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Buddhism and Sikhism Comparison: Four Noble Truths Essay

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Updated: Jun 2nd, 2020


Siddhartha was born in the 6th century to a royal family, but he left the palace when he was still young in search of explanations for life’s inconsistencies and pains. He founded Buddhism before his death in 483 B.C., aged eighty years. Nanak was born in Pakistan to an ordinary Hindu family. He refused to adhere to the beliefs and customs of the Hindu religion and instead founded Sikhism. There are four noble truths in Buddhism. The four are dukkha, the origin of dukkha, the cessation of dukkha, and the path to the cessation of suffering. Both Buddhism and Sikhism believe in the concept of suffering in the world.


In 6th century B.C., a royal family was blessed with a son, who was named Siddhartha Gautama. As a young adult, Siddhartha Gautama started looking at life from a different perspective. His life experiences motivated him to search for the true meaning of life and how individuals attain spiritual fulfillment (Kinnard, 2011). He meditated and sought guidance in his endeavors. As a result of this, he achieved a state of enlightenment. The attainment of this state of enlightenment is what gave him the name ‘Buddha,’ which translates to the “Enlightened One” (Armstrong, 2008). Buddha traveled long distances to teach people how they can save their souls while living in this wretched world. He was able to attract a large number of people to his faith. After his death, his students spread his teachings in the world with the aim of bringing hope to ordinary people (Higers, 2012). As a result, a religion was born in a humble village in Nepal, India (Kinnard, 2011).

In this essay, the author will provide a comparison between Buddha and Guru Nanak. The latter is the founder of the Sikh religion, as earlier mentioned. Special attention is given to the four noble truths as taught by Buddha. The author will also compare how the two figures traveled around the world to enlighten other people. An analysis of various aspects that are common to both Sikhism and Buddhism is provided in the paper. The author will examine Buddha’s life within and outside the palace and how he transformed his life and philosophies after the enlightenment.

Buddha and Guru Nanak: A Comparison

After Siddhartha was born, astrologers were called to prophesy how his life will turn out (Reis, 2010). The astrologers prophesied that he would make a choice between two options, a choice that will drastically change his life. According to the astrologers, the young man will either become an emperor or denounce the privileges of a prince to become a spiritual leader (Kinnard, 2011). As a young prince, Siddhartha had no contact with the world beyond the walls of the palace. His life since birth revolved within the walls of the palace. Siddhartha did not have the chance to interact with the subjects he was supposed to lead on ascending to the throne in the future. He was trained as a prince and learned how to handle issues to do with the palace. Later, he married Yashodhara, and the two were blessed with a child named Rahula. Siddhartha and his family lived in the abundance and luster of the palace.

His life took a drastic turn when his father allowed him to visit the city one day. However, the king had ordered his men to remove all the sick and old people from the streets before the prince’s scheduled visit (Armstrong, 2008). The aim of this order from the king was to shield the young prince from the ugly reality of life outside the fortressed walls of the palace. As he strolled along the streets of the city, everyone appeared healthy and young to the prince.

However, in spite of all the efforts made by his father, the young prince came across one weak old man along the road. The old man had somehow escaped the attention of the king’s men. As a result of this serendipitous encounter, it dawned on him that life is full of inconsistencies. He was very moved by what he saw that he arranged to come back to the city in the future. During the subsequent visits to the city and the regions beyond, he realized what life meant to the ordinary people outside the walls of the palace. He forsook the luxuries and other benefits associated with life in the palace to join the rest of the people in the streets. At this point, Siddhartha started pursuing knowledge about life and salvation. One day, he sat down under a tree to meditate after seeking knowledge from many people and from many places. While he was meditating, he overcame the temptations of demons to achieve enlightenment, and later become a Buddha. From that moment on, he began sharing the knowledge he received during his meditation with other people. The sharing and teachings continued until his death in 483 B.C. (Armstrong, 2008).

Guru Nanak was born to a Hindu family on 15th April 1469. He was born in Western Punjab (Thanissaro, 2011). During his early years, he had a network of both Muslim and Hindu friends. In addition, he was very inquisitive about life. He was exceptionally gifted in class. On his thirteenth birthday, Nanak was supposed to be initiated into Hinduism as customs dictated. However, the young boy surprised many people when he declined to receive the symbolic thread. He cited several reasons for this rebellion. According to him, the only thread that could not break, get lost, burnt, and soiled was the one that could only be worn in the heart (Thanissaro, 2011).

Nanak read widely about Islamic principles and doctrines, and later became a leader of a new religion called Sikhism. The ideas of the new religion were borrowed from both Islamic and Hindu teachings. The religion was founded on the principle of one God and equality for all humans. Just like Siddhartha, Nanak traveled a lot to teach people about the new religion. Most of the time, he used hymns to teach people, and as a result, he became a guru. The desire to come up with a new religion is traced back to the time when Nanak realized that people no longer held God in awe. Instead, the man was blinded by superstition and greed. Nanak came up with rules meant to draw people close to God. According to Thanissaro (2011), his teachings are divided into three basic categories. The first category is Nam Simran, which translates to ‘think about God.’ The second category is Kirt Kaara, which teaches that honesty and hard work are the basis of a normal human life. The final category is Wand Chhako, which teaches people to ‘share the extra they have with the less fortunate’ (Thanissaro, 2011, p. 23).

