Hinduism and Buddhism: Similarities and Differences

From the major five religions in the world as of today Hinduism and Buddhism are two religions that are practiced in various countries. Religion is where an individual or a group of people follows a set of beliefs, takes up on the culture, and worships a single deity or multiple deities or even an unnatural force. But there are some religions which are not centered to worship a god or multiple forces of supernatural beings. Religions often tend to have some prophecies, cultural texts, beliefs, and morals. And in order for their needs to be satisfied, they usually pray, have sermons, meditate, fast, and feast. Hinduism and Buddhism are two of the major five religions that have survived for centuries and when compared both are a bit similar but when compared all religions will look a bit similar and all will have their differences which makes them unique.

Introduction to Hinduism: 

Hinduism is the third large religion after Christianity and Islam. The people in the peninsula known as India are the major and biggest followers of Hinduism. It is the faith and the way of life for the majority of the people in India. It is not known or found where or who found this religion. Or what made the people to follow these religions centuries back. From the other religions like Christianity for example Hinduism doesn’t focus on one god, the religion has a variety of gods and beliefs. It is based on beliefs such as karma, reincarnations, heaven, hell, etc. Even though this religion has hundreds and thousands of gods it's mainly focused on the main three gods or Trimurti. The first main god Shiva considered as the god of and creator and destroyer. Lord Shiva then created the second God Brahma who was given his power of creation. It’s argued that Brahma wasn’t given the gift of creation but he was the creator of the cosmos and all life beings. And he is the middle god and most important god out of all three. Then after creation came preservation of the creations. The third God Vishnu the god of preservation.

It is unknown where this religion was found the earliest written documents were copied or recorded in a readable material in 1000 B.C. The Vedas were the documents that were found but after inspecting the material it was said that it may have existed long before that. The Vedas are considered the origin of the religion Hinduism.

Being a Hindu or the religion Hinduism teaches us that all living beings have a soul that will be judged upon death. It is said that the god of Creator Brahma puts a part of his soul while creating a soul. Or the existence within their own Atman will be put into the soul. It is also argued by saying that no soul can be pure and untainted as it was created, it would sin and become unholy and impure. Every soul’s job is to return to Brahma a god of purity. But since they have become impure it is impossible to return to the said God and since purity is close to impossible to achieve in one lifetime it is argued that the souls don’t reach Brahma. The souls are forced to live one life after another to reach purity so that its duty can be fulfilled. This process is called the wheel of life or the cycles of rebirth samsara. And if a soul has reached the same level of purity as it was created it can finally rest or return to Brahma and this returning and resting process is called Moksha.

As mentioned before the Hindu religion consists of many gods, there are thirty-three crore gods and goddesses in Hinduism. And Lord Brahma is considered as the main god who stands in the Centre and Vishnu as his right side and Shiva in his left side. Its believed that all life forces come from Brahma and when we pray to another god or a sub god its believed that the prayer goes to God Brahma. God Brahma does not reward or punish as his job is only to create. Every person’s soul is rewarded for good deeds and punished on bad deeds this process is called karma. It’s believed that the person's good deeds weigh more than the bad deeds he will have a good reincarnation and if the bad karma exceeds good karma, he will suffer or face with consequences in the next life.

So, it is important to balance or do more good deeds. Due to wants and needs, it's close to impossible to do good deeds all the time. Dharma is the ultimate balance of all living beings. Since every soul is responsible to balance their own dharma, some which are a must to have is being faithful to your religion, taking care of your family, and following rituals. If a soul fails to do these it will be unbalanced and result in bad karma.

Introduction to Buddhism: 

Buddhism is the term that is used to teach the teachings of Buddha. Buddha was not a mythical being, he was a person who was on earth about 25 centuries ago. Buddha was a born prince in the Indian Subcontinent. His teachings have been used for various things like some people take it as a religion, some take his philosophies and live by it, for some its ethic-moral code and it goes on. His teachings are used for various things by various kinds of people. The Buddhists use the term “Dhamma” to designate his teachings. It has various meanings but the intended meaning is “to uphold”.

