Origin of Jainism and Buddhism

Origin of Jainism and Buddhism


Jainism is based on the teachings of Mahavira. According to the Jain text Jainism has always existed and will always exist. Mahavira was the 24th tirthankara of Jainism. Jainism principally aims at the attainment of freedom from worldly bonds. No ritual is necessary for such liberation. It can be obtained through right knowledge, right faith and right action. Jainism prohibited the practice of war and even agriculture for his followers because both involve the killing of living beings. Eventually followers of Jainism confined themselves to trade and commerce.


Buddhism is based on the teaching of Gautam Buddha. The primary goal of Buddhism is to seek and accumulate merit through good deeds in order to gain better rebirths rather than nirvana. Gautam Buddha founded Buddhism.
Gautham Buddha recommended the eightfold path for elimination of human misery. It comprised right observation, right determination, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right awareness and right concern. If a person follows this eightfold path, he would free himself from the machinations of priests, and would reach his destination.

Rise of Jainism and Buddhism

Post Vedic society was divided in four varnas namely Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. Each varna was assigned to a specific task.

  1. Brahmin – Brahmins acquired the highest status in society, They are responsible for performing religious ceremonies, study and teach Vedas.
  2. Kshatriya – Kshatriyas are next in status, They are responsible for governing and protecting their kingdoms.
  3. Vaishya – Vaishya are mainly involved in agriculture, cattle rearing and trade. They are also principle tax- payers.
  4. Shudra – Shudra were lowest in the caste system, They mainly worked as slaves to serve the three higher varnas. Many times some of them even treated as untouchables. Their lives are very difficult in varna system.

All varnas and their works are define by their birth not by their liking and expertise. This created a great dissatisfaction in society, especially to Shudra and Vaishya. They were in search of the religion that would improve their position in society. Also the Kshatriya who were working as ruler started protest movement against Brahmins and importance attached to birth in varna system. Vardhamana Mahavira, founder of Jainism and Gautam Buddha, founder of Buddhism both were from the Kshatriya clan.

Another reason for raise of the new religions was development of agriculture in north-east India. North – East India was blessed with good rains, and there were many thick forests there. But after the invention of iron weapon and tools, forest areas where cleared and lands started to use as agriculture lands. With the development of agriculture, many large cities arose. Which give a importance to artisans and traders. They first time started to use coins which naturally facilitated trade and commerce and that added importance to Vaishyas. In varna system Vaishyas where ranked third after Brahmin and Kshatriya so they naturally wanted region which can give them importance. Mahavira and Gautam Buddha both were in support of nonviolence, which can put end to wars between two kingdoms and promote trade and commerce, again beneficial to Vaishya.

Jainism made the first serious attempt to mitigate the evils of the varna order and the ritualistic Vedic religion. The early Jains discarded the Sanskrit language principally patronized by brahmins. They adopted instead Prakrit, the language of common people to teach their doctrines.

Early Buddhism was not involved in the claptrap of philosophical discussion. It appealed to the common people and particularly won the support of the lower orders because it attacked varna system. Buddhist accepted people without any consideration of caste and gender. In comparison with Brahmanism, Buddhism was liberal and democratic. Buddhist also used Pali, a form of Prakrit to spread Buddhist doctrines among common people.

Society was angry at existing varna order and ritualistic practices, this dissatisfaction gave a birth to new religion. Jainism and Buddhism both gave no importance to Brahmins, they both treated women equally as man and used local languages to spread their teachings, So the people suffering with inequality in society, quickly started to follow new religion.

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