Hinduism and Buddhism have many similarities and differences. The most conspicuous similarity is the origin of the two religions in sub-continent India. Some worship and religious practices are similar but there is a profound difference in the style and purpose of life in the two religions.
Hinduism is about understanding the soul while Buddhism is about negating the soul. While Hinduism glorifies the understanding of Brahma and expunging the body of all distractions, Buddhism values achievement of a body without desires, also called nirvana. This paper will demonstrate that despite their similarities at face value, Buddhism and Hinduism have some profound and subtle differences.
Buddhism is a brainchild of Gautama Buddha (Lopez 54). On the contrary, no particular individual founded Hinduism. The two religions contrast on their religious texts. Buddhism uses Tripitaka, a collection of Buddha’s teachings that monks put together after his demise. Hinduism, on the other hand, uses Vedas and Upanishad. Over time, Hinduism has added two texts, Puranas and Gita.
On deities, Buddhism reveres individuals who have accepted and endured suffering in the samsara. Hinduism has different schools of thought within it and these schools venerate and worship different deities. Monotheists Hindus for instance worship Veda.
Practices within the two religions vary. Buddhism subjects its followers to an intense training on wisdom and morality. In addition, it (Buddhism) trains on concentration with the aim of achieving nirvana. Hinduism on the other hand practices meditation, yoga and Yagna, and make offerings in their house of worship. Buddhism aims to achieve nirvana so that after the individual dies, he or she will resurrect on the 31 planes.
Hinduism, on the other hand, believes death is a process towards enlightenment and when a person dies, he or she will reincarnate as many times as it will take to attain full enlightenment. To a Buddhist, the principle is to evade the sufferings of live by strictly adhering to the eightfold path. To Hinduism religion, the principle is to follow eternal laws (dharma) as the path to enlightenment.
Buddhism does not recognize the existence of God. Buddhists do not recognize the presence of soul. On the other hand, Hinduism acknowledges and venerates the existence of a soul, called Atman. In addition to individual soul, Hinduism recognizes existence of Brahman as the giver of life and the supreme deity.
It is interesting that while Hinduism recognizes Buddha, not as the supreme creator but Mahavishnu’s incarnation, Buddhism does not acknowledge or recognize existence of Hindu’s God. To a Buddhist, the world is a bad place inherent of sufferings and his or her main aim in life is to escape these predicaments. Hinduism’s view of life is more robust as manifest by the four-fold aims (arthas).
The first aim of Hinduism is fidelity to religion, also known as dharma. The second aim is pursuit of world wealth, also known as artha. The third concerns humans’ desires and feelings, also known as Karma. The fourth and ultimate aim is to acquire salvation, also known as Moksha.
Hinduism does not follow the noble truths but for Buddhism, it is central to the practice of their religion. As mentioned earlier, Buddhist believe that the world is full of sorrow and suffering. The four noble truths therefore provide a Buddhist with the path to navigate through this world.
The four noble truths, as itemized by Mangla, Dharam , and Raju are “the truth of dukka-suffering and anxiety, the truth f the origin of dukka, the truth of the cessation of dukka, and the truth of the path leading to the cessation of dukka” (65). Buddhism exposits suffering, not to inculcate cynicisms into its followers, but to prepare them that suffering is unavoidable in life.
Thus, as Lopez observes, Buddhism does not necessarily foster an optimistic or pessimistic consciousness but a realization that people have to live life as it is (54). Suffering, mental and physical, leads to distress among human beings. The four noble truths therefore provide a realistic framework through which Buddhists can navigate the hardship of life and attain nirvana.
Another conspicuous difference between the two religions arises from the caste system. Hinduism believes in the caste system in which people are born into particular caste. Material wealth determines one’s caste. Those who are poor and downtrodden occupy the lower caste. Interaction between members of different caste is uncommon as Hinduism does not allow it.
On the other hand, Buddhism does not discriminate on whatever basis. This explains why many people converted to Buddhism especially in Nepal. The caste system rendered many hopeless and inculcated a sense of futility in life. With the introduction of Buddhism from Nepal, many people formerly practicing Hinduism felt liberation from Hinduism enslavement.
The building of pagodas in Kathmandu brought with it glorious days because of its strategic position between China and India. It also fuelled conflicts between Hinduism and Buddhism as the former fought to reclaim its place as the unrivaled religion of the region.
Ultimately, the town survived to be the spiritual center of Buddhism. The caste system had led to despondency among members of the low class most of whom found an escape route in Buddhism.
In spite of the differences, the two religions have many similarities. Buddha, initially a Hindu, founded Hinduism religion and hence the many similarities. The two religions underscore that the world is an illusion. They also share believe on the role of karma in ensuring that man keeps within the confines accepted by his fellow men. Life, death, and the cycle in the two processes is core to both religions.
Though they do not venerate the same deities, the two religions acknowledge their existence. Spiritual activities such as meditation are core to both Hinduism and Buddhism.
More fundamentally, the two religions share the same belief that compassion is the key to peaceful coexistence. Some versions of Hinduism, like Advaita, correlate a great deal with Buddhism. The fact that the two religions originate from India accounts for the many similarities between them.
In conclusion, Buddhism and Hinduism are widely practiced in subcontinent India though they have gained acceptance in other parts of the world. By virtue of origin, the two have many common features. However, there are differences that cannot escape notice. The differences, some subtle and other profound, are in believe in deities and practices.
The most distinct feature of Buddhism is the practice of the four noble truths. For Hinduism, caste system is the most distinct. However, with modernization and education in India, the caste system is losing credence. The aim of religion is to give purpose to human life and the two religions are serving this purpose.
Lopez, Donald S. The Story of Buddhism: A Concise Guide to Its History and Teachings. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001. Print.
Mangla, Dharam V, and Raju Gupta. Buddhism Vs Hinduism: A Comparative Study. Delhi, India: Published by Academic Excellence, in association with Geeta International, 2010. Print.