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Spread of Jainism and Buddhism: Part II

Spread of Jainism and Buddhism: Part II

Buddhism and Gautama Buddha:

  • Among the notable contemporaries of Mahavira was Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
  • His name was Siddhartha and he belonged to the Gautama gotra. He was born in 563 B.C. in Lumbini (now in Nepal) in the Shakya Kshatriya clan of Kapilavastu.
    • The site of his nativity is marked by the celebrated Rumnindei Pillar of Ashoka Maurya.
  • He was the son of Suddhodana, who seems to have been the elected ruler of Kapilvastu, and headed the republican clan of the Shakyas.
  • His mother, Maya was a princess of the Koliya clan. Maya died in child-birth and the little Siddhartha was brought up by his aunt and stepmother Prajapati Gautami.
  • Thus, born in a republic, Buddha also inherited some egalitarian sentiments.
  • At the age of sixteen the prince was married to a lady known to tradition as Bhadda Kachchana, Yasodhara, Subhadraka.
  • Since his early childhood Gautama showed a meditative bent of mind.
    • The sight of an old man, a sick man, a dead body and an ascetic (the Four Great signs) intensified Gautama’s deep hatred for the world and made him realise the hollowness of worldly pleasure.
  • At the birth of his son Rahula, he left home at the age of twenty-nine in search of the Truth. This departure is known as ‘The Great Renun­ciation’ (mahabhinshkramana).
  • For six years he lived as a wandering ascetic, seeking instruction under two religious teachers Alara Kalama (at Vaishali) and Uddaka or Ramaputta (at Rajagriha) and visiting many places.
    • From Alara Kalama he learned the technique of meditation and the teachings of the upanishadas. But these teachings did not lead Gautama to the final liberation.
  • He practised rigid austerities and resorted to different kinds of self torture to find the truth only to find that they were of no help to him in reaching his goal.
  • Ultimately abandoning this he went to Uruvela (near Bodh Gaya on the banks of Niranjiina river) and sat under a pipal tree (Bodhi tree) after taking a bath in the stream of the river Niranjana.
    • Here he attained the supreme knowledge (Enlightenment) at the age of 35 on the 49th day of his continuous meditation. Since then he was called the Buddha (the enlightened one).
    • He also became to be known as Tathagata (he who had attained the truth) and Sakya-Muni or the sage of Sakya clan.
  • From here he proceeded to the Deer park at Sarnath near Varanasi at Isipatana and gave his first sermon which is known as ‘Dharmachakra Pravartana‘ (setting in motion the wheel of Dharma).
    • Asvajit, Upali, Mogallana. Sari-putra and Anada were the first five disciples of Buddha.
    • His first five disciples soon themselves realized the truth and became arhats.
  • Buddha laid the foundations of the Buddhist Sangha. He preached most of his sermons at Sravasti.
  • Anathapindika. the rich merchant of Sravasti became his follower and made liberal donations to the Buddhist order.
  • Soon he started visiting various places to propagate his sermons. He kept on wandering, preaching and meditating continuously for 40 years, resting only in the rainy season every year.
    • He visited visited Sarnath, Mathura, Rajgir, Gaya and Pataliputra.
    • Kings like Bimbisara, Ajatasatru (Magadha), Prasenajita (Kosala) and Udayana (Kausambi) accepted his doctrines and became his disciples.
    • He also visited Kapilavastu and converted his foster mother and his son Rahula to his faith.
  • During this long period he encountered many staunch supporters of rival sects including the brahmanas, but defeated them in debates.
  • His missionary activities did not discriminate between the rich and the poor, the high and the low, and the man and woman.
  • Gautama Buddha passed away at the age of 80 in 483 B.C. at a place called Kusinagar, (the capital of the Malla) identical with the village called Kasia in the district of Deoria in eastern Uttar Pradesh. (Mahaparinirvana)
  • Sources of Buddha’s hagiography:
    • Some elements of Buddha’s hagiography (sacred biography) are contained in the Sutta and Vinaya Pitakas, but more detailed and connected accounts are given in later texts such as the Lalitavistara, Mahavastu, Buddhacharita, and Nidanakatha—all of which belong to the early centuries CE.
    • It is difficult to extract a historical life story out of the hagiographies because they have moulded the Buddha’s life into a narrative aimed at conveying a series of significant meanings to his followers, designed to have a powerful impact.

Doctrines of Buddhism:

  • Buddha proved to be a practical reformer who took note of the realities of the day. He did not involve himself in fruitless controversies regarding the soul (atman) and the Brahma which raged strongly in his time; 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.
  • The basic teachings of Buddha are contained in:
    • Four Noble Truths, and
    • Eight Fold Path
  • Within Buddhism, samsara is defined as the continual repetitive cycle of birth and death. Karma  is the force that drives saṃsara.
  • Buddha taught his followers the Four “Noble Truths” (Chatvari Arya Satyani):
    • Dukkha:
      • The World (samsara) is full of sorrows/ suffering (dukkha),
    • Samudaya (origin, arising):
      • The cause/origin of sorrow in desire (trishna)
      • This cause is explained in light of what is known as ‘Pattichcha Samuppada‘ (translated as dependent origination). It is a causal chain of twelve co-dependent events or phenomena. All phenomena are linked in a chain, conditioning and depending on each other.  It starts with ignorance which leads to other phenomena including desire and that ultimataly leads to sorrow.
    • Nirodha (cessation, ending):
      • Ending of this dukkha can be attained by the renouncement or letting go of desires;
    • Magga (path, Noble Eightfold Path/ Ashtangika Marga/ Madhyam Marg) is the path leading to renouncement of desires and cessation of dukkha
  • The Eight Fold Path consists of the following principles:
    • Right view:
      • Viewing reality as it is, not just as it appears to be
      • Finding the right view, It is to understand that the world is filled with sorrow generated by desire. The ending of desire will lead to the liberation of the soul.
    • Right thought/aim/ intention:
      • It seeks to avoid the enjoyment of the senses and luxury. It aims to love humanity and increase the happiness of others.
      • Intention of renunciation, freedom and harmlessness
    • Right speech:
      • Speaking in a truthful and non-hurtful way
    • Right action:
      • Acting in a non-harmful and unselfish way
    • Right livelihood:
      • It instructs that a man should live by honest means.
      • A non-harmful livelihood
    • Right effort/conduct:
      • It is the proper way of controlling one’s senses so as to prevent bad thoughts. It is through correct mental exercises that one can destroy desire and attachment.
      • Making an effort to improve
    • Right mindfulness:
      • It is the understanding of the idea that the body is impermanent and meditation is the means for the removal of worldly evils.
    • Right concentration/ meditation:
      • The observation of it will lead to peace. Meditation will unravel the real truth.
  • According to Buddha’s teachings, anyone who follows this path, considered as the ‘middle path’, (madhyama pratipad), would attain salvation irrespective of his social position.
    • Middle Path: The practice of non-extremism: a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification.
    • An individual should pursue the middle path and both severe asceticism as well as luxurious life are to be avoided.
  • Sabbam dukkham:
    • Dukkha and its extinction are central to the Buddha’s doctrine.
    • The Buddha taught that everything is suffering (sabbam dukkham).
    • This can be seen as either an extremely pessimistic or an extremely realistic teaching.
    • Suffering refers not only to the actual pain and sorrow experienced by an individual, but also to the potential to experience these things.
    • States of happiness or pleasure are unstable and temporary, as they are dependent on the gratification of the senses through certain objects or experiences.
    • The reasons for suffering include human propensities such as desire, attachment, greed, pride, aversion, and ignorance.
    • Desire (trishna) is central to the cause and removal of suffering.
    • All this is connected with another aspect of existence emphasized in the Buddha’s teaching— impermanence (anichcha).
  • Impermanence
    • Impermanence has many facets.
      • In relation to an individual’s life, there is no being or power in the universe that can prevent old age, sickness, and death.
      • At a more basic level, what we think of as the ‘I’ or ‘me’ is actually an ever-changing compound of a succession of instants of experiences and consciousness. The simile of the river helps explain this—the river seems the same, but the drops of water that constitute it are changing every instant.
    • The idea of a permanent, unchanging ‘I’ or ‘me’ is thus the result of misperception and ignorance.
    • The emphasis on impermanence involved the rejection of any unchanging, permanent, eternal substances or essences such as the atman
  • Law of Karma:
    • Buddhism laid great emphasis on the law of ‘karma‘.
    • In the Buddhist universe, there are many worlds and many different kinds of beings, and one can be born as any one of them. The connection between different lives is established by karma.
    • In the Brahmanical tradition, karma refers to ritual action. In the Buddha’s teaching, karma means intentions which lead to actions of body, speech, or mind.
    • Rebirth is governed by the cumulative results of the karma of a particular life.
    • Thus the doctrine of karma is the essential part of the teachings of Buddha.
  • Nibbana (Nirvana):
    • The ultimate goal of the Buddha’s teaching was the attainment of nibbana. This was not a place but an experience, and could be attained in this life.
      • Nirvana means the shedding of all desires, and ending of sufferings, which finally leads to freedom from rebirth.
      • By a process of elimination of desire, one can attain ‘nirvana’.
      • Therefore, Buddha preached that annihilation of desire is the real problem.
      • Prayers and sacrifices will not end the desire. So unlike the emphasis on rituals and ceremonies in Vedic religion he laid emphasis on the moral life of an individual.
    • The Buddha is supposed to have experienced nibbana, as did some of his disciples.
    • Nibbana literally means blowing out, dying out, or extinction —the dying out or extinction of desire, attachment, greed, hatred, ignorance, and the sense of I-ness and breaking out of the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
    • Nibbana does not mean physical death.
      • The term parinibbana (complete or final dying out) is used for the death of an enlightened being such as the Buddha.
    • The Buddha’s teaching accepts the idea of transmigration (samsara) but rejects the idea of the atman. What then is it that transmigrates?
      • One interpretation is that Buddhism teaches the transmigration of character or personality.
      • Another possibility is that what is being suggested is the transmission of a life impulse, similar to the transmission of a flame from one candle to another.
      • What the teaching suggests is that the elements of conscious existence do not disappear into thin air on death—they reappear in some other combination and form in another time, at another place.
      • The Milindapanha (1st century CE) gives an analogy which explains the whole thing rather well: Just as milk turns into curds, butter, and ghee, a being transmigrates, neither as the same, nor as another.
  • Buddha may be called an agnostic as he neither accepted nor rejected the existence of God.
    • According to Buddha, all things are composite, and as a corollary, all things are transient, for the composition of all aggregates is liable to change.
    • He was more concerned about the individual and his actions.
    • Buddhism also did not believe in the existence of soul.
  • Buddhism does not recognize the existence of god and permanence soul (atman). This can be taken as a kind of revolution in the history of Indian religions.
    • Buddha accept ‘karma’ and ‘transmigration’ but denies the permanence of soul.
    • Since early Buddhism was not enmeshed in the clap-trap of philosophical discussion, it appealed to the common people.
  • Buddha emphasised on the spirit of love.
    • Love could be expressed on all living beings by following ‘ahimsa’ (non-killing).
    • Though the principle was well understood, it was not emphasised as much as in Jainism.
  • Buddhism does not accept authority of vedas and because of this Buddhist philosophy is placed under atheistic philosophy.
  • Opposed the varna system and caste:
    • It particularly won the support of the lower orders as it attacked the varna system.
    • People were taken into the Buddhist order without any consideration of caste.
  • According to Buddha, a man is composed of five groups (Skandha) of physical and mental factors called
      • Rupa (form),
      • Samjna (Name),
      • Vedana (sentations),
      • Vijnana (consciousness) and
      • Samskara (Disposition).
    • Thus the individual is made up of a combination of these five components, which are never the same from one moment to the next, and therefore his whole being is in a state of constant flux.
  • Patichcha-samuppada (the law of dependent origination)
    • This was both an explanation of all phenomena as well as an explanation of dukkha.
    • The elements of this law were presented as a wheel consisting of 12 nidanas, one leading to the next:
      • ignorance (avijja),
      • formations (sankhara),
      • consciousness (vinnana),
      • mind and body (nama-rupa),
      • the six senses (salayatana),
      • sense contact (phassa),
      • feeling (vedana),
      • craving (tanha/ trishna),
      • attachment (upadana),
      • becoming (bhava),
      • birth (jati), and
      • old age and death (jaramarana).
    • The nidanas were later divided into three groups pertaining to the past, present, and future lives, and patichcha-samuppada therefore also became an explanation of how the origins of rebirth lay in ignorance.

