Cycle of birth

'Cycle of Birth' is a significant concept of Buddhism and Jainism. Body and life are explicated in these religions but not the soul and God.

There are differences between the political concept and the religious concept. The political concept gives rules and regulations to discipline our life in this world alone, but the religious concept talks not only about the life in this world but also about life before one's birth and the life after one's death.

Since there is no doctrine for soul and God in Buddhism and Jainism, human beings are considered equal with the plants, animals and other living beings, since they also possess life and body.

According to Jainism and Buddhism one's birth is based on the activities of his previous birth and one's actions of the present birth would lead to the next birth. A man may be born in the next birth as a plant or an animal or a bird or a fish...... since all of these are equal having life and body alone.

But according to the doctrines which believe in God and soul, man is the crown of the creation of God, and he alone has soul and all other creatures were created for the welfare of the human beings, and according to one's actions his life after death will be either in heaven or hell.

In the first century A.D. the religions that were prevalent in India were Buddhism and Jainism. The problem that the people were facing at that time was the cycle of birth, as according to Buddhism and Jainism. They were thinking of the ways and means to get out of the cycle of birth and acquire liberation.

There are regions where people do not have belief in God. It is a Herculean task to make these people believe in God in those regions. Only after making them theists only can one tell them the good news that God became a man and bore the sufferings of human beings and obtained liberation for them. When this news was preached, naturally there would have been questions, asking whether God can give liberation from their rebirth. The answer to this question is seen in Early Indian Christian literature.

Hence in the Early Indian Christianity the doctrine of cycle of birth can be seen. However, it should be understood that explanation is given according to the theistic view alone and not according to the atheistic view, and that emancipation can be obtained through God alone. A key point that should be keenly observed here is that the people who were the converts from Buddhism and Jainism into the Six-fold religion were trying to obtrude their doctrine of cycle of birth into the Six-fold religion.

Hence, the concept of cycle of birth in Buddhism and Jainism is different from the concept of cycle of birth in the Six-fold religion. If we ask the Buddhists and the Jains, whether they are cognizant of the difference between soul and life? They cannot give a clear answer since they are not cognizant of the difference between soul and life. However in the Six-fold religion the doctrine about soul and life is found. Unless one knows the difference between soul and life, one cannot understand the difference between the place of cycle of birth in Jainism and Buddhism and the place of the same concept in the Six-fold religion.

In Christianity which developed outside India, this concept of Cycle of birth and the solution cannot noticed since this concept did not exist there.

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Dr. M. Deivanayagam
Dr. D. Devakala

The Revival Movement of Dravidian Religion