Introduction to Six Heretical Teachers and Their Teachings

Main Characteristic of the two Traditions can come to conlusion when we study the biography of the Gautama Buddha. It is very interesting to study the social information and the religious background of the society where the Buddha lived; it is only by that comparative understanding we can know the value of Buddhist teachings and the greatness of the Buddha.

When prince Siddhattha was born, the major religion in that society was Brahmanism; it had already a long history in India. By that time, Brahmanism had passed nearly fourteen centuries from its early beginning. Brahmanism was not only the major religion but also the major cultural force. The vision of life, ideas of thought, ethics of daily and social life, aims and objectives of life and even the form of language they spoke were decided by the major concept of Brahmin teachings.

Because of the creation theory caste system, supremacy of men and the domination of the priest the Brahmanism was the religion of the minority of upper class people. The majority poor and innocent masses including the women had to undergo serious difficulties. The Brahmanic sacrifice was expensive, destructive, bring nothing to society and their social principles which were unjust provoked the people to think for alternatives. But the domination of powerful minority was never over throne in political or economic sense therefore dis-revolution occurred in religious arena. As a result, the emergence of Sramana tradition took place.

Buddhism is one of the main religious philosophies that belong to the Sramana tradition in the 6th century B.C. Apart from the Buddha’s teachings there were a number of well-known religious teachings introduced by a number of renounced religious teachers. Among them there were also some other religious groups devoid of one particular leader but practicing and teaching their faith to the others. There were also another class of thinkers who claimed not to be religious teachers but mere theorists who outlined new form of thinking which almost not religions.   


The main concept of his philosophy is the non-efficacy (åkiriyavAda) of action. He rejects the judgment of human actions in terms of good and bad. According to him there are no different actions called good and bad actions, they are only mere actions. They don’t produce relevant results as good and bad, therefore refraining from some action or performing some action as recommended by religions does not serve any special purpose. Human beings are free and autonomous to act at their will; limitations for encouragement of any particular form of actions have not any special use.

The ßAmaJJaphalasutta of DN explains his teachings as follows:

kArato kho mahArAja kArayato chindato chedApayato socayato socApayato kilamayato kilamApayato pAnatipatayato adinnam Adiyato sandhim chindato . . . paradAra gacchato musabhaNato . . . na karīyati pApaM.”

=O great king! doing evil action or caused to do so; cutting limbs or caused to do so; causing lament to others or causes to do so; causing tiredness to other or causing to do so; killing others; stealing, cutting limbs, . . . adultery and telling lies, . . . (by these one) does not do any evil.”

Further, he says if a man kills all beings on earth and makes a heap of flash no sin occurs by that (natthi pApaM, natthi pApassa Agamo).

Puranakassapa also rejects the efficacy and the results of good actions, by performing any form of good actions, he says no any good results come by practicing charity, morality, sacrifice or mental development man does not get any good results or merit (natthi puJJaM, Natthi puJJassa Agamo).

The philosophy of teachers like Puranakassapa was accepted by a big number of people. The reason for that was the heavy emphasis of Brahmanic yAga etc. He advocated non-efficacy of kamma on account of that he wanted to reject mainly the Brahmin social norms. For they did not see good and effective alternatives they reject the morality and ethics completely. They advocated non-efficacy of both good and bad action. Any way they were not only harmful to the religious teachings but also they were harmful for the general public.


The main theory of this teacher was determinism. Determinism means the theory that hold the idea that everything in the universe including everything related to human life is pre-determined, previously decided or already planned. Therefore, whatever newly thought planned or arranged actions do not bear valid results. Because of these concepts on human capacity his teaching is also a form of non-efficacy of action. His theory is also called the theory of causelessness (ahetukavAda), the theory of natural purity (saMsArasuddhivAda).

The ßAmaJJaphalasutta of DN presents the religious theory of this teacher as follows:

ñatthi mahArAja hetu natthi paccayo sattAnaM saGkilesAya. ahetu appaccayA sattA saGkilissanti. natthi hetu natthi paccayo sattAnaM visuddhiyA. ahetu appaccayA sattA visujjhanti.”

=O great king! There is no reason or condition for the defiling of beings, without reasons and conditions beings get defiled. There are no reasons or conditions for the purity of beings, without reasons and conditions beings get purified.”

What Makkhaligosala rejects by his view is the efficacy of good and bad actions as taught by other religious teachers and with the same, he rejects the concept of the free-will. According to him, no one is capable to think and decide the things for themselves. Free-will means the ability of man’s thinking independently and determine of his own.