dependent origination

  • Ahimsa:
    • The Buddhist emphasis on ahimsa involved a critique of Brahmanical animal sacrifices.
    • Monks and nuns were not to kill animals. They were not to drink water in which small creatures lived.
    • However, the emphasis on ahimsa did not necessarily entail vegetarianism and monks were not forbidden from eating meat. This is because the emphasis was on the factor of intention.
    • Monks had to accept whatever was given to them on their begging rounds.
      • Therefore, meat had to be accepted if offered, provided that the animal was not killed specifically to feed them.
    • There are some exceptions however—certain kinds of flesh were never to be accepted—that of humans, elephants, snakes, dogs, and horses.
  • Ethical code of conduct:
    • The Buddha laid down an ethical code of conduct both for members of the monastic order and the laity.
    • Monks and nuns were supposed to strictly avoid the following:
      • destruction of life,
      • taking what is not given (theft),
      • sexual activity,
      • lying,
      • the use of intoxicants that cause heedlessness,
      • eating after mid-day,
      • attending entertainments,
      • using perfumes and jewellery,
      • using luxurious beds, and
      • handling gold and silver (including money).
    • The first five rules were supposed to apply to the laity as well, except that celibacy was replaced by chastity. Chastity was important and was defined not just with regard to sexual activity but also sexual desire and thoughts.
  • There are three jewels in buddhism:
    • The Buddha, the fully enlightened one,
    • The Dhamma, the teachings expounded by the Buddha,
    • The Sangha, the monastic order of Buddhism that practice Dharmas.
    • All the three are inseparable as The Dhamma could not have been tought without the Buddha, and could not have been followed without the Sangha.
  • Buddha focused on harmonious social relation and defines duties in the society:
    • Duties to friends:
      • be generous
      • treat as equal
      • standby your friend.
      • take care
      • help in trouble
    • Employers duties towards servant:
      • Treat decently
      • don’t give task beyond strength
      • care i the time of need
      • provide adequate food and wages
    • Duties of servants to master:
      • work thoroughly
      • Be content with just wage
      • Maintain masters reputation
    • Husband’s duty towards wife:
      • pay respect
      • comply request as far as possible
      • provide according to capacity
    • Wife’s duty towards husband;
      • Perform duty honestly
      • Be gentle and kind
      • work with skill and enthusiasm
      • maintain household properly

The Buddhist Sangha:

  • The Buddha had two kinds of disciples- monks (bhikshus or shramanas) and lay worshippers (upasakas).
    • The former were organised into the Sangha or congregation.
    • The membership of the Sangha was open to all persons, male or female above fifteen years of age and who were free from leprosy, consumption and other infectious diseases.
    • Persons who were in the service of the king or an individual, or who were in debt, or slaves or had been branded as robbers or criminals were refused admission into the Sangha.
    • There were no caste restrictions.
    • Women also were admitted to the sangha.
    • The only condition required of the monks was that they would faithfully observe the rules and regulations of the sangha.
    • Once they were enrolled as members of the Buddhist Sangha they had to take the vow of continence, poverty and faith.
    • non-acceptance of varna distinction.
  • Monasteries were constructed for the accommodation of monks and nuns for carrying on their studies and meditation, which gradually developed into academic centers.
  • Every Buddhist monk has to be a Sramana before being ordained as a full-fledged member of the Sangha. The higher ordination or Bhikshus is called upasampada.
    • Whenever a new person, desired to join the Sangha, he or she had to shave his or her head, put on a yellow robe and take the oaths of fidelity to the triratna, viz. the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.
  • The Sangha was governed on democratic lines and was empowered ‘to enforce discipline among its member.
    • The monks of a monastery were to hold a fortnight assembly, were to elect their president (Sanghaparinayaka), and to select two speakers, one on dhamma and the other on Vinaya.
    • In the assembly meetings, there were the systems of formal moving of resolution (Jnapati) and ballot voting by means of wodden sticks (salaka).
    • No assembly was valid unless at least ten monks were present, novices and women were not entitled to vote or to constitute the quorum.

The social implications of the Buddha’s teachings:

  • The Buddha’s doctrine was certainly more socially inclusive than the Brahmanical tradition, but it did not aim at abolishing social differences.
    • Buddhist texts reveal biases of their own and these biases were reflected even in the supposedly a-social world of the sangha.
  • The key point is that the Buddha saw all social relationships as fetters and a source of suffering. It was only by breaking away from these fetters that a person could attain liberation.
  • The creation of the monastic order had the potential for creating great social upheaval by providing a haven for social dropouts. However, the Buddhist tradition reflects a desire to maintain the status quo and specifies a number of conditions for entry:
    • For instance, soldiers could not join without the permission of the king,
    • slaves could not join until freed by their masters, and
    • debtors could not join until they had paid off their debts.
  • The Buddhist tradition considered varna a man-made ordering, unlike the divine sanction conferred on it by the Brahmanical tradition.
    • In the Samyutta Nikaya, when asked about his origins by the Brahmana Sundarika, the Buddha replies, ‘Do not ask of the origin (jati), ask of the behaviour. Just as fire can be born out of any wood, so can a saint be born in a kula of low status.’
    • To this can be added the statement that a person does not become a Brahmana by birth, but by deed. Birth in a high or low family is often explained as the result of actions in previous lives, but the potential for achieving nibbana is there in all.
    • The fact that bhikkhus were supposed to accept food from everyone, regardless of class or caste, suggests a deliberate disregard for current social practices.
      • The Buddha himself did not maintain any restrictions about accepting food.
      • He enjoyed the hospitality of wealthy gahapatis and setthis, but he also dined with people lower in the social hierarchy. In fact, his last meal is supposed to have been at the home of a blacksmith named Chunda.
    • A close reading of the Pali texts shows that they too had a notion of high and low status. The Vinaya Pitaka talks about high and low sippas (occupation):
      • The high sippas included money changing, accounting, and writing. Farming, cattle rearing, and trade were considered high occupations.
      • the low sippas included the professions of the leather maker, reed worker, potter, tailor, painter, weaver, and barber.
      • The Buddhist laity was not supposed to engage in trade in weapons, meat, intoxicants, or poisons.
  • Varna in Buddhist Sangha:
    • In the Anguttara Nikaya, the Buddha describes a dream in which four birds of different varnas (kinds, colours) came from the four directions and sat at his feet.
      • Similarly, he asserted, monks from the four varnas—Khattiya, Brahmana, Vessa, and Sudda—came within his fold.
    • The same text declares that when a person joins the sangha, he becomes without varna (vevanniyanti).
    • Varna and jati were supposed to be irrelevant for aspirants to the sangha.
    • The distinguished monk Upali was originally a barber of the Sakyas
    • However, a close look at its actual composition indicates a significant proportion of upper class members.
      • A large section of the monks were Brahmanas or Kshatriyas or belonged to families enjoying a high status (uchcha kulas).
        • Members who came from other backgrounds (gahapatis, setthis, members of nicha kulas) were comparatively few.
      • Brahmanas (e.g., Sariputta, Mahamoggallana, and Mahakassapa) figure prominently among the famous bhikkhus.
      • The prominent Kshatriya monks included the Buddha himself and others such as Ananda and Aniruddha.
  • Superiority of Kshatriya over Brahmana in social status:
    • The Pali canon reverses the Brahmanical order of rank and places the Kshatriya higher than the Brahmana.
      • The Buddhist position on varna and birth emerges clearly in many places, especially in the Ambattha Sutta in the Digha Nikaya: The Kshatriya is considered superior to the Brahmana when it comes to worldly social status, but the one who has attained nibbana is superior to all.
    • While the Buddha is frequently portrayed as rejecting the Brahmanical claim to innate superiority, the term ‘Brahmana’ is used in two senses in Buddhist texts:
      • On the one hand, it is used in the conventional sense as a social category;
      • on the other, it is also used as an ideal category to refer to a wise person who led an exemplary life.
        • In places, the Buddha himself is addressed as ‘Brahmana’.
        • The Sonadanda Sutta asserts that Brahmanahood was not a matter of birth—a true Brahmana was not one who muttered Vedic verses, but one who had true knowledge.
    • How do we explain the large-scale participation of Brahmanas as monks and lay-followers of the Buddha, especially in view of his criticism of Brahmanical ritual and claims to social preeminence?
      • It is possible that the teaching struck a chord because there was debate and discussion of such issues within the Brahmana intelligentsia itself.
      • Further, not all Brahmanas were ritual specialists, and they would therefore not have been offended by the critique of sacrifice.
      • At the same time, Brahmanas joining the sangha were evidently looked upon with disapproval by other Brahmanas.
  • The Buddha’s dhamma must have appealed to the laity because it offered a coherent code of conduct, one that was in consonance with the times.
  • The positive outlook on emergent affluent groups acknowledged their status and importance.
    • The laity, especially those who gave lavish gifts, included Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, gahapatis, members of the so-called uchcha kulas and nicha kulas.
    • The Kshatriya patrons include, powerful kings such as Bimbisara, Ajatashatru, and Prasenajit.
    • Buddhist texts assigned the gahapati an especially high social standing.
      • Gahapatis were also among the most important lay supporters of the sangha.
      • Their importance was acknowledged by the fact that some of them are described as being visited on their deathbed by the Buddha or by other prominent monks, an honour generally reserved for members of the sangha.

