Argue the differences and similarities between Hinduism and Buddhism
A Comparative Study of Hinduism and Buddhism
Of the five principal religions in the world today, Buddhism and Hinduism have a well-earned and, it seems, permanent place. Ever since religion has been viewed from a comparative point of view, scholars and students have tried disintegrating the basic concepts of one religion with respect to the other. This, in turn, has led to the posing of various questions—some of which are also deemed to be of a higher understanding than man can imagine. Why are differences between two religions? Do they matter? Why is the definition of God different in two religions? If not, how is it similar? This paper aims to provide a comparative study of Hinduism and Buddhism and explore the concept that is a bone of contention for religions all across the world—the difference in the manifestation and interpretation of God in the two religions, and how it shapes the ideologies of the followers in the two religions.
The basic beliefs of Hinduism:
With four million followers across the world, Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world, following Christianity and Islam. It is also the oldest religion in the world CITATION Nan13 p 27 l 16393 (Nandan and Jangubhai 27). Its origins, however, are unknown. One of the most notable features, which may also be relevant to this paper is that aside from its native land of India, Hinduism was once also the predominant culture in Southeast Asia. The latter area, however, has since recent years seen a surge in the followers of Buddhism, and Hinduism as the primary religion has been delegated CITATION Mor64 p “par. 15″ l 16393 (Morgan par. 15).
The most important concept that followers of Hinduism believe in is Karma: that is, what goes around comes around. A large part of religious literature in Hinduism centres on Karma. They believe that a person who commits good deeds in his or her life is rewarded with a better life in the next incarnation. Conversely, one who commits sins in one life has to bear the burden in the next life CITATION Nan13 p 27 l 16393 (Nandan and Jangubhai 27).
Hinduism is also largely centred on the cycle of rebirth and Moksha, that is, freedom from this very cycle. It believes that a soul is born of Brahma, who is pure, and must be pure again in order to meet its creator. Once a soul has renounced all worldly pleasures, it will be free of the cycle of rebirth CITATION Nan13 p 27 l 16393 (Nandan and Jangubhai 27).
The basic beliefs of Buddhism:
Interestingly, Buddhism, which follows Hinduism in the charts for the five major religions in the world, originated in India. The Prince Gautam was born to a royal Hindu Household but sought a higher understanding of the mechanisms of the world after witnessing what are popularly known as the Four Great sights. Gautam renounced his title, riches, and family and went away to seek knowledge. Eventually, the Prince Gautam came to be known as the Buddha, or the Enlightened one and spread his teaching through himself and his disciples to various parts of the world CITATION Nan13 p 28 l 16393 (Nandan and Jangubhai 28).
One of the most important concepts in Buddhism is the concept of Dharma, which constitute the teachings on how one should live one’s life, free from worldly attachments and greed, and how through which one can achieve what is known as Salvation, or Nirvana. Another interesting facet about Buddhism is that in many parts of the world, it is treated not so much as a religion as an ethical, moral, and spiritual code, teaching one to take the higher way, and idolizing a man who dared to do so in the first place. In fact, followers of Buddhism pride themselves on being part of the world’s first ‘universal’ philosophy, applicable to all mankind CITATION Nan13 p 28 l 16393 (Nandan and Jangubhai 28).
Similarities in Hinduism and Buddhism:
The core concepts in both religions are the same: Dharma, Karma, and Ahimsa. Dharma and Karma both realize the fleeting nature of the world and thus persuade people do act in a manner such as will free them of all desires to attain a higher spiritual goal. Ahimsa, meaning non-violence, is an important step to do so CITATION Sen12 p 86 l 16393 (Sen 86).
Additionally, both religions persuade one to denounce desire and work only for the greater fulfilment of a higher purpose. A popular shloka in the Bhagavad Gita, in fact, implores man to work without worrying about the fruits of one’s actions, as it is the only kind of true work CITATION Nan13 p 28 l 16393 (Nandan and Jangubhai 28).
Furthermore, both Hinduism and Buddhism believe in Karma, and say that good begets good, and evil begets evil. This is why one is encouraged to act in a positive manner, and think positive thoughts, so as to cultivate positive energy in and around them CITATION Sen12 p 87 l 16393 (Sen 87).