ñatthi attakAre, natthi parakAre, natthi purisakAre, natthi balaM viriyaM natthi purisathAmo natthi purisaparakkamo. sabbe sattA, sabbe pANA, sabbe bhUtA, sabba jIvA abalA, aviriyA.”

=There is no action as done by oneself, done by others or done by person. There is no a power and effort a manual striving or manly exertion all beings all living things a life forms all living organism are without power or efforts.”

For the achievement of happiness or to be free from sins there is nothing that man can do, his thinking, decisions, power or effort are mere fault concept; they can do nothing effective.

With the rejection of free-will and personal activities, he introduces a theory called determinism (niyatisaGgativAda /niyativAda) to explain the function of being and the world. According to that idea everything related to human life is already decided and therefore independent action of a being does not do anything to change or shape his future. His teaching is also called ßaMsAraniyativAda for he says entire samsaric life of being is previously decided.

ñiyati saGgati bhAva parinatA chassevAbhi

jAtIsu sukhadukkhaM paTisaMvedenti.”

=Beings enjoy happiness and suffering by the evolution of determined and determined births so they are born in six deep sense life.”

This shows a definite end to the samsaric life at the end of the given number of lives. The purity or the ending of samsāra is to be completed only by experiencing it. There is no by way of morality or another short-cut or quick path to end the suffering other than given numbers. Accordingly, things are distinct to be born as a being 146600 times. The complete time of samsAric life is 84000 eons (kalpa). All beings whether wise or not, virtuous or not, small or big have to go through this journey to find the end of this samsāra, that can never be achieved by morality, asceticism, austerity or any other things.


With a simile he says

“As a ring of thread will come to the end of thread by rolling it forward in the same way all beings come to the end of samsāra have naturally journeyed through it.”

ßeyyathApi nAma suttagule khitte nibbethiyamAnameva pAleti. evameva bAle ca paNDite ca sandhAvitvA samsAritvA dukkhussantaM karissati.”

The Buddha criticized his view in the following words recorded in the åGguttaranikAya.


ñAhaM bhikkhave aJJaM ekadhammampi samanupassAmi yo evaM bahujana ahitAya paTipaNNo, bahujana asukhAya, bahuno janassa anatthAya ahitAya dukkhAya devamanussAnaM, yathayidaM bhikkhave Makkhali moghapuriso.”

=O monks! I don’t see any other factor which is for the bad of many people, unhappiness of many people, (which exist for) not good of many people, bad of many people and the suffering of many people with gods and men, such as O monks! Makkhali is the fool.”


This teacher presented a fanatic form of materialism similar to CArvaka philosophy. Buddhism recognizes him as a materialist (BhautikavAdi), nihilist (ücchedavAdi) and an exponent of non-efficacy of kamma (åkiriyavAdi).

Ajitakesakambala held ten wrong views regarding the life being.

1.  ñatthi (mahArAja) dinnaM – There is no meaning of charity

2.  ñatthi yiTThaM – There is no meaning of sacrifice

3.  ñatthi hutaM – There is no meaning of fire sacrifice

4.  ñatthi sukaTa dukkatAnaM kammAnaM phalaM vipAko – There is no result of good and bad deeds

5.  ñatthi ayaM loko – There is no this world

6.  ñatthi paro loko – There is no the other world

7.  ñatthi mAtA – There is no mother

8.  ñatthi pitA – There is no father

9.  ñatthi opapAtikA sattA – There are no spontaneous beings

10. ñatthi loke samanabrAhmaNa sammaggatA, sammA paTipannA, ye imaJca lokaM paraJca lokaM sayaM abhiJJA sacchikatvA pavedenti – There are no in the world a recluse or a Brahmin who is well born, practiced well and who properly says having realized this world and the other worlds by himself.

With this of his views not only he rejects religious morality but also general social morality. Because he is not believing in rebirth and efficacy of actions puts down spiritual morality when he rejects concepts like generosity, mother and father etc. and also declines general social morality as well. On his materialist theory, the ßAmaJJaphalasutta says the following.


CAtummahAbhUtiko ayaM puriso yadA kAlaM karoti paThavi paThavikAyaM anupeti anupagacchati, Apo ApokAyaM anupeti anupagacchati, tejo . . . vAyo . . . AkAsaM indriyAni saMkamanti. Āsandi paJcima purisa mataM AdAya gacchanti, . . . dattu paJJattaM yadidaM dAnaM, tesaM tucchaM, musA, vilApo, ve keci attikavAdaM vadanti bAle ca paNDite ca kAyassa bheda ucchijjanti, vipassant na hoti parammaraNA.

