Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Buddhism & Jainism

Buddhism & Jainism

The school of Buddhism evolved in the eastern part of India in 563 BCE. More or less at the same time (in & around 550 BCE) another school, Jainism, with almost similar thoughts, was developing in the same part of India. The founder of Jainism, Lord Mahavira was a contemporary of Lord Buddha, the founder of Buddhism and even the Buddhist texts called Lord Mahavira 'an enlightened being'. 
In the sixth century BCE and the preceding era, when both the schools of thought were developing and spreading their horizon, no rivalry seemed to have existed between them. This was because of the fact that both the religions almost believed in the same facts and philosophy of life. However, both differed on some of the views such as salvation and soul which led to their separate ways. 

Similarities Between Buddhism And Jainism
On God 
  • Buddhism : The original Buddhist doctrine does not entail any godly figures, though the later Buddhist sects introduced some Godly figures. The Buddhists believe in the Godlike figures or the Bodhisattvas, who take interest in the welfare of the world and work for its liberation.

    God in Janism
  • Jainism : Alike Buddhism, Jainism also denies the existence of God, though they acknowledge the presence of the Jinas or Kevalins, who are higher than human beings in status but subject to change and evolution. However, unlike the Bodhisattvas, the Kevalins are rather indifferent to the prayers and problems and remain unaffected.

On Nirvana 
  • Buddhism : In Buddhism, nirvana is freedom from the cycle of rebirth, when a being turns into a state of non-being, or Sunya, looses its identity and becomes nothing.
  • Jainism : In Jainism, nirvana is a state of moksha, where a being looses its identity and is free from the cycle of birth and death.

On Liberation 
  • Buddhism : The path of liberation in Buddhism goes through good conduct and good deeds, as mentioned in Eightfold path, Four Noble Truths, Five Preceptions and other moral conducts.
  • Jainism : Similarly, the path of liberation in Jainism is to follow right perception, right knowledge, and right conduct. One has to overcome the worldly desires and feelings to attain liberation or to become a perfect soul.

On Yogic Practices 
  • Buddhism : Buddhism emphasises on the practice of mediation and other forms of Yoga to concentrate on inner self.
    Yogic Practices
  • Jainism : In Jainism as well, meditation and other yogic practices are essential for self purification and liberation.

On Non-Violence 
  • Buddhism : Buddhism is a peaceful religion with non-violence at the heart of its thoughts and behaviour.
  • Jainism : Non-violence followed in action, thought, and speech is the highest morale in Jainism.

Difference Between Buddhism And Jainism
On Karma 
  • Buddhism : Buddhism believes in the universality of Karma, which is a result of one's action.
  • Jainism : Jainism also believes in the universality of karma and its effect on human beings. But, unlike Buddhism, karma, according to Jainism, is not a mere effect of one's actions, but a real substance that flows into each individual body or jiva. This karmic substance remains with a being until good conduct and self purification eliminates them.

On Soul 
  • Buddhism : According to Buddhism, soul is an individuality that does exist in plants and animals, but not in non-living or inanimate things.
  • Jainism : According to Jainism, soul is present in every animate and inanimate object of the universe including its elements - earth, water, wind, fire and air.

On The Status And Evolution of Individual Beings 
  • Buddhism : After Nirvana, there is no soul, but the individuality of an individual that passes into nothingness, which is beyond any description and speculation.
  • Jainism : After Nirvana, the soul continues to remain as an individual soul, but in the highest state of purity and enlightenment.
  • Survival And Disappearence : Over a period of time, while Buddhism disappeared from the Indian soil, Jainism survived in India, with its teachings intact, mostly untouched by the overwhelming philosophy and practices of Hinduism, at the same time imparting to the later some of its noblest ideas.

    Besides, a major difference lies in the dominions of both the religions. Though both, Buddhism and Jainism, originated and developed individually in the same geographical area of India, but difference lies in their spread. While Buddhism crossed the frontiers of its motherland and went to other parts of the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia, far eastern countries, and parts of North America and Europe as well, whereas Jainism, on the other hand, remained confined to India, the land of its origin.
Key Difference: Jainism is a philosophy or can be referred as an aesthetic religion that was founded by Vardhamâna in India around 6th century BC. Jainism believes in karma, reincarnation and in avoiding violence. Buddhism is a philosophy or can be referred as an aesthetic religion that was founded by Siddhartha Gautama. Buddhism explains the ways to avoid the sufferings and to attain happiness.

The history of India has witnessed Jainism and Buddhism as two distinct traditions or religions since pre-historic times. These two religions are similar in many ways and differ in many ways. Thus, to best understand the difference, one must understand the beliefs of these religions.

