Hinduism and Buddhism originated from the Indian subcontinent. The two religions have shared parallel beliefs for years. The relationship has been rather peculiar and uncomfortable. Some people believe that Buddhism developed from Hinduism. This is because the Buddha, who founded Buddhism, was born in a Hindu family.
It is also argued that the Buddha was the part of the Hindu pantheon and the last avatar of the god Vishnu. This claim is not accepted by many Buddhists. The evidence also explains why the concept of Hinduism precedes that of Buddhism. Hinduism is believed to be the oldest religion in the history of human civilization, however, the origin is still unknown.
Historians date Hindus’ origin to more than 5000 years ago. However, Buddhism came into existence much later, approximately in 563 BC. The teachings of the Buddha, after achieving enlightenment, were well received by the people. He preached hope and inspired those who had lost hope for salvation. The society offered no freedom of choice and was dominated by the caste system at the time.
People got tired of the exclusive status of the privileged classes and the ritual form of worship. No person was allowed to violate or dispute whatever was upheld by the Vedic religion. The teachings of the Buddha offered new hope and were referred to as Buddhism. The acceptance of Buddhism during the Vedic era led to the decline of Hinduism. Hinduism was blamed for superstitions, orthodoxy, and strict practices.
Before Buddha achieved enlightenment, he had sorted to know the answer to suffering from the Hindu gurus. He followed the instructions, which included meditation techniques and ascetic practices. It is said that he showed exceptional concern to the higher caste Hindus upon becoming the Buddha. He taught his disciples to respect Brahmins and argued that the Brahmins deserved the particular consideration, as they were spiritually pure, which resulted from the progress made by previous births. Later, the Buddha converted most of the Brahmins to Buddhism. This was a sure sign of popularity of his new movement.
It is notable that the evolution and development of Buddhism took an advantage of the complexities existing in Hinduism. However, despite several differences, the two religions have a lot of things in common. In general, Hinduism is based on search for realization through progressive knowledge of cosmic principle, while Buddhism does not adhere to any principles.
The religions participate in tantric practices. Buddhists’ main sect, Tantrayana, plays a crucial role in facilitating the tantric practices. The same is prominent among Hindus. This is especially among god Shiva’s and the Goddess Kali’s worshippers. Moreover, the Mahayana Buddhism acknowledges the origin of Buddha teachings from Hindu practices. These include prayers, the conceptualization of God, and the idea of life after death.
Both religions advocate yogic practices. The religions emphasize on the need of the individuals to practice meditation among other types of yoga. The yogic practices help individuals to concentrate on leading a truthful life. The practices are also crucial in achievement of enlightenment and liberation.
Both religions believe that individuals need to free themselves from the illusions of worldly desires or Maya. They believe that individuals who continue to be strongly attached to the worldly possession and people experience pain and suffering.
Both religions believe there are several paths that an individual can follow to achieve enlightenment. Some of the paths include overcoming through desires and feelings and controlling individual’s six common senses.
Buddhists and Hindu believe in salvation. In Hinduism, there are exist four paths/Yogas that one needs to observe to attain salvation: Jnana Yoga describes the way of knowledge, Bhakti Yoga describes the path of love and faith, Raja Yoga describes the path of salvation, and Karma Yoga describes the way of good work. Buddhists that believe all individuals need to strive for their personal salvation without blaming anybody for the same. One will acquire salvation on the basis of his/her deeds. The same is replicated in Hinduism where attainment of salvation depends on one’s deeds and fate.
Both religions believe in the process of transmigration. Hindu believes in an impersonal world, where an individual’s soul transmigrates into another form, which depends on the deeds of the current life. Buddhists also believe that the process is based on the individual’s deeds in the current life.
In the Buddhist religion, any individual can achieve Nirvana, the highest spiritual state. However, the Hindu religion allows only the priests (Brahmins) to achieve Moksha, an equivalent of Nirvana.
The religions also differ on issues concerning the stages of life. The Hindus believe that all individuals go through four stages of life, which are known as ashrams. The first stage is known as Brahamacharya Ashram, which is the student life stage. The second stage is known as Grihastha Ashram, which is the family life stage. Vanprastha Ashram is the third stage that represents the age, at which one renounces worldly pleasures and home. The fourth stage is known as Sanyasa Ashram, which represents a period when a person awaits for death through meditation. On the other hand, the Buddhists do not believe that there are stages of life that one needs to follow. Individuals are at liberty to join any stage any time provided they are spiritually prepared.
The religions differ in belief in the Vedas. Hindus believe in the prominence of four Vedas. These are Yajurveda, Samveda, Atharvaveda, and Rigveda. Contrary to this, Buddhists believe in the Buddhist scriptures and the teachings of Lord Buddha. Therefore, they do not recognize the Vedas.
The two religions show different views when it comes to asceticism. The Buddhists are against extreme self denial and accumulation of enormous wealth. On the contrary, Hindus advocate for extreme self denial, in the hope of achieving a high spiritual state.
The two religions exhibit differences in how they conduct their rituals. The Buddhist practices require no priests. They also observe some rituals but mainly through the act of meditation. The rituals may also involve different ways of worship, like bowing while offering prayers in the temple. On the other hand, priests play an essential role in Hindus’ rituals. The rituals vary throughout an individual’s lifetime and are also more complex compared to the Buddhists’.
There are differences in gods. Buddhists original doctrine did not have any godly figures. However, the later sects introduced some godly figures. On the other hand, the Hindus believe in many gods; about 300,000 in number.
There are differences relating to the caste system. Hinduism has several castes and sub-castes. The Hindus adhere to them to the letter. Contrary to that, Buddhism has four main sub sects, none of which follows the caste system.
In conclusion, it is evident that similarities exist between Hindus and Buddhists. They also have several differences. The two religious cultures have had times of persecution and execution. They have also had times of peace and understanding. The religions share a rich history owing to their origin in the same region and have since spread to other regions of the world.
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