Buddhism and women:

  • Two important features of early Buddhism were
    • the assertion that the highest goal—nibbana—was possible for women, and
    • the creation of a bhikkhuni sangha.
  • On the other hand, Buddhist texts reflect stereotyped ideals of the submissive and obedient woman, whose life was supposed to revolve around her husband and sons.
    • They also contain many negative images of women as temptresses and creatures of passion.
    • Comparisons with poisonous black snakes and fire (the message is: stay away from them) are not surprising in a tradition that set such store on celibacy and which therefore perceived women as a threat.
  • Just as monks were warned against women, nuns were warned against men.
  • Buddhist tradition suggests that the Buddha was not initially keen to establish a bhikkhuni sangha but ultimately gave in to the persistent pressure of his disciple Ananda and his foster-mother Mahapajapati Gotami.
    • The Vinaya Pitaka describes him as making the gloomy prediction that the doctrine would decline in 500 instead of 1,000 years because women had been admitted into the sangha.
  • The sangha was not open to pregnant women, mothers of unweaned children, rebellious women who associated with young men, and those who did not have their parents’ or husbands’ permission to join.
  • The rules for nuns were basically the same as those for monks, but there were more rules subordinating the order of nuns to that of monks.
  • While women could attain salvation, their capability for attaining Buddhahood directly (without first being born as a man) was not accepted.
    • Buddhist texts like Samyutta Nikaya, Anguttara Nikaya contain several references to learned nuns.
  • Therigatha:
    • The Therigatha (Verses of Elder Nuns) is a collection of 73 poems supposed to have been composed by 72 nuns who had reached a high level of spiritual attainment.
    • Many of these nuns are described as possessing tevijja (the three kinds of knowlege), an attribute of arhats. Some of the poems express the nuns’ experience of nibbana.
    • They also tell of the experiences which preceded their joining the sangha. These range from unhappy marriages to tragedies such as the death of a child.
  • Interaction between Monks and Nuns:
    • Monks and nuns were bound to have had some amount of interaction.
      • In fact, nuns were not supposed to live too far away from monks during regular times as well as during the monsoon retreat.
      • They had to consult the latter for the date of the uposatha ceremony.
    • If a nun broke certain rules, she had to answer to a mixed gathering of monks and nuns.
    • However, contact and interaction were carefully regulated and restricted.
      • For instance, a monk was not supposed to be alone with a nun in a closed room, and was not allowed to preach to a woman in private without the presence of a third person.
      • However, a monk could accompany a nun on a road that was considered dangerous.
  • A tradition’s progressiveness has to be judged by the standards of its own time:
    • By the standards of the 6th/5th century BCE, the Buddha opened up a significant space for women’s spiritual aspirations.
    • Similarly, compared to texts of other religious traditions, women are strikingly visible in Buddhist texts.
    • In subsequent centuries, women—both bhikkhunis and upasikas—were very visible as donors at Buddhist stupa-monastery sites.
    • Nevertheless, after its inception, the bhikkhuni sangha seems to be a shadowy entity in the available sources.

Buddhist Councils:

First Council:

  • Following the death (Mahaparinirvana) of Lord Buddha, the First-Buddhist Council was held in 486 B.C. at Sattapanni cave near the Magadhan capital at Rajagriha, under the leadership of king Ajatasatru and the presidency of Mahakassapa.
    • Its purpose was to compile the dhamma (religious doctrines) and the Vinaya (monastic code).
    • It resulted in the settlement of the Sutta Pitaka (Buddhas sermons on matters of doctrine and ethics) and the Vinaya Pitaka (monastic code or rules of the order) by Ananda and Upali respectively.
    • Nearly 500 Buddhists attended this council.
    • This council went a long way in making Buddhism popular.

Second Council:

  • Held at Vaishali, one hundred years after the Buddha’s death in 386 B.C. in the reign of Kalasoka of the Sisunaga dynasty, it was probably presided over by Sabakami.
  • This council relaxed some of the principles of Buddhism like preserving salt, tacking lunch after mid-day, receiving gold and silver and the like.
  • Over small points of monastic discipline, the Buddhist order broke into
    • the orthodox Sthaviravadins or “Believers in the Teachings of the Elders”,
    • the unorthodox Mahasanghikas or “members of the Great Community”.
  • The Sthaviras gave rise to several schools, one of which was the Theravada school.

Third Council:

  • The third council was held at Pataliputra in the reign of Asoka (around 250 B.C.) and was presided over by Moggaliputta Tissa.
    • An attempt was made in the council to discuss the issues of conflicting ideas and arrive at a solution based on consensus.
  • It resulted in the expulsion of many heretics and the establishment of the Sthaviravada School as orthodox.
  • The council made a new classification of the Buddhist canonical texts by the addition of a third Pitaka called the Abhidhamma Pitka which contained the philosophical interpretations of the doctrines of the two already existing Pitakas.
    • As a result of this, the sayings and discourses of the Buddha now came to be known as the Tripitaka.
  • The teaching approved and accepted by this Council became known as Sthaviras or Theravada, “Teaching of the Elders”. The Abhidhamma Pitaka was included at this Council.
  • After the Third Council, King Asoka sent missions to Sri Lanka, Kanara, Karnataka, Kashmir, Himalaya region, Burma, Afghanistan.
  • Asoka’s son, Mahinda, brought the Tripitaka to Sri Lanka, along with the commentaries that were recited at the Third Council. These teachings later became known as the “Pali-canon“.

Fourth Council:

  • The Fourth and the last Buddhist Council was held at Kundalabana Vihar in Kashmir under the leadership of Vasumitra who was helped by Asvaghosha during the reign of Kanishka during 1st century A.D.
    • Vasumitra was its president and Ashvaghosha, its vice-president.
  • Its purpose was to settle the differences among all the 18 sects of Buddhism and to compose the commentaries.
  • Kaniska ordered the gist of all discussions to be engraved on copper-plates to be preserved in stone-chambers of a stupa.
  • Its results were:
    • Division of all the Buddhists into two major sects, with Sarvastivadins (Popular in Kashmir and Mathura regions) and Mahasanghikas together forming the Mahayanists (followers of the Greater Vehicle), and the rest, including Sthaviravadins forming the Hinayanists (followers of the lesser Vehicle)
      • A new branch under the leadership of Ashvaghosha came up. This faction was known as ‘Mahayana’. Followers of this group came to practise worship of the Buddha’s image.
      • Thus, the Fourth Buddhist Council split the Buddhists into two groups, namely, ‘Hinayana’ and ‘Mahayana’.
    • Codification of the Buddhist doctrines in the form of an encyclopedia of Buddhism called Mahabivashaand
    • Conduct of the deliberations of the Council is Sanskrit instead of Pali.

Spread of Theravada:

  • Theravada tradition is based on the set of teachings decided by the Third Council to contain the teachings of the Buddha.
  • Sri Lanka has played a central role in preserving the Theravada scriptures and practices.
    • After the Third Council, the Tripitaka collection of sutras were taken to Sri Lanka.
    • Most of these were originally in the Pali language, but some were compiled in other languages.
    • Through the centuries however, all teachings were translated into Pali (around 35 BCE).
  • Initially, most ordained Sangha were known as parivrajahas (wanderers). They would assemble during the rainy season when travelling became problematic.
  • Gradually, buildings were donated and the Sangha became more static.
    • Just a century after the Buddha passed away, monasteries became the main mechanism for preservation of the teachings.
    • Also extra monastic rules were introduced.
  • Only during one short period in history Buddhism was banned in Sri Lanka, but it was later restored with teachings from Thailand which in turn had originated in Sri Lanka. The main countries where the Theravada tradition is currently alive and well in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia and Laos.
  • The teachings on the Four Noble Truths and meditation form the basis of Theravada practice.
  • In India, non-Mahayana or Hinayana sects developed independent from the form of Buddhism existing in Sri Lanka. Today, there is no Hinayana tradition in existence anywhere, although Theravada could be called the tradition most like Hinayana.
  • The ultimate goal of the Theravadin and other non-Mahayana practice is to attain the state of an Arhat, as Buddhahood is considered practically unachievable for nearly everyone within this aeon.
  • Although helping other sentient beings is accepted as an important Buddhist practice, the main motivation for following the spiritual path is to achieve liberation for oneself – Nirvana.

