The Buddhist Revolution
6. The Buddhist Revolution
THE free speculation foreshadowed in the Upanishads, the
impact of the teachings of thinkers like Kanada and Kapila, followed by the paribrajaka movement with its heretical views and, above all, the spread of Charvaka doctrines loosened the grip of Brahminism on minds of people. The Indian society was now ready to undergo a mental revolution; a master-mind was needed to bring it about. Soon one appeared on the scene.
As stated earlier, the propounders of new ideas were mostly kshatriyas (the warrior class) who because of the political power they wielded and the wealth they were able to amass, could fittingly become rivals of the entrenched Brahmins and play the role of the vanguard of the revolution. “The kshatriyas in those far off times seem to have revolted from the priestly dominance”; observes Douglas Hill, “and in kshatriya circles there grew up a body of speculative thought and mystical doctrine which later on the more spiritually¬minded Brahmins themselves were eager to learn.”!
In the post-Upanishadic period, kshatriyas supported by a rising class of traders, gathered strength and raised the banner of revolt against sacerdotal domination. Whether or not Kapila, Kanada and Charvaka were kshatriyas there is no doubt that the founders of the different heterodox philosophical schools referred to in the previous chapter were of non-Brahmin
origin and in certain cases of low birth such as slaves and outcastes. For the success of their mission they received munificent gifts and grants of money and land from both the ruling classes and the business communities.
Buddha and His Madhyama Pratipath
A kshatriya clan, the Sakyas, inhabited the Nepalese terrain, north of Ayodhya, and had their capital at Kapilvastu. In the sixth century B.C. the Sakya king was Suddhodana whose queen, Mayadevi, gave birth to a son, Siddhartha Gautama, at the village Lumbini in or about 563 B.C. The prince known to history as the Buddha (the Enlightened One) was to prove the man of destiny and bring about the revolution for which India was fully prepared.
Siddhartha spent many years, after deserting the royal palace, in acquiring knowledge from Brahmins and ascetics and in deep contemplation. He joined an order of paribrajakas, roamed about freely, and frequently exchanged views with the wanderers. Writing about these meetings and talks Rhys Davids records: “Digha-Nakha calls on the Buddha, the Buddha visits Sakuludayi; Vekhanasa calls on the Buddha, Keniya does the same, and Puttaliputta calls on Samidhi. The residents also, both to testify respect and to listen to their talk, used to call on the wanderers when the latter stayed in or near a village-evidence both of the popularity of the wanderers, and the frequent interchange of opinion.”2
Having fully matured his ideas and theories about life and the universe by vigorous thinking and deep contemplation under a banyan tree at Bodh-Gaya on the banks of the river Niranjana, Siddhartha Gautama attained nirvana (enlighten¬ment) and was entitled to be called the Buddha. Then he proceeded to Sarnath near Varanasi where he preached his first famous sermon recorded in the Buddhist text in these words:
This, 0 monks, is the sacred truth of suffering: birth is suffering, old age is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, to be united with unloved is suffering, to be separated from the loved is suffering; not to obtain what one desires is suffering; in short the five-fold clinging (to the earthly) is suffering, This, 0 monks, is the sacred truth of the origin of suffering, it is the thirst (of being), which leads from birth to birth, together with lust and desire, which finds gratification here and there: the thirst for power. This, 0 monks, is the sacred truth of the extinction of suffering; the extinction of this thirst by complete an¬nihilation of desire, letting it go, expelling it, separating oneself from it, giving it no room. This, 0 monks, is the sacred truth of the path which leads to the extinction of suffering. It is this sacred eight¬fold path, to wit: Right Faith, Right Resolve, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Living, Right Effort, Right Thought, Right Self-concentration. This is the sacred truth of suffering. Thus my eye, 0 monks, was opened to these conceptions which no one had comprehended before, and my judgement, cognition, intuition, and vision were opened. It is necessary to understand this sacred truth of suffering. I have comprehended this sacred truth of suffering.3
For the rest of his life after attaining enlightenment, Buddha travelled like a paribrajaka and preached his doctrines throughout Kosala and Magadha (modern Bihar) till he died at Kusinagara (now Kasira in Deoria district) at the venerable age of 80, in or about 483 B.C.