The Four Noble Truths


The first truth is dukkha, which loosely translates to ‘suffering.’ However, the real meaning encompasses a sense of dissatisfaction with life and the fact that things do not always turn out the way people want them to. According to Armstrong (2008), Buddha outlined that “there is a dissatisfaction that permeates all forms of life” (p. 93). He adds that although life is made up of happy and sad moments, the sense of happiness that life brings to humans is temporary. Because of this unstable nature of human life, all experiences in life have a dukkha quality. Consequently, human beings will always be dissatisfied with their life (Higers, 2012). To avoid this dissatisfaction, individuals should make efforts to understand the truth behind life experiences. The understanding will guarantee them happiness. Buddha implied that for the individual to find true happiness, they must first understand that life is naturally flawed.


According to Cho (2004), this is the origin of dukkha. It is the second noble truth taught by Buddha. Samudaya is regarded as a form of craving caused by ignorance (Cho, 2004). The craving manifests itself through three channels. The first channel is the craving for ‘sense pleasure’ (Cho, 2004); the second is the craving ‘to be,’ and the third is the craving ‘not to be.’ The first form of craving involves the desire for objects that generate pleasurable feelings. The second form of craving involves the desire to ‘unite with experiences’ (Cho, 2004, p.45). It includes craving for dominance and progress in life. The third category of craving involves the desire to separate or alienate oneself from painful experiences and feelings.

Buddha explained that ignorance is “the lack of the implication and meaning of the four truths” (Armstrong, 2008, p. 39). In addition, ignorance is regarded as the failure to understand reality and ‘the self.’ Disturbing emotions, which are caused by ignorance, are cited as probable causes of dukkha. The disturbing emotions referred to here are categorized into three (Kinnard, 2011). The first is ignorance, which is explained above, while the second is attachment to pleasure (Armstrong, 2008). The third emotion is the fear of ‘experiencing undesirable things and not getting desirable things’ (Reis, 2010, p. 95).


It is the third noble truth, according to Buddha and Nanak. Nirodha is viewed as ‘the cessation of dukkha’ (Armstrong, 2008, p.49). In this context, Nirodha refers to the cessation of both dissatisfaction and its causes (Armstrong, 2008). It is a spiritual goal in Buddhism. After one has genuinely and sufficiently understood suffering and its various causes, such as ignorance and craving, they can lead a life that is free from dissatisfaction. The reason for this is that the individual is able to get rid of the causes of dissatisfaction. Many people have drawn parallels between Nirodha and Nirvana, which is the constant state of cessation. When people manage to rid their minds of the causes of pain, they experience temporary nirvana (Cho, 2004).

Path to the Cessation of Suffering

The fourth noble truth is regarded as the essence of Buddhism. It is an eightfold path, which consists of right view, right intention, right speech (Cho, 2004), right action, right livelihood, right effort (Armstrong, 2008), right mindfulness, and right concentration (Reis, 2010). The first three noble truths help the individual to understand the nature of dukkha, while the fourth truth is concerned with overcoming dukkha (Kinnard, 2011). The eight factors in the path are meant to develop together in a person. The simultaneous development helps the individual to attain cessation. The implication is that the conditions are not independent or standalone phenomena, where the successful completion of one leads to the onset of the other. They are factors touching on the individual’s bodily, verbal, and mental behavior. The factors largely depend on each other, as a result creating a complete path that describes the way of life (Higers, 2012).

Buddhism and Sikhism: A Comparison

The two religions are different from one another, even though some parallels are drawn between them. For example, Buddhism is polytheistic. It opposes the concept of a ‘Creator God.’ Sikhism is monotheistic and acknowledges the existence of God, who should be worshiped. The main objective of Buddhism is to attain nirvana, while that of Sikhism is to have a positive relationship with God through unconditional love and obedience (Thanissaro, 2011). The main rituals in Buddhism include contemplation, offerings, and meditation. On the other hand, the teachings of Sikhism encourage people to acknowledge God and devote their lives to Him. The devotion is demonstrated through service to others, leading an honest life, and denouncing idols. However, the two religions acknowledge the concept of suffering. They agree that the world is full of suffering, which is averted through enlightenment (Thanissaro, 2011).


Buddhism is based on the four noble truths described above. The first three noble truths are concerned with the nature of dukkha, which involves suffering, stress, and anxiety. The fourth truth encompasses the eight conditions of the body, mind, and speech, which are critical to the cessation of dukkha. Buddhism and Sikhism are basically different from each other, with the exception of their common belief in the concept of suffering.


Armstrong, K., (2008). Buddha. Waco: Paw Prints.

Cho, E. (2004). From Buddha’s speech to Buddha’s essence: Philosophical discussions of Buddha-Vacana in India and China. Asian Philosophy, 14(3), 255-276.

Higers, L. (2012). The 3,000 Buddhas. Archaeology, 65(5), 34-38.

Kinnard, J. N. (2011). The emergence of Buddhism: Classical traditions in contemporary perspective. Santa Barbara: Fortress Press.

Reis, H. M. (2010). The notion of Buddha-nature: An approach to Buddhist-Muslim dialogue. Muslim World, 100(2/3), 233-246.

Thanissaro, P. (2011). Measuring attitude towards Buddhism and Sikhism: Internal consistency reliability for two new instruments. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 14(8), 797-803.

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