During the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.E new religious philosophies came to the surface in India and rejected the ancient Indian religion that revolved around the ritual sacrifices offered by Brahmin priests in hopes that the gods would reward their loyal human servants. The development of the Indian economy and the evolution of the societies to wealthy classes have raised the questions about the ancient religion for its role in the societies and rejected it as meaning less and less connected to the Indian societies of the time. The early Buddhism started when the Buddha publicly announced his doctrine first time about 528 B.C.E in the Deer Park of Sarnath, near the Buddhist holy city of Banaras (modern Varanasi), in a sermon delivered to friends (Bentley and Ziegler 220). The core of Buddha’s doctrine consists of Four Noble Truths that teaches that all life involves suffering; that desire is the cause of suffering; that elimination of the desire brings an end to suffering; and that a disciplined life conducted in accordance with the Noble Eightfold Path brings the elimination of desire (Bentley and Ziegler 220). The Noble Eightfold Path states that the individuals should seek to live balanced moderate lives by rejecting both the devotion to luxury and extreme asceticism (Bentley and Ziegler 221).
Buddhism appealed to many people and become popular from social implication of the doctrine as well as the language and other community service reasons. The Buddhism did not favor the Sanskrit and adapted vernacular tongues that reached a much larger popular audience. In addition, the organization of Buddhism movement created many monastic communities that dedicated their life for enlightenment and salvation. Overtime these monasteries become important institutions in the Indian societies and served as community organizations such as banks and social welfare institutions for the Indian country side populations. As these networks of monasteries have evolved overtime, the monasteries have made significant impact on social, cultural and economic aspects of India. In addition, the Buddhism has also received the endorsement from the Mauryan dynasty, where a major empire Ashoka adapted the Buddhism in about 260 B.C.E, according to Ashoka’s own accounts (Bentley and Ziegler 221). This is considered as a major influence of Buddhism as the King Ashoka said that he had decided to pursue his aims henceforth by means of virtue, benevolence, and humanity rather than arms after his realization of war against Kalinga and adaptation of Buddhism (Bentley and Ziegler 221). By the Ashoka’s decision he has implemented nonviolence and banned animal scarifies in Paraliputra and gave up his beloved hunting expeditions, and eliminated most meat dishes from the tables of his court, a great example of religion influencing the rule of law in an empire and a government. In addition, he as encouraged Buddhists by awarding grants for spreading the Buddhism and developed monasteries, stupas, and holy sites of Buddhism. Furthermore, Ashoka also sent missionaries to other parts of the world such as Bactria and Ceylon and eventually spreading the religion to central Asia, east Asia, and southeast Asia (Bentley and Ziegler 222).
Overtime, Buddhism was adapted by various classes of people at various levels and evolved to a more regional faith. A good example of this is the Mahayana Buddhism that flourished with its advanced educational system and advancement towards the future innovations of the society. The best known institution of historic time is Nalanda University of Gupta dynasty in the Ganges River valley near Paraliputra. The University was famous for teaching Buddhism as well as Vedas, Hindu Philosophy, logic, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. In conclusion the Buddhism evolved from the rejection or way out of the strict Ancient Indian Religion and evolved to a more moderate religion and then influenced the Mauryan dynasty and spread across Asia and other parts of the world.
The Christianity inception dates back to the tenth century B.C.E when the dissolution of the Jewish kingdom of David and Solomon occurred. While the Jewish people maintained their faith various other groups from Babylonian, Achemenid, Alexandrian, Seleucid, and Roman embraced many different ethnic and religious practices; and the empires created state cults that honored their emperors as gods. As these state cults evolved and imposed rules of their own, they clashed with Jews as they did not see the state cults as honorable and refused to participate in the state requirements and created tensions between imperial authorities and Jews and ignited wars between Jews and Roman forces. Ultimately Roman forces decisively defeated the rebels during the Jewish War of 66 to 70 C.E; and then Jews founded new sects that looked for saviors to deliver them from subjection; The Essenes formed one such sect; and one sect formed in 1947 by the discovery of Essene writings.
According to the sources, though the early Christians probably had little contact with the Essenes they shared the similar concerns, and Christians formed their community around Jesus of Nazareth, Jewish teacher and a recognized savior. Jesus presented himself as peaceful man, who taught many about devotion to god and love for fellow human beings. He became popular and attracted large population for his wisdom and miraculous powers; especially the ability to heal the sick (Bentley and Ziegler 280). Jesus spread the spirituality and faithfulness towards the God to others and believed that the “the kingdom of God is at hand.” meant the spiritual realm in which God would gather those faithful to him (Bentley and Ziegler 280). The Roman administrators took this belief as a threat to the Roman Empire and executed Jesus by fixing him to a cross during the early 30s C.E; however, this did not put an end to the movement and continued the spread of the Jesus for his proclaimed presence after the crucifixion.
