BUDDHISM AND JAINISM History Notes for UPSC Examination

Buddhism and Jainism, Buddhism, Jainism, The Buddha, Buddhism after Buddha, Buddhist Literature, Decline of Buddhism, Jainism, Teachings of Mahavira, Jain Councils, Ancient India history notes UPSC, history optional Subject notes UPSC, Ancient India history notes IAS, history optional Subject notes IAS

Causes for the Growth of Buddhism and Jainism

Buddhism and Jainism, Buddhism, Jainism, The Buddha, Buddhism after Buddha, Buddhist Literature, Decline of Buddhism, Jainism, Teachings of Mahavira, Jain Councils, Ancient India history notes UPSC, history optional Subject notes UPSC, Ancient India history notes IAS, history optional Subject notes IAS

• The Vedic rituals were expensive and the sacrifi ces prescribed were very complicated and had lost their meaning.
• The caste system had become rigid.
• Supremacy of the Brahmins created unrest.
• All the religious texts were in Sanskrit, which was not understandable to the masses.


Buddhism is the middle way of wisdom and compassion. It stands for three pillars:
• Buddha – its founder
• Dhamma – his teachings
• Sangha – order of Buddhist monks and nuns.

Five Great Events of Buddha’s Life and their Symbols
• Birth – Lotus and bull
• Great renunciation – Horse
• Nirvana – Bodhi tree
• First Sermon – Dharmachakra or wheel
• Parinirvana or death – Stupa

The Buddha

• Also known as Sakyamuni (the Sage of the Sakyas), Jina (the Victorious) or Tathagata (one who has reached the truth).
• Born in 563 B.C. on the Vaishakha Poornima Day at Lumbini (near Kapilavastu) in Nepal.
• His father Suddhodana was the Saka ruler.
• His mother (Mahamaya, of Kosala dynasty) died after 7 days of his birth and he was brought up by his stepmother Gautami.
• Buddha was married at 16 to Yashodhara and enjoyed married life for 13 years and had a son named Rahula.
• After seeing an old man, a sick man, a corpse and an ascetic, he decided to become a wanderer.
• Left his palace at 29 (with Channa, the charioteer and his favourite horse, Kanthaka) in search of truth (also called ‘Mahabhinishkramana’ or the Great renunciation) and wandered for 6 years.
• He fi rst meditated with Alara Kaiama. But he was not convinced that man could obtain liberation from sorrow by mental discipline and knowledge. His next teacher was Udraka Ramputra. He then joined forces with fi ve ascetics – Kondana, Vappa, Bhadiya, Mahanama and Assagi, who were practicing the most rigorous self-mortification in the hope of wearing away their karma and obtaining final bliss.
• For six years he tortured himself until he was nothing but a walking skeleton. But after six years he felt that his fasts and penance had been useless so he abandoned these things and the fi ve disciples also left him.
• Attained Nirvana or Enlightenment at 35 at Uruvela, Gaya in Magadha (Bihar) under the Pipal tree.
• Delivered the fi rst sermon at Sarnath at Deer Park where his fi ve disciples had settled. His fi rst sermon is called ‘Dharmachakrapravartan’ or ‘Turning of the Wheel of Law’.
• Attained Mahaparinirvana at Kushinagar (identical with village Kasia in Deoria district of U.P.) in 483 B.C. at the age of 80 in the Malla republic. His death is said to have been caused by a meal of pork (sukramad-dava), which he had taken with his lay disciple Chunda at Pavapuri.
• His last words were: “All composite things decay. Strive diligently!” This was his “fi nal blowing out” (Parinirvana). His body was cremated and his ashes were divided among the representatives of various tribal societies and King Ajatshatru of Magadha.

The Dhamma

The Four Great Truths
• Dukkha – The world is full of sorrow and misery.
• The cause of all pain and misery is desire and attachment.
• Pain and misery can be ended by killing or controlling desire.

• Desire can be controlled by following the Eight Fold Path.
The Eight Fold Path
The central theme of Buddha’s teachings is the eight-fold path (Astangamarga) prescribed by him which consist of:
• Wisdom – Right Faith, Right Thought,
• Moral Discipline – Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Speech,
• Mental Discipline – Right Effort, Right Remembrance and Right Concentration.

Belief in Nirvana
• When desire ceases, rebirth ceases and nirvana is attained i.e. freedom from the cycle of birth and death by following the eight-fold path.
• According to Buddha the soul is a myth.

Belief in Ahimsa
One should not cause injury to any living being, animal or man.
Law of Karma
Man reaps the fruits of his past deeds.
The Sangha
• Consists of monks (Bhikshus and Shramanas) and nuns.
• Bhikshus acted as torch bearer of the Dhamma.
• Apart from Sangha, the worshippers were called Upasakas.

