Jainism and Buddhism

Ancient India saw the rise of two very important religions, Jainism and Buddhism which left a lasting influence on Indian life and culture. Vedic religion was earlier also known as Brahmanism because the Brahmins played a major role in it. Later it came to be called Hinduism.


Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was born in 563 BC at Lumbini which is situated near the Indo-Nepal Border. He was the son of Shuddhodhana, the chief of Shakya of Kapilavastu. At the age of 29, Gautama left home and attained Bodhi (enlightenment) at Bodhgaya under a pipal tree. He delivered his first sermon at Sarnath near Varanasi. His teachings included four Noble Truths (Arya Satya) and Eightfold Path (Ashtangika Marga).

According to Buddha:

  1. the world is full of misery (dukkha)
  2. desire (trishna) is the cause of this misery
  3. if desire is conquered, then all sorrows can be removed
  4. this can be done by following the Eight fold Path

The eight fold path comprises:

  1. Right understanding
  2. Right thought
  3. Right speech
  4. Right action
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

Buddha suggested a 'Middle Path' - away from both extreme luxury as well as extreme austerity. He also laid down a code of conduct such as non-killing and non-stealing for his followers. He died at the age of 80 (483 BC) at Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh.


Rishabhanath, the first Tirthankara, is known to be the founder of Jainism. Vardhamana Mahavira was the 24th Tirthankara of this sect, Parshvanath being the 23rd one. Mahavira was born in 540 BC at Kundagram near Vaishali (Bihar). His father was the Chief of Jhatrika Kshatriya clan. Mahavira became an ascetic at the age of 30 years and died at Pawapuri in 468 BC near Rajagriha. His followers came to be known as ‘Jainas’. 

Jainism had no place for a supreme creator. It recognized the existence of gods, but placed them lower than the Jaina teachers. The main aim of Jainism is the attainment of freedom from worldly bonds. Like Buddhism, Jainism opposed the ritualistic practices and evils of Vedic Brahmanism. It also opposed the caste system and accepted the doctrine of Karma and rebirth.

Jainism has five cardinal principles: 

  1. Ahimsa or non-violence
  2. Truthfulness
  3. Abstention from stealing
  4. Non-attachment
  5. Celibacy or Brahmacharya

The three jewels (Triratna) of Jainism are:

  1. Right vision (Samyak Darshana)
  2. Right knowledge (Samyak Jnana)
  3. Right Conduct (Samyak Charita)