I've come across Jainism through looking for texts on Buddhism and I've found there seems a considerable amount of overlap. Did Siddhartha Gautama encounter or study under any Jainist teachers? It seems Jainism predates Buddhism by a lot so were these concepts also predating Siddhartha too?

Jainism: The ultimate goal of Jainism is the liberation of the self (jiva) from rebirth, which is attained through the elimination of accumulated karma (the consequences of previous actions). This occurs through both the disciplined cultivation of knowledge and control of bodily passions. When the passions have been utterly conquered and all karma has been removed, one becomes a Jina ("conqueror"), and is no longer subject to rebirth.

These principles include non-violence in all parts of life (verbal, physical, and mental), speaking truth, sexual monogamy, and the detachment from material things. As part of the disciplined and non-violent lifestyle, Jains typically are strict vegetarians and often adhere to a quite arduous practice of non-violence, which restricts the sorts of occupations they may follow (no farming, for instance, since insects are inadvertently harmed in plowing). Jainism's ethical system is based on the idea that right faith, knowledge, and conduct must be cultivated simultaneously.

Like comparing rules of monks and even the five precepts are identical from what I found. The five precepts and five vows are identical from what I saw.

This is a list of comparisons and contrasts.

Sounds a whole lot like Buddhism to me! Does anyone know about the Jainism/Buddhism comparison?

  • 3
    The Buddha never claimed the Dhamma was original. He said, all he had done was discover truths that many before him have found. He also said anyone who leads people out of suffering is a valid teacher. He didn't seek to found a competing religion, there is nothing to indicate that.
    – Buddho
    Commented Aug 22, 2015 at 7:00
  • i share the view of @Buddo. All roads lead to Rome.
    – user14119
    Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 14:04

13 Answers 13


There are very strong similarities between Buddhism and Jainism but there are also a number of major differences as well.

It is very true that Buddhism and Jainism use a lot of very similar terminology, but these are mostly terms that were floating around among the Shramanas (ascetics) for some time. Karma, rebirth, the goal as escape from rebirth. etc... were ideas that were not unique to either Buddhism or Jainism but were held by many different groups of ascetics. For example, the Ajivaka school taught very similar things on these points as well. The general terminology of rebirth and karma was a general part of the Indian ascetic tradition as a whole, rather than just Jainism.

However, when you look at how these concepts are actually understood in Jainism and Buddhism you find there are major differences. It seems that the Buddha borrowed existing terminology but gave it radically new meanings. The best example I can think of is in the Buddha's understanding of Karma compared with the Jain understanding of Karma.

The Jains (according to my knowledge) think of Karma as being some sort of subtle substance that sticks to one's Jiva, or soul. The Jiva is bound to a physical body, and as a result becomes loaded up with Karma, which weights it down and interferes with one's spiritual understanding. When one dies the kind of Karma stuck to your Jiva determines your rebirth. Through ethical living you can stop more karma from being accumulated and through ascetic practice you can 'burn up' the karma stuck to your soul, and if you can get rid of all of it, you become enlightened, and will then be reborn into a special heaven without a physical body where you will be just a Jiva and will stay that way forever.

The Buddha rejected the idea that Karma is any sort of substance and rejected any kind of soul or self as well. To the Buddha, Karma refers to an action with mental intention. The Buddha said this in many places, saying "Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect." and in several Suttas the Buddha spoke out against the Nigantha's (that's what the Jains were called at that time) understanding of Karma.

  • I actual got nervous, was hoping that Siddhartha didnt steal jainism teachings and proclaimed it his own. But I recall, his time with the acestics, I didn't know they were Jainist ( Is that correct? ) So both these answers help me, thank you so much
    – Oswulf
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 0:09
  • 1
    @Oswulf They could have been Jains, but we don't have any hard textual evidence saying that they were. They could have been part of any number of groups, but the texts don't record what they were a part of.
    – Bakmoon
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 0:42
  • 3
    @Oswulf it'd be interesting to ask yourself why you got nervous. Is your belief in Buddhism only valid if it is unique? Are you deriving a sense of security from being a Buddhist? No Buddha arises in a vacuum.
    – Buddho
    Commented Aug 22, 2015 at 6:57
  • "For example, the Ajivaka school taught very similar things on these points as well." As a matter of fact the founder Makkali Ghosala, of the Ajivika school was a disciple/companion of Mahavira before he got separated. Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 2:30

Are you saying that Buddhism is dependently arisen?

