Make your own free website on

Jainism in Buddhist Literature
                                                                By Dr. Hiralal Jain

Jain Friends Home   Books Index  Articles Index

Jain Friends


Nearely a hundred years ago, Weber, on the basis of some superficial similarities, came to the conclusion that Jainism was an off-shoot of Buddism. In 1884 Jacobi corrected this view and with a thorough investigation into the historical and traditional records of the two religions, established the fact that Jainism was an earlier and independent religion of India. Although over eighty years have passed since Jacobi's researches, the much-needed comparative study of Jainism and Buddhism has not been undertaken seriously. There have been passing references to their contemporaniety and doctrinal dissimilarities as well as the role they played together as a revolutionary opposition to Vedic Brahmana. The reason for the long delay in attempting a deeper study can easily be understood. The Buddhist literary and Philosophical works are in Pali and Sanskrit while the Jaina records are in Prakrit and Sanskrit. Neither in India nor in Ceylon do we find many scholars who had the opportunity of acquiring competence in all the three languages, Apart from the linguistic equipment, there is the more difficult problem of understanding fully the religious, philosophical, ethical, and epistemological naunces of both religions only; but for comparative studies, a thorough grasp of botha is sine qua non. 

My early studies gave me an opportunity to acquire an adequate knowledge of Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit, Philosophy and Ancient Indian History and culture and Archaeology. While studying for my M. A. in Pali I went through many Buddhistic texts. But these, in themselves, could not have given me the requisite qualification to handle a subject like Jainism in Buddhist literature. 

When I was awarded the Commonwealth Scholarship for study in Ceylon and admitted to Vidyodaya University of Ceylon, I felt that I could undertake a comparative study between Jainism and Buddhism more successfully. I was provided with the most suitable environment and facilities for this work. As a Jain I was conversant with my own religion and vidyodaya, being a revered seat of Buddhist learning, the venerable scholar-monks who guided me in my researches knew all about Buddhism. This, indeed, is a very rare opportunity for one who wants to study Buddhism. That is why I did not mind giving up half-way the work, I was doing at Benares Hindu University as a University Grant commission Scholar, on the Saddhamapundarika.

This thesis represents only the beginning of a series of comparative studies which should be undertaken in the field of Buddhism and Jainism. My attempt is to trace the references to Jainism in Buddhist literature and to evaluate the information contained therein. It has been my intention to find out the degree of accuracy and completeness with which the Buddhist literature has recorded various dogmas and teachings of Jainism.

The method addopted by me has been to examine the data in the Tipitaka, the Pali Non-Canonical literature and Sanskril philosophical works in that order. I have utlized the original texts in Pali and Sanskrit as far as possible. Where similarities or original Jaina versions of any doctrinal point were observed, the Jaina works in Ardhamagadhi and Sauraseni Prakrits and Sanskrit were used.

One observation has to be made at this stage on the scope of the research I had undertaken. contrary to the general belief, the data on Jainism available in Buddhist Literature are very meagre. Though contemporaneous, the Buddhist records have only made scanty references to both Jainism and its Tirthankara or Tirthankaras. These references are distributed all ever the voluminous literature and the search for them has been a very arduous task whose magnitude and difficulty may not be very clear to an ordinary reader of these chapters.

My indebtedness to previous authors and translations of the Pali, Prakrit, and Sanskrit literature has been duly acknowledged in the references and the bibliography.

Jain Friends Home   Books Index  Articles Index