Spread of Jainism and Buddhism (Part 3)

Spread of Jainism and Buddhism (Part 3)

Similarities between Jainism and Buddhism

  • Both Jainism and Buddhism originally derived their ideas from the Upanishadas and both had a common background of Aryan culture.Both of them were products of the prevailing pessimistic spirit of the time. Both appeared as revolts against orthodox Brahmanical Hinduism.
  • Both Buddhism and Jainism sprang in Eastern India where the Aryan culture had no sweeping influence. Although Aryanism had penetrated in Eastern India, yet some latent aspect of pre-Aryan culture remained in the region. They contributed to the rise of the revolutionary anti­-Brahmanical creeds of Buddhism and Jainism in Eastern India.
  • In respect of their basic philosophical concepts, Buddhism and Jainism were indebted to the Sankhya philosophy. The Buddhists and Jainas equally believe that the world is full of misery, that the object or religion is to deliver the soul from the miseries of this world by eliminating rebirth. This concept of the Jainas and the Buddhists that world is a misery and that man is subjected to the result of Karma was borrowed from the Upanishadas and the Sankhya philosophy.
  • Both Mahavira and Buddha rejected the authority of the Vedas and the efficacy of Vedic rites. Both denied the existence of God and upheld ascetic life, moral and ethical codes. Both the teachers upheld non-violence as means of salvation. Both dismissed caste system. Jainism and Buddhism had largest number of followers among the mercantile class. Both Mahavira and Buddha preached their doctrines in the language of the people.

Differences between Jainism and Buddhism

  • Jainism was an ancient creed which existed before the advent of Mahavira. There were at least 23 Tirthankaras before Mahavira. The latter was the last of the Tirthankaras. Mahavira did not found any new religion. He merely introduced certain reforms in Jainism. But Buddhism was entirely a new creed. It had no existence before Buddha.
  • The Jaina conception of soul differed from that of the Buddhists. The Jainas ascribe life to plants, stone and water, which the Buddhists reject. Their concept of Jiva (soul) and Ajiva (matter) is entirely different from the Buddhist concept of soul.
  • The Jainas practice rigorous asceticism and self- mortification. Mahavira himself practiced tremendous physical hardships to realize the Truth. He advised his followers to starve and undergo physical suffering. But Buddha was opposed to extreme penance and privations. He advised a “Middle Path”.
  • While, Mahavira advised his followers to discard garments, Buddha denounced that practice.
  • The Jainas practice extreme form of Ahimsha or non-violence. They do not tolerate the killing of insects and germs even. They ascribe life to inanimate objects like stone, wood etc. The Buddhists although believe in Ahimsa, do not observe it in such an extreme form.
  • Jainism seeks to destroy the evil effects of Karma by rigorous penance, self mortification and non-violence. They do not accept the Buddhist concept of Nirvana. The Buddhists believe that the evil effects of Karma cannot be extinguished in this life. They rather try to destroy the vicious impulses that produce the Karma.
  • In their attitude towards Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism differ. The Jainas do not entirely reject the caste system and do not entirely sever contacts with Hinduism. They are more accommodating to Hinduism than the Buddhists and employ Brahmanical priests for worship. But Buddhism has completely cut itself off from Hinduism and rejects caste system in any form.
  • In the Buddhist literature there is severe criticism of the Jaina doctrines which pre-supposes a great rivalry between both the creeds.
  • In their later developments, while Buddhism became a world religion, Jainism had little progress beyond India.
  • The Buddhists displayed a great missionary zeal. But the Jainas never attempted to get large number of converts in and outside India.
  • While Buddhism has practically vanished from India, Jainism is still a strong living faith having influence upon millions of Indians. Jainism had a great centre at Mathura and Ujjaini. Large numbers of Jaina inscriptions have been found at these places.

Non-Buddhist Ascetic Orders: 

  • There were, no doubt many individual Parivrajakas wandering through the country, but it is doubtful if there were many distinct sanghas, orders or organizations of these ascetics on the lines of the Jain and Buddhist organization. In many passages of the Buddhist scriptures we read of mainly six unorthodox teachers, each of whom was the leader of an important body of ascetics and lay followers.
  • The first of the teachers mentioned, Purana Kassapo was an ‘antinomian’ who taught the doctrine of Akirtya-vada (Non-action) i.e. the absence of merit in any virtuous action and of demerit in the worst of crimes. He was called Purano for his fullness of knowledge.
  • The second heretic, Makkhali Gosala, was the leader of the Ajivikas sect, whose doctrine was the denial of both karma and its effect. According to him, the whole universe was conditioned and determined to the smallest detail by an impersonal cosmic principle, Niyati or destiny. It was impos­sible to influence the course of transmigration in any way.
  • The third heterodox teacher, Ajita Kesakamblin, a contemporary of the Buddha, was the earliest known teacher of complete materialism. His doctrine was that there was annihilation at death, which shut out the possibility of any effect to be achieved by karma.
  • Pakudha Kachchayana, the fourth teacher, was an atomist, a predecessor of the Hindu Vaishesika School. His doctrine is stated to be: “What is cannot be destroyed: out of Nothing emerges Nothing”. His theory thus excludes Responsibility.
  • The fifth teacher, Nigantha Nataputta, was none other than Vardhaman Manavira, the founder of Jainism.
  • The sixth, Sanjay Belatthaputta was a sceptic, who denied the possibility of certain knowledge altogether.

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