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Day 14: History - History (Day 13 to 23)

Vedic Age, Buddhism and Jainism

Vedic Age

Around 1900 BC the Harappan cities began to decline and a number of rural settlements appeared afterwards. These rural settlements show continuity of certain Harappan elements. Around the same time we find archaeological evidence of the arrival of new people known as Aryans or Indo-Aryans on the outskirts of the Harappan region.

What is Veda?

  • The word Veda is derived from the root vid which means ‘to know’ and it means the sacred knowledge contained in the texts known as Vedic text.
  • Two categories of texts are included in the corpus of the Vedic literature. These are Mantra and Brahmana.
  • The Mantra category forms the core of the Vedic texts and has four separate collections. These are the Rigveda, the Samaveda, the Yajurveda, and the Atharvaveda.
  • The Brahmanas (not to be confused with Brahaminical class) are prose texts containing the explanations of the mantras as well as the sacrificial rituals. The four Vedas together with their Brahmanas are also known as shruti or ‘hearing’, that which was directly heard by the sages.
  • The Aranyakas (literally forest treatises) and the Upanishads (sitting down beside) are mainly appendices to the Brahmanas. These are also known as the Vedanta (end of the Veda) and contain philosophical discussions.
  • The Rigveda is a collection of 1,028 hymns divided into 10 mandalas. They are the earliest compositions and hence depict the life of the early Vedic people in India.
  • The Samaveda is a collection of verses mostly taken from the Rigveda but arranged in a poetic form to facilitate singing.
  • The Yajurveda is found in two recessions, Black and White, and are full of rituals to be performed publicly or individually.
  • The Atharvaveda is a collection of magic spells and charms to ward off the evil spirits and diseases.

Vedic Age (1500BC–600BC)

The Rigveda which is the oldest Vedic text reflects one stage of social and cultural development whereas the other three Vedas reflect another stage. The first stage is known as the Rigvedic period or Early Vedic period and the later stage is known as the Later Vedic period. The age of the Early Vedic period corresponds with the date of the composition of the Rigvedic hymns. This date has been fixed between 1500 BC and 1000 BC. The later Vedic period is placed between 1000 BC and 600 BC.

Geographical distribution of the Vedic Aryans

  • The early Vedic Aryans lived in the area known as sapta-sindhu meaning area of seven rivers. This area largely covers the northwestern part of South Asia up to river Yamuna.
  • The seven rivers included Sindhu, Vitasta (Jhelum), Asikni (Chenab), Parushni (Ravi), Vipash (Beas), Shutudri (Sutlej) and the Sarasvati. In this area the Rigvedic people lived, fought battles, grazed their herds of cattle and other domesticated animals.
  • Gradually moving eastward, they came to occupy eastern U.P. (Kosala) and north Bihar (Videha) during the Later Vedic period. Here they came into contact with the people who spoke languages different from their own and were living in this area for long.

Economy

Early Vedic economy

  • The early Vedic Aryans were pastoralists. Cattle rearing were their main occupation. They reared cattle, sheep, goats, and horses for purposes of milk, meat and hides.
  • A large number of words are derived from the word go meaning cow. A wealthy person was known as gomat and the daughter called duhitri which means one who milks the cow. The word gaveshana literally means search for cows, but it also means battle since many battles were fought over cattle. The cows were thought of as providers of everything. Prayers are offered for increase in the number of cattle. All the above and many more references show that cattle breeding were the most important economic activity of the Rigvedic Aryans. However, the early Vedic people had also knowledge of agriculture.
  • Apart from cattle-rearing and small-scale cultivation, people were engaged in many other economic activities. Hunting, carpentry, tanning, weaving, chariot-making, metal smeltry etc. were some such activities. The products of these activities were exchanged through barter. However, cows were the most favoured medium of exchange. The priests received cows, horses and gold ornaments as fees for performing sacrifices.

Later Vedic Phase

  • Agriculture became the mainstay of this period. Many rituals were introduced to initiate the process of agriculture. It also speaks of ploughing with yokes of six and eight oxen. The buffalo had been domesticated for the agricultural purposes.
  • The god Indra acquires a new epithet ‘Lord of the Plough’ in this period. The number and varieties of plant food increased. Apart from barley, people now cultivated wheat, rice, pulses, lentils, millet,sugarcane etc.
  • The items of dana and dakshina included cooked rice. Thus with the beginning of food production agricultural produce began to be offered in the rituals. Tila, from which the first widely used vegetable food-oil was derived increasingly, came to be used in rituals.
  • The main factor in the expansion of the Aryan culture during the later Vedic period was the beginning of the use of iron around 1000 BC. The Rigvedic people knew of a metal called ayas which was either copper or bronze. In the later Vedic literature ayas was qualified with shyama or krishna meaning black to denote iron.
  • The iron tools helped people clear the dense rain forests and the large tracts of forestland could be converted into cultivable pieces in relatively lesser time. Also, the ironplough could turn the soil from deeper portions making it more fertile.
  • There has been a continuous increase in the population during the later Vedic period due to the expansion of the economy based on agriculture. The increasing number and size of Painted Grey Ware (PGW) settlements in the doab area shows this. With the passage of time the Vedic people also acquired better knowledge of seasons, manuring and irrigation.

