INDIAN HISTORY: Religious Movements

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Religious Movements: The period between 7th and 5th century BC was a turning point in the intellectual and spiritual development of the ancient India. It was at this time that Jainism and Buddhism arose in India,each based on a distinctive set of doctrines and each laying down distinctive rules of conduct for attaining salvation.
Gautama Buddha was born as Siddhartha to Suddhodana, a Raja or noble of Kapilvastu (in the Nepal Terai to the north of Basti district of Uttar Pradesh) and Maya, a princess of Devadaha, a small town in the Sakya territory. Maya died while giving birth to Siddhartha and he was brought up by his aunt and step-mother Prajapati Gautami.

  1. Born in 563 BC (widely accepted), on the vaisakha purnima day at Lumbini, near Kapilvastu, capital of the Sakya republic.

  2. Married at 16 to Yoshodhara. Enjoyed the married life for 13years and had a son named Rahula. Yashodara was also known as Bhadda Kachchana, Subhadraka, Bimba or Gopa.

  3. The Great Renunciation (also called ‘Mahabhinishkramana') took place when Sidhartha reached the age of 29. For six years he lived as a homeless ascetic. At Uruvila he practiced the most rigid austerities only to find that they were of no help to him to achieve his goal.

  4. Sidhartha finally sat under a pipal or Banyan tree at modern Bodh Gaya, after taking a bath in the stream of river Nairanjana, modern Lilajan. Here he attained the supreme knowledge and insight and became known as Buddha or the Enlightened One, Tathagata ( who attained the truth) and Sakya-muni or the sage of the Sakya clan.

  5. Delivered the first sermon at Sarnath where his five disciples had settled. His first sermon is called ‘Dharmachakrapracartan’ or ‘Turning of the Wheel of Law’.

  6. Attained Mahaparinirvana at Kushinagar (identical with village Kasia in Deoria district of UP) in 483 BC at the age of 80 in the Malla republic.

  7. Five Great Events of Buddha’s Life and their Symbols:

    • Birth: Lotus and Bull

    • Great Renunciation: Horse

    • Nirvana: Bodhi tree

    • First Sermon: Dharmachakra or wheel

    • Parinirvana or Death: Stupa

  8. Buddhist Councils:

    • The first Council was held in 483 BC at Sattapanni cave near Rajagriha during the tome of Ajatasatru of Magadha, to compile the Sutta Pitaka and Vinaya Pitaka. It was presided by Mahakassapa.

    • The second council was held at Vaisali in 383 BC during the time of Kalasoka of Magadha under the presidentship of Sabakami. The monks of Vaisali wanted some change in the rites. It is led to the division of Sangha into orthodox Theravadians and unorthodox Mahasan-ghikas.

    • The third council was held at Pataliputra during the reign of Ashoka. 236 years after the death of Buddha. It was held under the Presidentship of Moggliputta Tissa to revise the scriptures.it led to the final compilation of tripitakas.

    • The fourth council was held during the reign of Kanishka in Kashmir under the President ship of Vasumitra and Asvaghosha and resulted in the division of Buddhists into Mahayanists and Hinayanists.

  9. Buddhist Scriptures:

    • According to Sri Lankan tradition, the sacred texts and commentaries were written down in books in first century B.C. during the reign of King Vattagamani Abhaya. Later, the texts, as distinguished from the commentaries, came to be known as Pali.

    • The Vinaya Pitaka: (a) mainly deals with rules and regulations, which the Buddha promulgated, (b) it describes in detail the gradual development of the Sangha. © An account of the life and leaching of the Buddha is also given.

    • The Sutra Pitaka: (a) Consists chiefly of discourses delivered by Buddha himself on different occasions, (b) Few discourses delivered by Sariputta, Ananda. Moggalana and others are also included in it. © It lays down the principles of Buddhism.

    • The Abhidhamma Pitaka: Contains the profound philosophy of the Buddha’s teachings, (b) It investigates mind and matter, to help the understanding of things as they truly are.

    • The Khandhakas: contain regulations on the course or life in the monastic order and have two sections - the Mahavagga and the Cullavagga. The thud part - the Parivara is an insignificant composition by a Ceylonese monk.

    • Among the non-canonical literature Milindapanho, Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa are important. The later two are the great chronicles of Ceylon.

  10. Four Noble Truths:

    • Buddha taught his followers the four “Noble Truths” (Arya Satya) concerning suffering, the cause of suffering, the destruction of suffering and the way that leads to the destruction of sorrow.

      1. The world is full of sorrows.

      2. Desire is root cause of sorrow.

      3. If Desire is conquered, all sorrows can be removed. Desire can be removed by following the eight-fold path.

  11. Eight Fold Path:

    • As per Buddhist teachings, salvation is possible through the Eightfold Path, which consisted of eight principles of action, leading to a balanced, moderate life (right views, resolves, speech conduct, livelihood, effort, recollection and meditation, the combination of which was described as Middle Way).

      1. Right understanding

      2. Right speech

      3. Right livelihood

      4. Right mindfulness

      5. Right thought

      6. Right action

      7. Right effort

      8. Right concentration

  12. Three Ratnas:

    • Buddha

    • Dhamma

    • Sangha

  13. Sacred Shrines:

    • Lumbini, Bodh-Gaya. Sarnath and Kusinagar, where the tour principal events of the Buddha’s life, namely, Birth, Enlightenment. First sermon and Mahaparinirvana took place. To these are added tour places Sravasti, Rajgriha. Vaishali and Sankasya—these eight places have all along been considered as the eight holy places (ashtamahasthanas).

