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Jainism and Buddhism

Jainism and Buddhism arose in India around the 6th century BCE, in reaction to the dominance of the Brahmanas, the priestly class in the Vedic religion.

  • The Brahmanas had a monopoly on religious knowledge and rituals, and they charged high fees for their services. This led to resentment among the lower classes, who felt that they were being exploited.
  • Jainism and Buddhism offered a more egalitarian alternative to the Vedic religion. They rejected the caste system and the authority of the Brahmanas. They also emphasized the importance of non-violence and compassion.
  • The spread of agriculture in the North-East also contributed to the rise of Jainism and Buddhism. As more people became involved in agriculture, they had less time for the elaborate rituals of the Vedic religion. They were also more likely to be concerned with the practical problems of life, such as poverty and suffering.
  • Jainism and Buddhism offered solutions to these problems. They taught that the way to achieve liberation from suffering was to follow the path of non-violence, compassion, and detachment from worldly things.
  • These new religions quickly gained popularity in India, and they continue to be practiced by millions of people around the world today.

Some of the key causes of the rise of Jainism and Buddhism:

  • Reaction against the dominance of the Brahmanas: The Brahmanas were the priestly class in the Vedic religion, and they had a monopoly on religious knowledge and rituals. This led to resentment among the lower classes, who felt that they were being exploited.
  • Spread of agriculture in the North-East: As more people became involved in agriculture, they had less time for the elaborate rituals of the Vedic religion. They were also more likely to be concerned with the practical problems of life, such as poverty and suffering.
  • Emphasis on non-violence and compassion: Jainism and Buddhism both emphasized the importance of non-violence and compassion. This appealed to people who were seeking a more ethical and moral way of life.
  • Simpler teachings: The teachings of Jainism and Buddhism were simpler than the complex rituals of the Vedic religion. This made them more accessible to the common people.
  • Appeal to the merchant class: The merchant class was growing in importance in the 6th century BCE. They were attracted to the teachings of Jainism and Buddhism because these religions did not require them to give up their wealth or possessions.


  • Jainism founded by Rishabhadeva, with the emblem of a bull.
  • It has 24 tirthankaras (great teachers), with Parshvanatha as the 23rd and Vardhamana Mahavira as the 24th.
  • Mahavira, the 24th tirthankara, was born in 540 BC in Kundagram near Vaishali.
  • Mahavira’s father was Siddhartha of the Jnatrik Kshatriya Clan, and his mother was Trishala, sister of Lichchhavi Chief Chetaka.
  • He was married to Yashoda and had a daughter named Priyadarshini, whose husband Jamali became his first disciple.
  • Mahavira became an ascetic at the age of 30 and attained Kaivalya (Jina) at the age of 42 outside the town of Jimbhikgrama.
  • He passed away at the age of 72 in 468 BC in Pavapuri.
  • The Five Doctrines of Jainism are: Ahimsa (non-violence), Asteya (non-stealing), Aparigraha (non-acquisition of property), Satya (truthfulness), and Brahmacharya (chastity).
  • The Triratnas of Jainism are right knowledge, right faith, and right conduct.
  • Jainism teaches that salvation is possible through the abandonment of possessions, fasting, self-mortification, study, and meditation.
  • Jainism recognizes the existence of God but places the Jina higher in importance. It does not condemn the varna system.
  • Jainism admitted both men and women, and its monastic establishments were called basadis.
  • Patrons of Jainism include Kharavela, the king of Kalinga, and Chandragupta Maurya, who became the disciple of Bhadrabahu and spread Jainism in the South.
  • During Chandragupta Maurya’s reign, Jainism split into two sects due to a famine in Magadha: Svetambaras (those who wear white dresses) under Sthulbhadra and Digambaras (naked ascetics) under Bhadrabahu.
  • Jaina texts were written in the Prakrit language.


  • The First Council of Jainism was held in 300 BC at Pataliputra under the leadership of Sthulbhadra. During this council, the Jaina Canons were compiled.
  • The Second Council of Jainism took place in the 5th century AD at Vallabhi and was presided over by Kshamasramana. During this council, 12 Angas and 12 Upangas were compiled in the Ardh Magadhi language.


  • Buddhism was founded by Gautama Buddha, also known as Siddhartha, Sakyamuni, or Tathagata.
  • Gautama Buddha was born in 563 BC in Lumbini, Nepal, into the Shakya Kshatriya Clan.
  • His father was Suddhodana, a Shakya ruler, and his mother was Mahamaya of the Kosalan dynasty, who died early. He was brought up by his stepmother Gautami.
  • Gautama Buddha was married to Yashodhara, and they had a son named Rahul.
  • The Triratnas in Buddhism represent the three pillars of the faith: Buddha (its founder), Dhamma (his teachings), and Sangha (the order of Buddhist monks and nuns).
  • Buddhism is divided into two main sects: Hinayana and Mahayana.

Phases of Buddha’s Life and Symbols

Birth: Lotus and Bull

Mahabhinishkraman (Renunciation): Horse

Nirvana (Enlightenment): Bodhi Tree

Dharmachakra Pravartana (First Sermon): Wheel

Mahaparinirvana (Death): Stupa

The Dhamma

The Four Great Truths

  • The world is full of sorrow and misery.
  • The cause of all pain and misery is desire.
  • 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

  1. Right Understanding
  2. Right Thought
  3. Right Action
  4. Right Livelihood
  5. Right Efforts
  6. Right Speech
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

Madhya Marga (The Middle Path)

  • It teaches that individuals should avoid both extremes: a life of excessive comforts and luxury on one hand, and a life of severe asceticism and deprivation on the other.
  • The Middle Path suggests finding a balanced and moderate way of life that avoids indulgence and self-mortification, aiming for a state of equilibrium and spiritual growth.

Buddhist Literature

  • In Pali language, it is commonly referred to as Tripitakas, which means ‘three-fold basket.’
  • Vinaya Pitaka: Contains rules of discipline in Buddhist monasteries.
  • Sutta Pitaka: Contains a collection of Buddha’s sermons and teachings, and it is the largest among all three pitakas.
  • Abhidhamma Pitaka: Provides an explanation of the philosophical principles of the Buddhist religion.
  • Other important Buddhist texts of Sri Lanka include Mahavamsha and Dipavamsa.

Causes of Decline of Buddhism

  • Use of Sanskrit: The shift from Pali, the language of the common people, to Sanskrit, the language of intellectuals, may have contributed to the decline.
  • Revival of Hinduism: The resurgence of Hinduism as a dominant religious and cultural force in India posed a challenge to Buddhism and led to its decline.

Buddhist Councils

  • First Council (483 BC)
    • Period: 483 BC
    • Place: Rajagriha
    • Chairman: Mahakashyapa
    • Patron: Ajatashatru
  • Second Council (383 BC)
    • Period: 383 BC
    • Place: Vaishali
    • Chairman: Sabakami
    • Patron: Kalashoka
  • Third Council (250 BC)
    • Period: 250 BC
    • Place: Patliputra
    • Chairman: Mogaliputta Tissa
    • Patron: Ashoka
  • Fourth Council (AD 72)
    • Period: AD 72
    • Place: Kundalvana
    • Chairman: Vasumitra, Ashwaghosa
    • Patron: Kanishka




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