Society

Rigvedic society

  • The family was the basic unit.
  • It was patriarchal in nature.
  • Monogamy was the usual norm of marriage but the chiefs at times practiced polygamy.
  • Marriages took place after attaining maturity.
  • The family was part of a larger grouping called vis or clan.
  • One or more than one clans made jana or tribe. The jana was the largest social unit.
  • All the members of a clan were related to each other by blood relation. The membership of a tribe was based on birth and not on residence in a certain area. Thus the members of the Bharata tribe were known as the Bharatas. It did not imply any territory.
  • The Rigvedic society was a simple and largely an egalitarian society.There was no caste division. Occupation was not based on birth. Members of a family could adopt different occupations.
  • However certain differences did exist during the period. Varna or colour was the basis of initial differentiation between the Vedic and non-Vedic people. The Vedic people were fair whereas the non-Vedic indigenous people were dark in complexion and spoke a different language. Thus the Rigveda mentions aryavarna and dasavarna.
  • The word “dasa” has been used in the sense of a group different from the Rigvedic people. Later, dasa came to mean a slave. Besides, certain practices during this period, such as concentration of larger share of the war booty in the hands of the chiefs and priests resulted in the creation of some inequalities within a tribe during the later part of this Vedic phase.
  • The warriors, priests and the ordinary people were the three sections of the Rigvedic tribe. The sudra category came into existence only towards the end of the Rigvedic period. That is, the division of society in the early Vedic period was not sharp.
  • The women in society enjoyed respectable position. She was married at a proper age and could choose a husband of her own choice. She could take part in the proceedings of the tribal assemblies called sabha and samiti.

Later Vedic Phase

  • The later Vedic family became large enough to be called a joint-family with three or four generations living together.The institution of gotra developed in this period.
  • Monogamous marriages were preferred even though polygamy was frequent. Some restrictions on women appeared during this period.The participation of women in public meetings was restricted.
  • The most important change was the rise and growth of social differentiation in the form of varna system. The four varnas in which society came to be divided were the brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras.
  • The growing number of sacrifices and rituals during the period made the brahmanas very powerful.
  • The kshatriyas, next in the social hierarchy, were the rulers. They along with brahmanas controlled all aspects of life.
  • The vaishyas, the most numerous varna were engaged in agriculture as well as in trade and artisanal activities. The brahmanas and the kshatriyas were dependent on the tributes (gifts and taxes) paid to them by the vaishyas.
  • The shudras, the fourth varna were at the bottom of the social hierarchy. They were ordained to be in the service of the three upper varnas. They were not entitled to the ritual of upanayana samskara. The other three varnas were entitled to such a ceremony and hence they were known as dvijas.
  • Another important institution that began to take shape was ashrama or different stages of life. Brahmacharya (student life), grihastha (householder), and vanaprastha (hermitage) stages are mentioned in the texts. Later, sanyasa, the fourth stage also came to be added. Together with varna, it came to be known as varna-ashrama dharma.

Religion

Early Vedic Religion

  • The Rigvedic gods were generally personifications of different aspects of natural forces such as rains, storm, sun etc.
  • Indra, Agni, Varuna, Mitra, Dyaus, Pushana, Yama, Soma, etc. weremale gods and a few goddesses such as Ushas, Sarasvati, Prithvi, etc were worshipped.
  • The functions of different gods reflect their needs in the society.
  • Rigvedic people were engaged in wars with each other they worshipped Indra as a god. He is the most frequently mentioned god in the Rigveda. He carried the thunderbolt and was also respected as a weather god who brought rains.
  • Maruts the god of storm aided Indra in the wars in the way tribesmen aided their leader in the tribal wars.
  • Agni, the fire god was the god of the home and was considered an intermediary between gods and men.
  • Soma was associated with plants and herbs. Soma was also a plant from which an intoxicating juice was extracted. This juice was drunk at sacrifices.
  • Varuna, another important deity, was the keeper of the cosmic order known as rita. This rita was an important aspect of tribal set-up.
  • Pushan was the god of the roads, herdsmen and cattle. In the life of the pastoral nomads, this god must have been very important.
  • All these gods were invoked and propitiated at yajnas or sacrifices.
  • It is important here to note that during the entire Vedic phase people did not construct temples nor did they worship any statue. These features of Indian religion developed much later.

Later Vedic Phase

  • Changes in the material life naturally resulted in a change in their attitude towards gods and goddesses too. Continuous interactions with the local non-Aryan population also contributed to these changes. Thus, Vishnu and Rudra which were smaller deities in the Rigveda became extremely important.
  • Another important feature was the increase in the frequency and number of the yajna. Some of the important yajnas were - ashvamedha, vajapeya, rajasuya etc.
  • However, people began to oppose the sacrifices during the later Vedic period itself. A large number of cattle and other animals which were sacrificed at the end of each yajna must have hampered the growth of economy. Therefore, a path of good conduct and self-sacrifice was recommended for happiness and welfare in the last sections of the Vedas, called the Upnishads.
  • The Upnishads contain two basic principles of Indian philosophy viz., karma and the transmigration of soul, i.e., rebirth based on past deeds. According to these texts real happiness lies in getting moksha i.e. freedom from this cycle of birth and re-birth.

