Ajivika (Ajivikas), Ajivikism and its Features
The Ajivika (also Ajivikas) creed was one of the most popular protesting creed against the Brahmanical religion during 6th century B.C. Its preacher Gosala Mankhaliputta was born in the family of a commoner. Gosala was a fundamental thinker who challenged the basic tenets of Brahmanical religion. He died in and about 484 B.C. shortly before the Mahaparinirvana of Gautama Buddha.
There was huge protest against the prevailing Brahmanical religion in the 6th century B.C. There were as many as 60 different protesting creeds against Brahmanical religion.
We do not have any scripture or philosophical text of Ajivikism. The stray references about Ajivika doctrines in Jain and Buddhist literature throw some light on Ajivika thought and philosophy. Gosala, the founder of Ajivika creed preached that man can never escape the law of the deed done by him (Karma Phala).Destiny guides the fate of a man. No one, not even a small animal can escape the verdict of destiny and Karma Phala. The wise and the fool all are subjected to this universal law. Only by performance of rigorous penance and meditation in successive births the soul can be released from the law of Karma Phala. The Brahmins and Sudras arc all governed by the Universal law of Karma Phala and order of destiny. It is useless to perform Yajna and worship of Gods. It is equally futile to respect the Brahamanas who cannot escape the law of the deed.
The Ajivika creed became popular for its anti-Brahmanical stand. Asoka dedicated a few caves to the Ajivikas. The anti-caste attitude also added to popularity of the creed. According to the Vayu Purana, large number of Sudras became followers of Gosala. Ultimately, Buddhism superseded Ajivikism, because the latter was too pessimistic and negative in approach. It attacked Brahmanism but failed to present an alternative creed. Excessive reliance on destiny made the people devoid of energy and optimism. Even then Ajivikism survived in a diminished glory. Even in the Gupta period, we hear of Ajivika caves.