Early Buddhism though propogated in different provincial dialects could not be appreciated by the common-folk in general. The insistence on retirement from worldly life was a great handicap n the way of its popularity; so during the first century of its existence, it remained confined to the recluses and monastries, and hardly reached the home and the hearth. It was perhaps about a century after Buddha's death that the religion became dynamic, assimilating some of the ideas and thoughts current around and stepped down from its high pedestal of exclusiveness and abstruse ideals to appeal to the more intellectual and faithful among the common-folk. This move towards popularity too did not proceed far as we find that it just allowed a little scope for rituals of a sober character, a little of faith and worship, and a slight relaxation from the stringency of disciplinary rules. Asoka as a ruler gave preference to the popular ideals, producing good citizens, and not to the spiritual, making the people unsocial. It cannot be ascertained how far Asoka had a hand in the matter of making the religion popular but the history of the religion shows that after the days of Asoka, it developed new aspects which became so very popular that the reoriented religion spread all over India, marking every notable spot with magnificent structures of rare artistic value, and ultimately reaching countries beyond the borders of India. There are, in fact, two stages in the course of its attainment of popularity, one of the pre-Asokan days and other of the post-Asokan.
Buddha subscribed to the theories of karman and rebirth but in a way completely different from those of the Upanisadas. The Upanisadic view of karman is linked up with the permanent and unchangeable self while Buddha's view was that changing karman could never be associated with an unchanging substance like the self. He was a strong advocate of karman and its effects and he laid the utmost emphasis on it throughout his teachings. He criticised those teachers who denied or minimised the efficacy of karman and it is with this purpose that he discussed the doctrines of the six teachers and condemned them in no uncertain terms. The upholders of Akiriyavada were destined to hell this was his repeated assertion. He elaborated his cosmological ideas of heaven and hell mainly with a view to educate his large number of disciples who were not spiritually advanced and to infuse into them the spirit of doing good deeds and avoiding evils in order to assure a better and happier after-life. Of the six teachers he made an exception of only one, viz., Nigantha Nataputta, whom he regarded as a kiriyavadin and passed over the views of the Agnostic teacher Sanjaya Belatthiiputta.