The organization of Brahmanism as a “mixture” of the traditional religion of the Aryans and of local forms of animism in ancient India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, allowed the development of a feudal base leaning towards a slave system.
The many local differences explain the large number of gods and goddesses which were the expression of local forms of animism. These particularities were strongly promoted by the local feudal rulers who benefited from the slave system.
Indeed, the caste system allowed the development of stable local societies based on villages, which sometimes even developed into real cities. There were strong social formations leaning towards real feudalism, or even sometimes already possessing pre-capitalist features.
Besides, the colonized peoples had begun to reinforce their animism. This provoked a massive ideological struggle.
Ideological forces and basis
With Brahmanism, the colonized, oppressed peoples began to get involved in religion. Thus there was an open way to defend their interests, through the animist side of the religion.
Respect for animals became the flag of the oppressed. The widening of religion to animals marked a strenghtening of the animist element, and a weakening of the “strongest” ideological element, which was the “rebirth” as member of the ruling class.
The recognition of animal life was a direct weapon against the unilateral value of the cruel rulers' lives.
Nevertheless, the oppressed did not form a revolutionary class at the time. This is why two other social formations also waved the flag of “compassion” to obtain mass support in their attempt to gain power.
The first social formation was absolute monarchy. A king, if he wanted to rule beyond his territory, had to break down the local differences that helped the local rulers, in order to weaken the religious parasitic class of the priests.
It hen followed that the first great ruler of India was Ashoka (304–232 BCE). The legend says that he embraced Buddhism after witnessing the massacres of the Kalinga War (more than 100,000 deaths and 150,000 deportations).
In fact, Ashoka did conquer most of the territories covering today's India and Pakistan. To maintain his empire, he effectively built a new ideology, exactly as Akhenaten did in his time.
The second social formation was the merchant class, interested mainly in two things: first, the possibility of maintaining their merchant status in society, and secondly, the weakening of the priests as a parasitic class.
For this reason, they supported both Buddhism and Jainism.
Buddhism and Jainism
Both Buddhism and Jainism were theorized by local royal members, who renounced everything to live an ascetic life and “discover” the path of the “moksha” (liberation).
It means that both Mahavira (circa 599 BCE - 527 BCE) and Gautama Buddha (circa 563 BCE - 483 BCE) rejected their class origin, and indeed both rejected the caste system.
But they had to justify this rejection. For this, they used the concept of soul in reincarnation.
Brahmanism had to justify the fact that somebody could be at some point on top of society, a member of the ruling class. So brahmanism introduced this fiction, that the “soul”, the personal “self”, was kept in the process of reincarnation.
This was a way of fooling the masses, of supplying an idealist option for social advancement.
Buddhism and Jainism were destroying this ideology, through the affirmation that in the system of “rebirths”, the personal aspect was not kept. The soul was reincarnated, but without its individual components.
It means that both Buddhism and Jainism were exposing the erroneous nature of Hinduism, which contended that everyone could move from the bottom to the top of society.
And of course, the consequences bore great significance for the priests, whose social function was threatening to be discarded with this proposal of an “enlighted” society, wherein everyone could pursue the “moksha” on equal grounds, with some members forming a new ascetic priesthood living aside society while being assisted by it.
It is of course impossible not to see how Buddhism and Jainism are of the same substance as Protestantism, which would emerge some 2000 years later.