Buddhism and Jainism

Buddhism and Jainism are the two branches of the Indian śramaṇa ascetic tradition that developed in Magadha that still exist today. Mahavira and Gautama Buddha were probably contemporaries (circa 5th century BCE). Jainism and Buddhism share many features, including much of the same terminology and ethical principles such as nonviolence. Jainism and Buddhism also agree that it is possible to attain liberation from the cycle of births and deaths (samsara) through spiritual and ethical disciplines.


Buddhism separates itself from the Jain tradition by teaching an alternative to Jain asceticism. Buddhist scriptures record that during Prince Siddhartha’s ascetic life (before attaining enlightenment) he undertook many fasts, penances, and austerities, the descriptions of which are elsewhere found only in the Jain tradition. In Majjhima Nikaya, Buddha shares his experience
Thus far, Sariputta, did I go in my penance? I went without clothes. I licked my food from my hands. I took no food that was brought or meant especially for me. I accepted no invitation to a meal.
These are in conformity with the conduct of a Digambara monk. Ultimately, the Buddha abandoned reliance upon these methods on his discovery of a Middle Way. In Jainism, there exists a non-extreme pathway for śrāvakas (lay practitioners) with minor vows. Some Buddhist teachings, principles, and terms used in Buddhism are identical to those of Jainism, but they may hold different or variant meanings for each.
Although both Buddhists and Jain had orders of nuns, Buddhist Pali texts record the Buddha saying that a woman has the ability to obtain nirvana in the dharma and Vinaya. According to Digambara Jains, women are capable of spiritual progress but must be reborn as a man in order to attain final spiritual liberation. The religious texts of the Śvētāmbaras mention that liberation is attainable by both men and women.
The Jain community (or Jain sangha) consists of monastics, munis (male ascetics) and aryikas (female ascetics) and householders, śhrāvaks (laymen) and śrāvakīs (laywomen).
Buddhism has a similar organization: the community consists of renunciate bhikkhus and bhikkhunis and male and female laypersons, or śrāvakas and śrāvikas, who take limited vows.
Whether or not it was an influence of Jain culture and philosophy in ancient Bihar that gave rise to Buddhism is unclear, but there are some striking similarities between the two traditions and Buddhism may have adopted many of its ideas and traditions from preexisting ones held by the Jains, including calendrical systems.
In fact, it is even possible that among the surviving calendars today, the Buddha Nirvana calendar (with a zero point in 544 BC) may actually be significantly older than the Kaliyuga calendar. And so, quite possibly, is the Mahavira Nirvana calendar of the Jains (with a zero point in 527 BC).

Jainism and Buddhism text

Pali Canon:

The Pāli Canon does not record that Mahavira and Gautama Buddha ever met, though instances of Mahavira’s disciples questioning Gautama Buddha are to be found in various suttas. The Buddhists have always maintained that by the time the Buddha and Mahavira were alive, Jainism was already an entrenched faith and culture in the region. According to the Pāli Canon, Gautama was aware of Mahavira’s existence as well as the communities of Jain monastics
Buddhist texts refer to Mahavira as Nigaṇṭha Jñātaputta. Nigaṇṭha means “without a knot, tie, or the string” and Jñātaputta (son of Natas), referred to his clan of origin Jñāta or Naya (Prakrit).
The five vows (non-injury, truth, non-attachment, non-thieving, celibacy/chastity) propounded by the 23rd Jain Tirthankara, Pārśva (877-777 BCE), may have been the template for the Five Precepts of Buddhism. Additionally, the Buddhist Aṅguttaranikāya scripture quotes the independent philosopher Purana Kassapa, a sixth century BCE founder of a now-extinct order, as listing the “Nirgranthas” as one of the six major classifications of humanity.
Buddhist writings reflect that Jains had followers by the time the Buddha lived. Suggesting close correlations between the teachings of the Jains and the Buddha, the Majjhima Nikaya relates dialogues between the Buddha and several members of the “Nirgrantha community”.
Indian Buddhist tradition categorized all non-Buddhist schools of thought as pāsaṇḍa “heresy” (pasanda means to throw a noose or pasha stemming from the doctrine that schools labeled as Pasanda foster views perceived as wrong because they are seen as having a tendency towards binding and ensnaring rather than freeing the mind). The difference between the schools of thought is outlined in the Samaññaphala Sutta of the Digha Nikaya.