Prior to Buddha’s enlightenment, he was born and raised by a Hindu family. He was thought the teachings of the Hindu religion. Before he found his own path, he used to go to the gurus to find a way to end the problem of suffering. He practiced meditation techniques that were done by the Hindu yogis who followed the Hindu scriptures of their time. After his enlightenment buddha showed higher respect or had special consideration to the Higher caste Hindus most specifically the Brahmins (priests) and the Kshatriyas (warriors). Buddha taught his disciples to show respect for the Brahmins who devote their lives to serving the Hindu gods and Buddha was also fascinated by their spiritual bent of mind and the progress they achieved in their lifetimes to achieve Moksha. Buddha had high respect for these people, it is said that for certain brahmins he gave free access to Buddhism where for others there was some rigor probation. Some Brahmins became his disciples to him and the religion. Buddha turned many brahmins to Buddhists to follow his Dharma path.

It was clear that buddha taught his followers with skillful means. The concept of skillful means (Upayakausalya) means it is the ability to bring out one’s spiritual potential with statements or actions whichever was efficient. As many yogis and gurus thought him the skill of meditation it was one of the important skill to the celestial buddhas and bodhisattvas. It is a skillful means of harnessing the mind’s general business by letting it be occupied with the details of visualization. This draws visualization from the outside environment and its problematic concerns so it can calm down on its own accord. When visualized the content and color provide focus and also lead to better stability. Its often told that if one’s mind is excited, they can focus on the lower part of the buddha and if the mind is not excited and dull, they should focus on the upper body of the buddha.

The bodily form of the buddha is extremely important. It is related to the 3 kayas of the buddha. In the Buddhist religious philosophy of the Mahayana, the difference between the Nirmanakaya, the ancient buddha, the Sambhogakaya, which incorporates the celestial buddhas and the Bodhisattvas, and lastly The Dharmakaya which is often referred to as the enlightenment body, the state of Buddhahood, it is the nature of the mind or emptiness. These states have various definitions and meanings. The Dharmakaya has no beginning and no end. The sambhogakaya has a beginning but no end, and the Nirmanakaya is only temporary. The Shakyamuni Buddha is seen to have these all three bodies. These are the three gates that represent one of the three bodies of Buddha. The Nirmanakaya relates to the head center. The Sambhogakaya is the throat center which shows the delicate energy of speech and flows. And lastly, the Dharmakaya is the heart center which relates to the mind. The motivation is on the ablution of the bodily elements. And this may be accomplished by means of sound and visualized light.

Comparison between Hinduism and Buddhism

According to S. Radhakrishnan, “Buddhism, in its origin at least is an offshoot of Hinduism”. Since the origin of both Hinduism and Buddhism have originated from the same subcontinent India and have existed for a very long time, they are more related and share a bit of the same peculiar ideas than one would think. The perfect example would be Christianity and Judaism. It is known that Jesus was born in a Jewish family and set out his own teaching and wisdom and gained followers with his unique abilities and formed Christianity, the same can be said for Buddha. He was born in a Hindu family and raised by teaching the teachings of the Hindu religion and he set out to form Buddhism is similar. Since Hinduism was widely practiced in India other caste and religious systems were heavily oppressed. Buddhism gained popularity by giving the oppressed people hope and an objective to look forward to in a society where there was no freedom of choice and redemption because of the society which dominated the caste system.

Strong and competitive rivalries existed between Hinduism and Buddhism. Since Shiva was considered the main god and had a lot of followers the rivalry between Shiva and Buddha followers could hardly face each other in the earlier times. About 15 centuries ago the Hindu system came to a conclusion and acceptance of Buddha is indeed an Incarnation of One of the three main gods in the Hindu religion God Vishnu.

Even though both religious patrons had rivalries they had more in common. Since Buddha was raised as a Hindu, he knew what is there and what to look for. He knew what it had was not enough for a person to be happy and there will always be a part empty which should be filled.

Both Hinduism and Buddhism accentuate the role of Karma. If you do good and be honest you will be rewarded in this life and the upcoming ones which is good karma. And you lie, cheat, steal you may have escaped in this life but in the next life you will be punished. For Hindus, this will happen till they can achieve Moksha.

Both religions believe in reincarnations and incarnations. Incarnation happens when a god disguises himself as a human to change or pave a path for us. For example, how the Hindus believe that Buddha is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Reincarnation is when you die you will be measured with your good deeds and bad deeds to put you in your next life.

The Hindu books like the Bhagavad-Gita say that when we perform actions out of desire it would lead to burdening and suffering and these actions will delay moksha. According to Buddha, desire is the root cause of us performing any possible wrong things. And both religion believes that the removal of desire from one’s mind will give him peace and clarity and results in freedom from his mind and others.

