knowledge at the age of 35 at Bodh Gaya under a pipal tree.
  • From this time onwards he began to be called the Buddha or the enlightened.
  • Gautama Buddha delivered his first sermons at Sarnath in Banaras.
  • He kept on wandering, preaching and meditating continuously for 40 years, resting only in the rainy season every year.
  • Gautama Buddha passed away at the age of 80 in 483 B.C. at a place called Kusinagar, identical with the village called Kasia in the district of Deoria in eastern Uttar Pradesh.


Doctrines of Buddhism

  • The Buddha proved to be a practical reformer who took note of the realities of the day. He addressed himself to the worldly problems.
  • He said that the world is full of sorrows and people suffer on account of desires.
  • If desires are conquered, nirvana will be attained, that is, man will be free from the cycle of birth and death.
  • Gautama Buddha recommended an eight-fold path (ashtangika marga) for the elimination of human misery.
  • It comprised right observation, right action, right livelihood, right exercise, right memory and right meditation.
  • If a person follows this eight-fold path he would not depend on the machinations of the priests, and will be able to reach his destination.
  • Gautama taught that a person should avoid the excess of both luxury and austerity.
  • He prescribed the middle path.
  • The Buddha also laid down a code of conduct for his followers on the same lines as was done by the Jaina teachers.
  • The main items in this social conduct are: do not covet the property of others, do not commit violence, do not use intoxicants, do not speak a lie, and do not indulge in corrupt practices.


Special Features of Buddhism and the Causes of Its Spread

  • Buddhism does not recognize the existence of god and soul (atman).
  • It appealed to the common people. It particularly won the support of the lower orders as it attacked the vama system.
  • People were taken into the Buddhist order without any consideration of caste.
  • Women also were admitted to the sangha and thus brought on par with men.
  • In comparison with Brahmanism, Buddhism was liberal and democratic.
  • Buddhism made a special appeal to the people of the non-Vedic areas where it found a virgin soil for conversion.
  • The people of Magadha was responded readily to Buddhism because they were looked down upon by the orthodox brahmanas.
  • Magadha was placed outside the pale of the holy Aryavarta, the land of the Aryas, covering modem Uttar Pradesh.
  • The use of Pali, the language of the people, also contributed to the spread of Buddhism.
  • Gautama Buddha also organized the sangha or the religious order, whose doors were kept open to everybody, irrespective of caste and sex.
  • Initially, only men were allowed into the sangha, but later women also came to be admitted. According to Buddhist texts, this was made possible through the mediation of Ananda, one of the Buddha's dearest disciples, who persuaded him to allow women into the sangha.
  • The Buddha's foster mother, Mahaprajapati Gotami was the first woman to be ordained as a bhikkhuni.
  • Many women who entered the sangha became teachers of dhamma and went on to become theris, or respected women who had attained liberation.
  • The only condition required of the monks was that they would faithfully observe the rules and regulations of the sangha.
  • So there are three main elements in Buddhism: Buddha, Sangha and Dhamma,
  • The monarchies of Magadha, Koshala and Kaushambi and several republican states and their people adopted this religion.
  • The famous Maurya king Ashoka embraced Buddhism.
  • Through his agents Ashoka spread Buddhism into Central Asia, West Asia and Sri Lanka, and thus transformed it into a world religion.


Causes of the Decline of Buddhism                                         

  • By the early twelfth century A.D. Buddhism became practically extinct in India.
  • It had continued to exist in a changed form in Bengal and Bihar till the eleventi century but after that this religion almost completely vanished from the country.
  • We find that in the beginning every religion is inspired by the spirit of reform, but eventually its succumbs to rituals and ceremonies it originally denounced.
  • Buddhism underwent a victim to the evils of Brahmanism against which it had fought in the beginning.
  • To meet the Buddhist challenge the brahmanas reformed their religion.
  • They stressed the need for preserving the cattle wealth and assured women and shudras of admission to heaven.
  • Gradually the Buddhist monks were cut off from the mainstream of people's life
  • They gave up Pali, and took to Sanskrit the language of intellectuals.
  • From the first century A.D. onwards, they practised idol worship on a large scale and received numerous offerings from devotees 
  • The rich offerings supplemented by generous royal grants to the monasteries made the life of monks easy.
  • The new form of Buddhism was known as
  • The enormous wealth of the monasteries with woman living in them led to further degeneration. Buddhists came to look upon woman as objects of lust.
  • The Buddha is reported to have said to Ananda: “if woman were not admitted into the monasteries Buddhism would have continued for one thousand year, But because this admission has been granted it would last only five hundred years.”



