Shramana Tradition

Shramana Tradition

Shramana Tradition


  • Before the 6th century BCE, several Sramana movements are known to have flourished in India.
  • Shramana coexisted with Vedic Hinduism but was distinct from it.
  • The prevalent Vedic ritualism contrasted with the views of the Shramana followers, who sacrificed marriage and home life in order to seek spiritual liberation by following an ascetic path of strict self-discipline and abstention from all indulgences.
  • The Brahmins, who were thought to be the keepers of sacred knowledge found in the Vedas, were rejected by the Shramanas.
  • In Vedic Hinduism, the Brahmin caste, or social group, consists of priests and teachers who serve as intermediaries between deities and followers.
  • Brahmins have traditionally been in charge of religious rituals in temples, as well as performing hymns and prayers at rites of passage like weddings.
  • Shramana was originally used in India to refer to any ascetic, recluse, or religious practitioner who gave up secular life and society in order to focus completely on religious truth.
  • Sramana developed in India in two phases: Paccekabuddha, the tradition of the solitary ascetic, the “lone Buddha” who leaves the world behind, and Savaka, the phase of disciples, or those who gather as a community, such as a monastic sect.

Shramana – Significance

  • A tradition is a belief or habit that has been passed down through generations within a group or community and has symbolic value or significance.
  • To create their unique ideas, Shramana lineages drew on established Brahmin concepts.
  • The Shramana traditions follow a variety of ideas, and at times, they differ greatly from one another, as well as from orthodox Hinduism and its six schools of Hindu philosophy.
  • The disagreements range from the view that everyone has a soul to the statement that there is no such thing as a soul.
  • Shramana traditions encompass a wide spectrum of views, ranging from vegetarianism to meat consumption and from family life to extreme asceticism, renouncing all earthly pleasures.
  • The various Shramana movements arose in ancient India in the same circles that led to the development of Yogic practices, which include the Hindu philosophy of following a course of physical and mental discipline in order to achieve liberation from the material world, as well as a union between the self and a supreme being or principle.
  • After the Vedic period, the Shramana traditions propelled the so-called Hindu synthesis, which expanded throughout southern India and parts of Southeast Asia.
  • This new Hinduism absorbed popular non-Vedic gods and other traditions from local cultures, as well as the caste system’s integrated socio-economic divisions, as it spread.
  • Yoga, Jainism, Buddhism, and other Hindu schools evolved from Shramana traditions.
  • They also gave rise to common beliefs in all major Indian religions, such as sasra, or the birth-death cycle, and moksha, or deliverance from it.

Shramana Schools

  • Shramana is a Sanskrit term that signifies “one who practices austerity and asceticism.”
  • It refers to a number of Indian religious systems that run concurrently with the Vedic Religion.
  • The various Shramana schools include:
    • Jainism
    • Buddhism
    • Ajivikas
    • Ajnanas
    • Charvakas


  • The word ‘Jain’ comes from the word Jina or Jaina, which means ‘Conqueror.’
  • They believe that their religion is made up of people who have conquered and controlled their appetites.
  • Jainism does not have a single founder; rather, the truth is brought to the world by a teacher who shows the way, or a Tirthankara, in difficult and various times.
  • Before Mahavira, the Jain religion had 23 Tirthankaras or great-learned men.
  • Mahavira is sometimes mistaken for the founder of Jainism; in fact, he is the 24th and last Tirthankara.
  • He would acquire spiritual enlightenment and teach others how to get moksha or emancipation.
  • He is like a god who has taken on the shape of a human being and must undergo penance and meditation in order to attain the pure stage of the soul.
  • Jainism, like Buddhism, denies the Vedas’ authority.