Polity

Early Vedic phase

  • The chief social unit of the Aryans was known as jana. The chief of this unit was the political leader called rajan. The main function of the chief was to protect the jana and cattle from the enemies. He was helped in his task by the tribal assemblies called sabha, samiti, vidatha, gana and parishad.
  • The post of the chief was not hereditary. The tribe generally elected him.The purohita assisted and advised the chief on various matters. Other than the purohita, there were a limited number of other officials who assisted the chief in the day-to-day tribal affairs. Senani, kulapa, gramani, etc. are some of the functionaries which find mention in the Rigveda.
  • Takshan, the carpenter and rathakara, the chariot maker were responsible for making chariots. There is no official mentioned as a collector of taxes but the people offered to the chief what is called bali, a voluntary contribution.

later Vedic phase

  • The chiefship had become hereditary. The idea of the divine nature of kingship gets a mention in the literature of this period. The brahmanas helped the chiefs in this process. The elaborate coronation rituals such as vajapeya and rajasuya established the chief authority.
  • As the chiefs became more powerful, the authority of the popular assemblies started waning. The officers were appointed to help the chief in administration and they acquired the functions of the popular assemblies as main advisors.
  • A rudimentary army too emerged as an important element of the political structure during this period. All these lived on the taxes called bali, the shulka, and the bhaga offered by the people.
  • The chiefs of this period belonged to the kshatriyavarna and they in league with the brahmanas tried to establish complete control over the people in the name of dharma.

Janapadas to Mahajanapads (From 600 to 300 BC)

  • In this period, the centre of economic and political activity shifted from Haryana and western UP to Eastern UP and Bihar, which had more rainfall and better fertility of land. The evidence of the growth of agriculture comes from the archaeological and literary sources of this period. In fact, a ploughshare dated to around 500 BC has been found from Jakhera in Etah district in western U.P. Many other important pieces of evidence of the use of iron in this period come from Rajghat, Kaushambi, Vaishali and Sonpur.
  • The sixth century BC is known as an era of ‘Second Urbanisation’ in the Indian Subcontinent.However, this time towns developed in the middle Ganga basin and not in the Indus plain.
  • It is said that more than sixty towns and cities such as Pataliputra, Rajagriha, Sravasti, Varanasi, Vaishali, Champa, Kaushambi and Ujjaini developed between 600 and 300 BC.
  • Varanasi was a major centre of trade connected with Sravasti and Kaushambi. Sravasti was also connected with Vaishali through Kapilavastu and Kusinara. Jataka stories tell us that traders travelled from Magadh and Kosala via Mathura to Taxila. Mathura was the transit point for travel to Ujjain and coastal areas of Gujarat also.
  • Development of trade is reflected in the discovery of thousands of coins known as punch marked coins (PMC). Various kind of marks such as crescent, fish, trees, hill etc. are punched on these coins, made mainly of silver and sometimes copper.
  • The improvement in agriculture and development of trade, money and urbanisation had an impact on the society as well. Indeed, due to these changes traditional equality and brotherhood gave way to inequality and social conflict.
  • People wanted some kind of reprieve from new social problems like violence, cruelty, theft, hatred, and falsehood. Therefore, when new religions such as Jainism and Buddhism preached the concept of peace and social equality, people welcomed it.
  • These religions emphasised that true happiness does not lie in material prosperity or performance of rituals but in charity, frugality, non-violence, and good social conduct.
  • Besides, the general economic progress had led to the rise of vaisyas and other mercantile groups, who wanted better social position than what brahmanas gave them. Therefore, they preferred to patronise non-vedic religions like Buddhism and Jainism through substantial donations.
  • Buddhism and Jainism were not the only religions, which challenged brahmanical dominance. According to the Buddhist sources, more than 62 sects and philosophies flourished in this period. One of these sects was known as Ajivika, which was founded by MakkhaliGoshal. Ajivakas were very popular in Magadh in the third century BC and Mauryan kings donated several caves in the honour of Ajivaka monks.

Jainism

  • Jainism is one of the oldest religious traditions of the world. A great generation of tirthankaras, acaryas, saints, and scholars belonged to this tradition.
  • Jainism is one of the religions whose origin can be traced back to the twenty four teachers (tirthankaras - ones who establishes a path or ford), through whom their faith is believed to have been handed down.
  • The term ‘jaina’ is derived from the term ‘jina’,and the term ‘jina’ is the common name for the supreme souls who are totally free from all feelings of attachment, aversion, etc. The etymological meaning of the word ‘jina’ is conqueror.
  • It is the common name given to the twenty four teachers (tirthankaras), because they have conquered all passions (raga and dvesa) and have attained liberation. Jainism in its essence is the religion of heroic souls who are jinas or conquerors of their self.
  • The devotees of jina are called ‘jaina’, and the religion propounded by jina is called the ‘Jaina Religion.’
  • The first of these teachers was Rsabhadeva and the last was Vardhamana, also known as Mahavira (the Great Hero). He is said to have lived in the sixth century B.C. as a contemporary of Gautama Buddha.
  • Mahavira is the successor of Parvanatha, who lived in the ninth century B.C. The contribution of Jainism to Indian culture, spirituality, and philosophy is really immense. It is a religion of praxis than of faith. Jainism is a sramanic
  • The word ‘Sramana’ means an ascetic or a Thus asceticism and mysticism, meditation and contemplation, silence and solitude, practice of virtues like non-violence, renunciation, celibacy, self-control, etc. are distinguishing characteristics of this tradition.
  • Jainism was also instrumental for a radical change in the social life of Indians. Jainism has the universal message of non-violence.

ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF JAINISM

  • The advent of Jainism in the sixth century BC was expected, as many people were beginning to oppose the hierarchical organization and formalized ritualism of the Vedic religion.
  • The failure of the Vedic religion to meet popular needs, the meaningless forms of sacrifices which did not provide release from samsara, and the merciless killing of animals in the sacrificial context forced the Jinas to provide the people with a new orientation and new interpretation.
  • Their teachings laid primary emphasis on personal training, and taught that salvation is attainable to anyone willing to learn it.
  • They stressed on personal effort and practice, not theoretical speculation, and proof of their validity was found in personal experience, not textual authority or logical argument.
  • Jains hold the view that the Jaina religion is eternal and has been revealed again and again in the succeeding periods of the world by innumerable Tirthanakaras.
  • It is believed that all the Tirthankaras reached moksa at the time of their death, as a result of their personal effort; they are regarded as ‘Gods’ and are worshipped by the Jains. Jains believe that it is on the authority of the teachings of the omniscient liberated saints (Jinas or Tirthankaras) that we can have real knowledge about certain spiritual matters. The teachings and lives of the saints show the possibility and path to attain liberation.
  • The twenty- third tirthankara, the immediate predecessor of Mahavira, was Parvanatha, and he preached the doctrine of love and ahimsa. He enjoined four vows, which are, (i) Not to destroy life (ahimsa) (ii) Not to lie (satya) (iii) Not to steal (asteya) and (iv) Not to own property (aparigraha). His great successor Mahavira added the fifth vow of chastity (brahmacarya).

MAHAVIRA

  • Mahavira was the twenty-fourth tirthankara. Jainism is closely associated with VardhamanaMahavira, who lived from 540 to 468 B.C. and established the central doctrines of Jainism. He was born in Northern India, in the town of Vyshali, into a royal family.
  • His father was Siddhartha Maharaja who ruled Kundapura, and his mother was Priyakarini. Vardhamana lived as a householder for thirty years. At the age of thirty he left his wife, child, and family and started a life of total renunciation and asceticism.
  • Mahavira passed twelve years of his ascetic life with equanimity, performing hard and long penances, and enduring all afflictions and calamities with an undisturbed mind. At the end, the ascetic obtained omniscience; he became jina, the victorious and Mahavira, the great hero.
  • He realized his true self and attained omniscience by practising rigorous austerities and penances. He understood the nature of physical bondage and ways of achieving total liberation from bondage, and thus, liberation from rebirth and bodily existence.
  • The ideal state of freedom can be achieved only through a radial ascetical life, the essence of which is total renunciation of all bodily comforts and all material objects.
  • He says, “It is owing to attachment that a person commits violence, utters lies, commits theft, indulges in sex, and develops a yearning for unlimited hoarding.” (Bhakta-parijna).
  • Modern Jains believe that his message is full of pragmatic optimism, self-reliance, self-discipline, and self-purification to develop the inherent and infinite potentialities of the human self.
  • A glimpse into his life shows that he was an embodiment of non-violence and compassion. He taught five great vows and initiated many people into this way of life, established the four fold order, (monks, nuns, male lay-votaries and female votaries.) and emerged a teacher of many monks, a renowned preacher, and a founder of a new religion.
  • Lord Mahavira passed the last thirty years of his life as the omniscient tirthankara. By the time of his death at the age of seventy- two, a large group of people embraced this new faith.
  • Mahavira’s close disciples led the movement after his death, and Jainism spread from the north-east of India to the north-west and even to the south, especially to the present day state of Karnataka.

SACRED SCRIPTURES OF JAINISM

  • There are various opinions with regard to the classification of Jaina texts. Each of the main sects of Jainism recognizes its own body of sacred scriptures though many texts are common to all.
  • Most of the ancient Jain texts are written in Prakrta (an early form of Sanskrit).
  • The general outline of the canon is as follows. It is divided into six sections and contains either forty-five or forty-six books.
    1. The twelve Angas or limbs.
    2. The twelve Upangas, or secondary limbs
  • The ten Painnas, or ‘Scattered pieces’
    1. The six Cheya-Suttas
    2. Individual texts (two)
    3. The four Mula-Suttas

THE CONCEPT OF GOD

  • Jainism does not believe in a personal God or a creator God. According to the Jaina philosophical works, the definition of God is as follows: God is that soul who has completely removed all the Karmas.
  • The defining characteristic of Godhood is identical with that of liberation itself. To attain liberation is to attain Godhood.
  • The term ‘Isvara’ can very well apply to the soul that has become powerful by attaining its perfectly pure nature constituted of four characteristics, which are , infinite knowledge, infinite vision, infinite power, and infinite bliss.
  • By constant practice of spiritual discipline, spiritually right knowledge, and right conduct, the means of liberation gradually develop and ultimately attain perfection.
  • And when they attain perfection, all the coverings get removed and all the bondages are cut off. As a result, the soul’s natural qualities get fully manifested.
  • To attain this state is to attain Godhood. Though the Jains reject God as the creator of the world, they think it is necessary to meditate on and worship the liberated, perfect souls. Prayers are offered to them for guidance and inspiration.
  • According to the Jain religion, worship is not for seeking mercy and pardon. Inspite of the absence of a creator-God, the religious spirit of the Jaina lacks neither in internal fervour nor in external ceremonial expressions. As the lay community increased in Jainism, there evolved also rituals and religious practices.