Spread of Mahayana:

  • Nagarjuna developed the Mahayana philosophy of Sunyata (emptiness) and proved that everything is ‘Void’ (not only the self) in a text called Madhyamika-karika.
  • About the 4th Century CE, the Masters Asanga and Vasubandhu wrote enormous amount of works on Mahayana.
  • The Mahayana teachings were mainly written down in Sanskrit.
  • The Mahayana philosophy is based on the older tradition and fully accepts these teachings, but not all traditional interpretations.
    • One of the most important aspects is for example the traditional interpretation that Buddhahood can be achieved only by very few people.
    • The Mahayana teaches instead that every sentient being (being with a mind) can become a Buddha, the only thing preventing our full enlightenment is the failure to improve one’s own actions and state of mind.
    • This motivation is reflected in taking an additional set of vows, known as Bodhisattva vows. The main vow is to free all sentient beings from suffering. These vows are not taken for this life only, but for all future lives as well, until this goal is achieved.
  • The Mahayana tradition mainly developed in North India, and spread further North into China and Tibet.
  • In China, Buddhist philosophy and practice was often mixed with Taoist and Confucian aspects.
  • Via China, Mahayana Buddhism also spread to other countries like Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Japan. Also, in China the Ch’an tradition evolved, which was introduced into Japan.
  • Around the 6th. century AD, within the Mahayana tradition the tantras or tantric texts emerged. (Vajrayana)
    • Tantric practices are psychologically very profound techniques to quickly achieve Buddhahood.
    • This is considered important, not for oneself, but because as a Buddha one has the best achievable qualities to help others. The motivation is: ‘the faster I can achieve Buddhahood, the sooner I can be of maximum benefit to others’.
    • Depending on the class of tantra, extra vows may need to be taken on top of the Refuge and Bodhisattva vows.
    • Also, specific commitments may be required like doing a specific retreat, daily recitation of mantras or a daily meditation practice.
  • In the 8th. century, the Mahayana and Tantrayana (or Vajrayana) traditions of (North) Indian Buddhism were introduced into Tibet.
    • In fact, only in Tibet, Bhutan and Mongolia a virtually complete set of tantric teachings was preserved.
    • The Tibetan tradition can also be found in the Himalayan range of Ladakh (Northwest India), Sikkhim (Northeast India) and Nepal, and in Mongolia (which is virtually identical to the Tibetan tradition).
    • In China and countries like Korea and Japan, remnants of Vajrayana can be found.

Comparison between Mahayana and Hinayana:

  • Mahayana means “great vehicle” and Hinayana means “lesser vehicle.
    • A great vehicle is like a large ship that can carry many people over the ocean.
    • A lesser vehicle is like a little boat that can carry only a few people across a river.
    • The word vehicle is used to describe the Buddha’s teachings, since the ultimate purpose of the teachings is to carry people from the shore of this impure world to the other shore of enlightenment.
    • So Mahayana, which promises spiritual liberation to both monks and ordinary people is called greater vehicle because it can help a large number of people in attaining enlightenment.
      • Mahayana has principles based on the possibility of universal liberation from suffering for all beings.
    • On the other hand, Hinayana which calls for strict discipline cannot be practiced by ordinary people can carry fewer people towards enlightenment.
  • Mahayana Buddhism followers think that The Buddha is a God because they think that the Buddha came down to earth to help people cross the sea of life. So the Buddha can be worshipped as a God because he is eternal and comes down to earth.
  • On the other hand Hinayana Buddhists think that The Buddha was a Human instead of a God because they think The Buddha was simply a man who found a way to Nirvana.
    • Hinayana think that The Buddha is an ordinary person because he has many human-like characteristics such as looking like a person, being born like a person, living like a person besides if he was a God he would have already known about old-aged people, diseased people and dead people.
    • So Siddhartha Gautama is an ordinary person who devoted most of his life to finding the truth of life, to reach enlightenment.
  • Hinayana:- Found mostly in the South and West covering Indochina and Ceylon (Sri-Lanka).
    • Mahayana:- Found mostly in the North and West, covering China, Korea, Japan, and Tibet.
    • Mahayan sect spread from India to several other nations such as China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and Mangolia.
  • Hinayana:- Early work written in Pali (e.g. Kamma, Dhamma).
    • Mahayana:- Early texts are in Sanskrit (e.g. Karma, Dharma)
  • Mahayana worships the bodhisattvas and read the Mahayana sutras while Hinayanists do not perform these.
  • Hinayana follows the original teaching of Buddha. It emphasizes individual salvation through self discipline and meditation.
    • Mahayana believes in the heavenliness of Buddha and believes in Idol Worship.
    • Mahayana believes in Mantras. Its principles are based on the existence of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas embodying Buddha nature.
  • Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism both started of with one goal, Nirvana. But both took different ways to get there.

Q. Discuss the rise of Mahayana and its significance.

Ans:

Mahayana (“great vehicle”) is one of the two main branches of Buddhism. other being Hinayana (“lesser vehicle”). It’s origin lays in the socio-economic and religious milieu of the Post-Mauryan period.

Rise of Mahayana:

  • The Buddhsim was especially affected by the leap in trade and artisanal activity and partly due to large influx of people from Central Asia in post-Mauryan period.
    • The absorption of foreigners into Indian society was made easier through the adoption of Buddhism, which did not raise difficulties about caste. These foreigners were generally non-vegetarians.
    • The monks and nun could not afford to lose the cash donations from the growing body of traders and artisans concentrated in towns.
      • e.g. large number of coins have been found in the monastic areas of Nagarjunakonda in Andhra Pradesh.
    • As a result of lavish donations the Buddhist monasteries tended to become repositories of wealth.
  • All these meant laxity in the day to day living of the nuns and monks. They now accepted gold and silver, took to non-vegetarian food and wore elaborate robes. Some renunciates even deserted the religious order or the Sangha and resumed the householder’s life.
    • It meant that they flouted the earlier Buddhist canon, which required a new entrant into the order to give away all his possessions and then renounce worldly life. The reinterpretation of the doctrine of the Buddha was thus rendered inevitable.
  • Further, the religious emotions of a number of people, with different origins and cultural affiliations gradually transformed Buddha into a God.
    • In the early centuries of the Christian era the installation and worship of Buddha images came into vogue.
  • All these paved the way for the advent of Mahayana Buddhism.
  • It became a formally recognized form of Buddhism at the time of Kaniska after the first great schism in the Fourth Buddhist Council.
    • i.e. the formal division of the Buddhist samgha into Hinayana and Mahayana taken place here.
  • It spread all over North India in the first and Second centuries A.D.
    • However, due to the opposition from orthodox Buddhism it could not make much headway in the beginning.
    • It was with the advent of Nagarjuna, the most outstanding exponent of Mahayana that it started gaining popularity.
  • In the course of its history, the Mahayanists dominated in India, Central Asia, Tibet, China and Japan.
    • Several Mahayana Sutras were translated into Chinese in the late 2nd century CE.
  • However, it is evident that emergence of Mahayana did not in fact immediately lead to a split in the sangha.
    • This is confirmed by Faxian and Xuanzang who visited India in the 4th/5th and 7th century respectively, and described Mahayana and non-Mahayana monks living together in the same monasteries.

The significance of Mahayana:

  • The growth of Mahayana Buddhism contributed to the further development of Buddhism as a popular faith all over India and beyond her frontiers.
  • Features of Mahayana:
    • The hallmark of the Mahayana was the Bodhisattva doctrine.
      • It was a logical development of the earlier Buddhist ideas.
        • According to the older doctrine the Bodhisattva lived in wisdom and love and wrought many deeds of kindness and mercy, and ultimately became the Buddha.
        • Ordinary believers were therefore encouraged to emulate him and attain nirvana.
      • But in the Mahayanist thought the Bodhisattva was one who worked selflessly for the good of all mankind and bided his time until all living beings could achieve the goal.
      • The older Buddhism had regarded individual salvation as the goal; the new doctrine had as its objective the salvation of all beings.
    • The Bodhisattva was conceived as a previous incarnation of the Buddha; this led to the belief that one could accumulate spiritual merit through successive births.
      • Logically enough the Mahayana emphasized that merit was transferable from one person to another; numerous Buddhist dedicatory records indicate that this could be done through a pious act in the name of a person to whom merit was to be transferred.
    • The Bodhisattva of the Mahayana was not only a spirit of compassion but also of suffering, who redeemed humanity through his own suffering.
      • A belief current in West Asia at that time was evidently borrowed by the Mahayana Buddhism: from the idea of the ‘suffering saviour’ was derived the concept of Maitreya Buddha, who would appear in future to redeem mankind.
    • One could become a Bodhisattva by performing the meritorious acts or Paramitas.
    • It was the Mahayana Buddhism in which Buddha was made into a God and the people were taught to offer their devotion to Buddha as the God.
    • Other features associated with Mahayana faith are:
      • Belief in sunyata or void or non-reality of objects;
      • belief in mantras,
      • belief in numerous Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and
      • Sukhavati is the Mahayana heaven.
      • the practice of worshipping gods and goddesses. e.g. Worshipped the images of several Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
    • Most of these beliefs and practices, the Hinayanists thought, were not expounded by the Buddha himself. They also thought that it was not practical to teach that the ideal of Buddhahood could be attained by every being.
  • It brought about a change in the form in which Buddha was worshipped.
    • For example, earlier in sculpture he was represented through a pair of foot prints; a white elephant and a flower, etc. But now people began to worship Buddha images and idols.
  • Image worship in Buddhism seems to have led to this practice in brahmanism on a large scale.
  • Such practice of image worship also led to development of sculptural arts.
    • e.g. Mathura school, Ganhdara school etc.
  • Development of literature:
    • The important Mahayana Sutras include the Prajnaparamita Sutras, of which the Ashtasahasrika seems to be the oldest.
    • Other texts are Abhidhamma Kosa, Lankavatara Sutra etc.
    • Various thinkers such as Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Asanga, and Vasubandhu have written on Mahayana doctrines.
    • Mahayana philosophical ideas were represented in the texts of two major Buddhist schoolsMadhyamaka and Yogachara.
      • The founder of the Madhyamaka school was Nagarjuna (2nd century CE).
        • His most important work was the Mula-Madhyamaka-Karika (Root Verses on the Middle).
        • The idea of shunyata (emptiness) is an important feature of this work.
        • Idea of Sunyata:
          • Shunyata does not mean that nothing exists.
          • It means that appearances are misleading, and that permanent selves and substances do not exist.
      • The ideas associated with the Yogachara school are contained in Sutra texts such as the Samdhinirmochana and the Lankavatara.
        • It attaches to meditation as a means of attaining the highest goal.
  • Several elements of Mahayana Buddhism like use of Sanskrit language, worshiping Buddha as the God etc brought Buddhism nearer to Hinduism as time passed.
    • It was an irony of time that Buddha who did not pay any regard to the Fatherhood of God, became a God Himself and came to be worshipped as such.
    • The Mahayana form of Buddhism appeared nearer to Brahmanical system in several ways. When the Mahayana Buddhism made Buddha into God, Brahmanic Hinduism made Buddha an Avatar of Vishnu.
    • When the people of both the faiths regarded Buddha as their God, and when the Hindus showed utmost reverence to the Buddhist doctrines and the ways of life, the distinction between the two religions began to disappear, and philosophies and forms continued to merge.
  • Establishment of education centre: Nalanda monastery was a major centre for teaching of Mahayana philosophy.
  • Mahayana Buddhism was patronized by various rulers like Kanishka, Harsha etc.
  • The Mahayana tradition is the largest major tradition of Buddhism existing today, with 53% of practitioners, compared to 36% for Theravada and 6% for Vajrayana.

