Nov 16, 2010

A comparative study in Jainism and Buddhism

Buddhist Era 2550 Binara Full Moon - Thursday September 07, 2006
by Rohan Jayetilleke

In the Vedic Society in which Buddha was born in India, there were four stages of the life of the individual, namely, Brahmacharya (stu-dent period), Gruhasta (Householder), Vanapravastha (Renunciation of household life) and Sannasi (Wandering ascetic). The last two
stages, which were the norms of society was in search of Moksha or liberation from the recurring birth and death and reunion with Brahma, the Creator God. The Vedic scripture that dealt with the entire life cycle were the Four Vedas Rig, Yajur, Sama and Tharva.
These Vedic codes of discipline were rooted in various forms of rituals, tantric rites, black magic, use and display of psychic powers, divination, occult and esoteric practices of all kinds, which are included in the list of the forbidden practices in the Brahmajala Sutta discoursed by the Buddha.
These various concepts and faiths in India at the time approximated to around 300 and were based on scriptural authoritarianism (Vedapramanayam), belief in a Creator-god (Katruvada), Soul Theory (Atmavada), Holy did (Snane-dharmeccha and self mortification to overcome evil (Santaparambha papahanaya). Jainism, which was 20 years senior to contemporary Buddhism, during the time of the Buddha in India in the sixth century B.C., hinged on soul-theory and self mortification and extreme Ahimsa (non-violence). Buddharejected the soul-theory and self mortification and his doctrine of ahimsa was primarily based on mental states than on bodily action, through developing the sublime states of mind (Brahma Vihara) of metta (loving kindness), Karuna (compassion), muditha (blissful joy) and upekkha (equanimity). These mental states and the intellectual comprehension of the Four Noble Truths and following the Noble Eight fold path, the devotee is able to erase from his mind the three main taints of lobha (attachment to animate and inanimate things), dosa (anger or enmity) and moha (ignorance). These too lead one to gain Sila (morality) panna (insight) and samadhi (meditative concentration of the mind without allowing the mind to proceed on a wanderlust.
It is imperative for a comparative study of the ultimate truth (parama sacca) expounded by the Buddha as against the conventional truths (sammutu sacca) of other contemporary Indian faiths, to delve into the concepts of Jainism. As regards the concept of God, Buddha elaborated gods are beings belonging to different divine planes of existence. Having acquired great spiritual merit (punna) they are born in these celestial planes and live enjoying an immense span of life.
Unless they keep on replenishing the merits, upon death they are reborn in lower planes, like that of human beings. Buddhism does not advocate beseeching for divine favours. However, Buddhists offer merit (anumodana) born of their good deeds, and wish for their protection against evil forces that affect their spiritual and worldly wellbeing. This is an offering based on mutual benefit.
Universal flux
The Vedic concept as well as Jainism, is inextricably bound up with the metaphysical first cause or a creator god, which constitute the Atman or soul. Buddha reject this soul-theory and in its place expostulated in the context of continuous creation and universal flux, everything phenomenal is a process. Everything arises, continues and passes away, based upon the synchronocity of a set of conditions. This impersonal function of the stream of psycho-physical phenomena, otherwise called the personality, is without a substratum or an underlying changeless substance. The Anatta (self or soul) doctrine of the Buddha is dynamic, impersonal and unsubstantial process. It is not mere absence of a self. Since self is only and assumption and not a reality, there is no question of its presence or absence according to Buddhism.
Jainism is essentially an Indian religion and it is still a living force in some parts of India with just over two million followers of whom the greatest majority are the richest sections of the country. It enjoyed royal patronage and its contribution to Indian art and architect are, to the preservation and promotion of Indian literature and to the cultivation of languages both Aryan and Dravidian are praiseworthy. The teachings of Jainism are antagonistic to Vedic religions. According to Jainism there have flourished 24 Thrianksras (for-crossers) or leaders of their faith. The first was Rishabha, the twenty-second Nemi or Neminatha, the twenty third Parusava and the last Mahavira (Niganthanatha Putra) who was a twenty-year senior contemporary of the Buddha.