The Buddha’s sayings were preserved after his death in three books known as Tripitaka (three baskets) ; first consisting of Vinaya (rules of discipline for monks and nuns), second, Sutta (sayings of the Master) and third, Abhidhamma (philosophical discussions). It was decided that in case of doubt about anything in the Buddhist doctrines a council of competent monks should be summoned to resolve it. The first such council was held soon after the Master’s death.
Besides being a revolutionary thinker, Gautama Buddha was an able organiser. Having made his views known, he proceeded to establish a sangha (an order) of bhikshus (monks) who would carry the message far and wide to bring about the needed mental change in the country.
It is recorded that besides the kshatriyas, hundreds of merchants flocked to the Sangha and fully cooperated with it in the task of spreading the revolution. According to Chinese
traveller, Hieun Tsang (630-644 A.C.), the famous university at the great Nalanda monastery was founded with the munificence of five hundred merchants who were disciples of Buddha.
Buddha as can be seen from his first sermon, laid down four noble truths: 1. There is suffering in the world. 2. The suffering has a cause. 3. The cause must be removed and 4. The eight-fold path must be followed to remove the suffering and attain nirvana.
The essence of Buddhism lies in the eight-fold path. These are the stages in the path of freedom. To start with, one must have proper vision to see that the sorrow in the world is caused by uncontrolled desire, greed, selfishness and cupidity of man. Peace cannot be achieved until the desire is reasonably quenched. This can be done by following eight-fold path. The second step is to have rational aims; not to increase one’s power and wealth at the expense of others, not to get lost in enjoyment of pleasures of senses and luxury; while making one-self happy one should feel interested in increasing the happiness of others and to love all human beings in full measure. The third step is to control one’s speech and never to indulge in useless gossip or utter lies, calumny or abuse, because misuse of tongue is harmful both for one’s spiritual development and for the good of the society; uncontrolled speech can lead to quarrels and violence and murder. Therefore, speech must be measured, truthful, conducive to mutual friendship and pleasing. The fourth step is right action. It is essential to be non-violent and abstain from killing, theft, adultery, fornication and such other deeds as would lead to disruption
of society. Positively, one must perform actions which would benefit other people and help them to rise physically and intellectually. The fifth step is right living by which is meant that only pure and honest methods should be ad~pted to live and nothing done to harm other people in theIr onward march. The sixth step is to entertain only good thoughts in the mind; evil thoughts should be removed and noble thoughts inducted and acted upon. This will be the correct mental exercise and discipline. The seventh is to be aware of the fact that the body is made of unclean substance and therefore one should be alert and conscious of the sensations of pleasure and pain in the body. By constantly examining the sensations one should think upon the ways of removal of the evils that are produced by attachments of mind and bonds of flesh. The last and the eighth step is the right meditation. It is the carefully worked out mental training in concentration on problems of life that arise from time to time.4
The philosophy of the four truths and the eight-fold path contained mostly the values which had been propounded in one way or another by the rationalist thinkers in India who had preceded Buddha. It was the outcome of discussions and debates carried on for many generations. The Buddhist philosophy accepted both the materialistic-atomic theory of the Vaisheshaka system and the rationalistic-mechanistic conception of the universe as adopted by the Samkhya school. Buddha disputed the authority of the Brahminical scriptures and vigorously denounced sacrificial rites and rituals of the Vedic religion. He denied even the existence of an impersonal First Cause (the Brahman of the Vedanta) and refused to expatiate on the existence of soul. He declared that his mission is not one of religious conversions or of making metaphysical speculations, but one of objective enquiries into the causes and alleviation of human suffering on practical, psychological level.
The sixth century D.C. witnessed sociai dissolution in India after the Vedic tribal society had succumbed and there was much suffering all around. The old order had yielded, but a new one had yet to arise on its ashes. While many thinkers of the age felt terrified by the prevailing misery and shrank into their shells, Buddha manfully accepted the challenge to solve the gigantic problem confronting the society.
Maskarin Goshala tried to understand the causes of social dissolution but failing in that endeavour considered it safe to take shelter under fatalism. “Every thing appeared to him to have been determined by the most stupenduous, the most colossal, the unseen and fathomless force of we-know-not-what. It was the force of fate or destiny.”5 Buddha without attempting to fathom the fathomless devoted himself to build up a set of doctrines which suited the emerging social order and thus helped to accelerate the process of change.
