Jainism and Buddhism
Asoka's ideas lead naturally to the subject of Buddhism. Today it is known principally in its South Asian form in Ceylon, Burma, and Siam, in its unique Tibetan manifestation, and in Japan. It still exists in China but is much less in evidence. But it is hardly known in India which is the land of its birth. It is a recognized world religion: how then did it come to disappear from its own birthplace, the land of religions itself? The subject has been bypassed so far in order to maintain the continuity of the political narrative from 600 B.C. But it is an essential part of the Indian story, for India would not be what it is without it and it is therefore time to examine it.
Buddhism was one of several movements which arose in a period of unrest and ferment from about the year 600 B.C. Three causes may be hazarded for this ferment, one material, one moral, and one racial. On the material side there was the transition from a pastoral to an agricultural economy. The Indo-Aryan tribes were settling down, becoming tillers of the soil instead of shepherds of flocks. They were developing cities and becoming attached to the soil. Tribal groups were becoming territorial kingdoms. With crop-raising there began to be a surplus production which led to the development of arts and crafts, to exchange in the form of trade and commerce. Such a transition inevitably meant social tension. The merchant or vaishya class rose in importance and resented the privileges claimed by the upper two orders. To put it in modern terms, here was a situation which provided material for middle-class discontent with aristocratic privilege and priestly domination. Bourgeois aggressiveness bred anticlerical feelings.
The second force at work (in what proportions the two combined we cannot say at this distance of time) was a religious and intellectual ferment comparable with that of contemporary Greece. There was a striving after spiritual truth in a ferment of minds and much dissatis-