Thus, rise of Mahayana Buddhism had its significance in almost various aspects in Indian history.

The Buddhist Scriptures:

Canonical Pali texts:

  • The sacred scriptures of the Buddhists are in Pali. The word Pali means simply ‘text’ or ‘sacred text’.
  • As a language, Pali is an archaic Prakrit and in the days of Buddha was the spoken language of the Magadha and adjoining territories.
  • The Buddhist scriptures in Pali are commonly referred to as Tripitaka, i.e. Threefold Basket’, which consists of:
    • Vinay Pitaka:
      • It contains pronouncements attributed to the Buddha, laying down numerous rules for the conduct of the Order.
      • Supplementing this, the Mahavagga, ‘Great Section’, lays down rules for admission to the monastic order, regulations on dress, etc.
      • The Chullavagga, ‘Smaller Section’, contains duties for monks and nuns, edifying Buddhist stories, methods of settling disputes among monks, etc.
    • Sutta Pitaka:
      • The largest and most important of the ‘Three Baskets” is the Sutta Pitaka which consists chiefly of discourses both small and long as delivered by the Buddha himself.
      • It is divided into five groups called Nikaya. They are:
        • Digha (Long) Nikaya:
          • a collection of long sermons ascribed to the Buddha including the Buddha’s last speeches and an account of his death and the funeral ceremonies.
        • Majjhima (Medium) Nikaya:
          • a collection of medium sized sermons
        • Samyutta (connected) Nikaya:
          • discusses Buddhist doctrines.
        • Anguttara (Graduated) Nikaya:
          • a collection of over 2,000 brief statements, arranged artificially in eleven sections, enumerating doctrines and principles;
        • Khuddaka (minor) Nikaya:
          • miscellaneous works in prose and verse added later to the canon than the four other Nikayas.
          • It comprises fifteen books of miscellaneous which are essential for an understanding of Buddhism.
          • The principal texts of the Khuddaka-Nikaya are often taken to include a few of the most extensive of the Pali canonical writings. The important ones are given:
            • Khuddaka Patha:
              • It is a book for youngsters when they join the Sangha.
            • Dhammapada (“Verses on Virtue”):
              • The best known of the canonical texts, it is a collection of aphoristic verses garnered from the sayings of Buddha.
              • It is regarded as one of the great religious texts of the world.
            • Suttanipata:
              • It preserves many fragments of the oldest Buddhist poetry and gives valuable information on the social and religious conditions of Buddha’s time.
            • Jataka:
              • It is a collection of over 500 poems, briefly outlining folk-tales and other stories.
            • Bhuddhavamsa:
              • It records legends in verse about the twenty-four Buddhas who preceded Gautama in earlier times.
            • Theragatha:
              • Literally meaning “Hymns of the elder Monks” it contains some of the India’s greatest religious poetry.
            • Therigatha:
              • The Hymns of the Nuns.
    • Abhidhamma Pitaka:
      • It consists of a number of works on Buddhist psychology and metaphysics.
      • Of its seven books, the Dhammasangani provides a good exposition of Buddhist philosophy, psychology and ethics; and the Kathavatthu, ascribed to Moggaliputta Tissa, is valuable for the light it throws on the evolution of Buddhist dogmas.

Non-Canonical Pali Texts:

  • These were composed during the Kushana periods. Prominent works are:
    • “Milindapanho” (Questions of Menander):
      • which gives on account of the discussions of the Greek King, Menander and the monk Nagasena;
    • ‘Mahavastu (Great Subject):
      • it presents some Hinayana doctrines along with additional metaphysics of the Mahasanghika sects;
    • Lalitavistara (30 B.C.):
      • an anonymous biography of Buddha written in the Gatha (Sanskritized Prakrit) form of language, it contains some Hinayana material, but is largely Mahayanist.
    • Verse chronicles Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa which tell the history of Buddhism in Ceylon; and give valuable information on political and social history also.
  • Of these the earliest, Dipavamsa (the “Island Chronicle”) dates from the 4th century A.D; and has no literary merit, but the Mahavamsa (“Great Chronicle”) of the following century, composed by the monk Mahanama contains passages of beauty and vigour.
    • It was continued as the Culvamsa (“Lesser Chronicle”) by a succession of monks down to the fall of the kingdom of Kandy to the British.
  • The bulk of the Buddhist literature in Pali belongs to the Hinayana school and hence the Pali canon are spoken as the Hinayana Canon.

Sanskrit Texts:

  • With the rise of Mahayanism, Sanskrit was adopted by the Mahayanist School. There are a few Sanskrit texts belonging to the Hinayana School. The bulk of Buddhist literature in Sanskrit belongs to the Mahayana School.
  • Among the Mahayana Sutras, the following texts or dharmas, also called the Vaipulya Sutras (“Expanded Sermons”) are regarded as the most important.
  • Prajna-Praramita:
    • It is the most important philosophical work of the Mahayana school which deals especially with the notion of Sunya or nothingness.
    • According to it, beyond this impermanent and illusory world is a new world of freedom, which one can attain with the aid of Prajna or intuitive and transcendental wisdom.
  • Sadharma-Pundarika (250 A.D.):
    • The Lotus of the Good Law’, also called the Lotus Sutra, has been described as the Bible of half-Asia.
    • It is of unknown authorship and is the most important of all the Sutras.
    • It contains all the characteristic features of Mahayana school and has the sermon delivered by a transfigured and glorified Buddha on the Gridharkuta mountain to an august assembly.
  • Avatamsaka:
    • Supposed to be the teaching given by Buddha three weeks after his enlightenment, it contains the doctrine of ‘interpenetration’.
    • The twenty-fifth chapter expounds the doctrine of Parinamana, the ‘transference’ of merit, whereby one’s merit can be turned over for the Salvation of others.
  • Gandha-Vyuha:
    • It is actually a part of the above Avatamsaka Sutra, but is often called a Sutra in its own right.
  • Sukhavati-Vyuha:
    • Deals with the subject of salvation through faith in Amitabha.
  • Vajrachhedika or the Diamond Sutra
    • It expounds the doctrine of Sunyata and clarifies several other concepts central to Mahayana.
  • Mahapari:
    • Nirvana
  • Lankavatara – (400 A.D.):
    • Supposedly wrtitten by Vasubandhu, it teaches ultimate reality of mind alone.
  • Surangama:
    • It outlines the means of attaining enlightenment by concentration and meditation.

Expansion and Development of Buddhism:

  • The emergence of Ashoka, The Great, (273-232 B.C.) was an important turning point in the history of Buddhism, who is said to have embraced Buddhism and made the Buddha dhamma the basis of all his actions in the spiritual as well as temporal fields.
  • According to tradition, the Third Buddhist Council was held by Ashoka and missionaries were sent not only to South India but also to Sri Lanka, Burma and other countries to propagate Buddhism there.
    • It is popularity further increased when the Greeks and the Kushans, who established their hold over North-West India in the second century B.C. and first century B.C. respectively, embraced Buddhism and did their utmost to popularize it.
    • Of them, the names of the Greek king Menander and the Kushana ruier, Kanishka are the most prominent.
  • Harsha (606-647 A.D.) was the last illustrious Buddhist ruler, and after his death Buddhism declined rapidly. In the early medieval period, Buddhism was prasctised by the Palas.
  • The period (200 B.C. to 700 A.D) saw the emergence of a number of Buddhist saint-scholars who made an immense contribution to the Buddhist philosophy and religion.
    • Asvaghosha:
      • He was a contemporary of Kanishka wrote Buddhacharita, a poetic biography of Buddha, and probably was the author of the Sraddhotpada.
    • Nagarjuna:
      • He was a friend and contemporary of the Satavahana King Yagnasri Gautampiputra (166 to 196 A.D.), propounded the Madhyamika school of Buddhist philosophy popularly known as Sunyavada.
    • Asanga:
      • He was the most important teacher of the Yogacara or Vijnanavada school founded by his guru, Maitreyanatha, in the fourth century A.D.
    • Vasubandhu:
      • He was brother of Asanga and wrote the Abhidhammakosa, an important encyclopaedia of Buddhism.
    • Buddhaghosa (5th century A.D.):
      • He wrote Visuddhimanga which is considered as key to the Tripitaka.
    • Buddhapalita and Bhavaviveka were important exponents of the Sunyavada doctrine in the fifth century A.D.
    • Dinnaga:
      • He is well known as the founder of the Buddhist logic and wrote about 100 treatises on logic in the fifth century A.D.
    • The Sunyavada doctrine was further interpreted by distinguished thinkers like Aryadeva, Santideva, Santaraksita and Kamalasila.
    • Dharmakirti:
      • He lived in the seventh century A.D. was another great Buddhist logician. Acknowledging his unsurpassed genius some call him the Kant of India.