=This person who is made of four great elements, when he passes away solidity goes to the natural body of solidity liquidity goes to the natural body of liquidity, temperature . . .; motion . . .; organs go to the sky. People take the dead body with a dead bed which is the fifth . . . generosity is faultily given (rebirth results of kamma etc) empty fault hood both the fool and the wise go to destruction by the breaking of body and no more after death.”

Because of these views, he is called a materialist for he declares the absence of rebirth and he is a nihilist.

Such views were held by CArvaka tradition in India. Ajitakesakambala seems to present that tradition in the Buddha’s time.


This thinker too is a materialist, nihilist and an exponent of non-efficacy of kamma. He is also called ßattakAyavAdi (the theorist of seven elements). He preached that beings are made of seven elements. The seven elements are:

1.  PaThavi – solidity

2.   Āpo – liquidity

3.   Tejo – temperature

4.  VAyo – motion

5.  ßukha – happiness

6.  ∂ukkha – suffering

7.   JIva – life principle

According to him, all these are seen in different forms of material phenomena. They are all powerful causes of reality.

According to him, the everlasting and unchanging characteristics of seven great elements have been explained by him with the following terminology. The seven elements are not created (akaTA), not caused to create (akaTavidhA), not heavenly created (animmitA), not created otherwise (animmitA, barren (vaJjhA), stubborn (taTThA) and solid (esikaTThAyiTThitA). Then he explains the interrelationship among seven elements. They don’t move (na iJjanti), they don’t evolve (na vipariNAmenti), they don’t disturb each other (na aJJamaJJaM vyAbAdhenti) and they are not suitable for the happiness or the suffering of each other (nAlaM aJJamaJJassa sukhAya dukkhAya vA sukhadukkhAya vA). The characteristic as given by him show that the seven elements are independently existing group of reality.

The Vedic philosophy said that the ultimate unchanging reality behind the life and nature is only one reality that is the God. Pakudhakaccāyana in his philosophy says that there are seven ultimate unchanging realities behind the life and the nature. They are these seven elements. By these characteristic they don’t disturb each other, what he says is that by killing or destroying phenomena no any bad happens.

†attha natthi hantA vA, ghAtetA vA sotA vA sAvetA vA viJJAtA vA viJJApetA vA. yopi tinhena satthena sīisaM chindati, no koci kaJci jīvitA voropeti. SattAnaM yeva kAyAnaM antarena satthaM vivaramanupattI’ti.”

=There is no killer or destroyer of life whoever cuts the head (of anther) does not kill anybody but seven elements four among seven elements making space.”

His philosophy also like the former thinker rejects both spiritual and normal morality; they serve no any good purpose to human life at all. Therefore, Buddhism rejects them as wrong views (micchadiTThi). Still many people at that time accepted them as true.


This teacher is known as agnostic (ajJevAdI) and skeptic (saMsayavAdI) for he declares that the reality cannot be expressed definitely. In Pāli sources, he is called åmaravikkhepavAdI (eel-wriggler) for he does not answer any philosophical questions directly. Whenever a philosophical question is put to him, he says the truth cannot be expressed clearly and therefore no answer could be given.

The BrAhmajalasutta of DN enumerates four kinds of åmaravikkhepavAdIns.

1.  µusAvAdabhayA musAvAda parijegucchA – This category includes those teachers who do not give answers clearly for they are fear of falsehood and because that they reject falsehood. They consider that if somebody says something without knowing it properly that is not a thing to be done. If somebody desires or becomes indulging in such a view that can cause serious harm to him who indulge in. Therefore, they don’t give any clear conclusion to metaphysical propositions.

2.   UpAdAnabhayA upAdAna parijegucchA – Those who belong to this category do not give any conclusions and hence they reject to express the truth for they are fearing and grasping to views. They fear and reject giving any conclusions to others of their philosophical views.

3.  ånuyogabhayA anuyoga parijegucchA – The skeptics in this group do not answer properly the philosophical propositions for they are afraid of questioning by others that they think the more answer they give the more they question. They have the fear that if they express a view other might question about it seriously and therefore they do not want to say more whoever discussed about deep points of existence.

4.  µandA momUhattA – Those thinkers in this group don’t answer the philosophical propositions for they are ignorant and do not know the matter what he was asked.

