Buddhism 5: Decline of Buddhism

Decline of Buddhism As mentioned earlier, Buddhism witnessed clash of philosophy and stress on codes among various versions. In due course of time, it gradually declined and, around the end of 7th century, became almost invisible from the Indian land. What were the causes of such a decline? Let us find out. Shift of kings’-favor As we know that the favour and support of rulers were one of the causes for the spread of Buddhism. However, after the Mauryas, India was mushroomed with those kings who favoured Vedic religion. In fact, the rulers and their officers started resurrecting Vedic religion by performing huge sacrifices and giving donations. It hampered the support of Buddhism. 2.3.6. Introspection of Vedic religion The speedy growth of non-Vedic religions forced Vedic religion to introspect within their own belief systems. Thus, they made some reforms in the erstwhile rigid ritualistic Vedic religion. It became people oriented. It introduced concepts like temples for mass-congregation, idol worship, devotional mode of prayers, simple code of conducts, establishment of monasteries, pilgrimages etc. Hence, crowds of people were attracted to Vedic religion. Dissensions in Buddhism Immediately after the departure of Buddha, Buddhism faced with dissensions. To curb such conflicts and reach to unanimity, contemporary rulers organized grand assemblies from time to time. However, they proved in vain. Besides, for the people’s orientation, Buddhism also accepted concepts like idol-worship, Sanskrit-language, concept of heaven & hell, cycle of birth etc. Such concepts marred the individualistic identity of Buddhism, which was originally revolutionary and heterodox in nature. Except Menander and Kanishka, almost all foreign rulers were followers of the Vedic religion. The aggressive Huna tribe was the follower of the Shiva cult. It destroyed Buddhist monastery and learning centres. It was a final blow of dispersed Buddhists at that time. In summing up, we can say that, by introducing religion based on simple philosophy and codes of conduct Buddhism presented a challenge to the then ritualistic, complex and isolated Vedic religion. Due to Buddhism, India witnessed the true religion of the common person. Besides, it is credited with spreading Indian culture into distant foreign lands. 

Comparison and Contrast Between Jainism and Buddhism Mahavira and Buddha were contemporaries and there was much in common between them. It is because of the similarities between the two that some scholars think that Jainism owes its origin to Buddhism or Jainism is the oldest branch of Buddhism. Berth wrote ‘Jainism is a sect which took rise in Buddhism’. Others like Weber and Lassen believe that Jainism branched off from Buddhism. But modern scholars disagree with the above views and maintain that the two religions have a lot in common but the basic differencein the philosophies of the two makes each of them a distinct religion. Both of them were the products of intellectual, spiritual and social forces of their age which arose as a challenge to the existing Bramanical order. Both possessed Aryan cultural background and were inspired by Upanishads especially the Samkhya-Yoga, Atheism, pessimism about human life being full of misery, doctrines of transmigration of soul and theory of Karma and 106 the belief in dualism about spirit and matter are all essence of Samkhya Yoga which Jainism and Buddhism adopted with some modifications. Both were started by the Kshatriya class who appealed and gave Social status to the Vaishya and Shudra castes. They emerged in eastern India, a place which had retained some features of pre-Aryan culture. Their common place of origin and their newly acquired support from the economically prosperous Vaishyas and socially oppressed Sudras all together helped in the publicity of their principles. Their attack on the caste system, rituals and sacrifices, and the supremacy of the Brahmanas led the people to acquire new dimensions to deal with problems of life and living. Both aimed at Nirvana or salvation from the cycle of birth and death as the ultimate aim of life. Both laid stress on pure and moral life for spiritual upliftment. Both emphasized Ahimsa or non-violence. Both denied authenticity of the Vedas as an infallible authority. Both emphasized the doctrines of transmigration of soul and laid stress on the effects of Karmas on an individual’s future birth. Both discontinued Sanskrit and Jain text took to Prakrit and Buddhist to Pali, which was the language of the masses. In order to preach their religion, both established Sanghas or orders for monks and nun and encouraged criticism as means to attain enlightenment. Though Jainism and Buddhism resembled each other very much, yet there were distinctions between the two religions. Jainism is a much more ancient religion as compared to Buddhism. According to Jain tradition, it had twenty four Tirthankaras of whom Mahavira was the last. In this light, Mahavira has been regarded as a reformer of an already existing religion while Buddha is the originator of a new one. Jainism believes that all elements of nature have a soul whereas Buddhism believed in life in animate things only. As far as non-violence is concerned, Jainism laid a lot of emphasis on it and believed in extremities but Buddhism is liberal in approach and even permitted eating of flesh to its followers where it is a traditional diet of the people. Buddhism emphasized love to all beings which is a positive virtue and more affirmative concept of Ahimsa than the concept of non-injury to all beings as emphasized by Jainism. Jainism advised the practice of strict asceticism to attain nirvana while Buddhism preached the middle path to attain salvation. While Jainism thought women and men householders could not fulfill the eligibility to attain salvation, Buddhism believed both could attain and were eligible for the nirvana. According to Jainism, salvation is possible only after death while according to Buddhism, it is possible during one’s own life if one is able to detach oneself from the worldly existence. While Jainism describes nirvana as freedom from body, Buddhism describes it as an end of the self and breaking the cycle of birth and death by detriment from the worldly attractions. Buddhism was more practical in approach towards the problems of the time. It was more flexible to adopt changes into its fold with changing circumstances but Jainism was more rigid. While Buddhism spread all over Asia accommodating the traditions of the local population, Jainism remained confined to India only. Jainism remained closer to Hinduism than Buddhism. Therefore, conflicts between Jainism and Hinduism were negligible but Buddhism proved as a major rival to Hinduism. But with the bouncing back of Hinduism as a more positive religion with broader perspective, Buddhism practically disappeared from the land of its birth as a major reform movement. Thus, there is no doubt that Jainism and Buddhism, born at different intervals, though at about the same period of time, were marked by distinct characteristics along with possessing strong resemblances