Mahavira was born at Kundagram near Vaisali to the north of Patna in Bihar. He hailed from the Naya (Jnata) clan and thus he is called also Nattaputta in the Pali Canon of Buddhism. His father was Siddhartha, a ruler of the areas. His mother Trisala (Priyakarini) was of the royal family of the clan of Licchavis of the Vajjian confederacy of Vaisali. Mahavira is renounced worldly life at the age of 30 years and engaged in penances in search of knowledge. He had no teacher as such, for he had his immediate predecessor Parsavanatha as the guide through his teachings although he had passed away many centuries ago. Mahavira wandered around for 12 years engaging in rigorous penances and attained his goal, enlightenment, as recorded in Jainism.
His career was one of supreme detachment and was called Nirgrantha, one without ties, both internal and external. Mahavira advocated all living beings had a right to live and this sanctity of life became the fulcrum of his teachings. The followers included monks, nuns, householders and their women folk and built up a well-knit Sangha, or socio-religious organization. The nuns with the passage of time deviated from spirituality and misconduct was rampant. This was the main reason, like the Devadasis of Vedic shrines too degenerating similarly in behaviour Buddha was not readily inclined to set up a Bhikkhuni Sasana, which he did later on three entreaties of Ananda under certain conditions to govern the bhikkhuni conduct. He travelled around India Ganges Valley for 30 years and died at the age of 72 in 527 B.C. at Pava in Bihar. The death was celebrated with a lamp-festival by the two ruling families of the region, the Mallakis and the Licchavis. The present most popular annual festival of Hindus the world over Dipavali (Festival of Lights) is a continuation of this Jain Mahavira’s death celebrating lamp-festival.
Eminent teachers
In the wake of the death of Mahavihara, eminent teachers of Jainism such as Gautama, Jambu et al emerged, receiving royal patronage from kings such as Srenika Bimbisara of Magadha, Chandragupta Maurya, India’s first great emperor, Kharvel, the Kalinga (Orissa) conqueror and many others. Under the leadership of Bhadrabahu, Jainism spread to western and southern parts of India.
Subsequently difference in ascetic practices split the organization to two main section, the Digambara and Svetambara. However, basic dogmas remained constant. The ruling classes and more specially the mercantile sector were impressed by the ascetism of Jain monks, they adopted Jainism as a way of life. The Jain followers of the mercantile sector were so financially stable that even during the East India Company days they were the noted bankers. Jainism does not invest in any particular language and treat language only as a means to an end. Unlike Pali in Theravada Buddhism and Sanskrit in Mahayana Buddhism Jainism has no doctrinal language as such.
Mahavira preached in Ardhamagadhi, a mix of contemporary of Prakrit. Jain authors used Sanskrit for polemic and literary works according to the needs of the occasion. They contributed to the growth of languages such as Apabhramsa, Old Hindi, Old Gujarati etc. Jain authors were the pioneers in cultivating Tamil and Kannada languages. Jain literature is not entirely religious and has a wide spectrum of secular branches learning including mathematics and astronomy.
Jainism commences with two principles, the living (jiva) and non-living (ajiva). The living is already in contact with the non-living from beginningless times. This contact results in living beings on account of thoughts, words and acts to the influx (asrava) of fresh energies known as karmas, which are conceived a subtle matter. This influx is to be counteracted (samvara) by rigorous penances. The salvation (Moksha) is thus attained.
The Soul and Non-soul (jiva and ajiva) are the basic principles which comprise all that exists in the universe. The soul is characterised according to Jainism, by sentiency or consciousness, but in its embodied state has sense organs, acts of mind, speech, body, respiration and period of life. Further, Jainism advocates souls are infinite in not retaining their individuality and cannot be destroyed or merged into any other supreme being, thus denying a creator god. Living can exist in two states librated siddha or mukta and worldly (samsara).
The latter is classified as mobile (trasa) and immobile (sthavara) and still a third state of nigoda beings. The nigoda are host-souls and present all over the world. They form the lowest stratum as against the higher state of the liberated ones.

