Jainism and Buddhism are the offshoots of their common mother, Hinduism. With their origin set in India, both the religions draw greatly from Hindu concept and thoughts. Although very similar to each other, the two religions have significant differences. Let’s dig their common ancestral roots.
Gautam Buddha, also Buddha Shakyamuni was born in the royal Kshatriya family of Shakya at Lumbini, near Kapil Vastu. The area comes in the present border between India and Nepal. At the age of 35, he attained enlightenment after 49 days of meditation near Bodh Gaya and became Buddha. Throughout the years in between 532 and 487 B.C., he standardized the elementary principles of his thinking, which later came to be well known as “Buddhism.”
Vardhmana Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, too was born in a royal family in Vaishali, an ancient city in Bihar. At the age of 30, he left his home and after wandering for almost 12 years, he attained supreme knowledge at the age of 42. This valuable epoch of his religious life can be placed in between 497 and 467 BC. However, Jainism claims to be much older than this time. Jains estimate that there were 23 tirthankara (teachers) before Vardhaman and that he was the very last tirthankara. Jains have a prosperous custom of tales woven around their 24 tirthankaras.
Characteristics and Principles
Buddhism revolves around the principles of good conduct and doesn’t acknowledge the existence of a supreme deity. In Buddhism, the only way to reach the peak of salvation/nirvana, i.e. permanent liberty from the birth and death cycle is by following a set of ethical and moral principles. It does not acknowledge the principles of the Hindu social order i.e. jati and varna system or maintain the system of animal sacrifice.
Jainism also contains several elements that are similar to Buddhism. It defends the practice of non violence- ahimsa, which is its main philosophy. Jainism believes that every individual’s soul is eternal and so gives a lot of value to follow practices such as fasting which ‘cleans’ human beings.
Kings and Kingdoms
During the reign of Emperor Ashoka (273-236), the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, Buddhism, obtained a leading position in India. Under Ashoka’s support, Buddhism not only spread all over India but also far outside of its borders. With the supremacy and spread of Buddhism Jainism lost its grip in eastern India, but found refuge in the western and southern India.
The Nanda Kings and then, the first Mauryan King, Chandragupta Maurya (321-296) brought impetus to Jainism. During Chandragupta’s rule, Jainism started spreading all over India. However, its extension was marked by the materialization of two sects, that is Digambara, where followers remained sky-clad (i.e. naked), and Svetambara, where they wore white robes.
Although the origins of both religions, Buddhism and Jainism are identical, their growth and expansion have a different tale to tell. Buddha is considered an avatar of Vishnu and Buddhism got state patronage. Emperor Ashoka played a vital role in spreading the religion. On the contrary, Jainism could never get state patronage. The strict religion, therefore appealed to less, but you will find that Jains, if not in the world, are spread all over India in small groups.
By Deepti Verma
Image Source: By Myself (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons, By Art from 17th c manuscript [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, By McKay Savage from London, UK [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons