Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions
Publisher's Note
Author’s Note
Mahavira: A Non-Violent Revolutionary
Transfer of Embryo
  Socio-political Conditions
  Vajji's Democracy
  Magadha and Srenika
  Ajatasatru Vajjis
  Princely following of Mahavira
  Social Conditions
  Intellectual Fervour
  Revolutionary push by Mahavira
  Significant Events
  Indra's Offer of Protection
  Five Resolves at Morak Hermitage
  Education Rather than Exposure
  Poisonous Fangs of Canda Kausika
  States of a Digambara
  Association with Gosala
  Candanabala : First Head of Women Disciples
  Final Act of Nirjara
  Attainment of Kaivalya
  First Ganadharas
  Actions follow the Doer
  Search for Responsibilty and Sramana Line
  Mahavira's Synthesis
  Psychological Approach of Mahavira
  Categories of Karmas
  Duration of Karmic Bondage
  Nature of Bondage
  Mitigation of Bondage
  Fresh Karmas
  Life's activities
  Even good actions bind, if motivated
  Consequences of Karma Theory
  Process of Change and Nine Tattvas
  Essential Tendency of Jiva
  Papa' and ‘Punya' : Both of Binding Nature
  Asrava (Influx)
  Bandha (Bondage)
  Nirjara (Shedding of Accumulated Karmas)
  Moksa (Final Liberation)
  Enlightened Consciousness
  Self, the starting point
  Will and Eagerness
  Bhavana or Anupreksa (Reflection)
  Twelve Vratas of House-holder
  Dhyana (Meditation)
  Lesya (Disposition)
  Code of Conduct for Monks - Modus Operandi
  Austerities (Tapascarya)
  Appendix - A
  Appendix - B
  Appendix - C
  Appendix - D
  Appendix - E


Justice T.U.Mehta


Buddhism belongs to the Sramana-tadition of Indian thought as distinguished from Vedic tradition. Like Jainism it has taken birth at that time which was surcharged with the fervor of spiritual renaissance. When Buddha was born, the foundations of Vedic rituals were already shaken by some of the great Rsis of Upanisadas, and of late, by his contemporary Mahavira. Emphasis was given on self exertion by undergoing strict spiritual discipline and rigorous austerities. During the early days of his spiritual expermentation, Buddha also took to severe austerities and determined to seek truth through austerities when he said to himself, "Ihasane susyatu me sariram" (Let me body be dried up in this seat but I will not get up till I get enlightenment).

However, unlike Mahavira, severe austerities did not help Buddha. He relented and adopted a middle course and found solace. He tried almost every path, which was prevalent in his times, in search of truth, but failed. Finally he chalked out his own path which was absolutely rational and logical. He refused to go into the fogs of misty metaphysics and directly touched ethics and psychology of human affairs. Like Mahavira he also propounded a religion which was independent on an inward change of heart. His persistent refusal to delve into the mysteries of life, made his approach more direct and explicit both to the common men and the intellectuals of his times and earned him greater following in India and abroad. However, this very factor proved responsible for introducing varied and very often contradictory interpretations of what he said and preached, with the result that the Buddhism, which we see today, seems to have practically nothing in common with what the Master is supposed to have originally taught. In the second century after Buddha not less than eighteen schools of Buddhistic doctrines can be traced. We shall therefore confine our attention only to leading basic principles of early Buddhism.


Sufferings of Life

The starting point of Buddhist philosophy is the suffering in life. In fact Buddha's spiritual journey started, when he saw that human life is full of suffering at every stage. He, as a prince, was rolling in luxury and was guardedly kept away from experiencing the miseries of human sufferings. But when once he was out on the roads of his own �Kapilavastu' he saw an old man bowed down by age, a sick man scorched by fever, and a corpse carried and followed by mourning relatives, a serious conflict started in his mind which awakened his consciousness. As he found that there was suffering at every stage of life and if that was so, there must be some way out of it. Then he also saw an ascetic, a mendicant, who had renounced the world, and who appeared to have attained an equanimity which was rarely to be found amongst those, who engrossed in the sensual objects of life. There he found a possible answer to the inner turmoil which was going within. Realizing the emptiness of things of senses, he renounced the world, stealthily leaving his sleeping wife and little child in bed. Thus the sight of human suffering was the starting point of his spiritual explorations and the same became the starting point of his philosophical expositions.


Four Arya-Satyas

He came to the conclusion that there are four basic truths of life. They are --

(1) There is suffering - �Duhkha'.

(2) Every suffering has a cause - �Duhkha-Samudaya'.

(3) It is possible to overcome this suffering - �Duhkha Nirodha'.

(4) There is a way to overcome sufferings - Duhkha-Nirodha-Marga.

He said, unless we fully comprehend these four basic realities which he called �Arya-satya', there is no way to achieve peace or happiness in life.

He, thus, directly touched the pulse of this sick universe. Unlike Mahavira, he did not attempt to explain the mysteries of universal phenomena, namely, who created the universe, what are the basic elements constituting the universe, is there any divine force which controls our lives and all happenings around us, what happens when we die etc. He flatly refused to answer there questions saying that they are �Avyakrta', that is, those which serve no purpose in asking or answering. To a questioner of such questions his reply was straight. He asked his question that if somebody thrust a poisoned arrow in his chest, would he wait first to ascertain who smeared the arrow with poison and what kind of poison it was, or would he like at once to be treated by some effective medicine by a good doctor ? The answer provided by the Master by such a direct counter question was indeed very effective. First concern of every sick man is to get relieved of his sickness. If we find that the life is full of sufferings, our first concern should be to acknowledge that fact and to try to find our proper means to remove these sufferings. Buddha believed that salvation of soul which results in the end of all sufferings does not depend upon the minute distinctions of metaphysics and refinement of reason.