THE CONCEPT OF SOUL

  • The Jaina holds that every living and non-living being is gifted with souls. All souls are not equally conscious, but every soul has the potential to attain infinite consciousness, power, and happiness. The soul is inherently perfect. These qualities are inherent in the very nature of the soul.
  • Each Jiva (soul) is eternally associated with Ajiva (non-sentient or non-conscious being) because of Karman. They are obstructed by karma, just as the natural light of the sun is hindered by clouds.
  • By removing the karmas, a soul can remove bondage and regain its natural perfections. The limitations that we find in any individual’s soul are due to the material body with which the soul has identified itself.
  • The Karma or the sum of the past life of a soul - its past thought, speech, and activity – generates in it certain blind cravings and passions that seek satisfaction.
  • Those cravings in a soul attract to it particular sorts of matter-particles and organize them into the body unconsciously desired. Jaina writers point out that bondage or the fall of the soul begins in thought.
  • They therefore speak of two kinds of bondage: (1) internal or ideal bondage, that is to say, the soul’s bondage to bad disposition (bhava-bandha), and (2) its effect, which is material bondage, that is to say, the soul’s actual association with matter (dravya-bandha).

JAINA ETHICS

The most important part of Jaina philosophy is its ethics. Metaphysics or epistemology is useful for the Jaina insofar as it guides him to right conduct. The goal of right conduct is salvation (moksa), which negatively means the removal of all bondage of the soul, and positively, the attainment of liberation.

  • Twelve Vows: In the activities dealing with spiritual discipline for the layman, there occurs the exposition of twelve vows. They are: the gross vow of refraining from violence, the gross vow of refraining from telling lies, the gross vow of refraining from taking anything which is not given, the vow of refraining from sexual activities, the gross vow of limiting one’s possessions, the vow of limiting the area of acts that are not virtuous, the vow of limiting the quality of things that could be used once as also of things that could be used repeatedly, the vow to abstain from harmful activities that serve no useful purpose, the vow of remaining completely equanimous for a fixed period of time, the vow of reducing the limits of the area set forth in the sixth vow for a limited period of time, the vow of observing fast and living like a monk for certain days, and the vow of sharing things with deserving guests.
  • Pancha Vrathas: Jaina writers are not unanimous about the necessity of all the above steps. Some of them select the first five, namely, the five great vows (PanchaVrathas) as sufficient for the perfection of conduct.
  • Ahimsa or Non-violence: Among the five, ahimsa is the most important vow. It is really a positive virtue based upon universal love and mercy towards all beings. Ahimsa is abstinence from all injury to life, life that exists not simply in the moving beings (trasa), but also in some nonmoving ones (sthavara), such as plants and beings inhabiting the bodies of the earth. Abstinence from injury to life must be observed in thought, word, and deed –Mana, Vachana, and Kaya respectively. Hence the principle of Ahimsa – non-violence, naturally implies purity of thought, word, and deed. Thus, ahimsa vritha is binding to all members of the society, whether householder or ascetic. In the case of the householder, it is applicable with a limitation. In the case of ascetics, it is to be observed absolutely without any limitation.
  • Satya or Truth: This vow is abstinence from falsehood. The vow of satya or truthfulness consists in speaking what is true, as well as what is pleasant and good. Truthfulness is not only speaking what is true, but speaking what is true as well as good and pleasant. It is also pointed out that for the perfect maintenance of this vow, one must conquer greed, fear and anger.
  • Astheya or ‘Non-stealing ’: This vow consists in not taking what is not given. This vow also includes abstinence from evil practices. The vow of asteya or ‘non-stealing’ is based on the idea of the sanctity of property.
  • Brahmacharya: The vow of brahmacharaya consists in abstaining from all forms of selfindulgence. This refers to purity of personal conduct in the matter of sex. This vow when applied to the ascetic implies absolute celibacy, since a saint who has renounced all possible connections with the outside world is expected to practise strict celibacy. For the complete maintenance of this vow, one must desist from all forms of self-indulgence – external and internal, subtle and gross, mundane and extra-mundane, direct and indirect.
  • Aparigraha or Abstinence from all attachment:The vow of aparigraha consists in abstaining from all attachment to the senses – pleasant sound, touch, colour, taste, and smell. Attachment to the world’s objects means bondage to the world, and the force of this causes rebirth. Liberation is impossible without the withdrawal of attachment. In the case of the ascetic, he must practise non possession strictly in thought, word, and deed. But in the case of the householder, such a complete renunciation will be meaningless. Since the householder is also expected to keep in mind the ultimate goal of life, which is the realization of the true self, he must also practise isolating himself, as far as possible, from attachment to external things. Right knowledge, faith, and conduct jointly bring about liberation consisting in fourfold perfection. When a person, through the harmonious development of these three, succeeds in overcoming the forces of all passions and karmas, old and new, the soul is freed from its bondage to matter and attains liberation. Being free from the obstacles of matter, the soul realizes its inherent potentiality. It attains the fourfold perfection, namely, infinite knowledge, infinite faith, infinite power, and infinite bliss.

