Differences Between Buddhism and Hinduism

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Buddhism and Hinduism have a common past, and while there are many similar beliefs between the two religions, there are just as many differences between the Buddhist and Hindu religions.

REBIRTH, REINCARNATION, SAMSARA

Both Buddhism and Hinduism believe in an (almost) endless cycle of births, known as samsara. They also both seek release from this cycle of rebirths.

Hindus believe in an everlasting soul (atman) that is reincarnated more-or-less intact from birth to birth. Through spiritual practice, Hindus seek release (moksha, also known as liberation) so that the soul can join with the Universal Divine Force (Brahman, often simply translated as God).

The Buddha, however, taught that there wasn’t a constant soul, but a collection of feelings, perceptions, senses, and other intangibles that made up all living beings. The concept of the lack of a constant sould is known as anatta.

Hence, for Buddhists, the ultimate goal is something more abstract: ending suffering by escaping the cycle of rebirths, and entering into a state of Nirvana. It is a common misconception to translate Nirvana as meaning “Paradise,” or as “Heaven.” Nirvana itself is something of an abstract concept. One meaning is “cool,” which implies that one is far away from the fires of desire and Kilesa (defilement).

KARMA: CAUSE AND EFFECT

Both Buddhism and Hinduism believe in the concept of Karma, which states that our past actions affect our present and future life states. One could do evil in this life and be reborn a worm in the next life. Similarly, afflictions in this life are often explained away as the effects of Karma from a previous life (or from misdeeds earlier in this life).

DHARMA: THE WAY OF LIFE

The word Dharma is common to both Buddhist and Hindu religions. Buddhists generally use the word Dharma to refer to the collective teachings of the Buddha, and the Buddha used the word Dharma to roughly mean “how the universe works.”

The Hindu concept of Dharma might be thought of as being “one’s role in the universe.” The concept includes not only one’s performance of religious acts, but how they act in society and how they act toward their family responsibilities.

In Hindu society, one’s dharma may vary depending upon their caste, and in what stage of life they are in. An older man from a higher caste might have a different dharma than a young man from a lower caste.

DEVOTION TO GOD

Hinduism, which has thousands of gods and goddesses, is for the most part actually a monotheistic religion. Each god is seen as one manifestation of the one Supreme God.

In Hinduism, each family will be devoted to a particular deity. Most Hindus practice devotion (bhakti) to either a form of Lord Vishnu or Lord Shiva. They see this as one essential part of religious practice.

The Buddha, on the other hand, taught that we should not concern ourselves with worship or devotion to a particular God. The Buddha did not deny the existence of a Supreme God: he just said that we are responsible for our on enlightenment, and not to believe that a supreme being could help us.

The Buddha did decry the practice of animal sacrifices in devotional acts to the gods and goddesses that were commonplace. Eventually, this belief in the sacredness of all life spread to Hinduism, and animal sacrifice became the exception instead of the norm. In fact, the Buddha’s impact on Hinduism was so strong that followers of Vishnu believe that the Buddha was one of Vishnu’s avatars (a being that helps humanity in times of distress). Buddhists do not share this belief.

MEDITATION AND YOGA

Both Buddhism and Hinduism believe strongly in developing awareness and mental concentration in the spiritual quest. In Buddhism, meditation is near ubiquitous, with insight meditation (Vipassana) being the most emphasized form of meditation. Buddhist monks are expected to spend hours each day in meditation, while the lay people are expected to practice regularly, and are free to attend meditation sessions at local temples. The Mahayana Schools of Buddhism also emphasize Metta (compassion) meditation.

In Hinduism, Yoga is more than a series of postures to be held as a form of exercise. Instead, Yoga (which literally means Yoke, as in to be yoked to God), consists of 8 different practices as follow:

Abstention from sins such as theft, violence, sex, greed, dishonesty

Observance of self and tolerance

Postures (known as Asana), which are familiar to most Westerners

Breath Control

Withdrawal of senses

Mental concentration and stilling the mind

Meditation

Contemplation

Comments

  1. You are for the most part correct but I feel their are a few misconceptions about Hinduism. For example atman came with the Puranas but it was not mentioned in the original Rig Veda. Hence Buddhism doesn’t contradict Hinduism; it just contradicts the Hinduism as it developed after the Rig Veda.

