A comparative study in Jainism and Buddhism

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					                                              Buddhist Era 2550 Binara Full Moon - Thursday September 07, 2006


                A comparative study in Jainism and Buddhism
                          by Rohan Jayetilleke                                vation of languages both Aryan and Dravidian are praiseworthy. The
                                                                              teachings of Jainism are antagonistic to Vedic religions. According to
   In the Vedic Society in which Buddha was born in India, there were         Jainism there have flourished 24 Thrianksras (for-crossers) or leaders
four stages of the life of the individual, namely, Brahmacharya (stu-         of their faith. The first was Rishabha, the twenty-second Nemi or
dent period), Gruhasta (Householder), Vanapravastha (Renunciation             Neminatha, the twenty third Parusava and the last Mahavira
of household life) and Sannasi (Wandering ascetic). The last two              (Niganthanatha Putra) who was a twenty-year senior contemporary of
stages, which were the norms of society was in search of Moksha or            the Buddha.
liberation from the recurring birth and death and reunion with                   Mahavira was born at Kundagram near Vaisali to the north of Patna
Brahma, the Creator God. The Vedic scripture that dealt with the              in Bihar. He hailed from the Naya (Jnata) clan and thus he is called
entire life cycle were the Four Vedas Rig, Yajur, Sama and Tharva.            also Nattaputta in the Pali Canon of Buddhism. His father was
These Vedic codes of discipline were rooted in various forms of ritu-         Siddhartha, a ruler of the areas. His mother Trisala (Priyakarini) was
als, tantric rites, black magic, use and display of psychic powers, div-      of the royal family of the clan of Licchavis of the Vajjian confedera-
ination, occult and esoteric practices of all kinds, which are included       cy of Vaisali. Mahavira is renounced worldly life at the age of 30
in the list of the forbidden practices in the Brahmajala Sutta dis-           years and engaged in penances in search of knowledge. He had no
coursed by the Buddha.                                                        teacher as such, for he had his immediate predecessor Parsavanatha
   These various concepts and faiths in India at the time approximat-         as the guide through his teachings although he had passed away many
ed to around 300 and were based on scriptural authoritarianism (Veda          centuries ago. Mahavira wandered around for 12 years engaging in
pramanayam), belief in a Creator-god (Katruvada), Soul Theory                 rigorous penances and attained his goal, enlightenment, as recorded
(Atmavada), Holy did (Snane-dharmeccha and self mortification to              in Jainism.
overcome evil (Santaparambha papahanaya). Jainism, which was 20                  His career was one of supreme detachment and was called
years senior to contemporary Buddhism, during the time of the                 Nirgrantha, one without ties, both internal and external. Mahavira
Buddha in India in the sixth century B.C., hinged on soul-theory and          advocated all living beings had a right to live and this sanctity of life
self mortification and extreme Ahimsa (non-violence). Buddha                  became the fulcrum of his teachings. The followers included monks,
rejected the soul-theory and self mortification and his doctrine of           nuns, householders and their women folk and built up a well-knit
ahimsa was primarily based on mental states than on bodily action,            Sangha, or socio-religious organization. The nuns with the passage of
through developing the sublime states of mind (Brahma Vihara) of              time deviated from spirituality and misconduct was rampant. This
metta (loving kindness), Karuna (compassion), muditha (blissful joy)          was the main reason, like the Devadasis of Vedic shrines too degen-
and upekkha (equanimity). These mental states and the intellectual            erating similarly in behaviour Buddha was not readily inclined to set
comprehension of the Four Noble Truths and following the Noble                up a Bhikkhuni Sasana, which he did later on three entreaties of
Eight fold path, the devotee is able to erase from his mind the three         Ananda under certain conditions to govern the bhikkhuni conduct. He
main taints of lobha (attachment to animate and inanimate things),            travelled around India Ganges Valley for 30 years and died at the age
dosa (anger or enmity) and moha (ignorance). These too lead one to            of 72 in 527 B.C. at Pava in Bihar. The death was celebrated with a
gain Sila (morality) panna (insight) and samadhi (meditative concen-          lamp-festival by the two ruling families of the region, the Mallakis
tration of the mind without allowing the mind to proceed on a wan-            and the Licchavis. The present most popular annual festival of
derlust.                                                                      Hindus the world over Dipavali (Festival of Lights) is a continuation
   It is imperative for a comparative study of the ultimate truth (para-      of this Jain Mahavira’s death celebrating lamp-festival.
