Book One, Part VI—The Buddha and His Contemporaries

1. *His Contemporaries* -- 2. His attitude to His Contemporaries*

§ 1. His Contemporaries

    1. At the time when Gautama took Parivraja, there was a great intellectual ferment in the country. Besides the Brahmanic Philosophy there were as many as sixty-two different schools of philosophy, all opposed to the Brahmanic Philosophy. Of them at least six were worthy of attention.
    2. Of these schools of philosophy there was one headed by Purana Kassappa. His doctrine was known as Akriyavada. He maintained that the soul was not affected in any way by Karma. One may do, or one may get things done. One may do injury, or one may get someone to kill. One may commit theft or dacoity [=highway robbery], or one may get theft or dacoity committed; one may commit adultery, or one may get adultery committed; one may tell a lie, or one may get a lie told. Nothing affects the soul. An act, however licentious, does not affect the soul with sin. An act, however good, does not bring merit to the soul. Nothing has any Kriya (result) on the soul. When a person dies, all the elements of which he is made join in their originals. Nothing survives after death, neither body nor soul.
    3. Another school of thought was known as Niyativada. Its chief propounder was Makhali Ghosal. His doctrine was a kind of fatalism or determinism. He taught that no one can do anything or undo anything. Things happen. No one can make them happen. No one can remove unhappiness, increase it, or diminish it. One must undergo one's share of the experiences of the world.
    4. The third school was known as Ucchedavada. Its chief propounder was Ajit Kesakambal. His doctrine was a kind of Annihilism. He taught that there was nothing in Yajna, Haom; there is no such thing as the fruits or effects of deeds to be enjoyed or suffered by the soul. There is neither heaven nor hell. Man is made up of certain elements of unhappiness in the world. The soul cannot escape it. Whatever sorrow or unhappiness there was in the world, the soul cannot escape. This sorrow or unhappiness will come to an end automatically. The soul must undergo rebirth during eighty-four lakhs [=hundred thousands] of cycles of Mahakalpas. Then only the sorrow and unhappiness of the soul will end, not before nor by any other means.
    5. The fourth school was known as Annyonyavad. The head of this school was Pakudha Kacchyana. He preached that there are seven elements which go to make up a being, namely, Prathvi, Apa, Tej, Vayu, Sukha, Dukha and the Soul. Each is independent of the other; one does not affect the other. They are self-existent, and they are eternal. Nothing can destroy them. If any one chops off the head of man, he does not kill him. All that happens is that the weapon has entered the seven elements.
    6. Sanjaya Belaputta had his own school of philosophy. It was known as Vikshepavada, a kind of scepticism.  He argued, "if anyone asked me is there heaven, if I feel there was I would say yes. But if I feel there was no heaven I would say no. If I am asked whether human beings are created, whether man has to suffer the fruits of his action whether good or bad, and whether the soul lives after death, I say nay to all these because I don't think they exist. This is how Sanjaya Belaputta summed up his doctrine.
    7. The sixth school of philosophy was known as Chaturyamsamvarvad.   The head of this school who was alive at the time when Gautama was searching for light was Mahavir, who was also called Nigantha Nathaputta. Mahavir taught that the soul had to undergo rebirth because of the bad karmas done in the past life and in the present life. One must therefore get over the bad, he suggested, by tapascharya. For preventing the doing of bad karmas in this life Mahavira prescribed the observance of chaturyama dharma, i.e., observance of four rule: (1) not to kill; (2) not to steal; (3) not to tell a lie; and (4) not to have property, and to observe celibacy.

§ 2. His Attitude to His Contemporaries

    1. The Buddha did not accept the teachings of the new philosophers.
    2. His rejection of their teaching was not without reasons. He said that:
    3. If the doctrines of Purana Kassyappa or Pakudha Kacchyana were true, then one can do any evil or any harm; one may even go to the length of killing another without involving any social responsibility or social consequences.
    4. If the doctrine of Makhali Ghosal is true, then man becomes the slave of destiny. He cannot liberate himself.
    5. If the doctrine of Ajit Kesakambal is true, then all that man has to do is to eat, drink and make merry.
    6. If the doctrine of Sanjaya Belaputta was true, then man must float about, and live without a positive philosophy of life.
    7. If the doctrine of Nigantha Nathaputta was true, then man's life must be subjected to Asceticism and Tapascharya, a complete subjugation and uprooting of man's instincts and desires.
    8. Thus, none of the paths of life suggested by the philosophers appealed to the Buddha. He thought they were the thoughts of men who had become hopeless, helpless, and reckless. He therefore decided to seek light elsewhere.


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