    Also the Pujas are just one way to practice achieving enlightenment (not necessarily the true way).

    The caste system only developed after the Rig Veda. But the Rig Veda only mentioned that people were born to a certain family. Thus they had to do what their parents did and make sacrifices to contribute to making the society great together. All the “castes” were supposed to be equal and treated with respect. And even then one could move between castes if they were dissatisfied with their position in society. However, this was allowed only if they behaved or followed the teachings of the caste they wished to become since birth or childhood. This, too was convoluted and changed by Buddha’s time. Even the animal sacrifices never existed originally nor mentioned in the Rig Veda. As such it can be said Buddhism developed and was influenced by the original Vedas.

    Only reason Brahmins couldn’t be killed was because back then each Brahmin specialized in a various school of Hinduism but because it was an oral tradition till alter on, if that Brahmin died without any successors than that entire school would be lost to history because only they knew how to understand it because the teaching was passed down to them since generations ago. Why do you think so many schools of Hinduism were lost? Only one school of Rig Veda for example remains because invaders killed off many priests who practiced those schools, besides they couldn’t own land and were only supposed to pray in temples.

    By the way yogic sages or true Hindu sages have to spend hours meditating; the yoga is not just postures. as such what Buddhist monks do is the same as Hindu yogis who practice severe austerities to achieve enlightenment. At the same time it was meant as a way to improve the function of your body.

    Plus did you know their are schools of Hinduism that do not devote time to worship one god and believe only a universal god or energy existed. In fact the Vedic stories were there simply to explain how energy worked and its various forms. As such in Hinduism you can worship impersonal god or on your own do practices to achieve enlightenment. As such no contradiction. Buddhism simply contradicts some forms of Hinduism and some Hindu schools. Or shall I say most?

    The Hindu concept of Dharma originally also was to explain how the universe works so no real contradiction their either.

    In Hinduism no constant soul was mentioned at least originally. All that existed was a soul that would become part of energy when it died and then form the energy another version of that soul would be born again but both souls are not the same. instead the new soul or vessel simply has as the Buddha says about feelings, perceptions, and senses. But they could be argued as the same since both souls are created from energy and will gain become part of energy. Since the Vedas were supposed to be scientific not religious they said thousands of years before modern science that all hings come from energy and when they die they become part of energy once more. Therefore the supreme being is not an actual supreme being but simply energy. Simply put the Vedas are not to be interpreted literally but concept wise.

    As such from what I see basically Buddhism is Hinduism as it was originally taught by the very first yogis with minor differences such as no Pujas.

    So it can be argued both ways. Buddhism is a part of Hinduism because it is a form of the truth and goes back to the original teachings of the Vedic sages, not the teachings afterword.

    But it can be said the two are different because modern Hinduism is competently different from ancient Vedic Hinduism and so Buddhism can’t be considered modern Hinduism. But there is no doubt the Buddha was influenced and did believe in the Vedas as they were originally said by people like Kashyappa. Remember he himself said the Vedas were spoken truthfully by these ancient sages but because they were changed and became different he rejects them.

  2. bramh d mishra says:

    I cannot admit that the variances between the different segments of dharma as later interpreted by Mahavir( Jain) and Gautama Buddha or Guru Nanak( Sikh). The teachings and emphasis may appear different but the essence is the same. The end result that is aimed at in all divisions is the release of the soul from the cycle of birth and death and a complete and final merger with the universal energy. After all even the body is nothing more than energy in physical form. The journey of life is long and arduous through multiple births and deaths and everything in between.

    The obvious reason for life seems simply to advance and self improve as we go along only to reach the same distant end as the Almighty force or the Ocean of energy that is sanatan, eternal, natural and universal. All segments of dharma accept the truth that all is one and one is all. Easier said than done as some very serious hurdles come in between, hurdles like wishes and desires, anger, attachments and ego. It is imperative to deal with these ruthlessly to go forward or repeat the cycle. Thank you.
    bramhb4@gmail.com

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