Although, the Christianity has originated as a sect of Judaism, with its popularity and adaptation by the urban populations, it became the most dynamic and influential religion in the Roman Empire by the third century C.E. The growth of Christianity occurred among mass populations in urban lower classes, and women who did not have the freedom to enjoy the freedom of spirituality in the Roman Empire. In addition, Christianity provided the platform of faith to women as well as men to succeed in life as long as they keep faith in god. In conclusion, the Christianity developed as a spiritual faithful religion promoting equality and hope for better life of all classes and genders of people, which was not evident by the various religions around the Roman Empire.
About the 610 C.E, Prophet Muhammad underwent a profound spiritual experience and seeded the path for the religion Islam. According to the sources his convictions include that there is only one deity, Allah(“God”), that ruled the universe, that idolatry and the recognition of other gods amounted to wickedness; and that Allah would soon bring his judgment on the world (Bentley and Ziegler 348). As he shared his convictions with others, by about 620 C.E. enthusiastic and expanding minority of Mecca’s citizenry joined his circle and started the promotion of the Islam. During the first century of the Islam’s existence, Islam reached beyond Arabian homeland expanding to Persia, parts of Byzantine Empire; and by eighth century it has started influencing the political and economic sectors of the post classical societies. According to the sources, the early Islamic religious beliefs reflected the influence of Jewish and Christian faith, and the Muslim society reflected the nomadic and mercantile Arabian society from which Islam arose (Bentley and Ziegler 346). It is common observation in the Islamic society that the evolution of the religion includes the adaptation of various religious practices overtime. For example, after Muslims conquered Persia, they have adapted the Persian techniques of government and financial administration, Persian literature, science, and religious values. Similarly, during the later centuries Muslims adapted the traditions from Greek and India as they travelled or conquered these areas. It is observed that the Islamic society is rather formed by the inclusion of various practices from these other societies then being created as new by blending the elements from Arab, Persian, Greek, and Indian societies.
One of the profound aspects of the Islamic society is the establishment Islam in Arabia, occurred when Muhammad’s followers attacked in 630 C.E. and conquered the city. They force the elites to adapt Muhammad’s faith and imposed government dedicated to Allah. This attached included the destruction of pagan shrines and were replaced by the mosques for Muslims praying holy places; by the prophet’s death in 632 C.E., most of the Arabia under the control of Muslims. During the Muhammad’s period, his faith and his personal leadership influenced significantly for the development of Islamic community.
Muhammad founded the community based on the Five Pillars of Islam: (1) Muslims must acknowledge Allah as the only god and Muhammad as his prophet. (2) They must pray to Allah daily while facing Mecca. (3) They must observe a fast during the daylight hours of the month of Ramadan. (4) They must contribute alms for the relief of the weak and poor. (5) And, in honor of Muhammad’s visits to Mecca in 629, and 632, those who are physically and financially able must undertake the hajj and make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca (Bentley and Ziegler 351). Though, the Islamic community expanded the doctrine features with specific legal, social, and sects, the five pillars remained as basis and powerful. In addition, during the centuries after Muhammad the Islamic holy law, known as sharia, also added to the Islamic society governance model and was used as part of the Islamic empire. After Muhammad’s death in 632 C.E. his followers expanded the Islamic military power and expanded the Islamic empire beyond Arabia and brought additional transformation to the Islamic society. As the evolution and spread of the Islamic society continued, it has thoroughly transformed the cultural traditions that it absorbed, and provided political and administrative framework for large part of the eastern hemisphere, from Africa to the islands of southeast Asia; this included the framework for trade operations for this part of the world. Eventually this is referred as dar al-Islam (“house of Islam”). In conclusion, the Islamic religion has founded as a powerful religion about during the 600 C.E and rapidly expanded the religious community and the Islamic empire that ruled significant part of the world and transformed some parts of the world permanently with Islamic traditions and practices.
In conclusion, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam have evolved during the classical era and created permanent footprint in the world for their religious practices, beliefs, and faith towards god. In addition, these religions have provided framework and basis for the political and government systems and influenced, also dismantled other religions, in some cases, as part of the establishment process.