Divyavadana :

The ancient text Divyavadana (Ashokavadana is one of its sections) mention that in one instance, a non-Buddhist in Pundravardhana drew a picture showing the Buddha bowing at the feet of Mahavira. On a complaint from a Buddhist devotee, Ashoka, the Maurya Emperor, issued an order to arrest him, and subsequently, another order to kill all the Ājīvikas in Pundravardhana. Around 18,000 Ājīvikas were executed as a result of this order. Some time later, another ascetic in Pataliputra drew a similar picture. Ashoka burnt him and his entire family alive in their house. He also announced an award of one Dinara (silver coin) to anyone who brought him the head of a Jain. According to Ashokavadana, as a result of this order, his own brother, Vitashoka, was mistaken for a heretic and killed by a cowherd. Their ministers advised that “this is an example of the suffering that is being inflicted even on those who are free from desire” and that he “should guarantee the security of all beings”. After this, Ashoka stopped giving orders for executions.
According to K. T. S. Sarao and Benimadhab Barua, stories of persecutions of rival sects by Ashoka appear to be a clear fabrication arising out of sectarian propaganda.
Buddhist Text In Jainism libraries:
Several Buddhist texts have been found in Jain libraries, suggesting that Jain scholars sometimes studied Buddhist texts also.
Padmanabh Jaini has reported that Vasudhara Dharani, a Buddhist work was still in among the Jainas of Gujarat in the 1960s, and a manuscript was copied in AD 1638. The Dharani was recited by non-Jain Brahmin priests in private Jain homes.
Shared Technology:
In many instances, both philosophies continue to share similar Prakrit terminology for important themes[16] even though meaning may differ a bit, for example, the term nirvana where its meaning is same in both the traditions but the state of nirvana described is somewhat different.
The shared terms include Sangha, Shramana (monk), Shravaka (Householder in Jainism, Buddha’s disciple in Buddhism), Jina (Tirthankara in Jainism, Buddha in Buddhism) and Arhat (somewhat similar meaning in both), Chaitya, Stupa, Pudgala (Matter in Jainism, soul in Buddhism) etc. Early Jainism used stupas, although the practice mostly (but not completely) was abandoned later.
The teachings may differ significantly in the interpretation. This method of teaching adopted by the Buddha points to the pragmatic aspect of his style of teaching wherein the Buddha uses words and terms that are familiar to the audience instead of introducing new and complex technical jargon. In this way, Buddhism sought to appeal to a broad audience.
In Jainism, the way of liberation is the ford (tirtha), and Tirthankaras “those making the ford” (from samsara to moksha) are supreme teachers. The Same concept is found in Buddhism which says that through enlightenment (bodhi) an individual crosses the river of samsara and attain liberation. Both religions deny the existence of a creator god.Buddhism and Jainism evince a shared belief in the existence of geographical regions beyond the parameters of Bharatvarsha, access to which could not be gained by ordinary human beings.
Karakandu, a Pratyekabuddha in both Jainism and Buddhism, is a rare personality that is shared between Jainism and Buddhism. The Jain text Isibhasiyam mentions Vajjiyaputra, Mahakashyap, and Sariputra among the rishis.
Jain vegetarianism is required for both monastics and laity. In Buddhism, Mahayana monks in China, Japan (see Shojin-Lori), Korea and Vietnam are vegetarian; however, vegetarianism is not required for lay Buddhists. In Theravada monastic tradition, a monk should eat whatever is placed in his bowl when receiving food. The exceptions not to eat given meat were if the monk knew an animal was killed especially for him or he heard the animal being killed.
Jainism regards the existence of an eternal Jiva (soul), Buddhism while denying Atman, uses the term Pudgala for the entity that is reborn (see anatta).
Jainism discourages monks and nuns from staying in a single place for a long time, with the exception of 4 months in the rainy season (chairman). Thus most of the time the Jain monks and nuns keep wandering staying in a place for just a few days. Some Theravada Buddhist monks also observe Vassa rules, but often they stay in one monastery.

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