Jain World
Sub-Categories of Antiquity of Jainism
Meaning of Jainism
Tradition of Tirthankara
Historicity of the Jaina tradition
Jaina tradition and Buddhism
  Jaina tradition and Hinduism
  Jaina tradition & archaeological evidence
  Fundamental principles of Jainism
  Philosophy of Jainism
  Tattvas of Jainism
  Doctrines of Jainism
  Three-fold path of Salvation
  Prescription of Ethical Code
  Private distinctiveness of Jaina Ethics
  Importance assigned to five vratas
  Prominence given to Ahimsa
  Easy practicability of ethical code
  Commoness of ethical code
  Rise of sections in Jainism
  The Great Schism of Jainism
  The Digambara and Svetambara sects
  The Digambara sub-sects
  The Svetambara Sub-sects
  Jainism in East India
  Jainism in Northern India
  Jainism in Western India
  Jainism In South India
  Contribution of Jainism to Indian Culture
  Jainism and other religions
  Significance of Jainism
  Glossary of Jaina terms





Regarding the relation between Jainism and Buddhism, the opinion of early European scholars was divided. While one group consisting of E. Thomas, Stevenson, Colebrook and others thought that Jainism is older than Buddhism, yet the other group of orientalists like H.H. Wilson, Lassen and others hold that Jainism was an off-shoot of Buddhism because outwardly certain points were common to both and their land of origin and early activities was the same. This question whether Jainism was a precursor to Buddhism or not, was settled for good in a scholarly manner by the researches of two great German orientalists, namely, Jacobi and Buhler. It is now an established fact that Jainism is not a branch of Buddhism but is an independent religion and that it was flourishing when Lord Gautama Buddha founded his new religion.

There are many similarities between Jainism and Buddhism. Both are Indian religions in every sense of the term and both are representatives of Sramana culture in India; while Hinduism is the representative of Brahman culture in India. As such both Jainism and Buddhism:

  1. do not regard Vedas of the Hindus as authoritative and binding;

  2. do not accept the permanent power of God as the creator of the world;

  3. do strongly oppose the violent or animal sacrifices;

  4. do assign prominent place of sadhus and sadhvis, i.e., religious ascetic organizations. Further, both Tirthankar Mahavira and Lord Gautama Buddha hailed from Magadha, i.e., modern Bihar, were contemporaries and had many common points in their lives and activities.

In spire of these similarities, we do find that there are some basic differences between Jainism and Buddhism as follows:

Nature of Religion

Buddhism belongs to the category of 'Founded Religion' as it was founded by a specific person viz.. Lord Gautama Buddha, at a particular period of time i.e.. in the sixth century B.C. But this cannot be said about Jainism which is a traditional religion continuously existing in India from remote Past.

Concept of Soul

Jainism is an atmavadi religion in the sense that it is based on the existence of soul and that it deals, in detail, with various aspects, conditions and progress of the soul till it reaches its highest position after getting liberated from the bondage of karmas. But Buddhism holds completely contrary views. Buddhism is, therefore, termed as anatmavadi; religion i.e., a religion which does not give any importance to the soul. According to Buddhism, soul is not a permanent thing and that it will wither away in due course.

Principles of Ahimsa

Even though Buddhism and Jainism are regarded as religions based on the fundamental principle of ahimsa still there is a significant difference in the treatment and application of the principle of ahimsa in actual practice by both religions. Buddhism deals with the principle of ahimsa in a limited way in the sense that it enjoins upon its followers not to commit himsa themselves only. That is why a Buddhist can eat fish caught by others. But Jainism not only considers the principle of ahimsa in all its aspects, but also makes it obligatory on its followers to abstain from committing himsa in nine possible ways. In other words, it is expected of a devout Jaina that he should not commit himsa through manas (i.e., mind), vachana (i.e., speech) and kaya (i.e., body) and each through the manner of krta (i.e., personally committed), karita (i.e., commissioned through others) and anumodita (i.e., giving consent for commitment by others).

Practice of Penance

It is true that both Jainism and Buddhism are considered as ascetic religions as they attach prominence to the ascetic way of life and to the practice of penance. But there is a great difference in the extent of practice of penance in both religions. Jainism always lays utmost stress on the strict observance of the practice of asceticism in all possible ways. In fact, Jaina asceticism is considered as most difficult in the world and for its proper observance in practice, elaborate rules and regulations have been laid down giving rise to what is known as monastic jurisprudence. But Buddhism has shown complete aversion to extreme asceticism and in its place, it has laid down madhyam-marga i.e.. the 'Middle Path' lying between complete laxity and extreme asceticity.


In contrast to Jainism, Islam is a religion of non-Indian origin and that too of a mono-theistic type. But it is a fact that Islam flourished in India for many centuries as a religion of the rulers of India. As such, both Jainism and Islam came in close contact with each other for a long time and naturally influenced each other. As a result we find that there was a great impact of Muslim Architecture and Painting on the Jaina Architecture and Painting. Similarly, the arts of the architecture and painting developed by the Jainas had exerted their influence on the Muslims. This is why Muslims found it very convenient and easy to convert the Jaina temples into mosques. Many examples of such conversion are found in Rajasthan and Gujarat. But the most prominent and lasting impact of Islam on the Jainas was in the field of their practice of idol-worship. Considering the strict opposition of the Muslims to idol-worship and their policy of destruction of idols, some Jaina thinkers like Lonka Shah began to show their inclination towards non-idolatry in Islam and ultimately it gave rise to the establishment of non-idolatrous sub-sects of Sthanakvasis among the Svetambara sect and of Taranpatha among the Digambara sect of Jainism during the medieval period of Muslim domination in the central and western regions of India.