Buddhism vs. Jainism

What's the Difference?

Buddhism and Jainism are both ancient Indian religions that emerged around the same time in the 6th century BCE. While they share some similarities, such as their rejection of the caste system and belief in karma and reincarnation, there are also significant differences between the two. Buddhism focuses on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha, and emphasizes the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path as a means to achieve enlightenment and liberation from suffering. Jainism, on the other hand, was founded by Mahavira and places a strong emphasis on non-violence (ahimsa) and the practice of extreme asceticism. Jainism also believes in the existence of eternal souls and the concept of multiple gods. Overall, both Buddhism and Jainism offer distinct paths to spiritual liberation, but their approaches and philosophies differ in various aspects.


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FounderSiddhartha Gautama (Buddha)Mahavira
Belief in GodNo belief in a supreme beingNo belief in a supreme being
GoalAttaining NirvanaAttaining Moksha
Path to EnlightenmentEightfold PathThree Jewels (Right Faith, Right Knowledge, Right Conduct)
ReincarnationBelief in reincarnationBelief in reincarnation
Non-violenceEmphasis on non-violence (Ahimsa)Strong emphasis on non-violence (Ahimsa)
AsceticismMonasticism and ascetic practicesMonasticism and ascetic practices
ScripturesTripitaka (Pali Canon)Agamas
WorshipTemples, meditation, and ritualsTemples, meditation, and rituals
Views on KarmaBelief in karma and its influence on future livesBelief in karma and its influence on future lives
Photo by Sanjeev Bothra on Unsplash

Further Detail


Buddhism and Jainism are two ancient religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent. While both religions share some similarities, they also have distinct differences in their beliefs, practices, and philosophies. This article aims to explore and compare the attributes of Buddhism and Jainism, shedding light on their unique perspectives on life, ethics, and spiritual liberation.

Origins and Historical Background

Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha, in the 6th century BCE. Born into a royal family in present-day Nepal, the Buddha renounced his privileged life to seek enlightenment and understand the nature of suffering. Jainism, on the other hand, traces its roots back to the teachings of Mahavira, a contemporary of the Buddha. Mahavira, like the Buddha, also abandoned his princely life to embark on a spiritual quest for liberation.

Both Buddhism and Jainism emerged as responses to the prevalent religious and social practices of their time. They sought to challenge the authority of the Brahmin priests and the rigid caste system, emphasizing individual spiritual growth and the pursuit of truth.

Beliefs and Philosophy

Buddhism revolves around the Four Noble Truths, which state that life is characterized by suffering (dukkha), suffering arises from desire and attachment, suffering can be overcome, and the Eightfold Path leads to the cessation of suffering. Buddhists believe in the concept of rebirth and karma, where one's actions in this life determine their future existence.

Jainism, on the other hand, emphasizes the concept of ahimsa or non-violence as its core principle. Jains believe that all living beings possess a soul and that the ultimate goal of life is to attain liberation (moksha) by freeing oneself from the cycle of birth and death. Jainism also recognizes the existence of multiple realms of existence and the importance of ascetic practices to purify the soul.

Practices and Rituals

Buddhism encompasses a wide range of practices, including meditation, mindfulness, and the observance of ethical precepts. Buddhist monks and nuns lead a monastic life, renouncing worldly possessions and dedicating themselves to the pursuit of enlightenment. Buddhist rituals often involve chanting, offering of food, and the veneration of Buddha statues.

Jainism, on the other hand, places great emphasis on asceticism and strict adherence to non-violence. Jain monks and nuns follow a highly disciplined lifestyle, practicing celibacy, fasting, and non-possession. Jains engage in rituals such as prayer, meditation, and the recitation of sacred texts. They also undertake pilgrimages to holy sites and participate in elaborate ceremonies during festivals.

Views on God and Deities

Buddhism is often considered a non-theistic religion as it does not focus on the worship of a supreme being or creator. Instead, Buddhists believe in the existence of various celestial beings and bodhisattvas who assist in the spiritual journey. However, the ultimate goal in Buddhism is to attain enlightenment and liberation, rather than seeking divine intervention.

Jainism, similarly, does not advocate the worship of a supreme deity. Jains believe in the existence of divine beings, known as tirthankaras, who have achieved liberation and serve as role models for spiritual seekers. However, Jains do not seek salvation through the grace of these deities but through their own efforts and self-discipline.

Views on Social Ethics

Buddhism promotes a set of ethical guidelines known as the Five Precepts, which include refraining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and intoxication. Buddhists believe that following these precepts leads to a harmonious and compassionate society. Buddhism also emphasizes the importance of right livelihood and the ethical treatment of all beings.

Jainism, on the other hand, takes the principle of non-violence to an extreme level. Jains follow the doctrine of ahimsa not only in their actions but also in their thoughts and speech. Jains practice strict vegetarianism and avoid harming any living being, even microscopic organisms. Jain ethics also include truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy, and non-attachment to worldly possessions.


In conclusion, Buddhism and Jainism share common roots in ancient India and both offer profound insights into the nature of existence and the path to spiritual liberation. While Buddhism focuses on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, Jainism places a strong emphasis on non-violence and ascetic practices. Both religions advocate for ethical living and the pursuit of truth, albeit with different approaches. Ultimately, the choice between Buddhism and Jainism depends on an individual's personal beliefs, inclinations, and spiritual aspirations.

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