Factors for the Rise of Buddhism:

1. Influence of Time:

  • 6th Century B.C. was an ideal time for the spread of Buddhism.
  • It was a time when people were fed up with the superstitions, complex rituals and rites and blind beliefs.
  • The message of the Buddha came as a welcome relief to people already groaning under the oppressive weight of Brahmanism.
  • They were easily drawn to Buddhism by the simplicity of its faith and its religious tolerance.

2. Simple Doctrines:

  • As compared with Jainism, Buddhism was essentially simple.
  • It did not confuse the people. Rather its ‘Arya Satya’ ‘Eight-fold Path’ and ‘concept of non-violence’ were so simple that people could easily understand and follow these.
  • Buddhism also lacked the severity of Jainism, as well as the complexity of Vedic rituals.
  • The people, already fed up with Brahminical manipulations of Vedic religion, came to accept Buddhism as a soothing and refreshing change.

3. Simple Language:

  • The Buddha spread his message in the simple language of the masses of people.
  • The Prakrit language which Buddha used was the spoken language of India.
  • The Vedic religion was understood only with the help of Sanskrit language which was the monopoly of the Brahmins.
  • Buddhism was easily understood and people accepted it after being convinced about its simple philosophy and pleasing message.

4. Personality of Buddha:

  • The personality of the Buddha endeared him and his religion to the masses.
  • The Buddha was kind and ego-less. His calm composure, sweet words of simple philosophy and his life of renunciation drew the masses to him. He had ready moral solutions for problems of the people.
  • His example of a prince renouncing the world to save humanity from sins and rebirth and wandering from place to place to convince the people with his messages and sermons came to naturally evoke awe, admiration and acceptance of the people for him and his religion. The spread of Buddhism was thus rapid.

5. Inexpensive:

  • Buddhism was inexpensive, without the expensive rituals that characterized the Vedic religion.
  • Practical morality, not rites and expensive rituals, came as its beacon feature and helped to set up a healthy tradition in society.
  • It advocated a spiritual path without any material obligations of satisfying gods and Brahmins through rituals and gifts. People competed to embrace Buddhism.

6. No Caste Harried:

  • Buddhism did not believe in cast-distinctions. It opposed that caste system and regarded people of all castes equally.
  • Its followers sat together, forgetting their caste and discussed ethics and morality. The non-Brahmins in particular were drawn to its fold. Its popularity spread by leaps and bounds.
  • Buddhism made a special appeal to the people of the non-Vedic areas where it found a virgin soul for conversion, especially the people of Magadha responded readily to the Buddhism because they were looked down upon by the orthodox brahmanas.
  • Women were also admitted to the Sangha and thus brought on par with men. In comparison with Brahmanism, Buddhism was liberal and democratic.

7. Royal Patronage:

  • Royal patronage of Buddhism also accounted for its rapid rise. The Buddha himself was a Kshatriya prince. Kings like Prasenjit, Bimbisara, Ajatasatru, Ashoka, Kanishka and Harshavardhan patronised Buddhism and helped its spread throughout India and outside, as well.
  • Ashoka deputed his children, Mahendra and Sanghamitra, to Sri Lanka for the spread of Buddhism.
  • Kanishka and Harshavardhan worked untiringly for the spread of Buddhism throughout India.

8. Role of the Universities:

  • Prominent was also the role of the Universities at Nalanda, Taxila, Puspagiri and Vikramsila in the spread of Buddhism.
  • Students from various parts of India and from outside India, reading in these universities, were attracted to Buddhism and embraced it. They also dedicated themselves to the spread of Buddhism.
  • The famous Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang was a student of the Nalanda University. Its teachers like Shilavadra, Dharmapala, Chandrapala and Divakamitra were renowned scholars. Others who followed it were Dignnaga, Dharmakirti, Vasubandhu etc.

9. Buddhist Monks and Sangha:

  • The Buddhist monks and the Buddhist ‘Order’ (Sangha) did incomparable service for the spread of Buddhism.
  • Prominent among Buddha’s disciples were Ananda, Sariputta, Maudgalayana, Sudatta and Upali etc. They were singularly determined and dedicated to spread Buddhism throughout India.
  • The Buddhist sanga came to establish its branches throughout India.
    • Soon local people were drawn to these branches of the Buddhist ‘Order’.
    • They either became monks (bhikshu) or Upasakas (lay-worshippers) and led lives of austere serenity.
    • Their example influenced more and more people to follow it. As a result, Buddhism spread rapidly.

10. Buddhist Councils:

  • The Buddhist Councils played an important role for the teaching and spread of Buddhism in India.
  • These Buddhist councils were being held with regular intervals. So the popular liking could be kept sustained towards Buddhism.
  • The people were closely following the deliberations of these councils and were increasingly drawn into its fold. This accounted for the continuous popularity of Buddhism.

11. Absence of Strong Rivals:

  • Right from its beginning in the 6th Century B.C., Buddhism had no rivals to reckon or contend with.
  • Though Jainism became popular, the severity of its laws made people far away from it.
  • The missionary zeal of Buddhism was conspicuously absent in contemporary Hinduism. There was no reformer to cleanse the Brahminical faith and spread it among the people in its pure form.
  • Islam and Christianity were yet to be born. As a result. Buddhism came to hold an unrivalled sway throughout India.

Causes for the Decline of Buddhism:

1. Corruptions in Buddhist Sanghas:

  • In course of time, the Buddhist ‘Sangha’ became corrupt.
  • The monks and followers came to be drawn towards luxury and enjoyment.
  • Receiving and saving valuable gifts like gold and silver made them greedy and materialistic.
  • They came to lead a life of indiscipline. Their example and perverted life-style could not but bring popular hatred. No more the people were inclined towards Buddhism.

2. Reform in Hinduism:

  • Buddhism had dealt a heavy blow to Brahminical faith.
  • Threatened with extinction, Hinduism started to re-organize itself.
  • Attempts were now made to give up the complex system of rites and rituals and make Hinduism simple and attractive.
  • The Hindus even came to accept the Buddha as a Hindu incarnation and accepted the principle of non-violence.
  • This helped revive Hinduism and made it popular again. This took away the fragrance out of the flower of Buddhism.

3. Division among the Buddhists: 

  • Buddhism faced divisions from time to time. Division into various splinter groups like ‘Hinayana’, ‘Mahayana’, ‘Vajrayana’, ‘Tantrayana’ and ‘Sahajayana’ led Buddhism to lose its originality.
  • Also the influence of tantricism made people hate it. The simplicity of Buddhism was lost and it was becoming complex. This was enough for the people to keep away from it. The decline of Buddhism became a matter of time.

4. Use of Sanskrit Language:

  • Pali and Prakrit, the spoken language of most people of India, was the medium for the spread of the message of Buddhism. But Sanskrit replaced these at the Fourth Buddhist Council during the reign period of Kaniska.
  • Sanskrit was a complex language, hardly understood by common people. It was the unintelligible Sanskrit language that had accounted for the decline of Hinduism, earlier.
  • Now, when Buddhism adopted that language, few people were able to understand it. People rejected what they could not understand.

5. Patronage of Brahmanism:

  • In course of time there was the rise of the Brahminical faith once again.
  • Pushyamitra Sunga, the Brahmin commander of the last Maurya ruler Vrihadratha, assassinated the king and founded the Sunga dynasty replacing the Maurya dynasty. The Asvamedha sacrifice was done by him. It gave an impetus to the Brahminical faith. Non-violence, the basic principle of Buddhism, was given up. He destroyed many stupas and monasteries. Many Buddhist monks were put to sword. This stemmed the growth of Buddhism.
  • Again, patronage of the imperial Guptas for Brahminical faith came to open the path of decline for Buddhism.
  • A 12th century text states that Shashanka destroyed the Buddhist stupas of Bengal and was an oppressor of Buddhism.
    • Shashanka is reputed to have cut the Bodhi tree where the Buddha found enlightenment, in the Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya.

6. Role of Hindu Preachers:

  • Harsavardhan drove away the Brahmins from the religious council held at Kanauj. These Brahmins, under Kumarila Bhatta, fled to the Deccan. Under Bhatta’s leadership, Brahmanism staged a come-back.
  • Adi Sankaracharya also revived and strengthened Hinduism.
    • He defeated Buddhist scholars in religious discourses which were held in many places in course of his tour of the whole of India.
    • Thus, the superiority of Hinduism over Buddhism was established.
  • This trend continued through the efforts of Ramanuja, Nimbarka, Ramananda etc. Hinduism regained its lost glory, position and popularity. It came to be at the expense of Buddhism.

7. Rifts in Buddhist Order:

  • The internal rifts and divisions in Buddhist order made the rise of any new apostle impossible.
  • The earlier examples of Ananda, Sariputta and Maudgalayana became very rare. The spirit and missionary zeal of Buddhism was lost for ever. Thus, the decline of Buddhism came in the absence of dynamic preachers and reformers.

8. Buddha Worship:

  • Image worship was started in Buddhism by the Mahayana Buddhists. They started worshipping the image of the Buddha.
  • This mode of worship was a violation of the Buddhist principles of opposing complex rites and rituals of Brahminical worship.
  • This paradox led the people to believe that Buddhism is tending towards the fold of Hinduism. Buddhism’s importance decreased thereby.

9. Lose of Royal Patronage:

  • In course of time Buddhism came to lose royal patronage. No king, worthy of note, came forward to sponsor Buddhism after Asoka, Kaniska and Harsavardhan.
  • Royal patronage works magically for the spread of any faith. Absence of any such patronage for Buddhism came to pave the way for its decline in the end.

10. Huna Invasion:

  • The ‘Huna’ invasion jolted Buddhism. Huna leaders like Toamana and Mihirakula opposed non-violence completely. They killed the Buddhists residing in the north-western part of India.
  • This frightened the Buddhists of the region either to give up Buddhism or go into hiding. None dared to spread the message of the Buddha during those times. As a result, Buddhism became weak and depleted.