Apart from these, there are numerous minor similarities between the two religions. Both believe of the existence of God on several planes; both emphasize on activities like meditation; both underscore the importance of non-violence CITATION Nan13 p 30 l 16393 (Nandan and Jangubhai 30).
Differences between Hinduism and Buddhism:
Perhaps the principal and most important difference between the two religions is how God manifests himself in both. Hinduism has roughly three hundred and thirty million deities. Three of these are the principal deities, namely Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the Preserver, and Shiva, The Destroyer.
Despite originating in India, and Gautam belonging to a Hindu family, Buddhism does not have such a large amount of Gods. In fact, Buddhists worships only Buddha. Therefore, there is only one God, who is accepted as the be all and end all. In many parts of the world, Buddha is also accepted as the sole prophet or the perpetrator of the message, and the message itself comes from a higher entity though the existence of the same is also often contested CITATION Nan13 p 30 l 16393 (Nandan and Jangubhai 30). In fact, Buddhism recognizes various planes and levels on which numerous Gods exist, but none is treated as the sole creator of mankind or the universe CITATION Gun04 l 16393 (Gunasekara).
Many are also of the opinion that Buddha might be the tenth and last reincarnation of the Lord Vishnu of Hinduism, but religious evidence has been scarce to prove the point. Buddhism, on the other hand, does not accept Buddha as a reincarnation of the Preserver. In fact, no Hindu entity has ever been awarded any place of importance in Buddhism CITATION Nan13 p 30 l 16393 (Nandan and Jangubhai 30).
Moreover, Buddhism does not believe that souls exist. It treats the world as an entity housing mortal souls, who achieve salvation by successfully ridding themselves of desire. Similarly, there are no four major aims of life in Buddhism as there are in Hinduism: only the existence of sorrow and the struggle to erase it is real CITATION Nan13 p 30 l 16393 (Nandan and Jangubhai 30).
The Difference in ideologies: why does it matter how God manifests himself when most of the basic concepts of Hinduism and Buddhism are similar?
At the end of the day, the major difference between Hinduism and Buddhism is this: Where one, Hinduism, that is, transcends mortal barriers and believes in a higher, fantastical realm of deities with supernatural powers and capabilities to turn worlds upside down; the other, Buddhism, that is, believes in the capability of one man.
Almost all Hindu scriptures describe the adventures of some or the other God performing extraordinary feats, such as drying up seas with an arrow, or commandeering flying ships and saucers, or even gulping down the sun. Buddhism, however, elevates the ordinary to the extra-ordinary. It talks of one man, who, when faced with the endless sorrow in the world, sets out to find an answer, and possibly a solution to erase it. In other words, it elevates the ordinary to the extraordinary.
A similar explanation is also this, and further throws light on the feud that has lasted between the two religions. Hinduism believes that man itself is weak and rife with fallacies, and needs the guidance and help of a higher, supernatural entity, by means of faith and worship, to find the true path to enlightenment. Buddhism, like Hinduism, accepts the faults that man is born with. However, it also recognizes, very pragmatically, that man’s sufferings are created due to his or her own actions and decisions. No one else can influence what one does. Thus, if there is someone who can free us from the sorrows of the world, it is us. Man can strive to achieve the same level of enlightenment as the Buddha if one so desires and has the conviction.
Thus, same though the two ultimate goals of the two religions might be, Buddhism appears to be the more pragmatic one, since it promotes belief in the self before cultivating a belief in the others. Hinduism, however, follows the exact opposite. Both, however, strive for a higher gain, a better level of knowledge, and a more distinct understanding of the world. When looked at from such a viewpoint, it does not really matter whether one believes in a man capable of showing great restraint and achieving knowledge, or in millions of deities who provide faith when there seems to be none. A deeper understanding will be achieved when one understands oneself, which is all that matters.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Gunasekara, V. A. “”The Buddhist Attitude to God”.” 08 April 2004. Seminar. 15 November 2015.
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Nandan, G. B and Nasir Ahmed Jangubhai. “The Comparative study between Hinduism and Buddhism.” International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention 2.5 (2013): 27-31. Print.
Sen, Abhijeet. “Media, Hinduism & Buddhism: Mainstream media coverage of Asia’s two Major religions.” Observatorio (OBS*) Journal 6.2 (2012): 85-107. Print.