  • It is a prominent world religion that started in the Indian subcontinent and has since spread throughout most of Southeast Asia.
  • The narrative of Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as Buddha, is linked to Buddhism’s beginnings. Buddha is credited with Buddhism’s traditions, beliefs, and practices.
  • Gautam Buddha was born Siddhartha Gautam to mother Maya and father King Suddhodana of the Sakyan kingdom under the Kshatriya tribe in Lumbini (now Nepal) in 563 BC.
  • He spoke his first sermon to his five companions at the Deer Park in Sarnath, near Varanasi, after achieving Nirvana at Bodh Gaya.
  • Dharma-Chakra-Pravartana (Turning the Wheel of Law) was the name given to this occurrence.
  • Buddhism’s Three Jewels (triratnas) are the following:
    • Buddha – The enlightened one
    • Dhamma – Teachings of Buddha (doctrine)
    • Sangha – The monastic order


  • Makkhali Gosala started the school in the 5th century BC.
  • The Niyati (Fate) doctrine of absolute determinism is central to the school.
  • It holds that there is no such thing as free will and that everything that has happened, is occurring, or will happen is fully pre-determined and based on cosmic principles.
  • As a result, there was no need for Karma.
  • It is based on the atom hypothesis, which states that everything is made up of atoms and that distinct traits originate from pre-determined collections of atoms.
  • Ajivikas lived a simple, austere life without clothing or possessions.
  • They were atheists who rejected Buddhism and Jainism.
  • Unlike Jainism and Buddhism, they do not believe in the Karma doctrine. They believe that Karma is a fallacy.
  • Like Buddhism and Jainism, they also challenged the authority of the Vedas.
  • They believed in the existence of a material soul, whereas Jainism advocates a formless soul.
  • Bindusara (fourth century BC) was one of its adherents.
  • The center of Ajivikas is thought to be Savathi (Sravasti) in Uttar Pradesh.
  • Ajivikas is mentioned in Ashoka’s 7th pillar edicts.
  • The texts of the Ajivika sect do not exist at the moment. In the modern era, this sect has also lost its lustre.


  • The Ajnana group practiced extreme skepticism.
  • The school held the belief that learning about nature is impossible. Even if it were conceivable, it would be ineffective in terms of salvation.
  • This school was a fierce competitor to both Jainism and Buddhism.
  • They were deemed illiterate and specialized in denial.
  • Ignorance is Best,” they claimed.


  • Brihaspati laid the foundation stone for this school, which was said to be one of the first to construct a philosophical theory.
  • The Vedas and the Brihadarankya Upanishad both make reference to the idea.
  • The Charvaka School was the most prominent proponent of a materialistic approach to salvation.
  • The concept was quickly named Lokayata, or anything originating from the ordinary people, because it was aimed toward the regular people.
  • They denied the existence of any supernatural or divine agent capable of governing our behavior on this planet.
  • They believed that salvation was unnecessary and denied the existence of Brahma and God.
  • They were believers in anything that could be touched and felt with the human senses.

Shramana – Influence on Indian Culture

  • Hinduism and Indian culture were both influenced by the Shramana traditions.
  • Some scholars believe that the concepts of birth and death, samsara, and liberation come from Shramana or other ascetic traditions.
  • Sramanic doctrines affect Brahmanical theories during the Upanishadic period.
  • While the notions of Brahman and Atman (Soul, Self) may be traced back to pre-Upanishadic strata of Vedic literature, the Upanishads’ eclectic nature shows infusions of social and philosophical ideas, indicating the growth of new doctrines, most likely from Sramanic movements.
  • Karma and Samsara were key issues of discussion in shramana traditions. All schools of Indian philosophy were influenced by shramaa beliefs.
  • Karma and rebirth are examples of concepts that may have originated in the shramana or renunciation traditions before becoming mainstream.
  • There are a variety of hypotheses about the origins of principles like Ahimsa, or nonviolence.
  • The Chandogya Upanishad, which dates from around the seventh century BCE, contains the first evidence for the use of the word Ahimsa in the Hindu sense (a code of conduct).
  • It prohibits aggression towards “all beings” (sarva bhuta), thus Ahimsa practitioners are believed to be free of the metempsychosis cycle.

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