Buddhist and Jaina Literature of Ancient India


Buddhist and Jaina Literature

The religious book of the Jainas and the Buddhist refer to historical persons or incidents. The earliest Buddhist works were written in Pali, which was spoken in Magadha and Southern Bihar. The Buddhist works can be divided into canonical and non-canonical.
The Jaina texts were written in Prakrit and were finally compiled in the AD 6th century in Valabhi in Gujarat. The important works are known as Angas, Upangas, Prakirnas, Chhedab Sutras and Malasutras. Among the important jaina Scholars, reference may be made to Haribhadra Suri (AD 8th century). Jainism helped in the growth of a rich literature comprising of Poetry, Philosophy and grammar. These works contain many passages, which help us in reconstructing the political history of Eastern Utter Pradesh and Bihar. The Jaina texts refer repeatedly to trade and traders.

Canonical and Non-Canonical Literature

Canonical Literature
These are linked to the Buddha. The Canonical literature is best represented by the tripitakas i.e. the three baskets Vinaya Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka. The Vinaya Pitaka deals with rules and regulations of daily life.
The Sutta Pitaka contains dialogues and discourses on morality and Dharama. The Abhidhamma Pitaka deals with philosophy and metaphysics. It includes discourses on various subjects such as Ethics, Psychology, theories of knowledge and metaphysical problems.
Non-Canonical Literature
These are commentaries on the canonical texts. The non-canonical literature is best represented by the Jatakas. The Jatakas are the most interesting stories of the previous births of the Buddha. It was believed that before he was finally born as Gautama, the Buddha practicing Dharama, passed through more than 550 births, in many cases even in the form of animals. Each story of his birth is called a Jataka. The Jatakas throw invaluable light on the Social and economic conditions ranging from the 6th century BC to the 2nd century BC. They also make incidental references to political events in the age o the Buddha.
Sanskrit Literature:
We also have a large body of books dealing with various sciences, law, medicine and grammar. To this class belong the law books called the Dharma-sutras and Smritis, together known as Dharma-shastras. These books are as under
1.The Dharmasutras were compiled between 500 and 200 BC. These lay down duties for different Varnas as well as for the kings and their officials. They prescribe the rules according to which property had to be held, sold and inherited. They also prescribe punishments for persons guilty of assault, murder and dulatery.
2.The Manusmriti tells us about the role of man and woman in society, their code of conduct and relationship with each other
3.Kautilya’s  Arthashastra is an important treatise belonging to the Mauryan times. It reflects the state of society and economy at that time and provides rich material for the study of ancient Indian polity and economy
4.Books written on Astronomy by Aarahmihira and Aryabhatta and on Astrology by Lagdhacharya had all achieved prominence. No other work can compete with Varahmihira’s Brihat Samhita , with the Aryabhttiya Vedanga Jyotisha.
5.Books on medicine were written by Charaka and no Surgery by Sushruta. Madhava wrote a book on pathology.
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Buddhist and Jaina Literature of Ancient India
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