11. Emergence of Rajputs:

  • Emergence of the Rajputs became an important reason for the decline of Buddhism. Kings of such dynasties as Bundela, Chahamana, Chauhan, Rathore etc. loved warfare.
  • They could not tolerate the Buddhists for their message of non-violence. The Buddhists feared persecution from these Rajput rulers and fled from India. Buddhism became weaker and faced decline.

12. Muslim Invasion:

  • The Muslim invasion of India almost wiped out Buddhism. Their invasions of India became regular and repeated from 712 A.D. onwards.
  • Such invasions forced the Buddhist monks to seek asylum and shelter in Nepal and Tibet. In the end. Buddhism died away in India, the land of its birth.
  • Thus, many causes were responsible for the gradual decline and fall of Buddhism in the land of her birth although it continued to flourish in countries beyond India for centuries. Even today, it has a large number of followers all over the world.

Contribution of Buddhism:

  • 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, and thus pleads for their protection.
    • The brahmanical insistence on the sacredness of the cow and non-violence may have been apparently derived from Bud­dhist teachings.
  • Buddhism created and developed a new awareness in the field of intellect and culture.
    • The place of superstition was taken by logic and it promoted rationalism among people.
  • Promotion of Pali and many local languages, such as Kannada, Gujarati, etc.
  • The Buddhist monasteries developed as great centers of learning, and began to be called residential universities like those of Nalanda and Vikramshila in Bihar, Valabhi in Gujarat, Taxila, and Nagarjuna Konda.
  • In the field of architecture and art, Buddhism takes the credit for:
    • the first human statues to be worshipped;
    • stone panels depicting the life of the Buddha at Gaya in Bihar and at Sanchi and Bharhut in Madhya Pradesh;
    • cave architecture in the Barabar hills at Gaya and in western India around Nasik;
    • art pieces of Amravati and Nagarjunakonda.
  • Buddhist Architecture:
    • With Buddhist architecture was particularly associated the Stupa, a domical structure of brick or stone masonry.
    • Shrines known as Chaityas with the votive Chaityas installed for worship and prayer, as also monasteries (Viharas, Sangharamas), were essential features of Buddhist religious establish­ments.
    • Stupa:
      • The Stupa was a conventional representation of a funeral tumulus, evolved out of earthern funerary mound in which the relics of the Buddha or some prominent Buddhist monk are preserved.
      • The Stupa at Sanchi comprises of an almost hemispherical dome (anda) flattened at the top, supported on a low circular base (Medhi).
      • Over the dome is a square pavilion called harmika (box) enclosed by a balustrade surrounding the sacred parasol (chatra).
      • Pradaksinapatha was the path for clockwise circumbulation surrounded by a fence built encircling the stupa.
      • The whole structure is surrounded by a massive rail with four imposing gateways on the four sides.
    • Chaitya:
      • The chaitya shrine in its typical form was a long rectangular hall, apsidal at the rear end and divided into three sections by two rows of pillars along the length of the hall meeting at the back end.
      • Rock cut chaitya shrines are at Bhaja near Poona (2nd century B.C) Kondane Pitalkhora, Bedsa, Nasik, Kanheri, Ajanta, Karle and other places in Western India.
    • Vihara:
      • Fragmentary remains of many monasteries (vihara) have been excavated in the north as well as in the south.
      • The monastery at Nalanda belongs to the fifth century A.D. and one at Paharpur (Somapura Mahavihara) was established towards the close of the 8th or the beginning of the 9th century.

Relevance of Buddhism in Modern World:

  • The eight stages can be grouped into Wisdom (right understanding and intention), Ethical Conduct (right speech, action and livelihood) and Meditation (right effort, mindfulness and concentration).
  • His emphasis on compassion will help resolving issue of Poverty, inequality etc.
  • Emphasis on non-violence can help resolving challenges of extremism, domestic violence etc.
  • Gandhiji used some of his ideas to fight colonialism.
  • Buddha also focussed on harmonious social relation it will help dealing with issue of various caste and class based social conflict.
  • He brought women at par with men in religious field. It will help the idea of women empowerment.
  • (Add more points from topic discussed above)
Q. What was the social base of early Buddhism? 
The Buddha proved to be a practical reformer who took note of the realities of the day. He did not recognize the existence of god and soul (atman). This was a kind of revolution in the history of Indian religions. The early Buddhism was not enmeshed in the clap-trap of philosophical discussion. It largely focused itself to the worldly problems. It appealed to the common people.
Social base:
  • Emphasis on practical morality, an easily acceptable solution to the problems of mankind and a simple philosophy, attracted the masses towards Buddhism.
  • Lower orders: The buddhism particularly won the support of the lower orders as it attacked the varna system and emphasised on equality.
    • People were taken into the Buddhist order without any consideration of caste.
    • So, lower sections like Shudras coverted to Buddhism and freed themselves from the mark of inferiority.
  • Women: Women were also taken into the sangha and thus brought on par with men.
  • People with liberal attitude were attracted to Buddhism as in comparision with Bramanism, Buddhism was more liberal and democratic.
  • People from non-Vedic areas: Buddhism made a special appeal to the people of the non-Vedic areas where it found a virgin soil for conversion.
    • e.g. people of Magadha responded readily to Buddhism because they were looked down upon by the orthodox brahmanas.
  • The use of popular language (Pali) to explain the doctrines also helped in the spread of the religion. This was because the Brahmanical religion had limited itself so the use of Sanskrit which was not the language of the masses.
  • Merchants, like Anathirpindika, and courtesans, like Amrapali, accepted the faith because they got due respect in this religion.
  • A large section of Kshatriyas patronized and adopted Buddhism. e.g the monarchies of Magadha, Koshala and Kaushambi and several republical states and their people followed Buddhism. Buddha himself was a kshatriya.
  • Some scholars states that Buddhism was more a reform movement within the educated religious classes, composed mostly of Brahmins, rather than a rival movement from outside these classes.
    • In early Buddhism, the largest number of monastics were originally brahmins, and virtually all were recruited from the two upper classes of society – brahmins and kshatriyas.
  • The rule that debtors were not permitted to be members of the sangha naturally helped the moneylenders and richer sections of society from whose clutches the debtors could not be saved. So, richer sections also patronized Buddhism.
  • The moderate ascetic precepts, states Collins, likely appealed to more people and widened the base of people wanting to become Buddhists
    • Buddhism also developed a code for interaction of world-pursuing lay people and world-denying Buddhist monastic communities, which encouraged continued relationship between the two.
    • for example, that two rules of the vinaya (monastic code) were that a person could not join a monastic community without parent’s permission, and that at least one son remained with each family to care for that family.
    • Buddhism also combined the continuing interaction, such as giving alms to renunciants, in terms of merit gained for good rebirth and good karma by the lay people.
    • This code played a historic role in its growth, and provided a means for reliable alms (food, clothing) and social support for Buddhism.
Thus, early Buddhism had a very wide social base and was followed by almost all section of society.
Q. Comment on the process of social change during the age of Budhha. 

The age of the Buddha is Important because ancient Indian polity, economy and society really took shape in this period. Agriculture based on the use of iron cools in alluvial areas gave rise to an advanced food producing economy, particularly in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. It was possible to collect taxes from the peasants, and on the basis of regular taxes and tributes large states could be founded. In order to continue this system the varna order was devised, and the functions of each varna were clearly laid down.

