Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions

Publisher's Note

Something About Late Shri V.R. Gandhi
I - The Sankhya Philosophy
  II - The Yoga Philosophy
  III - The Naya Philosophy
  IV - Mimamsa
  V - The Vedanta Philosophy
  VI - Buddhism
  VII - Jainism
  Sanskrit Terms

VI - Buddhism






1.   We have described, very shortly though, those schools of philosophy who take Vedas as their guide. We are now entering upon another school‑one of the two, which have discarded the Vedas and followed their own lines of thought. Buddhism is one of them. A philosophy is not born in a day and therefore to say that Buddha while sitting under the Bo tree was inspired as it were with the truths which he afterwards circulated has no meaning. Truths are not reached in a moment. Sciences and arts are not discovered in a day and therefore Buddha who was a Hindu by birth and a follower of the Brahma faith must have been the outcome of his time.


Six centuries before Christ, India witnessed the commencement of a great revolution. The Brahmanical religion had been practiced and proclaimed for centuries of years. The Gods of the Rig‑Veda whom the ancient had invoked and worshipped lovingly and fervently had come to be regarded as so many names and Indra and Usha raised no distinct ideas and no grateful emotions. The simple libations of the Som juice, which the old Rishi had offered to their gods, had developed into cumbrous ceremonials, elaborate rites and utter sacred prayers for the people. The people were taught to believe that they earned merit by having these rites performed and prayers uttered by hired priests.


It was Buddha who created a reaction in such society.1


2.   About 100 miles northeast of the city of Benares was situated about 600 years before Christ a place called Kpilavastu on the bank of the River Rohini. And two kindred clans ‑ the Shakyas and Kolians‑lived on the opposite banks of that river. Kapilavastu was the capital of the Shakyas who were then living in peace with the Kolians and Shuddhodana the king of Shakyas had married two daughters of the king of Kolians. Neither queen bore any child of Shuddodana for many years, and the hope of leaving an heir to the principality of the Shakyas was well nigh abandoned. At last however the elder queen promised her husband an heir and according to ancient custom left for he father's house in order to be confined. But before she reached the place she gave birth to a son in the pleasant grove of Lumbini. The mother and child were carried back to Kapilavastu where the mother died 7 days after leaving the child to be nursed by his stepmother and maternal aunt, the younger queen.


The birth of Gautama is naturally the subject of many legends, which have most remarkable resemblance with the legends about the birth of Jesus Christ. The boy was named Siddhartha but Gautama was his family name. He belonged to the Shakya tribe and is therefore called Shakyasingh; and when he had proclaimed and preached a reformed religion he was called Buddha or the awakened or enlightened.


Little is known of the early life of young Gautama except that he was married to his cousin Yashodhara, daughter of the king of Koli about the age of 18. It is said that Gautama neglected the manly exercises which all Kshatryas of his age delighted in, and that his relations complained of that. A day was accordingly fixed for the trial of his skill and the young prince of the Shakyas proved his superiority to his kinsmen.


Ten years after his marriage Gautama resolved to quit his home and his wife for the study of philosophy and religion. The story which is told of the young prince abandoning his home and his position is well known. He must have for a long time pondered deeply and sorrowfully on the sins and sufferings of humanity, he must have been struck with the vanity of wealth and position. It is said that the sight of decrepit old man, of a sick man, of decaying corpse and of dignified hermit led him to form his resolution to quit home.


At this time a son was born to him. It is said that the news was announced to him in a garden on the riverside and the pensive young man only exclaimed: This is a new and strong tie I shall have to break." That night he repaired to the threshold of his wife's chamber - and there by the light of the flickering lamp, he gazed on a scene of perfect bliss. His young wife lay surrounded by flowers and with one hand on the infant's head. A yearning arose in his heart to take the babe in his arms for the last time before relinquishing all earthly bliss. But this he might not do. The mother might be awakened and the importunities of the fond and loving soul might unnerve his heart and shake his resolution. Silently then he tore himself away from that place. In that one eventful moment, in the silent darkness of that night he renounced for ever his princely fame and more than all this the affection of happy home, the love of a young wife and of a tender infant now lying unconscious in sleep. He renounced all this and rode away that night to become a poor student and homeless wanderer. His faithful servant Channa asked to be allowed to stay with him and become an ascetic but Gautama sent him back and repaired alone to Rajhagriha.


Rajgrha was the capital of Bimbisara, the king of Magdhas and was situated in a valley surrounded by five hills. Some Brahmin ascetics lived in the caves of this hill sufficiently far from the town for studies and contemplation and yet sufficiently near to obtain supplies. Gautama attached himself first to one Alara and then to another Udraka and learned from them all that Hindu philosophy had to teach.