. Observing the transitoriness of all things, their coming into existence and final extinction, Buddha formulated a philosophy of.change. He established that there is nothing permanent in this Universe and all life is no more than a stream of becomin17 a recurring phenomenon of birth and death. For him, therefore, . change and flux are the basis of reality. Frequently pointing to the fire, he says that the flame appears to be unchanged yet every moment it is different and not the same.
Buddha held that an individual was composed of constantly changing skandas (physical and mental conditions) which were five In ~umber. I. rupa (shape) 2. vedana (feeling) 3. sanjna (perc~ptlOn) 4. samskara (predisposition generated by past expenence) and vijna (consciousness). Since skandas are ever¬changing the individual cannot but be ephemeral. As long as sk~ndas are held together the individual functions as a single beIng and has a history. At death the union is dissolved and the skandas disperse. Thus permanency of self and the world is an illusion. Curiously, Buddha believed in the theory of karma, in rebirth and transmigration of soul which belief is incompatible with this theory. He, however, explained it by saying that experience of regrouping of skandas, hardens into a sort of rigidity, passes Over and becomes a new existence in another womb. The samsarchakra (The wheel of rebirth) is represented as having twelve spokes (dvadash nidhana) signifying twelve fetters or links. This idea is brought out in the theory of pratitya samutpada in which Buddha states that with cessation of ignorance action ceases, and then one after the other consciousness of all things also ceases. Thus the will to live .is the cause of our existence and its negation is nirvana. ::Philosophically speaking”, says Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, this conception of every thing having its being in an eternal flux was by far the most significant contribution of early Buddhism and it is not a little surprising to note that precisely the same view, along with the same illustration of the fire was proclaimed a couple of generations later by Heraclites in ancient Greece, and further, is being restated, though of course with an incomparably richer content by modern science.”6
The Buddhists did not make any attempt to reduce everything to non-existence as had been done by the nihilists from whose philosophy they took over several points. They only visualised everything in an endless process of constant flux. Their doctrine controverted the basic assumption of the Vedanta system that jivatman exists and is identical with Parmatman. For a solution of the riddle of life, Buddha declared that belief in Supreme Being or Parmatman was useless. His conception of individual consciousness does not carry with it any implication that ego exists or is in any way a reality. The indirect rejection of the doctrine of soul inevitably leads to the denial of the existence of God, because He cannot be reached except through soul.
No school of Buddhist philosophy admits the existence of any supernatural or metaphysical existence. Basing their own conception of the universe on the atomist theory of Vaisheshaka, the Buddhists divided life into two parts: external (material) and internal (mental). Mind and things mental are conditional upon the existence of an atomic aggregate that is a peculiar combination of elements; therefore the internal grows out of the external. The functioning of the atomic aggregate is a mechanical process which gives rise to the conscious, inteIlige nt part of the existence.
Buddha repeatedly advised his hearers to doubt, inquire and be honestly convinced before adopting the ideas preached by him. “One must not accept my dharma”, he declared, “from reverence, but first try it as gold is tried by fire.” He discouraged blind faith. He never contested the prerogative of reason to be the ultimate criterion of truth. When Kalama princess complained that Brahmin preachers were creating doubt in their minds about the truth of his doctrines, he said:
“It is the nature of things that doubt should arise. Do not believe in traditions merely because they have been handed down for many generations and in many places; do not believe in anything because it is rumoured and spoken of by many, do not believe because the written statement of some old sage is produced; do not believe in what you have fancied, thinking because it is extraordinary, it must have been planted by a deva or a wonderful being. After observation and analysis, when it agrees with reason, and is conducive to the good and to the benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”?
Buddha expressly declared it unworthy of a monk and dangerous for his doctrine to attempt to exert influence over a layman by means of magic rather than by means of reasoned teaching and persuasion. The Buddhist literature in which he is stated to have taken part in miracle-working and which boasts of his marvellous powers is a later addition by his unintelligent and uninformed followers.
Buddha was also a realist and to persuade the people to
abandon old ways, he showed what is widely known as the Middle Path (Madhyama Pratipath). This is the core of his teachings and he adumbrated it in his first discourse at Sarnath referred to above. It is called the Dharmachakra Pravartana Sutra. In it, he advised the monks to keep clear of the two extreme ways of life: one being that of ease and luxury and the other that of rigorous asceticism. The Middle Path allowed a monk to live a life of simplicity but moderate comfort with the bare requirements of food, clothing and residence, nevertheless with mind intent upon achieving the supreme goal.