The society of the sixth to fourth century B.C. is a society undergoing tremendous change.
The process of social change during the age of Budhha:
  • This was the time when cities came into existence for the first time in historical India.
  • This was also the time when a literate tradition began.
    • Towards the end of this period the society had acquired the knowledge of writing and the earliest script of ancient India is called the Brahmi script.
  • The invention of writing expanded the horizon of knowledge.
    • Socially acquired knowledge had been transmitted through memorisation from one generation to another. There was a possibility of lots of things being forgotten or changed over a period of time.
    • The invention of writing meant that knowledge could be stored without tampering with it.
  • The ability to store the knowledge heightened the consciousness of change.
    • This was because social structure and beliefs kept changing in time. Once things were written down those changes became observable to the people of the subsequent period when ideas and beliefs had changed.
  • There is evidence of the emergence of socio-economic classes in north India.
    • Buddhist texts refer to disparities in wealth and status. There are references to very poor (dalidda) people. Contrasts are drawn between fortunate wealthy people and unfortunate poor people
    • The roots of such disparities lay in differences in control over productive resources, especially land.
  • Despite the emergence of socio-economic classes, kinship ties continued to be extremely important, and were eventually incorporated into the framework of caste.
    • The importance of kinship is shown by the fact that although Buddhist monks were supposed to have renounced family ties, monastic rules were bent to make allowances for them.
    • To a certain extent, the Buddhist monastic order offered an alternative bonding of brotherhood (sisterhood, in the case of nuns) replacing the worldly mesh of kinship relationships. However, it did not try to completely replace or obliterate conventional kinship bonds.
  • Varna:
    • The four-fold order of varnas (hereditary classes) was central to the social discourse of the Brahmanical tradition.  The varnas were ideally supposed to be endogamous.
      • But the Dharmashastra accepted certain types of inter-varna marriages between a man of a higher varna and a woman of a lower varna. Such hypergamous marriages were known as anuloma marriages.
      • On the other hand, marriages between a woman of a higher varna and a man of a lower varna (hypogamy) were referred to as pratiloma unions, and were not approved of.
      • The fact that these texts discuss and grade inter-varna marriages suggests that such marriages did take place and that varnas were not strictly endogamous.
    • Dharmashastra texts also reveal the gap between theory and practice in the relationship between varna and occupation in their theory of apad-dharma (dharma in times of distress or emergency).
    • Buddhist and Jaina texts also mention the varna order, but for them, the powerful religious sanction associated with it in the Brahmanical tradition was lacking. It was considered an institution created by people.
      • Further, both Buddhist and Jainism tradition placed the Kshatriya above the Brahmana in the varna hierarchy.
    • Varna was more a theoretical construct tied to the upper categories and that a person’s identity in the society of the time was based more on occupation, kula (lineage), and jati (caste).
  • Jati:
    • Varna was not irrelevant as a basis of social identity, but was now competing with another social institution—jati (caste).
    • Origin of Jati:
      • The beginnings of the caste system can be traced to the 6th century BCE.
        • The terms varna, jati, and kula are sometimes used interchangably in ancient texts.
      • It is not easy to identify how jatis emerged in the first place. They may have been the result of a combination of factors
        • The Dharmasutras explain the origins of jatis through theory of the mixture of varnas (varna-samkara).
        • the hereditary nature of crafts and occupations,
        • the assimilation of tribal groups into the larger Brahmanical fold,
        • a social system that privileged birth and regulated hierarchy through marriage rules and endogamy.
        • Territorial and occupational differences also played important roles in the emergence of jati.
  • Untouchables:
    • the practice of untouchability, an extreme form of social subordination, marginalization, and oppression, clearly existed from earlier times and was strengthened over time.
    • In early Dharmashastra texts, Chandalas were sometimes categorized as Shudras, but a distinction between the two was established very soon.
    • The Apastamba Dharmasutra explains the birth of a Chandala as the result of evil deeds committed in a previous life. It states that a Brahmana guilty of stealing gold or the murder of another Brahmana is reborn as a Chandala.
    • The Gautama, Baudhayana, and Vasishtha Dharmasutras describe the Chandala as the offspring of a Shudra man and Brahmana woman, the most degraded of the pratiloma unions.
  • Slaves:
    • The texts of this period contain many references to the existence of male and female slaves:
      • The Digha Nikaya states that a dasa is not master of himself, depends on another, and cannot go where he likes.
      • The Vinaya Pitaka speaks of three kinds of slaves—the antojatako, dhanakkito, and karamaraanito.
        • The antojatako seems to refer to the offspring of a woman slave.
        • A slave who is bought is known as dhanakkito.
        • One brought from another country and enslaved is the karamaraanito.
        • The Digha Nikaya mentions a fourth type of slave—samam dasavayam upagato, one who has himself accepted enslavement.
    • One of the rules of the Buddhist sangha was that slaves could not join until and unless they were freed by their masters.
    • It seems like the slaves may have reacted to their subordination and oppression.
      • For instanse, the Vinaya Pitaka refers to the dasa-kammakaras of the Sakyas attacking the womenfolk of their masters in the woods as an act of vengeance.
  • Institution of marriage:
    • In Buddhist texts, the type of marriage most approved of is one arranged by parents and where the bride and groom are young and chaste.
    • The Vinaya Pitaka mentions 10 kinds of unions between a man and woman:
      • Except for the chhandavasini union, all the others involve either some sort of economic exchange or the already subordinate position of the woman.
    • The Dharmasutras classify marriages into eight types.  The Brahma marriage was considered the best and the Paishacha marriage the lowest.
      • The Dharmasutra classification of marriages into various types suggests the prevalence of variations in marriage practices, including dowry and bride-price.
    • The possibility of divorce and remarriage in some circumstances is suggested by the story in Digha Nikaya.
    • Texts of the period refer to monogamous and polygynous marriages.
      • The Vasishtha Dharmasutra states that a Brahmana can have three wives, a Kshatriya two, and a Vaishya and Shudra only one.
    • Severe consequences were laid down for women who committed adultery.
      • In the Vinaya Pitaka, a Lichchhavi man consults other members of his clan to get their consent to kill his wife for committing adultery.
    • Sapinda relationships:
      • Marriages are not supposed to take place between people who fall within the sapinda circuit up to a certain specified number of generations.
      • Law-givers such as Yajnavalkya count five ascending and descending generations on the mother’s side and seven ascending and descending relations on the father’s side as defining the sapinda circuit.
  • Household:
    • Marriages were patrilocal. The early Grihyasutras have a great deal to say regarding relationships between members of the household.
    • The grihapati (householder) was the centre and master of the household unit.  The household was essential for progeny.
    • The wife was considered as having destructive as well as constructive potential within the household.
      • She could be the destroyer of praja (progeny), pashu (animals), and pati (husband).
      • She is also jaya (this is the most frequently used term)—bearer of her husband’s children.
    • Panchamahayajnas:
      • The panchamahayajnas were simple ceremonies performed by the householder.
      • These are mentioned in later Vedic texts, but become more important and are now described as obligatory for Brahmanas. The five mahayajnas were:
        • brahmayajna (the study and teaching of the Veda),
        • pitriyajna (offerings to the ancestors),
        • daivayajna (offerings made into the fire),
        • bhutayajna (offerings made to all beings), and
        • manushyayajna (honouring guests).
      • Unlike the shrauta sacrifices, they were to be performed by the householder himself, without the intercession of priests.
      • Initially, they seem to have been considered a way of discharging a man’s duties to the various beings in the universe. Later Dharmashastra texts explain them as atonement for injury or death caused to various beings as part of daily household activities, e.g., in the hearth, grinding mill, broomstick.
    • The texts are divided on the question of whether or not the wife could perform the grihya (domestic) rituals.
      • Some Grihyasutras state that a woman could perform rites such as the morning and evening offerings in the domestic fire. But she could not act independently as a yajamana in the bigger sacrifices.
  • Widow remarriage:
    • The early Dharmasutras do not approve of widow remarriage.
    • The early Dharmasutras’s attitude towards niyoga is ambivalent:
      • Gautama discusses various views on the matter and acknowledges sons born of niyoga as legal heirs to property.
      • Baudhayana Dharmasutras considered niyoga unions and their offspring sinful.
  • Inheritance of property:
    • The emergence of private property in land had important implications for the structure and function of the family. The inheritance of property became an important issue. Inheritance was patrilineal.
    • Buddhist texts suggest that the property of both mother and father was generally divided among sons.
      • Where there were no sons, the property went to the next of kin or was taken over by the state.
      • The Samyutta Nikaya refers to the property of a setthi-gahapati, who died without male heirs, being taken over by king Prasenajit.
      • Wives and daughters seem to have been excluded from the deceased man’s inheritance.
    • According to Dharmashastra also, male heirs, especially sons, took precedence over all others.
      • The Baudhayana Dharmasutra includes a man’s brothers, his son, grandson, and great grandson from a wife of the same varna as the core group of inheriters of his property.
      • The Apastamba Dharmasutra states that if a son cannot inherit the property, it should go to the nearest sapinda; although it mentions the daughter, it does not mention the wife as a possible heir.
      • Gautama states that the wealth of a person who dies heirless should go to his sapindas, sagotras, or wife.
      • Generally, the claims of the daughter came after those of the wife.
      • Later Dharma-shastras often excluded the wife from inheriting her husband’s property or set preconditions of chastity before she could claim such a right.
    • Stri-dhana:
      • Stridhana means ‘women’s property’, but referred specifically to certain special kinds of movable property given to a woman on various occasions during her lifetime.
      • While the Dharmashastra texts disagreed about the extent to which stri-dhana was to be considered the permanent property of a woman, they generally agreed that it was to be passed on from mother to daughter.
  • Preference for sons over daughters: Given the increasingly patriarchal nature of the household, it is not surprising that the preference for sons over daughters continued.
    • The son was considered necessary for the performance of the father’s funerary rites, the propitiation of the ancestors, and the continuation of the lineage.
    • The Digha Nikaya refers to parents desiring sons because they add to family possessions, continue the family line, inherit the father’s property, and pay homage to his ancestors.
    • The Vinaya Pitaka refers to people accusing the Buddha of destroying families by making them sonless (by encouraging men to renounce the world).
    • In the Samyutta Nikaya, the Buddha is presented as consoling Prasenajit, king of Kosala, who was upset at the birth of a daughter:  ‘A female child may prove an even better offspring than a male one. For she may grow up wise and virtuous. She will honour her mother-in-law and be faithful to her husband (patibbata). The boy she may bear may do great deeds.’
      • These words sum up the ideals associated with womanhood.
  • Variation of social customs depending on social group, region, and locality:
    • Dharmashastra acknowledged three sources of dharma—shruti, smriti, and sadachara or shishtachara (custom).
    • The Baudhayana Dharmasutra in fact refers to certain customs that are peculiar to the south and north.
      • The southern customs mentioned are: eating in the company of an uninitiated person (i.e., one who has not undergone the sacred thread ceremony), eating in the company of one’s wife, eating stale food, and marrying the daughter of a maternal uncle or paternal aunt
      • The customs peculiar to the north are: dealing in wool, drinking alcohol, the trade of arms, and going to sea.
      • The text states that for these practices, custom should be considered the authority, but following these practices in places where they are not customary is not permissible.
    • However, it also states that the law-giver Gautama disagreed and considered all these practices of southerners and northerners as opposed to the tradition of the shishtas (learned Brahmanas), and therefore not permissible anywhere.
  • The Indian legal and judicial system originated in this period.
    • Formerly people were governed by the tribal law, which did not recognize any class distinction.
    • But by now the tribal community had been clearly divided into four classes—brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaisyas and sudras.
    • So the Dharmasutras laid down the duties of each of the four varnas, and the civil and criminal law came to be based on the varna division.
    • The higher the varna the purer it was, and the higher was the order of moral conduct expected by civil and criminal Law.
    • All kinds of disabilities were imposed on the sudras.
      • They were deprived of religious and legal rights and relegated to the lowest position in society. They could not be invested with upanayana.
      • Crimes committed by them against the brahmanas and others were punished severely; on the other hand the crimes committed against the sudras were punished lightly.
      • The lawgivers emphasized the fiction that the sudras were born from the feet of the Creator. So members of the higher varnas, especially the brahmanas, shunned the company of the sudra, avoided the food touched by him and refused to enter into marriage relations with him.
      • He could not be appointed to high posts, and above all he was specifically asked to serve the twice-born as slave, artisan and agricultural labourer.
      • In this respect even Jainism and Buddhism did not make any substantial change in the position of the sudras. Although they could be admitted to the new religious orders their general position continued to be low.
        • It is said that Gautama Buddha visited the assemblies of the brahmanas, the kshatriyas and the grihapalis or householders, but the assembly of the sudras is not mentioned in this connection.

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