What is the Vedic perspective of godless religions like Jainism and Buddhism whose followers still live good lives?

by Chaitanya CharanFebruary 10, 2014

Transcription: Sudha Mehta Mataji

Question: If godlessness leads to futility, then what about religions that don’t talk about God like Buddhism and Jainism?

Answer: If you look at these religions historically they emerged from particular social context. Around 2500 years ago Indian society had become extremely stratified and fossilized in terms of caste discrimination and there were also the need because of too much ritualism, attempt to break free from the rituals and these religions, both of them, emerged primarily as reactions to the problems that had come up in Hinduism and when they emerged the religions primary focus was on countering the negativity that was perceived in Hinduism. For example instead of perceived discrimination there was inclusivism. Instead of the focus on transcendence which is talked about in the scriptures Vedic scriptures the focus is on practical conduct. Buddha himself when he was asked about God he never explicitly denied the existence of God. Some people consider Buddhism and Jainism to atheistic but actually if you look at their original teachings like if you look at the teachings of Buddha his teachings are non-theistic   When he was asked about God he basically said that “ Don’t bother about it” first focus on Sadachar behave properly then we can talk about other things. When he was asked philosophical question he basically avoided philosophical questions. Somebody asked him “Is the body same as soul” he did not answer “Is the body different from soul” he did not answer. What is it? He just did not answer. He said “You just cannot understand these questions”. So the point is twofold over here


When people become too much caught up in the rituals they cannot understand therefore there has to be proper conduct and therefore he emphasised on proper conduct. Secondly at that particular time people were misusing the Vedic scripture to kill animal a lot. There are certain allowances given to those people who like eating meat under certain condition they can make animal sacrifice kill the animal and eat the meat. But those licenses were being abused and because those licenses were being abused Buddha said “Can’t you see the animals suffer” The animals feel so much pain they suffer so much Don’t you feel?  So don’t kill. But the scriptures talk about it. Forget the scriptures. Thus he rejected the Vedic scriptures. Once you reject the scriptures we cannot really know about God very clearly because knowledge of God comes from scriptures. So from the historical context if you see he rejected the scriptures so he didn’t talk about god he didn’t talk about spiritual trend. He focused on getting people down from lower level of consciousness to relatively higher level of consciousness. So these are not even non theistic religion they are actually pre theistic religions pre theistic means creating a behavioural and cultural foundation by which people can tangibly connect with God. “If I am talking about God but my life is totally materialist in-fact more materialistic than a materialist then the talk about God will be hypocritical it will be counterproductive”. Does all forms of godlessness leads to frustration not necessarily? Because Vedic scriptures talk about three modes of material nature i.e Sattva Guna, Rajo Guna and Tamo Guna- goodness, passion and ignorance and there can be atheist also who are relatively in goodness in the sense that they may be thoughtful and somehow they have not come across philosophies that can answer their question, philosophical schools that  can answers their question satisfactorily. So it is true that Jainism and Buddhism many of these followers live in goodness and to that extent they live in goodness they will be elevated. Bhagwad Gita doesn’t talk about affiliation to particular religion. It talks about generic values. As compared to materialist today who are often living in passion ignorance that means just living for gross material enjoyment, even hurting other for the sake of gross material enjoyment these people they are not expected to talk about God but they are living in goodness which is good. But still at the same time unless one has the connection with God one cannot attain an eternal destination. Whatever destination one will get that will be temporary so to gain the eternal you have to love the eternal. If you don’t know the eternal how can you love the eternal? So there is some amount of __________. Certainly these religions will elevate you but they cannot take you beyond the realm of matter and time for that one needs to have positive knowledge about spirit. Is it clear?

Hare Krishna.

About The Author
Chaitanya Charan