Buddha believed that man was responsible for his own regeneration. Any reliance on authority was neither necessary nor efficacious. Effect must inevitably follow a cause and nothing can stop this process. “Each man suffers the consequences of his own acts and learns thereby, while helping his fellow men to the same deliverance; nor will prayer to the Buddha or to any God prevent an effect from following its cause. Buddhist monks are teachers and examplers, and in no sense intermediaries between Reality and the individual. The utmost tolerance is practised towards all other religions and philosophies, for no man has the right to interfere in his neighbour’s journey to the Goal.”8 There is no reference to . divine grace in the teachings of Buddha. To the enquiry of his chief disciple, Ananda, as to how monks should function after the Master’s death, Buddha replied; “Be ye lamps unto yourselves; be ye a refuge to yourselves; betake yourselves to no external refuge. Hold fast to the truth as a lamp; hold fast as a refuge to the truth; look not for refuge to anyone besides yourselves.” The barter system of rituals and burnt offerings to the deities, as prescribed by Brahminical scriptures, in return for
graces and material acquisitions such as good crops, was re~ugnant to Buddha. The only way to rid humanity of this evIl, he asserted, was by destroying the Vedic gods.
Buddha was opposed to division of society into castes. His repeated saying that all the four castes are equally pure must have been rather embarrassing for the arrogant Brahmins. For him there were either upasakas (house holders) or bhikshus (monks) among the people. To both he preached to live a moral life. Says B. G. Tilak: “Buddha did not accept either the Shrauta religious sacrifices pertaining to the state of a house holder, which involved the slaughter of animals, nor the division of society into four castes.”9
Buddha displayed uncommon capacity for organisation in founding the Sangha, an order of monks. True to his principles, he admitted every applicant into the Sangha without distinction of race, caste or sex as its member. “A scavenger, a dog-eater, member of the lowest castes, were highly respected monks, too, initiated by the Buddha himself. There was also a separate order of Buddhist nuns, with their own or~anisation. The two great kings of the day, no longer tribal chiefs but absolute monarchs, offered respectful patronage. T?e blacksmith Chunda served the aged Buddha a special d1S~ of mushrooms10 which later brought on a relapse of ear her attack of dysentry and led to the Teacher’s final illness but he, too, received as much attention in a special discours; on morality as the richest merchant or most noble princeling.”ll
As regards the regulations and the rules of life that a ~hikshu was expected to follow strictly, Kosambi has given an mteresting detail :
There. were reg~lations specially meant for the monks such as cehbacy, WhICh we~e not bin~ing upon the lay follower (upasaka). !he Bu~dhlSt m~nastlc order was organised and conducted Its meetmgs precisely on the lines of the tribal sabha .(assembly). The total number of monks in the Buddh1s,t S~ng~a could !?’ot have exceeded 500 during the Tea?her s life-hme, nor IS there any credible record of their havmg all gatherd together at anyone time till after his de~t~ .. The rul~s of the order which form a special vinaya (d1sclplme) sectIOn of the Buddhist canon are all ascribed the Buddha himself in order to lend them his authority; but they are obviously of the later origin for the most part though formulated not long after his death. During his lifetime, and even long afterwards, any group of six or more almsmen could, if so minded, frame their own special rules and follow their own special discipline without inter¬ference by the rest of the order, provided, of course, they respected the main doctrine. The monk was permitted no property beyond a begging-bowl, a water pot, at most three pieces of plain, unembroidered, patternless cloth (preferably pieced together from rags) for wear, oil jug, razor, needle and thread, and a staff. The more delicate were allowed plain sandals. Though he might beg his food in a village or town, the one daily meal or left-over scraps (mixed together to mini mise any pleasure of taste) bad to be eaten before noon. Nor could the almsman stay in a householder’s dwelling even for a single night (later altered to permit three nights or less). His residence has to be outside the settlement, in a grove, cave (originally natural cave), under a tree or in an enclosure into which dead bodies were thrown to be eaten by birds and animals, or sometimes cremated. These were just the pluces where the most gruesome primitive rites were practised, including cannibalism for the attainment of magic powers. The monk was enjoined not to let the terrifying sights move him, but to overcome all such perils by his own determination. For the three or four months of the rains, the residence had to be in some one place; otherwise he must travel on foot (never by chariot, elephant, horse, cart or pack animal) to preach to the people. Early monks, like the Buddha himself, were expert food gatherers, as is evident from their recorded argument about begging soiled food from other human beings; long trips through the wilderness did not trouble them. Generally, they would accompany caravans, but even then pass the night outside the camp. The Buddhist monk was forbidden labour for profit or for agriculture, having to live on alms or by gathering food in the forest without the taking of life; only thus he would be free to concentrate upon his social duties, the obligation to lead all to the proper way.12
It will be clear that the Buddha had drawn the regulations for bhikshus in accordance with the pattern of life which had been evolved by the paribrajakas for themselves. Buddhist Sangha was another form of the paribrajaka order: only it was Qrganised in a more disciplined manner.