The similarities are there. Buddhism shares terminology with both proto-Hinduism and Jainism. I can't remember what the title of the book was. But I read a book about the history of the historical Buddha, from a not-Buddhist perspective, where the reader argued that the time of the Buddha was similar to the philosophical age of the Greek world where many thinkers and gurus debated topics, gathered followers who in turn debated and formed schools of thought of their own.

Considering there are a lot of sutta's where other teachings and teachers are mentioned, and where different views about the world are mentioned and rebutted, this view sounds to me like a realistic one.

Adding to this that Siddartha Gautama was, according to the texts of the Kshatriya (warrior and ruler) kaste; He was probably well educated and knowledgeable about the different teachings of the Brahman and the ascetics.

The concept of becoming enlightened or even the concept of some sort of awakening had to be there in one form or another, before the Siddhartha achieved it. It was mentioned as a goal by the ascetic he trained with and it was recognised by others. So the words and concepts where, to an extend, an ingrained part of the culture and language.

The newness or original thought of Buddhism is, like Bakmoon said, in the different meaning of those words and concepts:

  • Birth and rebirth is different
  • Karma is radically different
  • Nirvana is radically different
  • The way of achieving Nirvana is different
  • Meditation is different
  • Nothings is eternal, unchanging or satisfiable
  • Everything is dependently arisen

I've always interpreted the part of the middle way, as being in the middle between the Brahmans (living with wealth, sensuality and pleasure) and the Jains (Living in poverty, extremely strict eating guidelines, periods of fasting and persevering hardships.) But the Jain are, if I recall correctly, never mentioned in the texts, so I can not be certain.

  • Thanks. I was actual very curious. I didnt want to find out that Buddha stole the Jainism method an reworded it as his own. Ive come to enjoy Buddhism alot. If I had found that out, it wouldve destoryed the joy I got from Buddhism. So I got nervous after reading about the all the similarities In Jainism. But this helps me out hearing this.
    – Oswulf
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 0:07
  • 3
    The Jains are mentioned in the Suttas, but they aren't given that name. In the Suttas they are called the Niganthas and their leader is referred to as Nigantha Nattaputta, who is called by the Jains as Mahavira. The Suttas depict the Buddha as being very strongly opposed to their understanding of Karma. The entire Sutta MN 101 is devoted to refuting it for example.
    – Bakmoon
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 0:40
  • Thanks, I will edit my post tomorrow, when I have the time.
    – DirkM
    Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 22:34

As I understand, one of Buddha's two teachers (Udraka Ramaputta) was a Jain. Evidently Buddha did learn a lot from jains, including the following:

  • the notion of Nibbana
  • meditation on various objects
  • using antidotes to counter pathological mind tendencies
  • the five precepts and the three poisons were inspired by corresponding Jain constructs
  • what later became Eightfold path was evidently influenced by Jain's Ratnatraya
  • the notion of Arihants and Buddha's epithet Jina are Jain legacy.

So yeah, much of Buddha's basic education came from Jains, and when he finally Awakened to Truth, he reused some of Jain's concepts while filling them with his own meaning, and modeled some of his teaching after Jain's.

  • VARDHAMANA -- Vardhamana was born in 599 BCE in Kudagrama near Vaisali in Bihar.

    He died of at the age of 72 in 527 BCE at Pavapuri near Rajagriha.

  • GAUTAMA BUDDHA -- Gautama Buddaha was born in Lumbini near Kapilavastu in the foothills of Nepal in 567 BCE.

    The Buddha died in 487 BCE in kushinagar at the age of 80.


I don't have a specific answer for you, but I recommend that you look for a documentary called, "The Story of India." It's a four part series about the history of India from several different perspectives. In the second or third episode, religion is covered. The narrator gives very specific information about how Buddhism and Jainism came to be and how they were related. It's been a few years since I watched it, so I can't remember much. But I found it fascinating.