Jainism asserts that the soul is in a process of transmigration and led by kammas. In contrast, Buddha says positively, “Without cognizable beginning is this samsara cycle of births, deaths and rebirths.
The earliest point of beings, who are obstructed by ignorance (Moha) and fettered by craving (tanha) wander and fare on, is not to be perceived. Samsara, literally, means recurrent wandering; Atthasalini describes Samsaras thus; “Khandhanam patpati datuayatanam ca abbhochinam vattamana samsara, ti pavuccat.” Samsara is the unbroken succession of aggregates, elements, and the sensebases. This life stream continues ad infinitum, as long as it is fed by muddy waters of ignorance and raving. When these too are completely served, rebirth ends, as in the case of Buddhas and Arahants.
As regards kamma, Buddha says, ‘All living beings have kamma as their own’ (Majjhima Nikaya). Kamma is the law of moral causation.
Rebirth its corollary. Both kamma and rebirth are inter-related. Buddha asserts emphatically that kamma is not the main and only cause. According to Buddhism there are five processes or norms (niyamas) which operate in the physical and mental realism.
They are utu niyama, physical organic order e.g. seasonal phenomena or winds and rains, in the unerring order of seasons. Bija niyama the order of germs and seeds (physical organic order) The scientific theory of cells and genes and the physical similarity of twins and even
the traits of persons of the same parentage could be attributed to this. If a person’s father, is alcoholic, ill-manner, non-socialised, repugnant to others, refers to others in disparaging language, always irritant, non-listening to others, ever quarrelsome and never show any symptoms even of kindness and benevolence to others, even if the children are professionally trained in any field, genetically these malevolent traits will be ever in them and such persons after death, will never have the chance to be reborn as human beings, even if they do they would be targets of vilification and physical debilities. Kamma niyama the order of act and result e.g. desirable and undesirable acts produce corresponding good or bad results. The inherent kamma is also the continuity principle. Infant prodigies and wonderful children, who speak different languages without ever receiving any instructions, are noteworthy examples of the continuity principle. Dhammaniyama, the order of the norm, e.g. the natural phenomena occurring at the birth of a Bodhisatta in his last birth. Gravitation and other similar laws of nature, the reason for being good etc., come under this group. Citta niyama, the order of the mind of psychic law e.g. processes of consciousness, constituents of consciousness, power of mind including telepathy, telaesthesia, recognition, premonition, clairvoyance, calsi-audience, thought - reading and similar psychic phenomena come under this group and are inexplicable by science, other than by a Buddha. Thus kamma is only one factor and not the pivotal role of birth, death ad rebirth as explained in Jainism.
The followers of Jainism, Niganthas were at Anuradhapura in the 6th century BC, during the reign of Pandukabhaya, namely Jothiya, Giri and Kumbhanda. Pandukabhaya built a house for Nigantha Jotiya eastward of the Lower Cemetery at Anuradhapura (nica susana). The Nigantha named Giri also lived in the same locality.
Pandukabhaya is reported to have erected a devakula (chapel) for Kumbhandha Nigantha, and it was known after the name of this Nigantha (Mahavamsa). The Nigantha monasteries (assamapadani) of these three niganthas were in existence even during the time of king Devanmpiya Tissa and they were included within the boundaries of Mahasima, when Arahant Mahinda decided on the boundaries of the holy city of Buddhism Anuradhapura. (Mahabodhivamsa p.84).
Thus it could be asserted that king Devanmpiya Tissa, prior to being a Buddhist was a follower of Jainism.
The Mahavamsa - Tika says king Khallatana (50-43 BC) had three nephews named Tissa, Abhaya and Uttara who plotted against the king, jumped into the fire at this monastery and committed suicide Mahavamsa Tika says that the pyre was made at the spot where Abhayagiri Vihara stands today. The next king Vattagamani – Abhaya (43 BC) demolished this monastery and built Abhayagiri on the spot.
We hear no more of Jain monasteries thereafter and no archaeological remains too have been discovered. The Jain monasteries with the advent of Buddhism would have been converted to Buddhist Viharas, as was the case with Giri Monastery at Anuradhapura Vide Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (Colombo Branch) Vol XXII, No. 82 and Lewis Rice, Mysore and Coorgy p.3 ff).
Emperor Asoka’s Pillar Edict VII (of 44 lines) Delhi Topra Pillar in line 25 says, “Some Mahamatras were ordered by me to busy themselves with the affairs of the Sangha; likewise others were ordered by me to busy themselves also with the brahamanas and Ajivakas, others to busy themselves also with Nirgranthas.”

The writer is a member of the Bharathiya Kala Kendra of India.

Further Reading:
Future of Buddhism in India

Emperor Ashok and Jainism
Future of Jainism in India

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