Out of these four groups above three do so because of some good reasons. They don’t want to disturb others by telling them things, which they don’t know clearly. On the other hand, some of them consider about ethics like saying that they don’t talk because they fear or reject falsehood.

In this method of responding, there is a method of ways of rejecting a view (paJca nisedhana). When a certain proposition is questioned the skeptics will reject it in the following five ways. ßaJjayabelattiputta too followed these methods.

1.  Evan’ti’pi me no – I have no idea that this is like this.

2.  †athA’pi me no – I have no idea that this is like that.

3.  åJJathA’ti’pi me no – I have no idea that this is otherwise.

4.   No’ti’pi me no – I don’t say it is not.

5.   No no’ti’pi me no – I don’t say that it is not, not so.

This method of answering represents one Indian methodology of argument. This is a sect of five arguments by which debate could be successfully conducted. The ßAmaJJaphalasutta of DN presents a long set of question to which the skeptics rejected to answer in the above five ways.

1.  åtthi paro loko? – Is there an other world?

2.  ñatthi paro loko? – Isn’t there an other world?

3.  åtthi ca natthi ca paro loko? – Is there and isn’t there an other world?

4.  ñevatthi nanatthi paro loko? – Is not there and non-isn’t there an other world?

5.  åtthi opapAtikA sattA? – Are there spontaneous beings?

6.  ñatthi opapAtikA sattA? – Aren’t there spontaneous beings?

7.  åtthi ca natthi ca opapAtikA sattA? – Are there and aren’t there spontaneous beings?

8.  ñevatthi nanatthi opapAtikA sattA? – Are there and non-aren’t there spontaneous beings?

9.  åtthi sukaTa dukkatAnaM kammAnaM phalaM vipAko? – Is there fruit or result of well done and ill done deeds?

10. ñatthi sukata dukkaTAnam kammAnaM phalaM vipAko? – Is not there fruit or result of well done and ill done deeds?

11. åtthi ca natthi ca sukata dukkaTAnam kammAnam phalaM vipAko? – Is there and is not there fruit or result of well-done and ill done deeds?

12. ñevatthi na natthi sukatdukkaTAnaM kammAnaM phalaM vipAko? – Isn’t there and non-isn’t there fruit or result of well done and ill done deeds?

13. Hoti tathAgato parammaranA? – Does the Well Gone-one exist after death?

14. ña hoti tathAgato parammaranA? – Does not the Well Gone-one exist after death?

15. Hoti ca na hoti ca tathAgato parammaranA? – Is and isn’t the Well Gone-one exist after death?

16. ñeva hoti na nahoti tathAgato parammaranA? – Isn’t and non-isn’t the Well Gone-one exist after death?

These are in a way of disputable points that existed in philosophical discussions at the time of the Buddha. Many religious teachers tried to answer them in their own way according to their philosophies. Those who give some forms of answers to questions as response to were accepted by the people as trustworthy religious teachers, some teachers did not answer them for either they were irrelevant for their religious purposes or for they did not know to produce the proper answer. According to the ßAmaJJaphalasuutta of DN, Sañjayabellattiputta told king Ajātasatthu that when these questions are put to him he becomes to reject them in the five ways mentioned above. In a society where there were so many philosophical views this teacher taught that avoiding all of them to be the best philosophy. Sañjayabellattiputta became famous and the teacher of many for they many young people respected his thinking as a trustworthy teaching.


This teacher is the founder of Jainism; he is also called by other two names JainamahāvIra and VardhamānamahāvIra. Before his enlightenment named he practiced austerities for twelve years from his attainment to perfect-ness (kevalatva) he preached the doctrine for forty-two years. The austerity of self-mortification is recommended as its practice like in Buddhism the middle path is. Among the Indian contemporary religions of the Buddha, Jainism was the major religion to recommend self-mortification as the path of purity; he also preached the theory of extreme non-violence (paramAvihiMsavAda). According to him everything on earth has life, earth, water, wind, mountains all these things are full of lives so he instructed his followers not to harm any of these things for their lives could be disturbed, he recommended to strain water before drinking, close the mouth with hand when speaking, wipe the road before walking to avoid killing any living thing.

Among the six heretics, he was a kiriyavAdIm. The ßAmaJJaphalasutta of DN gives only the four fold restrains (catuyAmasamvara) of the teachings of Jainism but in many other places of the Pāli canon, we can observe much information about Jainism and its founder. The main concepts of Jainism as given in Pāli sources can be identified as follows.

