“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers…

An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers……….
An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

The Knowledge Library



The complex rituals and sacrifices of the Brahmins in the later Vedic period weren’t acceptable to the common people. The sacrifices and rituals were too expensive and mantras and superstitions confused the people. The teachings of the Upanishads were philosophical in nature and weren’t easily understood. The common man needed simple, short, and intelligible ways to salvation. The religious teachings should be in a language known to them. Jainism and Buddhism fulfilled this need.

The rigid caste system was also another reason that the new religions were accepted easily. The varna system gave the highest status to Brahmins. This caused resentment in Kshatriyas. The merchant class i.e. vaishyas wanted to improve their status in society as they were economically and socially more forward. The varna system didn’t allow this. It should be noted that this merchant class embraced these new religions.

Jainism had 24 Tirthankaras, 1st was Rishabdev, 23rd Parshvanath.

Vardhaman Mahavir

He is the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism. His original birth was in a Kshatriya family. He was married with a daughter. At age of 30, he gave up his old life and became an ascetic. After 12 years of wandering in the 13th year, he attained salvation or the highest spiritual level known as keval gnana. His followers called him Mahavir or Jina. They became the Jains. Mahavir preached for 30 years and died at 72 yrs at Pavna.

Triratna’s of Mahavir: Right faith, right conduct, and the right knowledge.

Mahavir believed in five vows: truth, ahimsa, no stealing, no owning property, and immoral life. He rejected the Vedas and Vedic rituals.

Jainism believes that there is no god and world is without a creator. All objects have a soul and feel pain and possess life. The universe functions on a law.

Mahavir organized a sangha to spread his teachings. The growth of Jainism is due to the work of Sangha. In

Bihar there was a famine and Bhadrabagu and Chandragupta Maurya came to Sravana Belgola in Karnataka. The monks who remained were led by Sthulabagu. This created two sects in Jainism: Svetambar [white clad] and Digambar [sky clad or naked].

The first Jain Council was held at Patliputra and held by Sthulabagu the leader of Svetambar. The second Jain council was held at Vallabhi and the final compilation of 12 angas of Jain literature was done.

    • The reality in Jainism is composed of Anekatva or plurality of mindset or multisidedness. This is beyond the scope of finite minds i.e. to know all aspects of our living.
    • All our judgments are necessarily relative. There is no certainty in any knowledge and Syad Vada is the wisest course to follow. There can be no absolute judgment on any issue.
    • Jainism views the universe as passing through a series of cosmic waves of progress and decline. It functions according to the eternal law.
    • Jains believe in the dualistic principle of Jiva (eternal soul) and Ajiva (eternal element) everywhere. The jiva acts and is affected by acts, it is a knowing self, the Ajiva is atomic and unconscious. Every object s an agglomeration of Ajiva with at least one jiva enmeshed in it. Thus even stones and metals have souls.
    • The notion of jivas is further extended to a scheme of classification which varies somewhat in different texts.
    • Inanimate objects have 1 jiva. Plants and fruits have two jivas. Living animals have three jivas. Jains are permitted to eat things that have two jivas. Eating things with three jivas is forbidden.
    • Mahavir preached in Magadhi, the language spoken by the common people. His teachings were confined to the Gangetic valley. Though in later years they spread to different parts of the subcontinent. The main champions of the teachings were the trading communities.
    • Jain teachings were preserved through oral traditions but in the 3rd Century BC at a council convened at Patliputra it was collected and recorded. The final version was edited in the 5th Century AD. The Jains were divided into two sects Svetambar and Digambar. The Digambar refused to accept the rearranged version of the 12 Anagas in the 5th Century AD as valid.
    • Jainism was not able to spread as fast as Buddhism did. One reason could be the lack of patronage from kings as much as Buddhism enjoyed. The Jain monks were active in spreading their religion and they traveled extensively even until Saurashtra on the west coast. Bhadrabahu who was a Jain monk and a contemporary of Chandragupta Maurya traveled to Shravanbelgola and settled there. Jainism then spread to different parts of the Andhra region and Tamil country.
    • Jains also traveled to Kharavela kingdom where they enjoyed patronage for a short while. The caves in Udaygiri hills were given to Jain monks for living.
    • Like Buddhism Jainism too developed image worship. Several well carved Jain images and tablets of Jain figures were discovered at Mathura.


The founder of Buddhism, Gautam Buddha was born in Lumbini. He too was of the Kshatriya clan. He was married with a son. But he left home to become an ascetic. He wandered for 7 years under different teachers but couldn’t get enlightenment. Finally under the bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya on the banks of Niranjan river after deep penance he attained enlightenment.

He became Buddha or the enlightened one. Buddha means “A person who knows good, bad and suffering”.

He gave his first sermon at Sarnath at deer park. He died at 80 in Kushinagar. There are 29 Buddhas, Gautam is 28th and Maitreya was 29th.

The kings Bimbisara and Ajatashatru became his disciples. Buddha visited places like Benares, Rajagriha, Sravasti, Vaisali, Nalanda, Pataligrama, and also Magadha to meet Bindusara.

Buddhist Chaityas are places of worship. viharas are monasteries and Sangharam are monasteries or schools.

Boddhisattvas are yet to attain enlightenment. Stupas are dome-shaped structures where the mortal remains of monks are kept.