Mahavira and His Syadavad
No less profound a paribrajika thinker than Buddha was Vardhamana who founded Jainism. He was a son of the kshatriya chief of Vaishali (modern Basarh in the Muzaffarpur district of Bihar) who came from the Lichhavi clan and headed a republican form of government.
When Vardhamana attained enlightenment, he came to be called by his followers as Mahavira (Great Hero) or linG (the Conqueror). He is also known as tirthankara (ford-maker across the stream of existence). The Jainas (as his followers are called) believe that there were twenty-four tirthankaras before Mahavira who laid the foundations of their faith. But it is doubtful whether they were historical personages or mere legendary figures. There is some evide!lce that the twenty¬third tirthankara, Parshavanatha by name, lived in the eighth century B.C. He was a kshatriya by birth and taught four principles of good life: Truthfulness, non-injury to life, giving up all property and non-stealing.
But the real founder of Jainism was Vardhamana who was born about the year 598 B.C. and left his family at the age of thirty to become a paribrajaka and like Maskarin Goshala roamed naked from village to village preaching his doctrines. In the beginning, his followers were called nirgranthas (unfettered) and mostly came from either the kshatriyas or the trading classes (vaishyas). After preaching his philosophy for nearly thirty years Mahavira died (attained kaivalya) at Pawa near Rajgriha in 5~6 B.C. at the age of 72.
Philosophically, both Buddhism and Jainism grew from the same basic notion that the world is full of misery and the aim of life should be to find means of deliverance from the endless cycle of births and deaths. Neither rejects the theory of karma and both believe it to be the root-cause of samsara (cycle of births). Both advocate practice of austerities in varying degrees of severity and attainment of knowledge as the chief means of salvation. “Originally, Jaina saints went about ‘clothe.d in space’ (digambara), i.e. stark naked, as a sign that they did not belong to any recognised group or sect trade or community,” says Zimmer. “They had discarded all determining marks; for determination is negation by specialization. In the same spirit, the wandering BUddhist monks were mstructed to go clad in rags, or else in an ochre¬colour.ed. gar~ent-the latter being traditionally the gal’b of the criminal ejected from society and condemned to death. The monks donned this disgraceful raiment as a sign that they too were dead to the social hierarchy. They had been handed over to death and were beyond the boundaries of life. They had stepped away from the world’s limitations, out of all the bond ages of belonging to something. They were renegades.”13 Both Buddhism and Jainism hold that complete emancipation from rebirth is attainable only by the homeless ascetic though they regard the life of layman as an initial and a preparatory stage in the process. Though their codes differ in certain respects both prescribed disciplinary regulations for monks and laymen. Both discarded Sanskrit and gave their sermons in Pali or Prakrit, the language spoken by the masses.
