Buddhism and Jainism Notes
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Buddhism and Jainism Notes

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Buddhism and Jainism Notes

Buddhism and Jainism are very important topics as far as the Ancient History of India are concerned. All the State Public Civil Services exams like UPPSC, RAS, HCS, etc, ask questions based on these topics. As far as UPSC Civil Services Exam is concerned, Buddhism and Jainism are among their favorite topics. So, it becomes very important for the aspirants to have a command over these. Students must have in-depth knowledge about Buddhism and Jainism. Keeping in mind the importance of these topics, we have prepared important notes covering all the facts and aspects of Buddhism and Jainism.

  • During the second half of the 6th century, B.C. several sects arose in Gangetic plains.
  • It is said that about 62 religions existed in that period.
  • Most of these were based on regional customs and rituals.
  • Jainism and Buddhism were the most important among them and emerged as the most potent religious reform movements.

Buddhism and Jainism Notes

Causes of Religious Movement

Domination of priestly class

  • Brahmans claimed the highest status in society. They demanded several privileges, including those of receiving gifts and exemption from taxation and punishment.
  • All the other three Varnas never liked the Brahman’s domination. But it was Kshatriyas who reacted strongly against the ritualistic domination of the Brahmans.
  • Mahavira, founder of Jainism, and Gautam Buddha, founder of Buddhism belonged to the Kshatriya clan and both disputed the authority of the Brahmanas.

Loss of cattle wealth

  • In the 6th century B.C. the use of the iron axes enabled people to clear the forest and a new agriculture economy based on the use of plowshare.
  • But the use of iron plowshare required the use of bullocks and cattle. Without animal husbandry, agriculture could not flourish.
  • As most of the cattle and bullocks were sacrificed in rituals, peasants were not able to produce a surplus.
  • There was resentment in the agricultural class against rituals and the priestly class.
  • Buddhism and Jainism were according to their aspirations and also they condemned the rituals and sacrifices.

Vaishya class wanted improvement in their status

  • In the eastern part of India, several cities started emerging.
  • For example Kaushambi, Kushinagar, Banaras, Vaishali, Chirand, and Rajgir. 
  • Traders and artisans started emerging from these cities and also started using coins during the 5th century B.C. They were the earliest coins and are called Punch marked coins.
  • Because of the trading, the importance of Vaishya increased.
  • They now wanted to improve their positions and started looking for a new religion that could do this.

Return to primitive life

  • The old people didn’t like the accumulation of coins (made of gold, silver, etc.), new dwellings and dresses, a new system of transport, war, and violence.
  • The new forms of property created social inequalities and caused misery and suffering to the masses.
  • So, the common people wanted to go back to their simple life. And this opportunity was provided to them by Jainism and Buddhism.
  • The philosophy of Jainism and Buddhism allowed only that much which was sufficient for living.

Other reasons

  • The Vedic philosophy had lost its original purity
  • The Vedic religion had become very complex and had degenerated into superstitions, dogmas, and rituals.

Read also: Important MCQs on Buddhism


Gautama Buddha’s life

    • Also known as Siddhartha.
    • Contemporary of Mahavira.
    • Born: 563 B.C.
    • Birthplace: Lumbini (Rupandehi district, Nepal
    • Kshatriya family: Shakya clan
    • Father: Suddhodana (probably elected ruler of Kapilvastu)
    • Mother: Mahamaya (a princess from the Koshalan dynasty). She was the birth mother while Gautami was the one who brought him up.
    • Buddha from childhood showed a meditative bent mind.
    • Married to: Yashodhara (Princess of Shakya dynasty) from whom he had a son Rahul.
  • First teacher: Alara Kalama (Sankhya philosophy) from whom he learned the technique of meditation.
  • His next teacher was Udraka Ramputra.
  • Kanthaka: Buddha's horse
  • Channa: Buddha’s Charioteer
  • Devadatta: Buddha’s cousin
  • Sujata: the farmer’s daughter who gave him rice milk at Bodh Gaya 
  • Other names of Buddha: Gautama (clan name), Siddhartha (Childhood name), Shakyamuni

Buddhist Literature

Pali texts:

Tripitaka's (literally – three baskets): These are the three major texts on Buddhism.

