The following points highlight the seven main causes for the rise of new religious movements. The causes are: 1. Degradation of Vedic Religion 2. Dominance of Priestly Class 3. Sacrifices 4. Caste System 5. Difficult Language of Vedas 6. Belief in Mantras 7. Contradictory Theory Regarding Deliverance.
Cause # 1. Degradation of Vedic Religion:
The religion of the early Vedic people was quite simple and there were no unnecessary rites and rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices in it. In course of time this simplicity of the religion disappeared and ideals of truth gave way to here say.
The priestly class in order to gratify its own needs and desires introduced so many rituals into the religion that people had to undergo these rituals right from cradle to the grave. The people were greatly dissatisfied with the weight of these rituals. Some of these sacrifices were so costly that they could not be performed by the common people.
Cause # 2. Dominance of Priestly Class:
The introduction of the new ceremonies and sacrifices in the religion led to the rise of the class of Priests. This class occupied an eminent position in the society. With a view to maintain their hold on society they introduced unnecessary rites and rituals. Thus they came to dominate every aspect of the Aryans life from birth to death.
This class became so powerful that they exercised supervision over the rulers and advised them in matters of administration. They held many important positions in the government machinery. In fact, they were considered Bhudevas or gods of earth. In course of time, when the people lost faith in the Vedic religion they also lost faith in thus class.
Cause # 3. Sacrifices:
In the course of time a number of sacrifices had been introduced in the Hindu religion. These were fully exploited by the priestly class. They not only made sacrifices of the animals, which were quite costly and useful but also that of human beings.
The greatly hurt the feelings of the people and created a spirit revolt in their mind. As most of the common people were unable to perform these costly sacrifices they not only turned against the system item but also the Brahmans who worked out that system.
Cause # 4. Caste System:
The caste system which had grown quite rigid by this time also contributed to the discontent of the people. The Hindu society had come to be divided in the four water-tight compartment castes. The members of the higher castes ill-treated the members of the lower castes and deprived them even of basic human rights.
The members of the lower castes were not only treated with contempt but also were not permitted to enter the temples or undertake tapasya. Naturally, there was great resentment amongst the members of these classes and they wanted to bring about necessary changes in the social system based on rigid caste system.
Cause # 5. Difficult Language of Vedas:
The spiritual unrest of the 6th century B.C. was also due to the difficult and complicated language of the Vedas which was beyond the comprehension of common people. All the religious works of the Hindus like Vedas, Upanishads.
Ramayana and Mahabharata had been written in Sanskrit which could not be followed by the common people. Naturally they had to depend on the Brahmans for the proper understanding of these works. The Brahmans fully exploited this weakness of the people and interpreted these works in a manner which suited them best.
Cause # 6. Belief in Mantras:
In the course of time not only the Vedic religion had been reduced to ritualism but the Vedic hymns were also replaced by mantras. It was commonly believed that the mantras possessed divine powers and could cure people of diseases, bring victory or defeat in war, assure the destruction of its enemies, silent opponents etc.
In fact it was believed that there was hardly any phase of life which could not be effected by the mantras.
Cause # 7. Contradictory Theory Regarding Deliverance:
In view of the worldly miseries and suffering people were eager to find out same way to liberate their soul from the cycle of birth and death. For the realisation of this objection different theories were advocated. The priestly class laid stress on karma marga as a means for deliverance. Certain other laid stress on tapa marga or self-mortification.
The advocates of this theory held that even the Cod submitted to a person who was able to subdue his passions and practiced penance in the seclusion of forest. These two movements were quite popular with the average man. The intellectual section of the people however, believed in the theory of Moksha through jnana marga (true knowledge).
They emphasised the doctrine that “he who knows Cod attains to God, nay, he is God”. They considered the soul as an internal part of God and was ultimately to merge in God. A man could attain salvation only through the absorption of his soul with God.
This section of people did not have faith in karma and tapa margas. The different theories advocated for the attainment of salvation confused general people and they were not in a position to decide as to which path could lead them to salvation.