    • Other centres of Buddhism in Ancient India—Amravati and Nagarjunikonda in Andhra Pradesh; Nalanda in Bihar; Junagadh and Valabhi in Gujarat; Sanchi and Bharhut in MP; Ajanta-Ellora in Maharashtra, Dhaulagiri in Orissa; Kannauj, Kausambi and Mathura in U.P. and Jagadala and Somapuri in West Bengal.

    • Buddhist architecture developed essentially in three forms, viz. (a) Stupa (relics of the Buddha or some prominent Buddhist monk are preserved) (b) Chaitya (prayer hall) © Vihara (residence)

  14. Buddhist Philosophy:

    • Idealism: Two source of valid knowledge: (a) Perception and (b) Inference.

    • Doctrineof dependent origination (Pratisamutpada): Central theory of Buddhist Philosophy. It tells us that in the empirical worid dominated by the intellect, everything is relative, conditional. dependent, subject to birth and death and therefore impermanent.

    • Theory of momentariness (Kshanabhanga or Impermanence): It tells that everything ,in this world is merely a conglomeration of perishable qualities. According to it. Things that can produce effect exist and whatever can not produce effect has no existence.
According to Jaina tradition, there were 24 Tirthankaras( religious teacher). Rishabha was the first one. Arishtanemi or Neminatha was the twenty second. Parsvanatha was the twenty third who was the son of king Asvasena of Varanasi.

  1. Life of Mahavira: Vardhamana Mahavira was the 24th Tirthankara. Born in 540 BC at Kundagrama near Vaisali. The parents of Mahavira were Siddhartha, a Janatrika chief of Kundapura, and Trishala, a Kshatriya lady related to the ruling families of Vaishali and Magadha and Jameli was the daughter.

  2. At the age of 30, he left his home and began to wander as a naked monk. At the age 0f 42, Mahavira attained the highest spiritual knowledge called Kevala-jnana, on the northern bank of river Rijupalika, outside Jrimbhikagrama, a little known locality in eastern India. He was now known as a Kevalin (omniscient), a Jina (conqueror) and Mahavira (the great hero).

  3. Mahavira became the head of a sect called Nigranthas (free from Fetters), known in later times as Jains or followers of Jina (conqueror).

  4. Mahavira died at Pava in south Bihar, after wandering for 35 years as a religious teacher, at the age of 72.

  5. The 23rd teacher, Parsav, the immediate predecessor of Mahavira, was a prince of Benaras and enjoined on his disciples the great four vows of non-injury, truthfulness, abstention from stealing and non-attachment. Mahavira added the vow of Brahamcharya or continence to this.

  6. Mahavira had 11 disciples called Ganadharvas, heads of school. Only Arya Suddharma survived Mahavira and became the first “Thera”. During the reign of last Nanda ruler of Magadha, the Jain Church was ruled by two theras, Sambhutvijaya and Bhadrabahu.

  7. Way to Nirvana (Three Ratnatraya):

    • Right faith (Samyak vishwas)

    • Right knowledge (Samyak jnan)

    • Right conduct (Samyak karma)

  8. Sacred Literature:

    • The sacred literature of the Svetambaras is written in a form of Prakrit called Ardhamagadhi, and may be classified as follows:

      1. The twelve Angas

      2. The twelve Upangas

      3. The ten Parikarnas

      4. The six Chhedasutras

      5. The four Mulasutras.

  9. Spread of Jainism:

    • Jainism received patronage from the kings of the time, including Chandragupta Maurya. Udayin, successor of Ajatshatru was a devoted Jain. In the south, royal dynasties such as the Gangas, Kadambas. Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas patronized Jainism. In.Gujarat, patronage came from wealthy merchants.

    • Kharavela, the ruler of Kalinga, was great patron of Jainis. He dedicated some caves for the use of Jaina monks in the Udaygiri hills.

    • The concrete expression of Jainism’s religious zeal is seen all over the country in works of art and architecture. The 57-foot high statue of Gomateshvara at Sravanabelagola in Mysore, erected in 983 or 984 AD is a marvel of its kind. The temples at Mount Abu and those at Palithana in Gujarat and Moodabidri and Karkala in the south make a rich contribution to the Indian heritage.

  10. Jaina Councils:

    • By the end of fourth century BC, there was a serious famine in the Ganges valley leading to a great exodus of many Jaina monks to the Deccan and South India (Sravana Belgola) along with Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta Maurya.They returned to the Gangetic valley after 12 years. The leader of the group, which stayed back at Magadha was Sthulabahu. The changes that took place in the code of conduct of the followers of Sthulabahu led to the division of the Jainas into Digambaras (sky-clad or naked) and Svetambaras (white-clad).

    • First Council was held at Pataliputra by Sthulabahu in the beginning of the third century BC and resulted in the compilation of 12 Angas to replace the lost 14 Purvas.

    • Second Council was held at Valabhi in the 5th century AD under the leadership of Devaradhi Kshamasramana and resulted in final compilation of 12 Angas and 12 Upangas.

    • During the centuries that followed, further splits took place amongst both the sections- the Digambaras and Svetambaras- the most important of them begins the one that renounced idol worship altogether and devoted itself to the worship of the scriptures. They are called Terapanthis among the Svetambaras and Samaiyas among the Digambaras.


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