ma sacca) expounded by the Buddha as against the conventional
truths (sammutu sacca) of other contemporary Indian faiths, to delve             Eminent teachers
into the concepts of Jainism. As regards the concept of God, Buddha               In the wake of the death of Mahavihara, eminent teachers of
elaborated gods are beings belonging to different divine planes of            Jainism such as Gautama, Jambu et al emerged, receiving royal
existence. Having acquired great spiritual merit (punna) they are born        patronage from kings such as Srenika Bimbisara of Magadha,
in these celestial planes and live enjoying an immense span of life.          Chandragupta Maurya, India’s first great emperor, Kharvel, the
Unless they keep on replenishing the merits, upon death they are              Kalinga (Orissa) conqueror and many others. Under the leadership of
reborn in lower planes, like that of human beings. Buddhism does not          Bhadrabahu, Jainism spread to western and southern parts of India.
advocate beseeching for divine favours. However, Buddhists offer              Subsequently difference in ascetic practices split the organization to
merit (anumodana) born of their good deeds, and wish for their pro-           two main section, the Digambara and Svetambara. However, basic
tection against evil forces that affect their spiritual and worldly well-     dogmas remained constant. The ruling classes and more specially the
being. This is an offering based on mutual benefit.                           mercantile sector were impressed by the ascetism of Jain monks, they
                                                                              adopted Jainism as a way of life. The Jain followers of the mercantile
  Universal flux                                                              sector were so financially stable that even during the East India
   The Vedic concept as well as Jainism, is inextricably bound up             Company days they were the noted bankers. Jainism does not invest
with the metaphysical first cause or a creator god, which constitute          in any particular language and treat language only as a means to an
the Atman or soul. Buddha reject this soul-theory and in its place            end. Unlike Pali in Theravada Buddhism and Sanskrit in Mahayana
expostulated in the context of continuous creation and universal flux,        Buddhism Jainism has no doctrinal language as such.
everything phenomenal is a process. Everything arises, continues and             Mahavira preached in Ardhamagadhi, a mix of contemporary of
passes away, based upon the synchronocity of a set of conditions.             Prakrit. Jain authors used Sanskrit for polemic and literary works
This impersonal function of the stream of psycho-physical phenome-            according to the needs of the occasion. They contributed to the
na, otherwise called the personality, is without a substratum or an           growth of languages such as Apabhramsa, Old Hindi, Old Gujarati
underlying changeless substance. The Anatta (self or soul) doctrine of        etc. Jain authors were the pioneers in cultivating Tamil and Kannada
the Buddha is dynamic, impersonal and unsubstantial process. It is            languages. Jain literature is not entirely religious and has a wide spec-
not mere absence of a self. Since self is only and assumption and not         trum of secular branches learning including mathematics an astrono-
a reality, there is no question of its presence or absence according to       my.
Buddhism.                                                                        Jainism commences with two principles, the living (jiva) and non-
                                                                              living (ajiva). The living is already in contact with the non-living
  Jainism                                                                     from beginningless times. This contact results in living beings on
   Jainism is essentially an Indian religion and it is still a living force   account of thoughts, words and acts to the influx (asrava) of fresh
in some parts of India with just over two million followers of whom           energies known as karmas, which are conceived a subtle matter. This
the greatest majority are the richest sections of the country. It enjoyed     influx is to be counteracted (samvara) by rigorous penances. The sal-
royal patronage and its contribution to Indian art and architect are, to      vation (Moksha) is thus attained.
the preservation and promotion of Indian literature and to the culti-            The Soul and Non-soul (jiva and ajiva) are the basic principles
which comprise all that exists in the universe. The soul is charac-         the continuity principle. Infant prodigies and wonderful children,
terised according to Jainism, by sentiency or consciousness, but in its     who speak different languages without ever receiving any instruc-
embodied state has sense organs, acts of mind, speech, body, respira-       tions, are noteworthy examples of the continuity principle. Dhamma
tion and period of life. Further, Jainism advocates souls are infinite in   niyama, the order of the norm, e.g. the natural phenomena occurring
not retaining their individuality and cannot be destroyed or merged         at the birth of a Bodhisatta in his last birth. Gravitation and other sim-
into any other supreme being, thus denying a creator god. Living can        ilar laws of nature, the reason for being good etc., come under this
exist in two states librated siddha or mukta and worldly (samsara).         group. Citta niyama, the order of the mind of psychic law e.g.