JAIN SECTS

  • Shortly after the death of Mahavira, the community split into several sects. There are two important Jain sects, the Svetambaras (wearers of white clothes) and the Digambaras (the naked). Their division was on the basis of nudity.
  • The literal meaning of the word digambara is sky-clad and that of svetambara is white clad. These two sects are divided into a number of sects. The Digambara’s contend that perfection cannot be reached by anyone who wears clothing.
  • The Digambara thinks that a man should abstain from food and possessions, including clothing, to become a saint. They also denied the eligibility of women for salvation. The Digambaras strictly maintain that there can be no salvation without nakedness. Since women cannot go without clothes, they are said to be incapable of salvation. The Digambaras believe that no original canonical text exists now.
  • The Svetambaras still preserve a good number of original scriptures. They believe that having known that the true self consists in the freedom from passions, having realized the strength of the spiritual practice of non-attachment, and having understood the gradual order of undertaking the practice of the means of liberation, one can very well understand a monk’s acceptance of clothing. The only essential point is that when one attains the state of perfect non-attachment, one definitely attains liberation, irrespective of one’s being nude or not. Clothing is not an obstacle to salvation. It is attachment that acts as an obstacle to salvation.
  • The Svetambaras also allow women to enter the monastic order under the assumption that they have a possibility of attaining Nirvana.

Buddhism

  • Buddhism originated as an alternative tradition to the excessive importance given to rituals and sacrifices in Vedic tradition. It was also a reaction to the gross neglect of the social problems of the time, as well as a revolt against the hegemony of the Brahmins in the society.
  • The main causes for the emergence of Buddhism are:
  • Social: A Brahmin centered, caste based, hierarchical set up was prevalent in the society. The authority to interpret the scriptures was vested with the Brahmin. Temples, which were the centres of social life, were controlled by them. Laws of pollution were strictly imposed upon the people of the lower caste. Tribes and Dravidians were out of the caste structure.
  • Economic: Agriculture and cattle rearing were the main source of wealth and livelihood for the people. Brahmins found out ways and means to exploit the lower sections in the society. Kings were made to perform yagas, yajnas, and digvijayas through which the Brahmins benefited a lot. The ordinary people had to contribute a major portion of their income to the kings, Brahmins, and temples.
  • Religious: Mode of worship, rituals, and religious ceremonies were interpreted by the Brahmins to suit their interest. The Vedas, Aranyakas, Mimamsas and Upanishads were written to perpetuate the hegemony of the Brahmins. Metaphysical speculations were at their zenith, which was the prerogative of the educated class. Exploitation by the higher castes and the suffering of the ordinary people continued unabated.
  • It was a time of two extremes: the VedicUpanisadic belief in the Absolute supported by sacrifices, rituals (yajnas) and the materialistic philosophy of the Charvaka.
  • Buddha avoided and negated the extremes, and at the same time integrated the positive elements of these two systems.
  • He negated the existence of the soul and the Absolute, but he accepted the belief in the law of karma and the possibility of attaining liberation. His main concern was the welfare of the ordinary people. Though Buddha himself wrote nothing, the early writings were in the Pali and Sanskrit languages.
  • Buddhist scripture is known as Tripitaka (Sanskrit) or Tipitaka (Pali), Three Baskets or Three Traditions.
  • They are vinaya (Disciple), Sutta (Discourse), and Abhidhamma (Doctrinal Elaboration).
  • Buddha was not interested in speculative or theoretical analysis of phenomena, but he was concerned about finding out practical solutions to problems in life.
  • The influence of the early Upanishads is clear in the teachings of Buddha. Compassion and love were the predominant characteristics of Buddha.
  • Charity was the basis of the Buddhist religion. Buddhist spirituality has four stages ahimsa (not harming), maitre (loving kindness), dana (giving), and karuna (compassion).

