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Jainism and Buddhism: A Comparative Study Essay

This paper throws an insight into the origin and development of Jainism and Buddhism. Buddhism originated in 550 B. C with Gauthama Buddha as its founder. More or less the same time around 550 BC, Jainism with similar thoughts and beliefs was already developing in the same part of the sub continent. Buddhism and Jainism have similarities as well as differences between them. Jainism stands on its principles of non-violence to attain salvation. The aim of Buddhism is to attain Nirvana by freeing oneself from ego, desire and frustration, ambition and disappointment, pride and humiliation.

Buddhism later divided into many sects of which Mahayana and Therava are more popular. Jainism flourished only within India. Chapter 1: Introduction to the Study About 2500 years before, Hinduism backed by Aryan and vedic cult, with Braministic stronghold was growing as a single largest religion. There emerged Buddhism and Jainism as a reaction to the Brahmanical Hinduism (Claus, Diamond, & Mills 476). Jainism was propagated by Lord Mahavira in 500 BC, about a few decades before Buddhism was founded in the year 550 BC. There is no official information on the existence of any early Buddhas as it is heard off the records.

Indeed, Mahavira is considered as the last Tirthankara or pathfinder of Jainism. Both Buddha and Mahavira became discontented with life and began their quest for salvation. Their fruitful experience is what Buddhism and Jainism that attracted people of similar interests who were not socially respected very much by the vedic cult. Nirvana for a common man and monks in Buddhism and Jainism was dangling in front of their followers. Since Jainism was an early contemporary of Buddhism, many practices and beliefs found its way into Buddhism.

They both grew without any rivalry against each other in the native land of India as far as they could refine and develop to withstand any challenges. However, Jainism did not like Buddhism for it totally remained cut off from Hinduism. Hinduism is a composite of various beliefs and movements over a long stretch of time in the history. Though Jainism did not talk about supreme Gods, the classical Jainism is very much in the likelihood of loving Hindu Gods like Rama, etc. Non-violence and vegetarianism were morals of Jainism that influenced many sects of other religions like Hinduism.

Quiet a lot of similarities between Buddhism and Jainism were found though some major differences exited as they branched out as independent religions in pursuit of salvation. Statement of the Problem Jainism and Buddhism are two different religions from the same sub-continent of India and emerged during the same period. Obviously there are similarities between the two religions. They both believed in karma, rebirth, nirvana, etc. But it is interesting to notice the subtle differences that give a different identity in their approach to salvation. Buddhism at a later stage divided into Mahayana and Teravada.

It is interesting to notice how closer is Jainism to the Buddhist sects. Research Questions To meet the goals and purpose of this study, four research questions were explored: 1. What is the origin of Jainism and Buddhism? What are the common foundations they both share? 2. What are the similarities and differences between Jainism and Buddhism? What are their respective focuses and goals? 3. What perspectives and practices do Jains and Buddhists share? In what important ways do these traditions differ? 4. Is Jainism closer to Theravada or Mahayana Buddhism? Significance of the Study

Jainism and Buddhism originated in the same country. Today Buddhism is spread all over the world and completely wiped out of its native land. Jainism grew only in India and the Jain monk’s spread all over the country. Jainism was an early contemporary of Buddhism and so some of the practices of Jainism is seen in Buddhism. However there are differences in their approach salvation. This research paper gives basics information about the origin of Jainism and Buddhism. The similarities and differences between Jainism and Buddhism help us know how they were close to each other. Definition of Terms 1.

Jainism – A religion and philosophy that originated in India. 2. Buddhism – A religion found by Buddha which preaches people to attain Nirvana. 3. Nirvana – The beatitude that transcends the cycle of reincarnation by extinction of desire. 4. Bodhisattvas – Buddhist worthy of nirvana who postpones it to help others. 5. Tirthankaras – Jain preceptors who have found the way to divinity; there are 24 tirthankaras, the last of whom was Mahavira. 6. Arhats – a Buddhist who has attained nirvana. 7. Enlightenment – Knowledge attained by Buddha in his conscious state of mind. Chapter 2: Review of Related Literature

Buddhism emerged in Bihar, the eastern part of India in 560 BC. More or less the same time around 550 BC, Jainism with similar thoughts and beliefs was already developing in the same part of the sub continent. Jainism is as old as Buddhism. A noteworthy similarity between Buddhism and Jainism is that they both rejected the Hindu caste system because it increased human suffering according to them and they strongly disagreed to the notion of Brahman and self or atman (Solomon & Higgins 18). Though Buddhism and Jainism were contemporary religion, the Buddhists texts called ‘Lord Mahavira’ an enlightened being (Seshiengar 55).

