The Principle Of Karma And Reincarnation In Hinduism And Buddhism

Hinduism and Buddhism both similarly believe in the principle of karma as well as reincarnation, which comes to no surprise considering Buddhism is deeply rooted in the beliefs of Hinduism also their point of origination is considerably close. Both religions share general beliefs in karma and how it plays an important role in ones' life. They believe in the concept of reincarnation and how karma is crucial as one strives to obtain their religions most ultimate goal which is moksha or 'release. ' Yet they also differ in some respects due to their unique interpretation of the nature of the world, reality, their soul, god, as well as creation. In this writing, both religions will have these two concepts examined and dissected to demonstrate how they differ just as much as they are alike.

What is karma?

Karma is the Sanskrit word for action. It is equivalent to newtons law of 'every action must have a reaction. ' When one think, speak or act one can initiate a force that will react accordingly. This returning force may be suspended, changed or modified, but most people will not be able to eradicate it. This law of cause and effect is not a form of punishment but is considerably important for the sake of education or learning. In Hinduism however, karma also means the consequence of action. Karma was limited even though it grew alongside Upanishadic thought because the Vedas incorporated only fundamental aspects of karma. Buddha gained his insight of karma by meditating under the Bodhi Tree versus in Hinduism where it acquires its understanding of karma through scriptures. By meditating underneath the Bodhi Tree the Buddha personally witnessed the effects of karma and how it produces suffering through an endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

In Buddhist tradition, karma refers to action driven by intention which in turn leads to future consequences. Both religions share an understanding of suffering in that they understand it to be the main reason for suffering and rebirth. According to Hinduism and Buddhism, karma is believed to emerge from craving or desire, which is originated by clinging, attachment, attraction, eversion. Some differences in how both religions project their understanding of karma is that in Hinduism the act of a ritual can generate good karma. They believe it helps one obtain good merit and clear up the consequences of negligence, sinful actions, and mistakes. Buddha, on the other hand, did not believe in any form of benefit created by practicing rituals but rather by righteous actions and his perception of Right Living. Right Living, however, shares the same mission as rituals in the way which is to reduce or remove the consequences of wrongdoings and sinful actions. Both religions take a different route but ultimately plan to arrive at the same destination.

Another way they differ in their understanding of karma can be witnessed in the way Hindus believe immortals are considered safe and cannot be affected by karma. Immortal's or god's actions can have repercussions, but it is not considered an outcome of karma. In Buddhism, it is believed that no one, including immortals or gods are spared from karma and everything or everything may suffer from it. In Hinduism, they believe karma can be resolved by living their life through a path of devotion, selfless service, and righteous living where one can please the God. The God may then free them from all impurities and bring upon them liberation. Since in Buddhism they do not believe in the idea of God that does not apply, on the contrary one can achieve moksha or 'release' by individual effort only and by practicing the eightfold path. If one can abstain from evil thoughts and deeds, one can overcome the repercussions of suffering brought upon by karma.

In Hinduism and Buddhism they both share and differ in their understanding of karma and reincarnation. 'All Hindus believe in an undying soul or self, the atman, whose nature is neither limited by the physical body nor defined by the relationship to the world. ' To ensure a better future one's current actions must be good and that goes hand in hand with their belief of reincarnation, so that the atman must transfer to a life more luxurious or more enlighting than the one before.

In a sense, Hindus believe the way some of them are defined within the caste system could be due to karma and could be the result of their previous life consequences. In Buddhism the doctrine of rebirth is slightly different, the Buddha believed the anatman or No-Self of self-arose from the five skandhas and only existed for as long as they function together. In Buddhism, once someone dies the skandhas separate and no longer exist. This means that there is nothing that can transfer over from one incarnation to the other as is the case in Hinduism. Instead, the actions and karma one generates bring forth the conditions for the creation of a new set of skandhas. This is the only correlation from one life to another, that the character-related of the previous life shapes the new one. Both religions believe that to escape rebirth they must first find the resolution of karma, and they will achieve moksha or nirvana.

As seen in the writing above both religions share an abundant amount of fundamental beliefs which shape the way they practice both karma and understand reincarnation. Albeit Buddhism did come to existence because of Hinduism they also have believes which are comparable to night and day because of how different they are but mainly, they both work to achieve the same task which is freedom from karma and rebirth and to achieve their ultimate goal 'release. '

31 October 2020
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