Tuesday, May 26, 2020

600-400 BC : Origin & teachings of Budhism and Jainism

563- 483 BC: Budha, the enlightened one. (Note: Both birth and death dates are approximate and also often debated ; latest archaeological findings from Lumbini, his birthplace, posits a much earlier date of around 560 BC than the previously thought 490 BC)

Siddhartha Gautama was born in Lumbini, close to today's Indo-Nepal border, in the royal palace of the kshatriya Shakya clan sometime around 560 BC. India of that time was spiritually open, thriving and was the hotbed of some of the most venerated spiritual thinking for humanity. He would go on to become Budha, the enlightened one. It is said he got enlightenment while meditating under a tree in Bodh Gaya (in today's Bihar in India) at the age of 35. He passed away in Kushinara, in todays Uttar Pradesh in nothern India around 483 BC, at the age of 80, 45 years after he got enlightenment. His impact on Indian and global spiritual sphere would remain almost unassailable. Not only did he collate his ideas of enlightenment and true happiness into what would later become the religion of Budhism, he impacted Vedic thinking of the day. It is obvious that some of his teaching had long lasting impact on Hinduism, starting with some of the ideas in Upanishads especially around renunciation and mokhsa. Fact that Gautama lived at a time Upanishads were being written makes it impossible that there was no give and take of ideas between his teachings and teachings of Upanishads. One might even say his teachings in prakrit (Pali) as against Sanskrit (the language of the Vedic priests) and the huge following of laymen he created in North India inspired Vedic hinduism to change - move from vedic rituals to one of deep contemplation & thinking as evidenced in Upanishads, move to incorporate local myths and languages into vedic fold, and invite its followers to think about life after death - especially the path of moksha as against the path of rebirth. Concept of Karma, was also likely developed during this time through learnings from both Budhism and sanatana dharma.

His core teachings / truths were laid down as  : Suffering exists (it is real and universal), there is a cause for it (attachment), there is an end to suffering (through Nirvana), and eight fold path to attain nirvana (around wisdom, virtue and meditation)

599-527 BC : Vardhamana Mahavir and Jainism

Similar to Gautama, Vardhamana was born into a royal family around 600 BC. As a contemporary of Budha, his teachings have many similarities with Budhism. He established Jainism which a major focus on shramana way of life - life of monks. He was, like Budha, opposed to the ritualistic aspects of Vedic religion of his time. He was also instrumental in further developing concepts of karma and moksha. The ultimate goal behind practicing the teachings of Lord Mahavira is to attain freedom from the cycle of rebirth as human life is representative of pain, misery and vices. According to him, the accumulation of bad karma leads to the repeated cycle of rebirth. He preached that the real path leading to attainment of liberation from the cycle of Karma is through Samyak Darshana (right faith), Samyak Jnana (right knowledge) and Samyak Charitra (right character).

The impact these sages had on Indian spiritual and social space is unique - it touched upon almost all spheres of life - religious, social, class distinctions, royal patronage, women empowerment, non-violence, food preferences (esp vegetarianism which was almost unknown in India till then). Their exchange of ideas with Sanatana Dharma, a.k.a Hinduism, has led to some of the deepest spiritual awakening in India of yore. Some would go to the extend of saying they transformed, albeit indirectly, Hinduism from being a predominantly ritualistic vedic religion to one of deep philosophical thoughts.


Anuradha Sridhar said...

Have you read any of the Jataka Tales? Made his lessons so accessible, even to children :)

Suhas Anand said...

I have read a few, long time back. There are many "Hindu" epics in Jatakas and vice versa. Multiple instances of idea exchange - pointing to a much more mature society than what we have now !