Jainism is one of the oldest religions of India. The last great saint of Jains is known by Mahavira. He is regarded as the twenty-forth and last of Tirthankara (ford-makers), belonging to this age. The two main sects of Jains are known as ‘Digambaras’ and the ‘Svetambaras’. It is a religion that teaches a path to spiritual purity through a disciplined mode of life that is based on the principles of non-violence to all living creatures. The name Jainism derives from the Sanskrit verb ji, meaning “to conquer.” It refers to the fight against the passions and bodily senses in order to achieve the purity of soul or enlightenment. It defines five vows that should be observed in order to achieve the Nirvana. These five vows are:-

1. Ahinsa meaning non killing
2. Sunrita meaning truthful speech
3. Asteya meaning non- stealing
4. Brahmancharya meaning celibacy
5. Aparigraha meaning non-possession.

Jain philosophy is based upon eternal, universal truths. Jainism philosophy believes that no supreme divine creator, owner, preserver or destroyer exists. On the contrary, it defines the universe as a self regulated system, and also believes that every existing soul is capable to achieve divine consciousness through its own efforts.

Buddhism is a tradition of practice and spiritual development. It can also be considered as a religion that is marked by a complex history, and is known to be based on a system of various beliefs. Buddhism believes in change, and considers it as a very important ingredient of life. The consequences reflect the actions. Buddhism is based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha.

Siddhartha was the son of an Indian-warrior king, who ruled at Kapilvastu. He led a very luxurious life through his early adulthood. During his early childhood, his father’s tutor had recognized that he is not an ordinary child. Later in his 12th year, the kind called wise Brahmins to discuss the fate of Siddhartha. The Brahmans warned the king, that the day his son gets to see old age, sickness or death, Siddhartha would devote him to asceticism. The father got worried and made all the efforts to ensure that his son remains in all possible comforts and does not get to see any suffering.

However, one day he decided to visit the nearby town and in spite of all the settings done by his father, he got familiar with sufferings through various men. The sufferings left a great impression on his heart and he decided to become a disciple of Brahamans in a hermitage. He was now known by the name monk Gautama.

In this hermitage, he studied various doctrines and learned deep states of meditation. However, few years later he felt that he was unable to find answers, and he left the hermitage in this disappointment. After leaving his place, he made his way to a dear park that was present at Isipatana. Here he sat beneath a tree meditating on death and rebirth. This meditation solved his questions related to sufferings and also enlightened him about the freedom from suffering. He also understood the way to achieve salvation. The Gautama Buddha spent the remainder of his life journeying India, and he taught others about his understanding.

Buddhism and Jainism are similar in many terms, as they both have originated in the same geographic region of India. They both oppose caste system and animal scarifies. The main similarity between them is that they both reject the existence of god. They both focus on ‘karma’ and its effect. Still, there are numerous differences that exist between them. Jainism remained near its origin whereas Buddhism was extended to countries like Nepal and China. The other differences are mentioned in the table:-

Based on
The teachings of thirthankaras like Mahavir
The teachings of Gautama Buddha
Digambara, Svetambara, Terapantha
Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana, and so on
Notion on soul
Believes that soul is a living entity which sticks to different types of  non-living matter.
They do not believe in the ideas of eternal self or soul (Atman) and eternity. Soul is treated as an ever changing entity.

Notion on Karma
It is a real substance that is attached with each jiva or body. Not effected from the person’s actions.
Is a process, (an impression of karma determines the future). Karma is the direct effect of one’s own action
Gautama Buddha
Non violence, not lying, not stealing, non illicit sex, non possession
Non violence, not lying, not stealing, non illicit sex, temperance
Jina (spiritual victor)
24 Tîrthankaras (Saviour)
1st, Âdinâtha
23rd, Pârshvanâtha
24th, Mahâvira
Buddha (Awakened one)
Past 7 Buddhas (Past 24 Buddhas)
Future Buddha (Maitreya)
Past present future 3000 Buddhas
Knowledge for liberation

Knowledge of purpose of life

Jainism and Buddhism: A comparative study

Buddhism and Jainism originated from the prevailing pessimism of the time and both the creeds had some common points. This has led certain scholars to suggest that Jainism was an offshoot of Buddhism. But this view is generally rejected by scholars on the ground that each of the creeds had distinct historical origins. If we compare and contrast the Jainism and Buddhism religion, we find there are few similarities between Buddhism and Jainism. But the differences are vast.

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 : A comparative study

Inspite of the similarities between the two creeds, the differences between them are great.
  • 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.


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