LIFE OF BUDDHA

  • Gautama or Siddhartha (566-486 B.C), who later came to be known as the Buddha or 'The Enlightened One', was born into a wealthy Kshatriya family, in Lumbini, at the foothills of Nepal. Gautama’s father Shudhodana, a Kshatriya of the Sakya clan, was the king of Kapilavastu (present day Nepal), and his mother was Mahamaya. She had a dream, while on her way to her parents’ home that a white elephant entered her womb, and later Gautama was born at Lumbini. A white elephant is an important symbol for Buddhists even today. On the fifth day of the child’s birth, 108 Brahmins were invited for the naming ceremony, and he was given the name Siddhartha (Siddha- achieved, artha- goal; one who achieved his goal).
  • Many predicted that Siddhartha would become either a great king or a great sage. On the seventh day his mother died, and his father married his mother’s sister, named MahaprajapatiGautami. She brought up Siddhartha with love and affection. Gradually, he was called after his step-mother, ‘Gautamiputra’ (son of Gautami) or ‘Gautama’ (go-cow/bull, tema-the best; the best cow or bull). The child was delicately nurtured and brought up in palatial luxury. At the age of sixteen, Siddhartha married his cousin, Yasodhara.
  • At the age of twenty nine, while he was travelling out of the palace, he had four encounters which left a lasting impact on him. He saw an old decrepit man, a sick man, a corpse in a funeral procession, and a peaceful and serene ascetic wandering alone.
  • The first three sights disturbed him, whereas the fourth one gave him hope and peace. After a son, named Rahula (meaning rope or fetter) was born to him, one night he left home and wandered around for many years.
  • He studied yoga and meditation from two hermits - UdrakaRamaputhra and Alara Kalama. For some time he practised severe asceticism, but soon realized that it did not help him. Finally, he sat down at the bottom of the Bodhi tree.
  • At the age of 35, during meditation under the Bodhi tree (the tree of wisdom), on the bank of the river Neranjara at Bodh-Gaya (near Gaya in modern Bihar), Gotama (Gautama) attained Enlightenment. In the beginning, he was reluctant to share his experiences with any one for fear of being misunderstood. Gradually, he changed his mind and delivered his first sermon to a group of five ascetics (who were old colleagues) in the Deer Park at Lsipatana, near Varanasi. After this, he taught all kinds of people till the end of his life, irrespective of their caste, religion, or status in society. After preaching and teaching for many years, Buddha attained Nirvana at the age of eighty at Kushinagara in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
  • Buddha was the only religious founder who did not make any super natural claim. He was simple and humane.
  • Whatever he achieved could be attained by any human person. Every person has the inner potency to become an enlightened one, through constant meditation and a disciplined life. He founded the religion of Buddhism after he attained true wisdom under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya.
  • In his first public address at the Sarnath Deer Park in Benares, Buddha spoke of the four noble truths, which are,
    • the world is full of suffering
    • suffering is caused by desire
    • suffering can be removed
    • in order to remove suffering one has to overcome desire.

FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS

The Buddha was least interested in metaphysical discourses or dogmas. He was concerned about ethical living, applicable to all sections of people - kings, princes, Brahmans, people of low caste, masters, servants, monks, ordinary people, etc. He taught about the nobility of a religion. The four Noble Truths are the essence of the Buddha’s teachings, which he explained in his first sermon to his old colleagues at Isipattana. These noble truths are explained in detail later, in other early Buddhist scriptures.

  1. Dukkha: there is ‘Suffering’ in the world.
  2. Samudaya: the arising or origin of ‘Suffering’.
  3. Nirodha: the cessation of ‘Suffering’.
  4. Magga: there is a path leading to the end of ‘Suffering’.

THE DOCTRINE OF NO SOUL (ANATTA)

  • Most of the religions pre-suppose the existence of a soul. Buddhism is unique in denying the existence of a soul or atman.
  • The ideal of ego or self is with the aim of self-protection and self-preservation. These are basically selfish desires.
  • The concept of anatta is closely connected with the doctrine of the five aggregates and dependent origination.
  • The concept of self can be analyzed as a combination of the five aggregates. There is nothing permanent; everything is conditioned, dependant, and relative. Buddhism originated at a time when there were two predominant trends in the intellectual milieu of India, i.e., the powerful and popular spiritualistic thinking, and materialistic thinking. The former accepted the authority of the Vedas while the latter rejected it.
  • Almost all religious accepted the existence of a soul, whereas materialism strongly rejected the existence of a soul. Buddhism did not follow any of the prevalent trends but followed the middle path. Buddhism was an exception, in denying the existence of a soul, but at the same time it rejected the materialistic philosophy. The idea of an ego or a self in any religion is with the aim of self-protection and self-preservation. Self-protection necessitates the existence of God, and self-preservation necessitates the existence of self. These two are basically selfish desires.
  • The concept of Anatta is closely connected with the doctrine of the five aggregates and dependent origination. The concept of self can be analyzed as a combination of the five aggregates. There is nothing permanent; everything is conditioned in dependence and relativity.