  • I just read a transcript here and it says little or nothing about how Jainism came to be (just that Mahavira was a contemporary of the Buddha), nor how Buddhism is related to it. It does summarize the Buddha's life (maybe with nice video footage). There's also a copy of the video (which I haven't watched) here.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 23:40
  • It used to be on Netflix. I could have sworn he put a link to it. Not only was it spiritual, but also geographic origins. Perhaps I'm wrong about which documentary I was watching. It's been a long time since I saw it.
    – Keobooks
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 23:42

Jainism is different mainly in the following facts: 1) It is what the Buddha described in his first sermon as 'the extreme of self torment/denial'. Henceforth it is to be rejected as not fitting for somebody seeking the end of dukkha.The main ascetic method of Jainism is extreme fasts, emaciation, going naked etc, it was declared by Buddha as conducing to more dukkha, not wise and as having no merits whatsoever. 2) Buddha was very respectful at first towards all ascetic forms as an earnest and young seeker of truth, so you may say he did practice a lot what Jains preached, before enlightenment. His own doctrine must therefore have been formulated based on the lessons he learned from this inevitable tough long journey of asceticism as a Yogi. 3)It was the Jains themselves who didn't practice as they preached, as it was later revealed, and against their own principle of 'ahimsa', they actually did involved in the hired assassination of a reknowned Buddhist Arahat, Moggallana the left hand of Buddha, whom they accused of defaming them. So I conclude that even though Buddha did teach asceticism and admitting was respectful to all forms of it, he had much to objection with the Jains, and it wont be correct to think he plagiarized them as asceticism was pretty much all the same back in those days and to combine what I said with what somebody already have stated above, there are two main objections from the Buddhist side, namely 1) their Karmic doctrine is deeply flawed ( it was a very materialistic interpretation of Kamma) and 2) their asceticism was flawed to the extreme as openly declared in the Dhammachakka Sutta by the Buddhists.

Last but not the least, yes, when you come to a deeper level of understanding, the distinction between what is Buddhist and Jainist becomes meaningless or irrelevant as there may be instances in the both scriptures where they are drawing parallel references to one root, one lineage, the lineage of ancient kings and sages of India, and just because of that you should not be so biased as to say we plagiarized from them. And Buddha did admit he alone was the true Buddha of the era, and Mahavir wasn't a true Buddha, as no two lions can live inside one cage and no more than one Sun should appear at the same time, lest we all burn from the combined heat.


You may find a lot of discussions and rebukes of the Buddha toward the Niganthas here.

The most famous today is so often stated by "Buddhists" known as the Uposatha of the Jains which is a part of the Muluposatha Sutta (AN 3.7)


The Buddha said it was heresy to claim he invented the dharma or that what he was teaching was anything original. He was very clear that he was just recovering an ancient path.

  • Hi Arron and welcome to Buddhism SE. We have put together a Guide and a Resource section for new users that you might find useful.
    – user2424
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 20:55

According to this Jainpedia page on Jain teachings on karma:

The karmas accrued over a lifetime trap the soul in the cycle of births. The karmas mature by affecting the soul or the physical body of its next lifetime or birth. When the body dies, the soul is born in a different body, which is shaped by karmas from the previous birth and the ones before that. The condition of the soul in that lifetime is also influenced by karmas from previous incarnations. This cycle of birth, death and life repeats endlessly while the soul has karmas attached to it.

The soul yearns to fulfil its true nature, which it cannot do while it is imprisoned within the cycle of rebirth. Only a soul without karma can be liberated from the cycle of birth, reaching self-realisation. Following the teachings of the Jinas and developing spiritually lead to the prevention of new karmas entering the soul – saṃvara – and the removal of existing karmas. .... Destroying karmas that are attached to the soul requires ascetic practices such as fasting, meditation and denying bodily needs and comforts.

In other words, the Jain way is emptying the karma account in order to end the cycle of rebirth, which is suffering.

The Buddha's path is that of the purification of the mind to end suffering, and not emptying of the karma account.

The Jain idea is that suffering is sustained by karmic balance. The Buddhist teaching is that suffering is sustained by craving and ignorance.