Buddhist Councils

The monks gathered four times after the death of the Buddha and the effect of these events had their effect on Buddhism.
• First Council – At Rajgriha, in 483 B.C. under the Chairmanship of Mehakassaapa (king was Ajatshatru). Divided the teachings of Buddha into two Pitakas – Vinaya Pitaka and Sutta Pitaka. Upali recited the Vinaya Pitaka and Ananda recited the Sutta Pitaka.
• Second Council – At Vaishali, in 383 B.C. under Sabakami (king was Kalasoka of Shishunaga
Dynasty). Followers were divided into Sthavirmadins and Mahasanghikas.
• Third Council – At Pataliputra, in 250 B.C. under Mogaliputta Tissa (king was Ashoka). In this the third part of the Tripitaka was coded in the Pali language.
• Fourth Council – At Kashmir (Kundalvan) in 72 A.D. under Vasumitra (king was Kanishka). Vice Chairman was Ashwagosha. Divided into Mahayana and Hinayana sects.
• In Mahayana, idol worship is there. It became popular in China, Japan, Korea, Afghanistan, Turkey and other South East countries.
• Hinayana became popular in Magadha and Sri Lanka. It believed in individual salvation and not in idol worship.
• Apart from these two there is third vehicle called Vajrayana, which appeared in the 8th century and grew rapidly in Bihar and Bengal. They did not treat meat, fi sh, wine, etc. as a taboo in the dietary habits and freely consumed them.
• Fifth Council – In Mandalay, Burma (now
Myanmar) in 1871 and was presided over by Theravada monks in the reign of King Mindon.
• Sixth Council – In Kaba Aye in Yangoon in 1954, was sponsored by the Burmese Government.

Buddhism after Buddha

• Of all the religious remains of between 200 B.C. and 200 A.D. so far discovered in India, those of Buddhism far outnumber those of any other religion viz., Hinduism, Jainism etc together.
• Hieun Tsang (the Chinese traveler), in the 7th century A.D. found that the Lesser Vehicle or Hinayanism is almost extinct in most of India, and only fl ourishing in a few parts of the west.
• From Nalanda, t h e missionary monk Padmasambhava went forth to convert Tibet to Buddhism in the 8th century A.D.
• In the 6th century AD, the Huna King Mihirkula destroyed monasteries and killed monks.
• A fanatical Shaivite king of Bengal, Sashanka, in the course of an attack on Kannauj in the beginning of the 7th century A.D., almost destroyed the Tree of Wisdom at Gaya.
• As late as the 5th century A.D., written scriptures were rare and the pilgrim Fa-hien was hard put to find a copy of the Vinay Pitaka.

Buddhist Literature

Buddhist literature in Pali language is commonly referred to as Tripitakas i.e. ‘Threefold Basket’.
• Vinaya Pitaka are the rules of discipline in Buddhist monasteries.
• Sutta Pitaka is the largest and contains collection of Buddha’s sermons.
• Abhinandan Pitaka is the explanation of the philosophical principles of the Buddhist religion.

• Mahayana and Deepvamsa are other Buddhist texts. They provide information about the then Sri Lanka.
• Jatakas are the fables about the different births of Buddha.
• The fundamentals of Buddhist teachings are contained in the “Dhammacakka-Pavattana Sutta (Sermon of the Turning of the Wheel of Law). Buddha fi rst taught this to his fi rst disciples at Benaras. This contains the Four noble truths and the Noble eight-fold path, which are accepted as basic categories by all Buddhist sects.
• Among the chief Mahayana texts is the Lalitvistara, a flowery narrative of the life of Buddha. This test was utilized by Sir Edwin Arnold for The Light of Asia, a lengthy poem on the life of Buddha, which enjoyed much popularity at the end of the last century.

Causes of Decline of Buddhism

• It succumbed to the Brahmannical rituals and ceremonies such as idol worship, etc. which Buddhism had earlier denounced.
• Revival of reformed Hinduism with the preaching of Shankaracharya from ninth century onwards.
• Use of Sanskrit, the language of intellectuals in place of Pali, the language of the common people.
• Deterioration in the moral standards among the monks living in the Buddhist monasteries.
• Attacks of Huna king Mihirkula in the sixth century and the Turkish invaders in the 12th century A.D. which continued till the 13th century A.D.


• Founded by Rishabhanath, the fi rst Tirthankara.
• There were 24 Tirthankara (Prophets or Gurus) and all of them were Kshatriyas. Rishabhanath’s reference is also there in the Rigveda. But there is no historical basis for the fi rst 22 Tirthankaras. Only the last two are historical personalities.
• The 23rd Tirthankara Parshwanath (symbol: snake) was the son of King Ashvasena of Benaras. His main teachings were: Non-injury, Non-lying, Nonstealing, Non-possession.
• The 24th and the last Tirthankara was Vardhman Mahavira (symbol: lion). He added celibacy to his main teachings.

Vardhman Mahavira

• He was born in Kundagram (district Muzaffarpur, Bihar) in 599 B.C.
• His father Siddhartha was the head of Jnatrika clan. His mother was Trishla, sister of Lichchhavi Prince Chetak of Vaishali.
• Mahavira was related to Bimbisara.
• Married to Yashoda and had a daughter named Priyadarsena, whose husband Jamali became his first discipline.
• At 30, after the death of his parents he became an ascetic.
• In the 13th year of his asceticism, outside the town of Jrimbhikgrama, he attained supreme knowledge (Kaivalya).
• From now on he was called Jaina or Jitendriya and Mahavira and his followers were named Jains. He also got the title of Arihant i.e. worthy.
• At the age of 72, he attained death at Pava, near Patna in 527 B.C. Mahavira survived the death of his chief rival Gosala and probably also that of the Buddha, and died of self-starvation at the age of 72 in the little town of Pava, near the Magadhan capital Rajagriha. It is said that at the time of Mahavir’s death at Pavapuri, the kings of the two clans viz., the Mallas and the Lichchhavis, celebrated the lamp festival in his honour.
• After the death of Mahavira, during the reign of King Chandragupta, a severe famine led to the great exodus of Jain monks from the Ganga valley to the Deccan, where they established important centres of their faith. This migration led to a great schism in Jainism. Bhadrabahu who led the emigrants insisted on the retention of the rule of nudity which Mahavira had established. Sthulabhadra, the leader of the monks who remained in the north allowed his followers to wear white garments, owing to the hardships and confusion of the famine. Hence arose two sects of the Jains: the Digambaras (sky-clad i.e. naked) and the Svetanbaras (white-clad).
• Our knowledge of Jainism after Mahavira is meager. There were eleven ‘Gandharas’ but only one of them named Sudharman survived the master and became the fi rst pontiff. He died 20years after Mahavira.

Teachings of Mahavira

• Rejected the authority of the Vedas and do not attach any importance to the performance of the sacrifi ces.
• He believed that every object even the smallest particle possesses a soul and is endowed with consciousness. That is why they observe strict nonviolence.

• The Jains reject the concept of the Universal soul or a Supreme power as the creator or sustainer of the Universe.
• Jainism does not deny the existence of Gods but refuses to give Gods any important part in the universal scheme. Gods are placed lower than the Jina.
• Universal brotherhood (non-belief in the caste system).
• In Jainism, three Ratnas (Triratnas) are given and they are called the way to Nirvana. They are Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct.

Jain Councils

• According to a Jain tradition, an oral sacred literature had been passed down from the days of Mahavira, but Bhadrabahu was the last person to know it perfectly. On Bhadrabahu’s death, Sthulabhadra called a Great Council at Pataliputra which was the First Jain Council held in the beginning of third century B.C. It resulted in the compilation of 12 Angas to replace the former 14 Purvas. The Digambaras rejected this canon and declared that the original one was lost. Thus, there was a great urgency to devise new scriptures.
• The Second Council was held at Vallabhi (Gujarat) in the 5th century A.D. under the leadership of Devridhigani. It resulted in fi nal compilation of 12 Angas and 12 Upangas.
Other Important Facts
• Jainism reached the highest point in Chandragupta Maurya’s time. In Kalinga it was greatly patronized by Kharavela in the fi rst century A.D.
• Various factors were responsible for the decline of Jainism in India. They took the concept of Ahimsa too far. They advised that one should not take medicine when one fell sick because the medicine killed germs. They believed that there was life in trees and vegetables and so refrained from harming them. Such practices could not become popular with the common man.
• Lack of patronage from the later kings.
• Jain literature is in Ardh-Magadhi and Prakrit dialects.
• Due to the infl uence of Jainism, many regional languages emerged out, like Sauraseni, out of which grew the Marathi, Gujarati, Rajasthani and

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Buddhism and Jainism, Buddhism, Jainism, The Buddha, Buddhism after Buddha, Buddhist Literature, Decline of Buddhism, Jainism, Teachings of Mahavira, Jain Councils, Ancient India history notes UPSC, history optional Subject notes UPSC, Ancient India history notes IAS, history optional Subject notes IAS

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