Four noble truths:

  1.  The world is full of suffering
  2. Desire is the cause of all suffering
  3. Remove desire and remove suffering
  4. Desire can be removed from the eightfold path

Buddha didn’t accept or reject god. He was a rationalist and didn’t believe in blind faith. He never dealt with metaphysical questions like a god, and soul but focused on problems concerning man. He believed in karma. He was against any caste distinctions.

Buddha organized the religious disciples into sanghas. The work of these sanghas made Buddhism into a large religion. Two hundred years after Buddha’s death Emperor Ashok embraced Buddhism and through missionary efforts spread it to west Asia and Ceylon. Thus Buddhism became a world religion.

    • The existence of God is irrelevant to Buddhism. In Buddhism, nothing is left to divine intervention. Buddhism doesn’t believe that God can be the creator of the world. Otherwise, he would also be responsible for the miseries in this world.
    • Buddhism believes that the soul is not immortal and dies with the body. There is no transmigration of the soul.
    • Buddha just like Mahavir also laid down Shilas or Codes of conduct that a person must follow in his life. Practically, Buddhism took shape in the form of Viharas (monasteries) or Sanghas (church or assemblies) which were used to bring together monks and laymen.
    • Although initially, Hinayana Buddhism was popular at the time of Kanishka, Mahayana Buddhism rose and became more popular. The initial growth of Mahayana Buddhism was hindered due to opposition from Orthodox brahmins. The most popular exponent of Mahayana Buddhism was Nagarjuna – it was with him that Mahayana Buddhism gained popularity.
    • Mahayana Buddhism held firm to the spirit of Buddhist teachings and Hinayana to the actual words of Buddhist teachings.
    • Hinayana considered the Sangam at the center of all activities, but Mahayana Buddhism considered the individual to be at the center. Hinayana sculptures are mainly written in Pali and founded on Tripitakas and Mahayana are in Sanskrit and founded in Sutras
    • Hinayana developed around the acts of buddha, Mahayana around the symbolism and his life. Hinayana gave importance to laws of karma and Mahayana considered laws of karuna or compassion to be above all. Hinayana considers arhat (one who strives for his own redemption) as the ideal. Mahayana upholds the ideal of Boddhisattva or savior i.e. one who delays own salvation in the favor of others. Hinayana also regards buddha as a man with extraordinary knowledge and intuition. They only rever but do not worship Buddha. However, Mahayana Buddhism considers buddha to be a savior god, a being of supreme love and compassion. Buddha was worshipped as a god with elaborate rituals and traditions. Boddhisattva too was important as a compassionate being that was the savior of humanity. The idea of Maitreya buddha also emerged that envisioned the tenth incarnation of the buddha that shall come to save mankind. A line of boddhisattvas too emerged and gained prominence. Buddhist symbols declined and a personal image of buddha emerged which was worshipped. The doctrine of bhakti too became important in Mahayana Buddhism. However elaborate rituals and traditions replaced simple ideas like faith in god.

Buddhist councils:

  1.  The first Buddhist council was Convened by Ajatashatru at Rajgir
  2. The second Buddhist council was Convened at Vaisali
  3.  The third Buddhist council was convened at Patliputra by Emperor Ashok. The Tri-Pitakas [Sutta, Vinaya, and  Abhidhamma] were compiled.
  4.  The fourth Buddhist council was convened by Kanishka in Kashmir. Here the second sect of Buddhism emerged called Mahayana Buddhism.

 The Buddhism preached by Buddha and propagated by Ashok was Hinayana.

Causes of decline of Buddhism:

1.      Revival of Brahminism and the rise of Bhagavatam

2.      Adoption of Sanskrit in place of pali by monks

3.      Increase in sacrifice and idol worship due to the advent of Mahayana led to a lowering of moral values

4.      Destruction of Buddhist monuments by Huns and the Turkish invaders.


Contributions of Buddhism to Indian culture:

1.      Creation of chaityas and viharas in different areas of the country. Stupa’s too was a beautiful piece of art.
2.      Concept of ahimsa became popular. It was the chief contributor. It later became one of our nation’s cherished values.
3.      Promotion of education through residential universities like Nalanda, Vikram Shila, and Taxila.
4.      Language of pali and other local languages developed through Buddha’s teachings.


  1. Ajanta caves were discovered by the British. They had carvings of buddhas life. Jataka tales are inscribed.
  2. Ellora caves: Hindu, Buddhist and Jain paintings.
  3. Bhimbetka: stone Age paintings.
  4. Elephanta: Shiva, Parvati deities

Beginning of Hinduism

    • Most of the Vedic gods and goddesses passed into oblivion. This was also a time when Brahmanical religion assumed new features which today are known as Hinduism popularly. The newer gods that came to the forefront were Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Soon however only Vishnu and shiv remained at the fore and Brahma declined in importance. The followers became of two types Shaivaites and Vaishnavaites. Both believed that the equation between God and the devotee should be of bhakti or devotion. Rituals declined and there was a shift towards bhakti.
    • Shiv became the god of destruction and sexuality. He is considered to have origins in the Tamil god Murugan or the Rudra of the Harappan age. The shiv linga and yoni are the male and female reproductive organs and they symbolize shiva. Sangam age regarded shiva as the most beloved although they praised him as Murugan. Satavahana kings also worshipped shiva. He had a female consort Parvati and two songs the elder Karthik and the younger Ganesha.
    • Vishnu was the god who preserved and he had a female consort, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and a vehicle of naga. The various forms or avatars of Vishnu came to the earth when there was strife. Out of these Rama and Krishna were the most revered.


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