Originated in the same country, Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism for the most part were not proselytizing or competitive at least until some divisive forces in the form of Europeans and Islam entered India. Myths philosophies of Hinduism coexisted with Buddhism and Jainism (Solomon & Higgins 18). All the three religions Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism believed in karma and rebirth. According to some traditions, karma doctrine is non-transactional, involving no transfer of merit: a person’s fortune, good or bad, is earned by oneself, not by another.

However, in many traditions except Jainism, the possibility of merit transfer through ritual transactions is admitted in theory. The popular Jainism seems to admit this in practice (Claus, Diamond & Mills 323). Most importantly, both Buddhism and Jainism pay special attention to the nature of suffering and liberation from it. In Jainism, “Do no harm” means absolute respect for life even to the extent of not crushing the insects or even avoiding accidental inhalation of them flying in the air. Vegetarian diets are maintained by the majority of Hindu and Jain families.

Many Buddhists are also vegetarian, though unlike the Jains, some eat eggs. Jains believe that the soul exists even in microscopic forms of life and so they are particularly attentive to rules governing diet. Other Jain food customs include boiling and straining drinking water and eating before sunset (Claus, Diamond & Mills 224). According to Buddhism existence is unhappiness (Seshiengar 61). How can one free from selfish desires? The four Noble Truths: 1. Life is suffering. 2. Suffering arises from selfish craving. 3. Selfish craving can be eliminated. 4.

One can eliminate selfish craving by following the right way. assure the individual that fetters of desires can be broken by following what Buddha called the Eight-fold path. This is the road to Nirvana (Seshiengar 61). The aim of Buddhism is to attain Nirvana by freeing oneself from ego, desire and frustration, ambition and disappointment, pride and humiliation (Solomon & Higgins 19). Like Buddhists, Jains too do not accept the authority of Vedas. Nor do the Jains give importance to probe the existence of an Almighty. The original Jainism had no teachings on the existence of God.

The only supernatural beings are the Tirthankaras who are good men made perfect. (Martin 222). Western scholars like Herbert Stroup, considers Buddhism as atheist rather than theist because Buddhism in its original form had no belief in God. Theravada Buddhism especially represents the basic teachings of the Buddha without any belief in God or divine absolute (Martin 225). For Jains, God is something more than the total cosmic energy. Mahavira did not deny the existence of God. To secure freedom from Karma, he did not speak about God.

Jains have great devotions to their Tirthankaras akin to hero worship. They respect life more than the Buddhists. A Buddhist may not kill or injure any creature himself but he may buy meat from a butcher. But a Jain has to be a strict vegetarian and cannot be a party to taking away life either directly or indirectly as a measure of adherence to non-violence (Rebello 24). Jainism believed that both material and living being have a soul which needs purification. In other words, like Hindus, Jains believed in transmigration of souls. Buddhists believe that only living beings have soul.

To achieve purification and get liberated from rebirths, Jains followed rigid rule of conduct which involves non-violence, vegetarianism, speaking truth, showing love on other beings, strict observance of diet and many more. The Digambara Jains are more puritanical and discard even their clothing so that they may become Nirgranthins – attaining salvation. The Swethmbras are a little more catholic (Seshiengar 56). Buddha too like Mahavira believed in certain basic concepts of Hinduism. He believed in transmigration of souls and concept of karma. According to him, the aim of one’s life is to attain Nirvana.

He did not accept the authority of Vedas like Mahavira. He totally disagreed in caste system (Seshiengar 59). According to Gombrich, the root of both the Buddhism and Jainism differs because Buddha reacted against both the ritualistic exclusivism of Brahman religion and the extreme asceticism practiced by followers of Jainism (cited in Barnard & Spencer 80). There is no doubt that Buddhism established as a world religion. But Jainism disagrees among religious scholars that Buddhism is atheistic (Martin 224). Jainism did not like Buddhism because it totally remained cut off from Hinduism.

Whereas Jainism always employed Brahman as its domestic priests who officiated at their birth rights and often acted as officials in their death and marriage ceremonies. Jainism had a place for the Hindu Gods like Rama and Krishna in their temples unlike Buddhism that treated Hindu Gods as inferior to Buddha. Jainism served a good purpose. Laity was made integral part of the community in Jainism. The general attitude of the Buddhists towards Jainism was one of disdain for their insistence on the practice of asceticism as a means to enlightenment and in the medieval period.