  • Vinaya Pitaka: rules of monasteries
  • Sutta Pitaka: Teachings of Buddha
  • Abhidhamma Pitaka: Religious discourse of Buddha.

Sanskrit texts:

  • Buddha Charita, Saundarananda, Sutralankar, Sariputra Prakarana and Vajra Suchi: Ashvaghosha
  • Mahavibhasa Shastra- Vasumitra
  • Madhyamika Karika and Prajnaparamita Karika: Nagarjuna etc.

Buddha’s Life

Stories of Buddha’s Early Life:

  • Four sights of Buddha: Old man, Sick man, Dead body, A monk
  • These sites made him realize that there are sorrows in the world. And he wanted to find the solution for these.
  • At 29, he left his house with a charioteer and a horse. The act of leaving the house is called ‘Mahabhinishkramana’.
  • He met four Brahmins and meditated with them.
  • Later, at the age of 35, he sat under a ‘Peepal’ tree at Uruvela (Bodhgaya) on the bank of river Niranjana (modern name Falgu).
  • After a period of 49 days, Siddhartha got enlightenment and became ‘Buddha’ i.e. the enlightened. 
  • This is called the state of Nirvana in Buddhism.
  • He then went to Sarnath and gave his first sermon to Channa and the four Brahmans. They became his first disciples.
  • Ananda and Upali were two of his closest disciples.
  • The first sermon at Sarnath is called ‘Dharma Chakra Pravartan’ i.e. setting the wheel in motion.
  • In 483 BC, at the age of 80, he attained ‘Mahaparinirvan’ i.e. died at Kushinagar Dist. Of Eastern UP.

Read also: 50 Most Important MCQs on Vedic Period

Doctrine of Buddhism

Chatwari Arya Satyani (four noble truths)

  • Life is full of sorrow (Dukkha): Sabbam Dukham
  • There are causes of Sorrow (Dukkha Samudaya): Dwadash Nindan/ Pratitya Samutpada
  • This sorrow can be stopped (Dukkha Nirodha): Nirvana
  • There is a path leading to the cessation of sorrow (Dukkha Nirodha Gamini Pratipada): Ashtangika Marga

The eightfold path is:

  • Right Observation
  • Right Determination
  • Right Speech
  • Right Action
  • Right Livelihood
  • Right Exercise
  • Right Memory
  • Right Meditation

Three Jewels of Buddhism: 

  • Buddha (the enlightened)
  • Dharma (doctrine)
  • Sangha (Commune)

Famous Buddhist Councils

1st Council

  • Period: 483 BC- just after the death of Buddha.
  • Place –  Saptaparni cave, Rajgriha
  • Presided by Mahakasappa
  • Patron: Ajatashatru (Haryanka dynasty)
  • Result: Compilation of Sutta- Pitaka and Vinaya Pitaka by Ananda and Upali respectively.

2nd Council

  • Period: 383 BC
  • Place: Vaishali
  • Presided by Shatakhambri
  • Patron: Kalashoka (Shishunaga dynasty)
  • Result: The monks of Vaishali wanted some change in rites.

3rd Council

  • Period: 250 BC
  • Place: Ashoka Rama vihar, Patliputra
  • Presided by Moggaliputta Tissa
  • Patron: Ashoka (Maurya dynasty)
  • Result: Compilation of Abhidhamma Pitaka, Decision to send missionaries to various parts of the world.

4th Council

  • Period: 1st Century AD
  • Place: Kundala Vana, Kashmir
  • Presided by Vasumitra and Ashvaghosha
  • Patron: Kanishka (Kushana Dynasty)
  • Result: Buddhism got divided into two sects: Hinayana and Mahayana

Sects of Buddhism

Hinayana (lower vehicle) 

  • Followers believed in the original teachings of Buddha.
  • They sought individual salvation through self-discipline and meditation
  • They did not believe in idol worship
  • They favored the Pali language
  • Centered around acts of Buddha.
  • It is known as a “Southern Buddhist religion” because it prevailed in Southern parts (Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Java, etc).
  • There were two subjects of Hinayana: Vaibhasika and Sautantrika

Mahayana (Higher vehicle)

  • Followers believed in the heavenliness of Buddha.
  • They sought the salvation of all through the grace and help of Buddha and Bodhisattva
  • They believed in idol worship
  • They favored the Sanskrit language
  • centered around the Symbolism of Buddha’s life and personality.
  • It is known as the “Northern Buddhist region” because prevailed in the north of India, e.g. China, Korea, Japan, etc.
  • Two sub-sects of Mahayana: Madhyamika / Sunyavada (founder- Nagarjuna), Yogachar/ Vijnanavada (Founder: Maitreyanath and his disciple).

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Influence of Buddhism

Buddhism became popular very quickly in India. Some of the reasons for its popularity are:

  • Asked for non-accumulation of wealth-creating lesser social inequalities
  • Asked for non-violence, peace, and stability
  • Had a simple philosophy, free from rituals.
  • Followed a balanced approach i.e. neither too harsh like Jainism and nor too mild like Ajivikas.
  • Tried to mitigate the evils resulting from the new material life in the 6th century B.C. by taking full account of the new changes in the material life.

Importance of Buddhism in India

  • Development of residential universities like Nalanda and Vikramshila in Bihar and Valabhi in Gujarat.
  • Development of rich literature in the Pali language.
  • Probably developed first human statue worshipping in India. It was of Buddha. (panels at – Gaya (Bihar), Sanchi and Bharhut (M.P.))
  • New kind of art by Greek and Indian sculptors on the northwest frontier of India: Gandhara Art.
  • Cave architecture (monk’s residence): Barabar hills in Gaya and at Nasik
  • Was open for all Varnas 
  • Open for all classes and gender – rich or poor, male or female.
  • Received a lot of Royal patronages. Kings built many Stupas and monasteries, sent ambassadorial monks.
  • Used the language of masses, Pali, unlike Sanskrit, which was the language of the elites.
  • The objective was to secure the salvation of the individual or nirvana.
  • Created and developed a new awareness in the field of intellect and culture (thinking with logic and rationality)

Decline of Buddhism

By the early 12th century A.D. it became extinct.


  • Lost its own identity: gradually the religion became more ritualistic and started practicing of Brahmanical and Vedic religion rituals .
  • Monks took the Sanskrit language.
  • From the first century AD, they practiced idol worship on a large scale and received numerous offerings from devotees.
  • Buddhist monasteries - dominated by ease-loving people and became centers of corrupt practices
  • Sangh lost way: There were cracks in the Sangh, there was no more discipline.
  • Revival and Reform of Brahmanism: Brahmanical religion was revived during the Gupta Period and the new Religion adopted many practices of Buddhism like vegetarianism etc.
  • Lack of Patronage: Palas were the last rulers who provided patronage to Buddhist monasteries.
  • Once the Brahmanical religion was revived, Buddhism lost its grip.
  • Many kings suppressed them with force. In the 7th Century, a Shaivite King ‘Shashank’ chopped the Bodh Gaya Peepal tree.

Great Events of Buddha’s Life

  • Buddha’s Birth: Lotus & Bull
  • Renunciation/Mahabhinishkramana: Horse
  • Nirvana/Enlightenment (Nirvana): Bodhi Tree
  • First Sermon/ Dharmachakra Pravartana: Wheel
  • Death (Maha Parinirvana): Stupa


  • Bodhisattva means one who has the essence of enlightenment.
  • Anyone who has a spontaneous wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all is a Bodhisattva.
  • It’s a very popular subject in Buddhist art.
  • A bodhisattva is bound to enlightenment and refers to all who are destined to become Buddhas in this life or another life.
  • There are celestial bodhisattvas which are manifestations of Gautam Buddha.


  • Vajrapani: like Indra, he holds a thunderbolt, foe of sin and evil
  • Avalokitesvara: the lord who looks down
  • Manjushri: Stimulator of understanding
  • Maitreya: The future Buddha
  • Kshitigriha: Guardian of purgatories
  • Amitabha/ Amitayusha: Buddha of heaven

Buddha Charita

  • Buddha Charita is an epic-style Sanskrit work by Ashvaghosha and was compiled in the second century BC.
  • Dharmaraksha, known to have translated many Buddhism works, translated this work in Chinese in 420 AD.
  • It mainly deals with Buddha’s Life.
  • Asvaghosa also wrote a Sanskrit Drama “Sariputra Prakarana” which deals with Sariputta or Sariputra the disciple of Buddha.
  • The Thanboddhay Pagoda in Myanmar has 582,357 Buddha statues.

The 3 tallest statues in the world are of Buddha

  • Spring Temple Buddha (Vairocana)- China
  • Laykyun Setkyar-Myanmar
  • Ushiku Daibutsu-Japan

Royal patrons of Buddhism

  • Bimbisara, Ajatashatru (Magadha ruler)
  • Prasenjit (Kosala ruler)
  • Udayan (Vatsa ruler)
  • Pradyota (Avanti ruler)
  • Ashoka and Dasharatha (Mauryan ruler)
  • Milinda/ Menander (Indo-greek ruler)
  • Kanishka (Kushana ruler)
  • Harshvardhan (Vardhana ruler)
  • Gopala, Dharampal, Rampala (Pala rulers)

Sacred Shrines of Buddhism

  • Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath, and Kushinagar, were four principal events of the Buddha’s life, namely Birth, enlightenment, First sermon, and death took place.
  • To these are added four places Sravasti, Rajagriha, Vaishali, and Sankasya- these eight places have all along been considered as the eight holy places.

Other centers of Buddhism

  • Amravati, Nagarjunakonda--Andhra Pradesh
  • Nalanda--Bihar
  • Junagadh and Vallabhi-- Gujarat
  • Sanchi and Bharhut--Madhya Pradesh
  • Ajanta- Ellora--Maharashtra
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  • According to Jain tradition, there were 24 Tirthankara / great teachers or leaders of their religion.
  • 1st Tirthankara – Rishabhadeva/ Adinatha (born in Ayodhya)
  • He laid foundations of orderly human society
  • Vishnu Purana and Bhagavad Purana describe Rishabhadeva as an incarnation of Narayana.
  • Historical records of only the last two Tirthankaras are found – Parsvnath (23rd) and Vardhaman Mahavir (24th)


  • Parsvnath was the 23rd Tirthankara. 
  • He was a prince of Benaras who abandoned the throne and led the life of a hermit and died at Sammet-Shikar/ Parshwanath hill, Giridih, Jharkhand.

His four main teachings were:

  • Ahimsa (non-injury)
  • Satya (non-lying)
  • Asteya (non-stealing)
  • Aparigraha (non-possession).
  • His followers were called Nirgrantha (Free from all bonds).

Mahavira’s Life

  • Born: 540 B.C.
  • Place: Kundagram (now Baso Kund) near Vaishali in Bihar.
  • Father: Siddhartha (head of Jnatrika Kshatriya clan under Vajji of Vaishali).
  • Mother: Trishala (sister of Lichchhavi chief Chetaka, whose daughter was wedded to Bimbisara)
  • Married to: Yashoda (daughter of Samarvira king)
  • Contemporary of Gautama Buddha.
  • Initially, he lived life in a household but at the age of 30, he abandoned his house in search of the truth and became an ascetic.
  • For the next 12 years, he meditated and practiced the austerities of life.

At the age of 42 years:

  • Attained the Supreme knowledge (Kaivalya) under a Sal tree in 498 BC at Jambikagrama on the bank of River Rijupalika (Jharkhand). 
  • Through Kaivalya, he conquered misery and happiness.
  • After that, he is known as  Mahavira (the brave), Kevalin (perfect husband), Jina/ Jitendriya (one who conquered his senses), Nirgrantha (free from all bonds), Arihant (Blessed one), or Jina i.e. the conqueror of senses, and his followers are known as Jainas.
    • Delivered his first sermon at Pava to his 11 disciples (known as 11 Gandharas/ Gandharvas).
    • Later he founded a Jain Sangha (Jain commune)at Pava.
    • Propagated this religion for 30 years Visited Kosala, Magadha, Mithila, Champa, etc.
    • Preached for the first time in the five hills of Nalanda-Vipulchak.
    • At the age of 72 (468 BC), he attained Nirvana (died) at Pavapuri (Nalanda).
  • Sudharma was the only one of 11 Gandharas who survived after the death of Mahavira.

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Doctrines of Jainism

Pancha Mahavratas i.e. Five vows  of Jainism:

  • Ahimsa (Non-Violence): Not to kill or harm any living creature. 
  • Asteya (Non-Stealing): Do not try to take what is not yours rightfully.
  • Aparigraha (Non-possession): This leads to a problem of haves and has not. It discouraged hoarding or keeping more than what is required.
  • Satya (Not lying): Not to give wrong information to others.
  • Brahmacharya (Chastity): This one is added by Mahavira.

Triratna i.e. three jewels of Jainism:

The aim of existence is to attain through the Triratna of

  • Samyak Shradha/ Viswas (Right faith): It is the belief in Tirthanakar.
  • Samyak Jnana (Right knowledge): It is the knowledge of the Jian creed.
  • Samyak Karma/ Acharana (Right action or conduct): It is the practice of the 5 vows of Jainism. 

Sects of Jainism

  • In 298 BC, there was a famine in Magadha (South Bihar) leading to a great exodus of many Jain monks to the Deccan and South India (Shravanabelagola) along with Bhardabahu and Chandragupta Maurya.
  • They returned after 12 years
  • The leader of the group, which stayed back at Magadha was Sthulibhadra.
  • When the Jains (Bhadrabahu and others) returned from south India, they held that complete nudity is an essential part of the teachings of Mahavira, while the monks in Magadha began to put on white clothes.

Thus arose the two sects Svetambaras (white-clad) and Digambaras (sky-lad).

  • Svetambaras (i.e. those who put on white robes)
  • Digambaras (i.e. those who were stark naked)

Types of Knowledge in Jainism

There are 5 types of knowledge:

  • Mati Jnana: Perception through the activity of sense organs, including the mind
  • Shruta Jnana: Knowledge revealed by scriptures
  • Avadhi Jnana: Clairvoyant perception
  • Manahparyaya Jnana: Telepathic Knowledge
  • Keval Jnana: Temporal knowledge

Syadvada i.e. the theory of maybe /perhaps:

  • All judgments are necessarily relative, conditional, and limited.
  • According to Syadvada, seven modes of prediction (Saptabhangi Nayavad) are possible.
  • Absolute affirmation and absolute negation both are wrong.
  • All judgments are conditional Syadvada is also known as Anekantavada. i.e. the theory of plurality of multi-sidedness.

Principles of Jainism as preached by Mahavira:

  • Rejected the authority of the Vedas and the Vedic rituals
  • Did not believe in the existence of God.
  • Believed in Karma and the transmigration of the soul
  • Laid great emphasis on equality.

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Philosophy of Jainism

  • The Creator: There is no creator. It does not believe in a supreme God. Tirthankaras are the highest authority.
  • The Universe: The universe is eternal. It has no beginning and no end and it is moving cyclically.

It moves in phases of Highs and Lows:

High phase-Avsarpini:

  • During this phase, people have a long life (200-300 years) and they are very tall (40-50 ft).

Low phase-Utsarpini:

  • During this phase, people have a shorter life span (15-20 years) and short height (2-3 feet)
  • The universe is composed of living and non-living elements.

The Soul: 

  • Soul exists in living and non-living elements.
  • Wherever there is a soul, there is suffering (Dukkha).
  • There are three types of elements: rocks and metals (One soul), Trees (two souls), and Animals/humans (three souls). 
  • It is prohibited to kill the elements which have three souls.
  • Afterlife: They believe in the afterlife and rebirth. 
  • One is trapped in the cycle of life. 
  • Till one doesn’t get free from Dukha, one cannot get Nirvana (freedom from the cycle of Death).

There are certain Dos and Don’ts to achieve this:

  • Dos – Live an Ascetic life, to give up clothes.
  • Don’ts – One should have no attachments.

Jainism and Varna System

  • Jainism recognized god’s existence but placed them lower than Jina.
  • Did not condemn the Varna system.
  • According to Mahavira a person born in higher or lower Varna depends on sins or virtues by him in his previous births.
  • According to him, lower castes can liberate themselves through pure and meritorious life.

The main aim of Jainism

  • Freedom from worldly bonds.
  • This can be achieved by three jewels or Triratna of Jainism and no rituals are required.
  • It prohibited war and even agriculture because of the killings of living beings. And so, Jainism was confined to traders only.

Spread of Jainism

Spread in the southern part

  • To spread the teachings of Jainism, Mahavira organized an order in which both men and women were admitted.
  • Spread in south India and west India where Brahmanical religion was weak.
  • According to a tradition, the spread of Jainism in Karnataka is attributed to Chandragupta Maurya (322 – 298 B.C.).

Spread in other parts

  • In the 4th century B.C.- Kalinga in Odisha
  • Kalinga king Kharavela gave patronage to it in the 1st century B.C.
  • In later centuries, Jainism penetrated Malwa, Gujarat, and Rajasthan (in these places they reside even today engaging in trade)
  • It didn’t receive as much patronage as Buddhism and could not spread very fast in early times.
  • It still holds its place where it spread while Buddhism completely disappeared from the Indian subcontinent.

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Royal Patrons of Jainism

North India:

  • Nandas; Bimbisar, Ajatshatru and Udayin (Haryank); Chandragupta Maurya, Bindusara and Samprati (Maurya)- Magadha
  • Pradyota (Avanti)
  • Udayan (Sindhu- Sauvira)
  • Kharavela (Kalinga)

South India:

  • Ganga dynasty
  • Kadamba dynasty
  • Amoghavarsha (Rashtrakuta Dynasty)
  • Siddharaj Jai Singh and Kumarpal (Chaulukya/ Solanki)-the last great patrons of Jainism.

Jain Literature

  • Discarded Sanskrit and adopted Prakrit language of common people to preach Jainism doctrines.
  • Religious literature was written in Ardhamagadhi.
  • Jainas earliest important works were composed in Apabhramsha. 
  • Jaina literature consists of Epics, Puranas, Novels, and Drama.
  • A large portion of Jaina’s writing is still in manuscript form and not published and still exists in Gujarat and Rajasthan shrines.
  • During medieval times, they wrote in Sanskrit.
  • They also contributed to the growth of Kannada.

The sacred literature of the Svetambaras is written in a type of Prakrit called Ardha Magadhi Prakrit, and may be classified as follows:

  • 12 Angas
  • 12 Upangas
  • 10 Parikarnas
  • 6 Chhedasutras
  • 4 Mulasutras
  • 2 Sutra- Granthas

Besides this, the important Jain texts are:

  • Kalpasutra (in Sanskrit)- Bhadrabahu
  • Bhadrabahu Charit
  • Parishishta Parvan

Jainism and Worship

  • Initially, no image worshipping but later started worshipping Mahavira and 23 Tirthankaras.
  • Beautiful images were sculpted for this purpose in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh.
  • Jaina art in ancient times was not as beautiful as Buddhism was.
  • But they contributed significantly to art and architecture during medieval times.

Jain Councils

The first Jain council:

  • Year: 300 BC
  • Place: Pataliputra 
  • Chairman: Sthulibhadra
  • Patron: Chandragupta Maurya
  • Result: Compilation of 12 Angas 

The second Jain Council:

  • Year: 512 AD
  • Place: Vallabhi 
  • Chairman: Devaradhi Kshamasramana
  • Result: Compilation of 12 Angas
  • Chairman: Final compilation of 12 Angas and 12 Upangas.

Jain Architecture

  • Gumphas i.e. Caves e.g. Hathigumpha, Bagh Gumpha, etc, Udayagiri and Khandagiri (Odisha)- Kharavela
  • Dilwara temple e.g. Vimala Vasahi temple, Tejapala temple- Mount Abu (Rajasthan)
  • Temple: Girnar and Palitana (Gujarat)
  • Temples e.g. Pavapuri temple, Rajagriha temple- Bihar
  • Statue of Gomateshwara/ Bahubali -Shravanabelagola
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