Buddhism and Jainism are ancient religions that developed during Ancient India era. Buddhism is based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha, while Jainism is based on the teachings of Mahavira. Both of these topics are very important for UPSC Prelims 2021 and UPSC Mains exams syllabus GS papr 1. The Aspriants should be thorough with not only factual but also the conceptual details.


  • Jainism
  • Buddhism


The complex rituals and sacrifices of the Brahmins in the later Vedic period weren’t acceptable to the common people. The sacrifices and rituals were too expensive and mantras and superstitions confused the people. The teachings of the Upanishads were philosophical in nature and weren’t easily understood. The common man needed simple, short and intelligible ways to salvation. The religious teachings should be in a language known to them. Jainism and Buddhism fulfilled this need.

The rigid caste system was also another reason that the new religions were accepted easily. The varna system gave highest status to Brahmins. This caused resentment in kshatriyas. The merchant class i.e. vaishyas wanted to improve their status in society as they were economically and socially more forward. The varna system didn’t allow this. It should be noted that this merchant class embraced these new religions. Jainism had 24 tirthankars, 1st was Rishabdev, 23rd Parshvanath.

Like the Charvakas, the Jains too do not believe in the Vedas, but they admit the existence of a soul. They also agree with the orthodox tradition that suffering (pain) can be stopped by controlling the mind and by seeking right knowledge and perception and by observing the right conduct. The Jaina philosophy was first propounded by the tirthankar Rishabha Deva. The names of Ajit Nath and Aristanemi are also mentioned with Rishabha Deva. There were twenty-four tirthankaras who actually established the Jaina darshan. The first tirthankar realised that the source of Jaina philosophy was Adinath. The twenty- fourth and the last tirthankar was named Vardhaman Mahavira who gave great impetus to Jainism. Mahavira was born in 599 BC. He left worldly life at the age of thirty and led a very hard life to gain true knowledge. After he attained Truth, he was called Mahavira. He strongly believed in the importance of celibacy or brahamcharya.

Jain Theory of Reality: Seven Kinds of Fundamental Elements

 The Jainas believe that the natural and supernatural things of the universe can be traced back to seven fundamental elements. They are jiva, ajivaa, astikaya, bandha, samvara, nirjana, and moksa. Substances like body which exist and envelope (like a cover) are astïkaya. Anastikayas like ‘time’ have no body at all. The substance is the basis of attributes (qualities). The attributes that we find in a substance are known as dharmas. The Jainas believe that things or substance have attributes. These attributes also change with the change of kala (time). From their point of view, the attributes of a substance are essential, and eternal or unchangeable. Without essential attributes, a thing cannot exist. So they are always present in everything. For example, consciousness (chetana) is the essence of the soul; desire, happiness and sorrow are its changeable attributes.


Gautama Buddha, who founded the Buddhist philosophy, was born in 563 BC at Lumbini, a village near Kapilavastu in the foothills of Nepal. His childhood name was Siddhartha. His mother, Mayadevi, died when he was hardly a few days old. He was married to Yashodhara, a beautiful princess, at the age of sixteen. After a year of the marriage, he had a son, whom they named Rahul. But at the age of twenty-nine, Gautama Buddha renounced family life to find a solution to the world’s continuous sorrow of death, sickness, poverty, etc. He went to the forests and meditated there for six years. Thereafter, he went to Bodh Gaya (in Bihar) and meditated under a pipal tree. It was at this place that he attained enlightenment and came to be known as the Buddha. He then travelled a lot to spread his message and helped people find the path of liberation or freedom. He died at the age of eighty.

Gautama’s three main disciples known as Upali, Ananda and Mahakashyap remembered his teachings and passed them on to his followers. It is believed that soon after the Buddha’s death a council was called at Rajagriha where Upali recited the Vinaya Pitaka (rules of the order) and Ananda recited the Sutta Pitaka (Buddha’s sermons or doctrines and ethics). Sometime later the Abhidhamma Pitaka consisting of the Buddhist philosophy came into existence.

Main Characteristics

Buddha presented simple principles of life and practical ethics that people could follow easily. He considered the world as full of misery. Man’s duty is to seek liberation from this painful world. He strongly criticised blind faith in the traditional scriptures like the Vedas. Buddha’s teachings are very practical and suggest how to attain peace of mind and ultimate liberation from this material world.

Realization of Four Noble Truths.

The knowledge realized by Buddha is reflected in the following four noble truths:

  • There is suffering in human When Buddha saw human beings suffering from sickness, pain and death, he concluded that there was definitely suffering in human life. There is pain with birth. Separation from the pleasant is also painful. All the passions that remain unfulfilled are painful. Pain also comes when objects of sensuous pleasure are lost. Thus, life is all pain.

  • There is cause of suffering, The second Noble Truth is related to the cause of It is desire that motivates the cycle of birth and death. Therefore, desire is the fundamental cause of suffering.

  • There is cessation of The third Noble Truth tells that whenpassion, desire and love of life are totally destroyed, pain stops. This Truth leads to the end of sorrow, which causes pain in human life. It involves destruction of ego (aham or ahamkara), attachment, jealousy, doubt and sorrow. That state of mind is the state of freedom from desire, pain and any kind of attachment. It is the state of complete peace, leading to nirvana

  • Path of The fourth Noble Truth leads to a way that takes to liberation. Thus, initially starting with pessimism, the Buddhist philosophy leads to optimism. Although there is a constant suffering in human life, it can be ended finally. Buddha suggests that the way or the path leading to liberation is eight-fold, through which one can attain nirvana.

Eight-fold Path to Liberation (Nirvana)

  • Right One can attain right vision by removing ignorance. Ignorance creates a wrong idea of the relationship between the world and the self. It is on account of wrong understanding of man that he takes the non-permanent world as permanent. Thus, the right view of the world and its objects is the right vision.

  • Right It is the strong will-power to destroy thoughts and desires that harm others. It includes sacrifice, sympathy and kindness towards others.

  • Right Man should control his speech by right resolve. It means to avoid false or unpleasant words by criticizing others.

  • Right It is to avoid activities which harm life. It means to be away from theft, excessive eating, the use of artificial means of beauty, jewellery, comfortable beds, gold etc.

  • Right Means of Livelihood. Right livelihood means to earn one’s bread and butter by right It is never right to earn money by unfair means like fraud, bribery, theft, etc.

  • Right It is also necessary to avoid bad feelings and bad impressions. It includes self-control, stopping or negation of sensuality and bad thoughts, and awakening of good thoughts.

  • Right Mindfulness. It means to keep one’s body, heart and mind in their real Bad thoughts occupy the mind when their form is forgotten. When actions take place according to the bad thoughts, one has to experience pain.

  • Right If a person pursues the above seven Rights, he will be able to concentrate properly and rightly. One can attain nirvana by right concentration (meditation).


This article tells you about the Buddhism and Jainism religion in Ancient times, to read more about Religion in Ancient India - Click here