Still, many Jain practices infiltrated into early Buddhism (Paul 240). The Jains did not have any accurate understanding of Buddhist ideas about the important question of karma. The classical Jainism refused to credit the Buddha with any authority because his knowledge was only partial (Paul 241). The most prevalent Jain view of the Buddhists was that their monastic life, which was less strict in matters which the Jains considered to be important such as diet and austerities showed them to be lax and corrupt (Paul 241).

There are stories of Buddhists falsely converting to Jainism to contract marriages with pious Jain girls, seeking revenge upon those who have genuinely converted and generally fomenting trouble against the Jain community. (Paul 242). Jainism did not undergo any major divisions like Buddhism which got divided into Mahayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism. Theravada is the old form of Buddhism that sticks to the original teachings of Buddha. It is followed in countries like Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, etc. The purpose of Theravadas is to become an arhat, a perfect saint who has achieved nirvana and will not be reborn again.

It is more philosophical than religious. Mahayana Buddhism emerged in the first century BC as a more liberal form of Buddhism. They hope to become not arhats but bodhisattvas, the saints who have become enlightened but delay nirvana to help others attain it as well, as the Buddha did. Unlike in Teravadas, anyone in a single lifetime can achieve enlightenment in Mahayana. Mahayana Budhism has a worldwide appeal spread in Nepal, Tibet, China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan and so has been tuned to the culture of various sects. But Jainism did not go out of India to adopt anything different from its strict fundamental beliefs I non-violence.

There is a mismatch in similarities between the new forms of Buddhism and Jainism. Howerer, Haribhadra has his views on the similarities between Buddhism and Jainism, for example, he suggests that the Jain who has attained correct belief and the Boddhisattva, were from Mahayana Buddhism regarded as exemplifying the main Buddhist ethical values, were essentially the same, since both are characterized by willingness to do good to others (Paul 242). The Buddhist shrines in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka are developed around relics of the Buddha’s body, whereas the Jain pilgrimages do not have any reverence for any physical remains.

Chapter 3: Methodology This study examines the birth of Jainism and Buddhism in the sub-continent. Both Jainism and Buddhism are contemporary religions with basic similarities and subtle differences in the process of achieving their goals. Books written by Seshiengar and Rebello are useful resources from the sub-continent to know a few interesting things about Budhism and Jainism. Buddhism is a religion that flourished in India and later disappeared from its native land whereas Jainism has persistently renewed itself by confronting and rearticulating its past (Paul 246). Conclusion

In the fifth century BC, Buddhism and Jainism emerged as a reaction to the Brahmanical Hinduism. The founder of Buddhism, Buddha meaning ‘enlightened’ and the founder of Jaminism meaning ‘conqueror’ have their own religion established which stands even today (Claus, Diamond & Mills 476). Both the religions contributed significantly to the others especially to Hinduism. During times of persecution, Jainism simply took refuge in Hinduism and to conquerors, it appeared as only a part of the greater system, Hinduism (Rebello 25). Jainism had very good scholars who had the ability to reason.

This helped Jainism in the process of refinement. Buddhism is rich in countries like Japan, Korea, Thailand, etc. Works Cited Barnard, Alan & Spencer Jonathan. Hinduism and Buddhism: An Historical Sketch. London: Taylor & Francis, 1996. 658pp. Claus, Peter J. & Diamond, Sarah, & Mills, Margaret Ann. South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia : Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. London: Taylor & Francis, 2003. 710pp. Dundas, Paul. The Jains. New York: Routledge, 2002. 354pp. Martin, Michael. The Cambridge companion to atheism.

London: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 331pp. Rebello, I. Indian Culture and Civilization. Bangalore: Prakasha Sahitya, 1978. 238pp. Seshiengar, A. Studies in Indian Culture. Bangalore: Sri Rama, 1973. Solomon, Robert C. & Higgins, Kathleen M. A Passion for Wisdom: A Very Brief History of Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press US, 1999. 137pp. Mahayana. Encyclop? dia Britannica Premium Service, 2004. 19 April 2009 http://www. religionfacts. com/buddhism/sects/mahayana. htm Buddhist Sects Home. 19 April 2009 http://www. religionfacts. com/buddhism/sects/theravada. htm


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