“Buddhism in India” Jainism

Subject: Religion
Type: Descriptive Essay
Pages: 4
Word count: 1239
Topics: Buddhism, Hinduism, Karma, Theology

Buddhism and Jainism are among the three major Ancient religions in India, the other one is Brahaminism. Buddhism and Jainism were inspired and rooted in the Indus Valley tradition and the Aryan tradition respectively. It was previously known that these religions started almost simultaneously, but latest research and excavation at Mohenjodaro and Harappa has shown that Jainism existed more than five thousands year ago (Antiquity of Jainism). Jains however believe that Jainism has Eternal origin. There is truth in the Jaina idea that their religion goes back to a remote antiquity, the antiquity in question being that of the re-Aryan, so called Dravidian illuminated by the discovery of a series of great late stone-age cities in Indus valley, dating from third and perhaps even fourth millennium B. C (Antiquity of Jainism).

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The history of Buddhism spans from the 6th century BCE to the present, starting with the birth of the Buddha Siddharta Gautama (History of Buddhism). India is considered to be the birthplace of Buddhism where Buddha found enlightenment at the age of 35. He was then became to be known as Gautama Buddha, or simply “The Buddha”, which means “the awakened one” (History of Buddhism). Buddha took much of his inspiration from the Indus Valley religions and traditions.  Buddhism flourished in India during the dynasty of the Guptas (4th–6th century). Indian Buddhism weakened in the 7th century following White Hun and Islamic invasions. However, it enjoyed a strong revival under the Pala Empire, in which Mahayana Buddhism flourished between the 8th and the 12th century (History of Buddhism).  Some non-Buddhist religion adopted many great things from Buddhism doctrine but spoke ill of Buddhism as well to discredit Buddhism.  Some other religious fanatics also have persecuted the Buddhists, a process, which other foreign invaders of India followed, until Buddhism was practically driven out of India (Buddhism in India). So by the dawn of the 20th century, Buddhism is limited only in some isolated places in India.

Today, India is again appearing on the Buddhist map of the world due to the Angarika Dhammapala of Sri Lanka and great son of India Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (Dr. B. R. Ambedkar) the architect of modern Indian constitution. He after studying all existing religions of the world embarrassed Buddhism along with his five lakhs followers on 14th October, 1956. Indians are awakening to their Buddhist past. Since then the Indians began to be surprised at the discovery of the Buddhist legacy. To talk of a “revival of Buddhism in modern India” is right in this sense of the discovery of the Buddhist heritage by Indians (Buddhism in India).

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Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma, is a dharmic religion with its origins in the prehistory of India. There are 9 million people around the world who are Jains today. Jainism was established by Mahavira in about 500 B. C.  Mahavira was called ‘Jina’ meaning the big winner and from this name was derived the name of the religion. (Information on India). Mahavira’s full name is Vardhamaan Mahavir, he was born in about 600BC. in the home of Siddharta the King of Kundgraam of Bihar province in India on the thirteenth day under the rising moon of Chaitra. He is considered to be the twenty-fourth, or the last Teerthankar of Jainism (Mahavir Swami Nirvaana). He became detached from the world on the death of his parents and left his home for the forest at the age of thirty. There he practiced very hard simple life until he attained enlightenment (Mahavir Swami Nirvaana).

Traditionally, Jains believe that Lord Rishabha was the first human to receive the philosophy in this part of the universe (Jainism). Rishabaha was the son of King Nabhi and Queen Marudevi. Lord Rishabha was the first Tirthankar of our time, and hence is also called Adi-nath, the First Lord. In Jain tradition, he is more than a Tirthankar. As a king, he is credited with development of several innovations affecting the society, as transition was being made from a simple to a more complex society (Jainism).

In many senses Jainism is similar to Buddhism. Jainism like Buddhism developed as a dissention to the Brahmanic philosophy that was dominant during that period in north- east India. Mahavira just like Buddha isn’t the first prophet of his religion. In Jainism, like Buddhism there is a belief in reincarnation which eventually leads to liberation. (information on India).

Adherents believe that Jain philosophy is a codification of eternal universal truths which at times lapse among humanity, but later reappear through the teachings of human beings who have gained enlightenment or omniscience (Jainism). Jainism teaches that every single living thing is an individual and eternal soul, which is responsible for its own actions. Jains see their faith as teaching the individual to live, think and act in ways that respect and honor the spiritual nature of every living being to the best of one’s human abilities (Jainism).  Jains view God as the unchanging traits of the pure soul, chief among them being Infinite Knowledge, Perception, Consciousness, and Happiness. The universe itself is seen as being eternal, having no beginning and no end, precluding God from being a creator (Jainism).

Jains also believe that no spirit or divine being can assist them in any way. The Jains consider that gods cannot help the jiva to obtain release. This has to be achieved by individuals through their own efforts. In fact, the angels cannot even gain their own release until they are reincarnated as humans and undertake the difficult actions of removing the karmas (Jainism). Mahatma Gandhi was deeply influenced by the Jain emphasis on a peaceful, non-harming way of life which is common to the Jain philosophy and made it an integral part of his own philosophy (Jainism).

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It is generally believed that the two major sects of Jainism, Digambar and Shvetambar, trace their origin to events that occurred about 200 years after the nirvana of Mahāvīr. Bhadrabahu, chief of the Jain monks, foresaw a period of famine and led about 12,000 people, to southern India (Jainism). Twelve years later, they returned to find that the Svetambar sect had arisen. The followers of Bhadrabahu became known as the Digambar sect. However historians have noted that there was no clear division until the 5th century. The Valabhi council of 453 resulted in editing and compilation of scriptures of the Svetambar tradition (Jainism).

Digamber monks like Mahavira don’t wear any clothes, The Digambers include among them only men. The Shvetembers monks on the other hand, wear white clothes and they include women (Information on India). Excavations at Mathura have revealed many Kushana period Jain idols. In all of them the Tirthankaras are represented without clothes. Some of them show monks with only one piece of cloth which is wrapped around the left arm. They are identified as belonging to the ardha-phalaka sect mentioned in some texts. The Yapaniaya sect is believed have have originated from the Ardha-phalakas. They followed Digambara practice of nudity, but held several beliefs like the Svetambaras (Jainism).

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  1. “Antiquity of Jainism.” Jainism. 2005.Ahimsa Foundation. 07 Oct. 2005.
  2. “Buddhism in India.” 2005. United Buddhist Mission. 07 Oct. 2005.
  3. “History of Buddhism.” Buddhism. 03 Oct. 2005. Wikimedia. 07 Oct. 2005.
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  8. “Buddhism in India.” 2005. United Buddhist Mission. 07 Oct. 2005.
  9. “History of Buddhism.” Buddhism. 03 Oct. 2005. Wikimedia. 07 Oct. 2005.
  10. “Information on India-religions in India.” Jainism. 2004. Arahon Daniel. 07 Oct.
  11. “Jainism.” 05 Oct. 2005. Wikimedia. 07 Oct. 2005.
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