Humans are not the only living things that roam the earth. There are other living beings that are not equal to humans but also have a life and soul. The practice of Ahimsa was something both religions followed strictly. It means no physical and passive violence to yourself and other human beings. Because by the following ahimsa you are already getting good karma. These were the ways that are meant to be followed to have a good next life. It’s also believed that when your life was filled with good deeds you will be sent to Heaven (Sorgam) doing nothing and being lazy and getting bad karma will result in you being in Hell (Naragam).

As mentioned above the Hindus believe that several gods and deities existed. They don’t believe that the roamed the earth they believe that they are looking after us from a spiritual place. The Buddhists believe that Buddha walked the earth and now he is in a place where he can look after and protect us. Both of them believe in the existence of God on different planes.

The Hindu yogis used to meditate to one of the three gods (Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu) by praying to them. This was done to be favorable in the eye of the god when they are judged for heaven or hell. Some yogis meditated because it gave them peace in their minds. They were able to look for something within themselves by meditating. The Buddhists also meditate to be peaceful and concentrate on their spiritual practices.

As mentioned before both religions believe that desire is the root cause of suffering. Both religions believes that giving up your worldly attachments like land, money, etc. is a necessity to enter the spiritual life. Both Hinduism and Buddhism were originated and evolved in Indian Soil. Buddha who was one a Hindu became the Buddha of Buddhism. His teachings have spread all over the world. Buddhism is considered as the greatest gift of India to mankind. Buddha even after creating Buddhism he showed a great deal of respect to the gurus, the brahmins, and the Kshatriyas.

However, they also had their differences. Buddhism was founded by a single prophet, but Hinduism was not founded by a single prophet. The ancient texts the Hindus have are called the Vedas which is known as Knowledge. Buddhists do not approve of or believe in Vedas or any Hindu sacred scripture like the Bhagavad-Gita.

The Buddhists consider that the human life in this world is filled with sadness and sorrow and ending despair and sorrow would be the aim of their life. But the Hindus consider these 4 as their chief aims in life that everyone should achieve or go after. Dharma (religious duties), Artha (wealth or material possession), Kama (desires and passion), and finally Moksha (salvation). Hindus put extreme effort into achieving Moksha then only it is believed that their souls can rest within the creator Brahma.

Buddha’s original Buddhism was known as Theravada Buddhism. People who follow it do not pray to his images nor they do not pray or believe in bodhisattvas. The Mahayana sect considers the Buddha as the Highest Being, Similar to the Brahman of Hinduism, and worships him in the form of images and icons.

Hindus believe in the four ashramas in life Brahmacharya (student), Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (retired), and Sannyasa (renunciate). The Buddhists do not believe in this. Their duty in life is to overcome sadness and sorrow and live a life without despair.

Buddhists establish themselves into a Sangha (monkish order) and live-in groups. Hinduism is a religion that any individual can follow at any part of their time. Buddhism also acknowledges some of the Hindu gods but never an equal they give it a subordinate status. While Hindus accept Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu one of the trinities in Hinduism god.

Hinduism and Buddhism are autonomous religions. Even though there are a million gods in Hinduism there are no leaders or vice leaders in the religion. They do not have to only focus on one god they can pray to all the gods available if they want to. In Buddhism there are no leaders there are only monks who wish to go the path that buddha paved for them. Both religions have no central authority every individual gets the final say in both religions. Hinduism focuses more on rituals and caste where in Buddhism it's focused on ethical and moral behavior and it believes that all humans are created equal and should be treated equally.

Buddhism is a well-established religion which has its own beliefs and practices which is known as the Dhamma which is based on the four Noble truths the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering. And the eight-fold path Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. But Hinduism is not a religion but a group of religious people that share the same fundamental and basic beliefs, variations, traditions, and practices. Both these great religion was born in the same land and has become two out of five of the major religions considering they are centuries old.

In conclusion, it’s safe to say following the nirvana of the buddha in the first few centuries, Buddhism was a complex and significant religion in the subcontinent that later came to be recognized by the rest of the world as Hinduism. Buddhism didn’t become a significant religion in India because of the majority of the people and the power of caste played a major role in suppressing other religions. Buddhism crossed the borders of India and went to middle Asian countries. However, Buddhism’s complex theories and geographical diversification has made this religion as one of the most influential religions of all time and hold the spot as one of the major religions to ever exist.

07 July 2022
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