1.  Parama avihiMsavAda – The theory of extreme non-violence

2.  KammavAda – The theory of efficacy of action including PubbekatahetuvAda (the theory that say everything depends on past deeds)

3.  ßyAdvAda – The Jainist theory of logic

4.   ĀtmavAda – The theory of soul

5.  ßattAvAda – The theory of reality

Jainism teaches basic five precepts closely similar to Buddhist teaching on that.

1.   Not killing

2.   Not stealing

3.   Avoidance of sensual pleasures

4.   Telling truth

5.   Avoidance of worldly pleasures

In his theory of non-violence, Jainists are instructed not to harm any living thing in whatever way. Therefore occupations related to cleaning the environment such as farming livestock, development are discouraged by Jainism. Some of such practices were practically impossible in day today life.

In the theory of efficacy of kamma, µahāvIra is a unique one, he preached on his past kamma that the  present life of the man is the result of what he did in the past (pubbekatahetuvAda). According to Mahāvira all the accumulated kamma by the person should be done away with under going their results. There is no other way to be free from one’s past kamma other than experiencing the results of them. It also rejects pre-will into a certain extent.

He also emphasized the significance of restraining one’s own body, speech and mind. In Jainism the three fold actions are taught instead of kamma in Buddhism he uses daNDa in Jainism, the three are

1.  KAyadaNDa

2.  VAkdaNDa

3.  µanodaNDa

According to him, all the minor and major action performed by body, speech and mind whether intentionally or not bear relevant results. Therefore, Jainism taught two religious practices åttakilamatAnuyoga (self-mortification) for finishing past kammas and the four fold restrains is to avoid the generation of new kamma. He did not accept that actions are reproducing results if they are intentionally done, but his view was all the actions even unintentional bear results. 

MahāvIra rejected the God’s creation theory (IssaranimmaNavAda) in major; he taught the theory of soul and the way to give it up by setting soul free from all the past kammas. The Jaina follower seriously practices self-mortification in different way, it means to end up the past kammas meanwhile the following four restrains (saMvara) are recommended in idea of  avoiding the generation of new kamma.

The CatuymasaMvara in Jainism are:

1.  ßabbavAri vArito=Avoiding all forms of water

2.  ßabbavAri yuto=Washing away sins

3.  ßabbavAri dhuto=Prevention of sins

4.  ßabbavAri puTho=Destruction of all sins

According to Jainism, the size of one’s body is the size of his soul (tam jIvaM tam sariraM). By giving much pain to the soul or the body one should make his soul or body thinner and thinner and by practising the four fold restrains the birth of new kamma should be avoided.

ßabbavAri vArito means to be away from all forms of using normal water for it is a vast source of life. Therefore minimum use of water is recommended in Jainism to avoid killing living things. ßabbavAri yuto means to live away from all forms of sins by body, speech and mind. ßabbavAri dhuto means washing or clearing away sins to purify the soul. ßabbavAri puTho means the destruction of all forms of sin to get the soul free from all past kammas.

Jainism also had its own unique methodology of logical arguments, that is called syAdvAda or establishing reality by the seven fold logical propositions.

ßaptabhaGgīnaya (seven fold logical proposition in Jainism)


1.  ßyAt asti – It can be so

2.  ßyAt nAsti – It cannot be so

3.  ßyAt asti nAsti – It can and cannot be so

4.  ßyAt avaktavya – It can be said that it is so

5.  ßyAt asti avaktavya – It cannot be said it is

6.  ßyAt nAsti avaktavya – It cannot be said it is not

7.  ßyAt asti nAsti avaktavya – it cannot be said it is or it is not

The ßattavAda of Jainism is another significant branch of their philosophy. According to them in this world of constant changes there are seven realities, which do not change.

1.   Jīva – Soul

2.  åjīva – Other phenomena

3.   ĀZrava – Flowing (change)

4.  Bandha – Clinging

5.  ßaMvara – Restrain in clinging

6.  ñirjara – Avoiding rebirth

7.  µokSa – Attaining perfect-ness (kevalatva)

About all these six teachers the following characteristics are said

ßaGghiceva ganI ca gaNAcarIyo JAto- yasassI titthaGkaro sAdhu sammato

bahujanassa rattaJJu cirapabbajito -addhagato vayo anuppatto.”


ßaGghiceva means one who has a community, a group, the teacher of the group, JAto means well known. Yasassī means famous, titthaGkaro means ford maker, sAdhu sammato bahujanassa means approved as good by many people, rattaJJu means old, cirapabbajito means ordained for a long time, addhagato vayo anuppatto means spent more that half of life.”