The latter is classified as mobile (trasa) and immobile (sthavara) and      processes of consciousness, constituents of consciousness, power of
still a third state of nigoda beings. The nigoda are host-souls and pre-    mind including telepathy, telaesthesia, recognition, premonition,
sent all over the world. They form the lowest stratum as against the        clairvoyance, calsi-audience, thought - reading and similar psychic
higher state of the liberated ones.                                         phenomena come under this group and are inexplicable by science,
                                                                            other than by a Buddha. Thus kamma is only one factor and not the
   Transmigration                                                           pivotal role of birth, death ad rebirth as explained in Jainism.
   Jainism asserts that the soul is in a process of transmigration and         The followers of Jainism, Niganthas were at Anuradhapura in the
led by kammas. In contrast, Buddha says positively, “Without cog-           6th century BC, during the reign of Pandukabhaya, namely Jothiya,
nizable beginning is this samsara cycle of births, deaths and rebirths.     Giri and Kumbhanda. Pandukabhaya built a house for Nigantha
The earliest point of beings, who are obstructed by ignorance (Moha)        Jotiya eastward of the Lower Cemetery at Anuradhapura (nica
and fettered by craving (tanha) wander and fare on, is not to be per-       susana). The Nigantha named Giri also lived in the same locality.
ceived. Samsara, literally, means recurrent wandering; Atthasalini          Pandukabhaya is reported to have erected a devakula (chapel) for
describes Samsaras thus; “Khandhanam patpati datuayatanam ca abb-           Kumbhandha Nigantha, and it was known after the name of this
hochinam vattamana samsara, ti pavuccat.” Samsara is the unbroken           Nigantha (Mahavamsa). The Nigantha monasteries (assamapadani)
succession of aggregates, elements, and the sensebases. This life           of these three niganthas were in existence even during the time of
stream continues ad infinitum, as long as it is fed by muddy waters of      king Devanmpiya Tissa and they were included within the boundaries
ignorance and raving. When these too are completely served, rebirth         of Mahasima, when Arahant Mahinda decided on the boundaries of
ends, as in the case of Buddhas and Arahants.                               the holy city of Buddhism Anuradhapura. (Mahabodhivamsa p.84).
   As regards kamma, Buddha says, ‘All living beings have kamma as          Thus it could be asserted that king Devanmpiya Tissa, prior to being
their own’ (Majjhima Nikaya). Kamma is the law of moral causation.          a Buddhist was a follower of Jainism.
Rebirth its corollary. Both kamma and rebirth are inter-related.               The Mahavamsa - Tika says king Khallatana (50-43 BC) had three
Buddha asserts emphatically that kamma is not the main and only             nephews named Tissa, Abhaya and Uttara who plotted against the
cause. According to Buddhism there are five processes or norms              king, jumped into the fire at this monastery and committed suicide
(niyamas) which operate in the physical and mental realism.                 Mahavamsa Tika says that the pyre was made at the spot where
   They are utu niyama, physical organic order e.g. seasonal phenom-        Abhayagiri Vihara stands today. The next king Vattagamani - Abhaya
ena or winds and rains, in the unerring order of seasons. Bija niyama       (43 BC) demolished this monastery and built Abhayagiri on the spot.
the order of germs and seeds (physical organic order) The scientific        We hear no more of Jain monasteries thereafter and no archaeologi-
theory of cells and genes and the physical similarity of twins and even     cal remains too have been discovered. The Jain monasteries with the
the traits of persons of the same parentage could be attributed to this.    advent of Buddhism would have ben converted to Buddhist Viharas,
If a person’s father, is alcoholic, ill-manner, non-socialised, repugnant   as was the case with Giri Monastery at Anuradhapura Vide Journal of
to others, refers to others in disparaging language, always irritant,       the Royal Asiatic Society (Colombo Branch) Vol XXII, No. 82 and
non-listening to others, ever quarrelsome and never show any symp-          Lewis Rice, Mysore and Coorgy p.3 ff).
toms even of kindness and benevolence to others, even if the children          Emperor Asoka’s Pillar Edict VII (of 44 lines) Delhi Topra Pillar in
are professionally trained in any field, genetically these malevolent       line 25 says, “Some Mahamatras were ordered by me to busy them-
traits will be ever in them and such persons after death, will never        selves with the affairs of the Sangha; likewise others were ordered by
have the chance to be reborn as human beings, even if they do they          me to busy themselves also with the brahamanas and Ajivakas, oth-
would be targets of vilification and physical debilities. Kamma niya-       ers to busy themselves also with Nirgranthas.”
ma the order of act and result e.g. desirable and undesirable acts pro-        The writer is a member of the Bharathiya Kala Kendra of India.
duce corresponding good or bad results. The inherent kamma is also