Not satisfied with this learning Gautama wished to see if penances could bring superhuman insight and power as they were reputed to do. He retired therefore to the jungle of Uruvela near the site of the present temple of Buddha Gaya and for six year attended by five disciples he gave himself up to the severest penance and self‑mortification, but he could not obtain what he sought. At last one day he fell down from sheer weakness and his disciples thought he was dead. But he recovered and despairing of deriving any profit from penance he abandoned it. His disciples who did not understand his object lost all respect for him when he gave up his penances. They left him alone and went away to Banaras.


Left alone in the world, Gautama wandered towards the banks of Niranjara, received his morning meal from the hands of Sujata, a village daughter, and set himself down under the Bo‑tree or the tree of wisdom. For a long time he sat in contemplation and scenes of his past life came thronging into his mind. The learning he had acquired had produced no results the penances he had undergone were vain, his disciples had left him alone in the world. Would he now return to his loving widowed wife, to his little child now a sweet boy of six years, to his affectionate father and his loyal people? This was possible, but where would be the satisfaction? What would become of the mission to which he had devoted himself? Long he sat in contemplation and doubt, until the doubts cleared away like mists in the morning and the daylight. Truth flashed before his eyes. What was this truth which learning did not touch and penances did not impart? He made no new discovery, he had acquired no new knowledge, but his pious nature and his benevolent heart told him that a holy calm life and love towards others were panacea for all evils. Self‑culture and universal love‑ this was his discovery, this is the essence of Buddhism.


The conflict in Gautam's mind, which thus subsided in calm, is described in Buddhist writings by marvelous incidents. Clouds and darkness prevailed the earth and oceans quaked, rivers flowed back to their sources and peaks of lofty mountains rolled down.


Gautam's old teacher Alara was dead and he therefore went to Benaras to proclaim the truth to his five former disciples. On the way he met a man of the name of Upaka belonging to the Ajivaka sect of ascetics who, looking at the composed and happy expression on Gautam's face asked: " Your countenance, friend, is serene, your complexion is pure and bright. In whose name, friend, have you retired from the world? Who is your teacher and what doctrine do you profess?" To this Gautama replied that he had no teacher, that he had obtained Nirvana by the extinction of all passions and added: I go to the city of Kashi to beat the drum of the immortal in the darkness of the world." Upaka did not understand him and replied after a little conversation, "It may be so, friend," shook his head and took another road and went away.


At Benaras, Gautama entered the Deer Park Migdav in the cool of the evening and met his former disciples. And he explained to them his new tenets:


"There are two extremes, O Bhikkhus, which the man who has given up the world ought not to follow the habitual practice, on the one hand, of those things whose attraction depends upon the passion, and especially of sensuality, a low and pagan way, unprofitable and fit only for the worldly‑minded, and the habitual practice, on the other hand, of asceticism which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable. There is a middle path, O Bhikkhus, avoiding these two extremes, discovered by the Tathagat Buddha, a path which opens the eyes and bestows understanding, which leads to peace of mind, to the higher wisdom, to full enlightenment, to Nirvana.."


And he explained to them the four truths concerning suffering, the cause of suffering, the destruction of suffering, and the way, which leads to the destruction of suffering.  And the way was described to be eight folds. "This doctrine", Gautama said, "was not, O Bhikkhus, among the doctrines handed down. In Benaras in the hermitage of Migdav, the supreme wheel of the Empire of truth has been set rolling by the Blessed One‑that wheel which not by any Saman. or Brahman., not by any God, not by any Brahma or Mar, not by any one in the universe can ever be turned  back."


The five former disciples of course were soon converted and were the first members of the order. Yasa, the son of the rich banker of Benares was his first lay disciple and the story of the conversion of this young man, nurtured in the lap of luxury and wealth, is worth repeating. He had three palaces, one of winter, one for summer, one for rainy season. One night he woke from sleep and found the female musicians still sleeping in the room with their dress and musical instruments in disorder. He became disgusted with what he saw and in moment of deep thoughtfulness said, "Alas, what distress, Alas ! What danger." And he left the house and went out. It was dawn and Gautama was walking up and down in open air and heard the perplexed and sorrowful young man exclaiming these worlds. He replied, "Here is no distress, Yasa. Here is no danger. Come here, Yasa. Sit down. I will teach you the truth." And Yasa heard the truth from the saintly teacher and became converted. Yasa's father, mother and wife all went to Gautama and listened to the holy truth. Yasa became a personal follower of Gautama, the other three remained his disciples.