Even Mahavira proclaimed that this Samsara is full of sufferings (Aho dukkho hu samsaro). But he preferred to go deep into the matter and explained the cause of sufferings in context of the universal scheme. He, therefore, analysed the constituents of the universe, ascertained their character as well as functioning and tried to reveal the whole process which shapes the universal phenomena. This necessarily takes one to the field of metaphysics, where mere reason and logic may not prove sufficient to explain all the happenings. Buddha knew this, and he also knew that it was not of much practical use to involve one's energies in such trans-logical discussion. He therefore simply brushed aside all such questions by resorting to the formula of �Anyakrta' which did not either affirm or contradict various metaphysical theories prevalent in his times.

First Arya-satya - With reference to the first fundamental truth that there is constantly some sort of suffering in life, he pointed out that birth is painful, decay is painful, disease is painful and death is also painful. Union with unpleasant is painful. Union with unpleasant is painful and equally painful is the separation from te pleasant. Any craving that is not satisfied, that too is painful because cravings, desires, disease, decay and death are the inevitable constituents of life.

Some thinkers have charged this attitude as unduly pessimistic by saying that it has a tendency to blacken what is dark and to darken what is grey. This, however, is not the proper appreciation of what the Master has meant. If a doctor points out to our disease and suggests a remedy we do not dub him as pessimistic. Disease can be removed and life can be made enjoyable, if you have a proper diagnosis and right remedies. Mahavira also put equal emphasis on the sufferings of existence. But both Mahavira and Buddha showed the way to avoid sufferings and to obtain absolute bliss which brings undiluted happiness and joy. As Dr.S.Radhakrishnan puts it : "Buddha does not preach the mere worthlessness of life or resignation to an inevitable doom. His, is not the doctrine of a finer quality, an �Arhat' state.


Second Arya-satya - The second fundamental truth is that our sufferings are not without reason; there is a cause which generates our suffering. Our intellectual awareness demands that we should try to find out these causes. The problem cannot be over simplified by saying that our sufferings are the punishments inflicted on us by some superior power which rules the destiny of the whole universe. Like Mahavira Buddha also did not believe in a super power ruling the destiny of the universe and Mahavira and Buddha both believed in the theory of Karma as shaped by ethical earnestness and personal efforts. In answer to a question seeking reason for the inequalities found in life everywhere, the master replied -

"Every living being has Karma as its master, its inheritance, its congenial cause, its kinsman, its refuge. It is karma that differentiates all beings into low and high states." --- ( Milinda, 65)

Like Mahavira, Buddha also believed that it is the annihilation of all karmas-good as well as bad - which leads one to the state of Arhatship and Nirvana, and that after attaining Nirvana, which literally means extinction, one is not born again.

What is the main cause of suffering ? �Desires' is the answer of the Master. Our desires - desires for the things which are constantly vanishing, desires which are born out of our ignorance about the transient character of the things desired, constitute the root cause of all our sufferings.

To understand the process by which the causes of our sufferings operate, Buddhism has propounded the theory of �conditioned origination or dependent origination' which is known as the doctrine of �Pratitya-samutpada' according to which each preceding link (Nidana) is responsible for ushering in the next one. These links (Nidanas) are twelve. The first link is Avidya, i.e., ignorance. Conditioned by this ignorance, arise karma formations (Samskara). They in turn give rise to consciousness (Vijnana); Vijnana gives rise to name and form (Nama-Rupa) which in turn gives rise to six sense-organs (Sadayatana). Then arises contact (Sparsa), then feeling (Vedana), then thirst (Trsna), then attachment (Upadana), then becoming (Bhava), then birth (Jati) and then decay and death (Jara-Marana). This way the whole process of Samsara goes on.

Thus the root cause is Avidya - ignorance out of which false desire springs.

According to Buddhism everything in this universe is impermanent and transitory. Buddhism believes in the existence of soul and also in rebirth. But according to it even the soul is not permanent. Here it differs from Jainism. It explains the theory of rebirth and transmigration by asserting that the process of cause and effect is so constant that it only �appears' that there is continuity. Fact of the matter, the Buddhists assert, is that the life is nothing but a series of manifestations of becomings and extinctions. It is a stream running from moment to moment just like a flow of a river, the water of which is never the same or like a burning flame which appears to be the same and unchanged but which is another every moment.

Third Arya-satya - The third Arya-satya is that it is possible to overcome the suffering (Nirodha). Here also the process of �conditioned origination or dependent origination' is invoked. The process is that conditioned by the suffering of decay and death (Jara-Marana), there arises Faith (Sraddha) then Delight (Pramoda), then Joy (Priti), then Serenity (Prasrabdhi), then Bliss (Sukha), then State of trans (Samadhi), then Vision to see things are (Yathabhuti-jnana-darsana), then Non-attachment (Nirveda), then Detachment (Viraga), then knowledge of destruction of inflow of karmas (Asrava-Kasaya-Jnana). This is the process of Nirodha.

Fourth Arya-satya : Astanga-marga - The fourth Arya-satya is that there is a way to liberation from sufferings. This way is eight-fold, namely -

(1) Right view which is similar to Samyag-darsana of Jainas, (2) Right resolve, (3) Right speech, (4) Right action, (5) Right livelihood, (6) Right effort, (7) Right mindfulness and (8) Right state of trance.

This is called Noble Eight-fold Path known as �Astanga-marga'.