Causes For the Rise of Buddhism and Jainism:
Many important factors contributed to the rise of Buddhism and Jainism during the 6th century B.C. which can be studied as under-
- The Vedic philosophy had lost its original purity and in the sixth century B.C. it was reduced to a bundle of cumbrous rituals. The rites and ceremonies were painfully elaborate and awfully expensive. The common man developed a great dislike for these rituals.
- The Rig Vedic Aryans had organized Varna System on the basis of occupation in order to run the affairs of the society smoothly. However, it came to be transformed into a caste system based on birth during the later Vedic period. By the sixth century B.C. it became very rigid. The first three varnas i.e. Brahmanas, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas were known as dwija. They were entitled to wear the sacred thread (Janeu) and read the Vedas. But the ‘Sudras’ who belonged to the fourth varna were deprived of this privilege. They could neither wear the sacred thread nor could study the Vedas. Thus, there was a growth of resentment against the Vedic tradition among a large number of people.
- In the new form of yajnas, animals were sacrificed in large numbers. This was a threat to the prosperous agricultural economy as well as to animal husbandry. The sacrifices and yajnas, which had become an important part of some Hindu rituals, caused financial problems to the common man. Slaughter of animals to please the gods through sacrifices hurt their feelings. Tired of these unnecessary rituals, the people wanted a religion that was simple in form, easy to follow and economical to practise.
- The Hindu Brahmanical system had become too ritualistic and complicated and failed to satisfy the spiritual needs of the common people. The ceremonies had become so complex that the common man was left at the mercy of the priests. This was one of the important causes that gave rise to comparatively simple and inexpensive faiths that could be easily understood and followed by the common man.
- The whole Vedic literature was written in Sanskrit as it was considered a pious language. However, by the sixth century B.C. it had become a language of the learned persons only. The Pali and the Prakrit languages were developing into popular languages but the usage of Sanskrit was common in all religions functions and activities. Since scriptures were in Sanskrit, the common masses could not understand them. The priestly class started interpreting the religious texts according to their own advantage making the best of the situation. Hence, the people began to aspire for a religion that could be explained to them in their spoken language.
- The growth of trade and commerce that took place during this time added to the importance of the Vaisyas. But in the Brahmanical society, the Vaisyas ranked third. Naturally, they looked for some religion that would improve their position. The Vaisyas extended generous support to both Mahavira and Gautama Buddha, whose ideology was like a fresh breather of air in the grossly unequal and unjust society.
- Caste distinctions, complicated ritualism and too many sacrifices were sure to agitate the minds of the intellectuals. They were in a mood to revolt against these social evils. It was Gautama Buddha and Vardhaman Mahavira, two great teachers, who put before the people new religions which were simple, easy to follow and free from expenses Naturally, people were drawn towards Jainism and Buddhism that laid stress on pure and ascetic living.