  • The brahmana ruler pashyamitra shunga is said to have persecuted the Buddhists.
  • The Huna king Mihirakula, a worshipper of Shiva, killed hundreds of Buddhists
  • The Shaivite Shashanka of Gauda cut off the Bodhi tree at Bodha Gaya, where the Buddha had attained enlightenment.
  • Hsuan Tsang states that 1600 stupas and monasteries were destroyed, and thousands of monks and lay followers killed; this may not be without some truth.
  • In south India both the Shaivites and Vaishnavites bitterly opposed the Jamas and Buddhists in early medieval times. Such conflicts may have weakened Buddhism
  • For their rich the monasteries came to be coveted by the Turkish invaders
  • The Turks killed a large number of Buddhist monks in Bihar.
  • By the twelfth century A.D. Buddhism had disappeared from the land of its birth.


Importance and Influence of Buddhism

  • Buddhists showed a keen awareness of the problems that faced the people of north- east India in the sixth century B.C.
  • Accumulation of wealth naturally created sharp social and economic inequalities.
  • So Buddhism asked people not to accumulate wealth. According to it poverty breeds hatred, cruelty and violence.
  • To eradicate these evils the Buddha advised that farmers should be provided with grain and other facilities, the traders with wealth and the labourers with wages.
  • These measures were recommended to remove poverty in this world.
  • The code of conduct prescribed for monks partially reflects a revolt against the use of money, private property and luxurious living, which appeared in the sixth century B.C. in north-east India. In those days property and money were regarded as luxuries.
  • The objective of the Buddhist teachings was to secure the salvation of the individual
  • Those who found it difficult to adjust themselves to the break-up of the old tribal society and the rise of gross social inequalities on account of private property were provided with some way of escape, but it was confined to the monks. No escape was provided for the lay followers.
  • Buddhism made an important impact on society by keeping its doors open to women and shudras. Their conversion to Buddhism freed them from such marks of inferiority
  • With its emphasis on non-violence and the sanctity of animal life. Buddhism boosted the cattle wealth of the country.                        
  • The earliest Buddhist text Suttanipata declares the cattle to be givers of food, beauty and happiness (annada, vannada, sukhada), and thus pleads for their protection.
  • The brahmanical insistence on the sacredness of the cow and non-violence was apparently derived from Buddhist teachings.
  • Buddhism created and developed a new awareness in the field of intellect and culture. It taught the people not to take things for granted but to argue and judge them on merits.
  • To a certain extent the place of superstition was taken by logic. This promoted rationalism among people. Buddhists enormously enriched Pali by their writings. ,
  • By mixing Pali with Sanskrit the Buddhists created a new language which is called Hybrid Sanskrit.                                
  • The Buddhist monasteries developed as great centres of learning, and can be caller residential universities. Mention may be made of Nalanda and Vikramashila in Bihai and Valabhi in Gujarat.                                                       
  • Buddhism left its mark on the art of ancient
  • The first human statues worshipped in India were probably those of the Buddha
  • The Greek and the Indian sculptors worked together to create a new kind of art the north-west frontier of India, which is known as the Gandhara art. The images made in thes region betray Indian as well as foreign influencs.
  • For the residence of the monks rooms were hewn out of the rocks, and thus began the cave architecture in the Barabar hills in Gaya and in western India around Nasik
  • Buddhist art flourished in the Krishna delta in the south and in Mathura in the north.  


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