These resemblances are so close that at one time scholars thought that Buddha and Mahavira were one and the same person with two names or that Jainism was no more than a branch of Buddhism. This was a mistaken conclusion as fundamental differences were found to exist between the two philosophies. Buddhist advocate the Middle Path or the golden mean and are opposed to the extreme forms of penances and austerities on which the Jainas insist,
Buddhists do not totally abstain from taking life as do the Jainas. The conception of the soul is considerably different in the two orders. Buddhist monks were disallowed to move about naked as the Jaina monks did. The similarities between the two orders arose because they were born in the same area with pre-Aryan cultural background and during the same time, and, therefore, it is no wonder that both drew upon the prevale?t vie~s and prejudices to evolve their respective tenets. Winternitz says: “The religion of the Jainas Jainism has so much in common with Buddhism that, for a long time, it was considered merely as a Buddhist sect. Nevertheless, it presents a marked divergence from the Buddhist religion in such essential points, that it must be regarded as an independent creed. Jainism lays far more stress than Buddhism on asceticism and all manner of cult exercises, and in contrast to the Buddha, Mahavira taught a very elaborate belief in the souL.. An essential difference between the two religions is, however, that Jainism has always remained a national Indian religion, whilst Buddhism developed into a world religion. The Jainas have retained the Indian system of castes and classes in its entirety, and Jainism has a much stronger tendency than Buddhism to adapt itself to Brahminism and Hinduism, and also it is confind within the frontiers of India. “14
The Jainas believe that the entire universe of things can be traced to two everlasting components, namely, the jiva (the conscious) and the ajiva (the non-conscious). The life monads (jiva) are infinite in number, uncreated, omniscient and identically alike. Differences between them occur through their accidental contact with matter. The classification of things into jiva and ajiva, it may be noted, is an objective one and does not correspond to the self and the non-self of Brahminism. The jivas become tainted through the perpetual influx of the ajiva.
In the view of the Jainas, the universe has always been there and will never end; the entire cosmos is in a human form and we are all particles of this gigantic body and for every one of us the task is to avoid such karma as would degrade the jiva. The endeavour should be to ascend as speedily as possible to supreme bliss.
The Jainas divide the karma into eight categories: 1. jnana avaran which obscures true knowledge, 2. darshana avaran which interferes with perception of the processes of universe, 3. vendaniya which obscures blissful nature, 4. mohaniya which disturbs the right attitude, 5. ayus which determines length of life, 6. nama which establishes special qualities of the individual, 7. gotra which determines the family and social status, and 8. antarvya which prevents doing good.
According to Jaina doctrines every karma binds the jiva; even a holy karma keeps the jiva bound to the world. Therefore, this inflow should be arrested by total abstention from action. When the union of jiva and ajiva takes place bondage is the result. Salvation is the dissolution of this combination. The Jainas asserted that jiva is totally different from matter by which it is bound and withheld from attaining liberation.
There is no room for devotion to a deity in Jainism.
Mahavira forbade any attachment to gods. There is no such entity distinct from the cosmos called God. But it is recognised that there is a whole galaxy of deified men (called tirthankaras) who had been spiritually great. Every soul possessed the potentiality of becoming as great as anyone of the tirthankaras ; when the jiva attains perfection after freeing itself from the ajiva, it becomes supreme.
Unless and until the jiva gets itself released from the ajiva, it is bound to revolve through the various stages where it has to experience meaningless pleasures and excruciating pains. The release can be attained through lengthy ordeal of austerities and self-abnegation. These have been categorised into three jewels: 1. Right faith which has been interpreted as belief in real existence, 2. Right knowledge which means knowledge of real nature without any doubt or error and 3. Right conduct, an attitude of disinterest without desire or aversion towards the objects of the external world. Right conduct according to Mahavira consists in 1. ahimsa (non¬violence) 2. satya (truthfulness) 3.
aparigraha (non-stealing), 4. brahmacharya (celibacy and chastity in thought, word and deed) and 5. anasakti (non-attachment to all worldly interests).
To the Jainas sin is not an offence against God but only against man. It is remarkable that the Jainas recommended death by starvation as a means of liberation; for suicide is a virtue which increaseth life. “The essential difference between the monastic rules of the Jainas and the Buddhists is that those of the Jainas lay much more stress on severe asceticism and even go as far as to recommend religious suicide. If a monk suffers from cold, he should rather freeze to death than break his vow. However ill and weak he may be, he should rather die than break his vow of fasting. He is to go naked, so as to expose himself to the pricking of ~lades of grass, to the inclemency of t~e weather an~ ~he b~;es of :he flies and mosquitoes.”15 Dr. Zimmer calls Jamlsm a philo¬sophy of the profoundest pessimism”.
The Jainas, no doubt, believed in the existence of soul but they conceived it as.a constantly changing entity something very different from the orthodox Brahmin conception. of “simple and immortal” divine spark in man. The Jamas asserted that soul was composed of an infinite number of particles, soul-atoms, which were’ constantly increasing and decreasing. In their view this process did not affect the permanence of the soul for, they held, a thing can be perma¬nent or impermanent at the same time. For example, though the water in a stream is constantly flowing the stream of water is always the same. Thus the phenomenal world is real and permanent with all its continual changes and transitions.16
A notable contribution made by Jainas to Indian philosophy is the celebrated doctrine of syadvada (conditional predication). It is also called the theory of maybe. According to it, Reality can be seen from seven possible stand-points: 1. asti (it exists), 2. nasti (it does not exist), 3. asti -nasti (it exists as well as it exists not) 4. avaktavyam (it is indescribable) 5. asti cha avk¬tavyarn cha (it exists and is indescribable)., 6. nasti cha avaktav¬yam cha (it does not exist and it is indescribable) and 7. asti cha nasti cha avaktavyarn cha (it exists and exists not and is indescribable). Every proposition is accompanied by the word syad (perhaps). It is held by this theory that no proposition is absolutely true or absolutely false. Hence it has come to be known as syadvada.
The Jainas pointed to the ancient story of six blind men who wanting to know what an elephant is like, put their hands on its different parts and each, describing his own finding, said that the elephant was exactly like a fan (touching the ear), like a wall (touching the side), like a snake (touching the trunk), like a rope (touching the tail) and so on. The experience of the six blind men depicts the logical fallacy inherent in human thought. Man sees a partial view of Reality and arrives at a wrong conclusion. The Jainas therefore asserted that nothing is certain in this world on account of endless complexity of things. The Reality, whatever it may be, expresses itself in ,multiple form with the result that no absolute predication is possible. This thought-process gave birth to another theory of anekantvada (many-sidedness of Reality). “Nevertheless, Jainism, too, represents a scientific, practically atheistic, interpretation of existence”, says Zimmer, “for the gods are nothing but life-monads, wearing tempo¬rarily favourable masks in supremely fortunate surroundings, whereas the material universe is uncreated and everlasing.”17
The Jaina logic was unsettling for the rigid system of the orthodox Brahmins who set up imaginary fixed standards. Jainas disputed the absoluteness of the standard of truth and pulled down the entire airy structure of the doctrines and dogmas reared by the Brahmins. The Jaina argument was a vigorous protest against the dogmatism of the Vedas and not aimed at denying all Reality; it was not metaphysical nihilism as s?me scholars have suggested. Jainas had a theory of RealIty. The world, according to them, was not altogether unknowable, only one should not be cocksure about one’s assertions. They said: “There is no God or creator and man’s emancipation from suffering does not depend upon’ the mercy of ar:y. such being. Man is the architect of his own destiny. By l.lVtng a~ austere life of purity and virtue, he can escape the Ills of lIfe. The best life is the life of renunciation’ it is the shortest way to salvation.” ,
The First Social Revolution
Because the minds of the Indian people had already been prepared by many intellectual stalwarts and numberless pari¬brabakas, for reception of the rationalist-materialist views and also because the Vedic tribal society was in a state of dIssolutIOn, the heterodox doctrines of Vedavirodakas (oppo¬nents of Vedas) spread rapidly in the country.
The first to embrace the new faith of Buddhism were the peop.le of Koshala and the adjoining areas. Significantly, the warrior and the trading classes took the lead; in certain cases entire clans were converted by the powerful influence of the Buddha. Decked in their best and in pomp and magnificence the republican Lichchhavis welcomed the Buddha to their city:
When they heard him they accepted his teachings and sermons. Among them were 500 arrogant youth who were not expected t be polite towards any reformer. Mohanma, the grand old man of Lichchhavis, expressed utter surprise that “these arrorogant youth who were rowdy in their daily life had become a mild and gentle before the Exalted One.” A Lichchhavi prince, the despair of his parents, was transformed.by a single
discourse of the Master. The people therefore hailed Buddha as “the chief trainer, supreme in bowing men to the yoke of truth”. A large number of men and women became upaskas (followers) and many took the robe; even the rich courtesan, Ambpalli, could not escape coming under Buddha’s charm. When the new ideas spread over vaster areas, Brahmin institu¬tions received a severe jolt and gigantic forces were unleashed to build an egalitarian society. “The Buddha’s prohibition of ‘the low arts of divination, spells, omens, astrology, sacrifices to gods, witchcraft and quackery’ relieved the Indian masses of a burden which had become a grievous impediment to their spiritual progress.”IS India witnessed the first revolution in her long and chequered history.