Of course, another obvious thing is that in Jainism, you have a reincarnating soul which gets karma stuck to it like dirt. In Buddhism, all phenomena is not self. An unenlightened person in Buddhism has defilements in his mind. So again, it's mental defilements and not karma which fetters a person in Buddhism.

So, this also proves that Buddhism did not borrow from Jainism, because the basis for liberation in both, is different.

From MN 101:

“Mendicants, there are some ascetics and brahmins who have this doctrine and view: ‘Everything this individual experiences—pleasurable, painful, or neutral—is because of past deeds. So, due to eliminating past deeds by mortification, and not doing any new deeds, there’s nothing to come up in the future. With nothing to come up in the future, deeds end. With the ending of deeds, suffering ends. With the ending of suffering, feeling ends. And with the ending of feeling, all suffering will have been worn away.’ Such is the doctrine of the Jain ascetics.

I’ve gone up to the Jain ascetics who say this and said, ‘Is it really true that this is the venerables’ view?’ They admitted that it is. ...

But since you don’t know any of these things, it’s not appropriate for the Jain venerables to declare this.’ ...

Such is the doctrine of the Jain ascetics. Saying this, the Jain ascetics deserve rebuke and criticism on ten legitimate grounds.


Buddha's focus was on Nirvana and the roots of suffering which are inside of us - that would be a great deal do dismiss God (outside).

The are 3 ways: Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Hinayana is Nirvana for them selves Maha and Vajra is for world peace. They don't aim to be liberated they aim to bring liberation - to end dukkha.

Buddhism is based on the "Four Seals" so if it's not rooted on that it's other path.

Jainism is for Moksha right? Then Mahayana principle is not Moksha is world peace. Vajrayana has in his hart the Mahayana essence.


I also think,that Buddha and mahaveera taught same things but Their must be a competition between followers of Buddha and mahaveera .. That's how today both religion are has geographycally and conceptually diffrence ... Don't worry let the some one us become a enlightened and then the truth will be rediscovered


U must be a orthodox person ... You are following a enternal religion like buddhism but u belive in physical thing .. Its not great dude ... Now come lets have a time travel In buddist texts there are 28 pichhecca Buddha means previous Buddha .. Actual 12 of them,are Jain thirthankaras ... As vimalnatha, rishbha deva, and many In buddist text there a system which Buddha called only the one true and fine system .. He gave a name "chaturyaam dharma" actually that led by 23 third Jain thirthankara .. Some of great thinker also says that the parents of lord Buddha was also follower of parshvanatha the 23rd thirthankara.. Who was a jina born 280 years before Buddha .. There are a reference that Buddha himself was at vaishali and mahaveer swami got nirvana at pavapuri .. Hearing this Buddha cried a lot ... Forgot all this things .. Now come with me brothers Many many thousands years ago before Buddha and mahaveera People used to live like animals , they don't know their known reality like we also today.. Then there were 14 great man born .. Hindu text and Jain text call them "manu" the last manu was king nabhi raja who was elected by people He gave birth a child named "rishabha" .. I am saying that he is follower of Jain or Hindu etc. Simply he was the worlds perfect man "arhan","arhat","adim,"Adam",arihant" he taught 72 arts to man and 64 arts to women that's how the worlds first sytem made up Then he left whole world passesion like Buddha and mahaveera did .. And become monk and finally get nirvana at mount kailash .. Indians also knows him a Shiva That's how the words first system "a religious system made up"

  • Perfect. The harapan culture also has pasupatinath coin. And. Recent study says it was rishabhnath. In tine of buddha jainism was not well defibed. Abd it was pipular as shaman tredition with various sects. Ajivaks was one such sect. Well established few year beforw buddha by makhali gosala
    – enRaiser
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 15:19

Then person start follow them half with mis concepts and Hal with right ... Who followed the right become enlightened.. Who follow the wrong they are like us fighting online on some sites Some of them teaches us the truth of life with perfect knoledge power and bliss In my opinion they were thirthankaras , also mention as previous Buddha ... Jainism and buddism is not diffrwnt Only the name and some of concept is diffrece because of gape of 2500 years A loving and kind comment by a Jain boy May in some of ur life u realise the truth of life and u also become a siddha or Buddha Believe in yourself Love u ... Have a great life

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .