Describe The Social and Religious Conditions of India When Gautama The Buddha Was Teaching.

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Describe The Social and Religious Conditions of India When Gautama The Buddha Was Teaching (33)

        Siddharta Gautama was born in North East India around the 6th century BCE. This was a time of great prosperity. The area was very fertile and much of the land remained forested ready for cultivation. There was a great trade in agriculture and there were many merchants. This prosperity brought peacefulness. There was a very structured civilisation with a caste system. Due to the prosperity there was a much more complex society. People had time to discuss life and religion without upsetting anyone. Unlike England and America in the past when people could be tried as ‘witches’ for the most minor of incidents. Especially in the main towns there was a much wider range of people; merchants, businessmen, nobles, teachers, intellectuals, musicians, actors dancers, and even prostitutes.

        There were quite a few religions around at the time of the Buddha’s teaching. The oldest was the Vedic tradition; this was the main religion, It came with the Aryans when they moved into India around 1500 BCE. The Aryans influenced Indian society a lot, and it is believed the caste system came from the Aryans. The caste system had four levels; The Brahmins who were the priests and considered closest to God, the Vaishyas who were usually soldiers and civil servants, the Shudras who were the servants and manual labourers, and finally the untouchables who were considered to be the lowest of the low. The people on the other levels of the caste avoided contact with the untouchables and they were given the most menial and degrading jobs. The unfair thing about the caste system was that whatever level you were born into you stayed in for the rest of your life. whatever caste your parents were in that would be your caste. You could never move up a caste. There were few inter-caste relationships it was believed the caste you were born into reflected how you had behaved in your previous life. The people of the time of the Buddah were very interested in rebirth and the soul. It was a main topic of discussion between scholars and philosophers. They devoted a lot of time to discussion of such issues, and this reflects the affluent society of the time - people could afford to spend time thinking about these issues.

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        People began to question the old values they had been taught and were looking to find new meaning in life. It was common for people to give up everything in order to find enlightenment. There were many wandering teachers of different beliefs known as Shramanas. They would go from place to place and try to teach and convert people. They usually had their own set of ideas and beliefs and were supported with gifts of food or by their followers. Two opposite types of Shramanas were the ascetics and the materialists. The ascetics lived a life of minimum luxury. They ...

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