Wednesday, November 25, 2009



Besides Jainism and Buddhism, there was another unorth(J dox sect:-that of the Ajivikas, who also practised mmpleli nudity. The doctrines of the founder of the sect, Gosal, ,Maskariputra, bear a generic likeness to those of hi contemporary and former friend, Mahavira. Like Mahavirc1 hI;! looked back to earlier teachers and ascetic groups, whOSI doctrines he refurbished and developed. According]
Buddhist and Jaina tradition, he was of humble birth, anc he died a year or so before the Buddha died, after a fierq altercation with Mahavira in the city of Sravasti. Hi followers s~m to have combined with those of othf:J teachers, such as Purana Kassapa, the antinomian, an! Pakudha Katyayana, the atomist, to form the Ajivika seq After a period of prosperity in Mauryan times, whenAsokA and his successor Dilsarathapresented caves to the Ajivik~ the sect rapidly declined. It retained some local importancJ in a SD1all region of Eastern Mysore and the adjacent parIJ of Madras, where it survived until the 14th century, afte which we hear no more of it.

No scriptures of the Ajivikas have come down to us and ~e little we know about them has to be reconstructeci from tile polemic literature of Buddhism artd Jainism. 'tiu
sec:;t was definitely atheistic, and its main feature was striCI determinism. The usual doctrine of karma taught thai tIwugh a man's present condition was determined bylili past actions he could influence his destiny, in this liie.~d in the future, by choosing the right course of conduct. Tbis the Ajivikas denied. They believed that the whole universe was conditioned and determined to the smallest. detail by an impersonal cosmic principle, Niyati or destiny. I~ ~as imlJossible to influence the course of transmigration in any way.

Though nothing that a man could do would in any way influence his future lot, Ajivika monks .practised severe asceticism, because the force of destiny compelled them to do so, although their religious opponents accused them of licentiousness and immorality.

The Dravidian Ajivikas developed their doctrines in a way resembling Mahayana Buddhism. Gosala became an ineffable divinity, like the Buddha in Mahayanism, while the doctrine of destiny evolved into a Parmenidean view that all change and movement were illusory, and that the world was, in reality, eternally and immovably at rest.

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