THE CONCEPT OF GOD

  • The concept of Buddhism refutes the idea of a God who throws the sinners into everlasting torments. In fact, the Buddhists believe in the existence of an enlightened being, who vows to save all sentient beings from their sufferings.
  • The concept of enlightenment is principally concerned with developing a method to escape from the illusions of the materialistic world.
  • Generally, we use the term 'God' to designate a supreme power, who is the creator of the entire universe and the chief law-giver for humans.
  • The God or Almighty is considered to be concerned with the welfare of His creations and the 'moksha' or salvation for those who follow His dictates.
  • Different religions and sects follow this God differently by different names, but as far as Buddhism is concerned, it has a different perception for Him.
  • Almost all the sects of Buddhism do not believe in the myth of God. Indeed some of the early Indian Mahayana philosophers denounced God-worship in terms which are even stronger than those expressed in the Theravada literature.
  • Some later Mahayana schools, which flourished outside India, ascribed some degree of divinity to a transcendent Buddha, considering living Buddhas to be a manifestation of the Adi Buddha.
  • But even then it cannot be said that the Buddha was converted into a Divinity comparable to the God of the monotheistic religions.
  • In the BrahmajalaSutta and the AggaaSutta texts, the Buddha refutes the claims of Maha Brahma (the main God) and shows Him to be subject to karmic law (i.e. cosmic law). Even long-lived Maha Brahma will be eliminated in each cycle of inevitable world dissolution and re-evolution.
  • In the KhevaddaSutta, Maha Brahma is forced to admit to an inquiring monk that he is unable to answer a question that is posed to him, and advises the monk to consult the Buddha. This clearly shows that Brahma acknowledges the superiority of the Buddha. The Buddha is viewed as some kind of a god figure.
  • In the Theravada tradition, the Buddha is regarded as a supremely enlightened human teacher who has come to his last birth in the samsara (the Buddhist cycle of existence).
  • But, Mahayana traditions, which tend to think in terms of a transcendental Buddha, do not directly make a claim for Buddha as God. Thus the Buddha cannot be considered as playing a God-like role in Buddhism. Rather, Buddha is concerned as an enlightened father of humanity.

SECTS OF BUDDHISM

Mahayana:

  • Mahayana Buddhism developed its own canon of scripture, using much that was included in the Theravada canon, but adding other Mahayana Sutras which contain the bases of their peculiar beliefs.
  • Among these the best known and most widely used are the famous Lotus Gospel and the Sukhavati-Vyu-ha which are the scriptures especially of the pure land sects. The path followed by the Gautama is thus the Mahayana - ‘the great vehicle’ or vehicle of the Bodhisttva (bodhisattva-yana).
  • The Mahayana movement claims to have been founded by the Buddha himself, though at first confined to a select group of hearers.
  • Many of the leading teachers of the new doctrines were born in south India, studied there, and afterwards went to the North; one of the earliest and most important being Nagarjuna and other major sutras circumstantially connected with the south.
  • During the life-time of the Blessed One (Buddha), he was already highly venerated and his aid was invoked by his disciples in their spiritual struggles. A simple cult developed about the relics of the Blessed One very early.
  • His body was burned, and the ashes and bones distributed among the disciples. Shrines were built to house those relics, some of them very elaborate and expensive; for example, the very impressive one that has his head. Images of the Buddha representing him in mediation under the Bodhi tree became common.
  • At first they were conceived of simply, as subjectively helpful. Veneration of the relic had the effect of calming the heart. Later arose the belief that such a reverential act was good in itself and would result in securing merit. Pilgrimages made to sacred spots associated with him would likewise benefit one and would result in karma.
  • Given the characteristic Hindu background, it was natural that for all practical purposes Gautama should soon become a god, though not theoretically called so.
  • Given likewise the characteristic Hindu speculative philosophical interest, attempts to explain the relation of the Buddha to the ultimate realty of the universe naturally began to be made, almost from the start.
  • According to the Mahayana, reality is beyond the rational intellect or beyond the four categories of understanding. And they say that the world is real and relative, and the absolute reality only appears as the manifold universe. Plural is not real.
  • The Mahayana concept of liberation is not merely for one, but is meant for all. The ideal Bodhisattva defers his own salvation in order to work for the salvation of others. And they also hold that nirvana is not a negative state of cessation of misery, but is positive bliss.

Hinayana:

  • The Hinayana or lesser vehicle has been more moderate in its doctrine of the person of the Buddha. He is theoretically neither a god nor a supernatural being.
  • His worship or veneration is helpful, but not essential, to the achievement of the salvation goal.
  • This is to be reached by something like the process Gautama taught, namely, meditation on the four noble truths and the keeping of the Dharma; in short, becoming a monk, for one could not carry out all the requirements and live an active life in the day-to-day world.
  • Thus the number to whom salvation lay open was comparatively small. It was this fact which caused the followers of the Mahayana school to call the older school the ‘little vehicle’. Not many could ride at a time.
  • Mahayana, on the other hand, made salvation universally possible for achievement. The goal of the Hinayana was to become an Arhat, that is, to arrive at Nirvana in the present life; an ideal of salvation of the self, with no reference to the welfare of others, and thus an egoistic ideal.
  • That of Mahayana was of a more altruistic sort. It was to become a Buddha; and theoretically, at least, anyone might aspire to reach Buddha-hood. To be sure, he would not reach it in one single lifetime, but there was elaborated a definite series of steps, ten in all, through which one must pass before arriving at the goal.
  • One who had taken the vow of future Buddha – hood was called a Bodhisattva, and he need not be a monk. Here was a clear-cut difference from the Hinayana School - a layman might aspire for the highest goal.
  • But the most notable difference was the fact that in becoming a Bodhisttva , one became ( after passing a certain stage) a great ‘cosmic helper’ or saviour, dedicated to the saving of mankind. Men came to rely on the help of such ‘great beings’ in their search for freedom.

GK through MAP (Snippets)

Pre-History Sites of Utter Pradesh

Pre-History Sites of Utter Pradesh

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90 Days Planner (Day 14 History-Vedic Age)

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