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Religion has remained an important aspect in the civilization of mankind. Whereas religious practices and belief systems may vary, the presence of a supreme being who is always worshipped is common. The deities are given special preference in any form of religious worship. This essay compares Hinduism and Buddhism.
Cultural and Geographical Origin
The cultural and geographical origin of Hinduism can be traced back in the fourteenth century. The Afghans, Persians, and Arabs first used the term “Hindu” to denote the inhabitants of the aforementioned regions. The Indus River gave rise to the name Hindus and hence, people who used to reside close to this river were generally referred to as the Hindu (Fisher, 2014). Before the close of the nineteenth century, Hinduism became a religion.
The term was used by the British colonial masters to describe all the religious groupings and practices that were dominant in this population. Nonetheless, the precise time when Hinduism began cannot be easily established. It has been described as a timeless religion. In other words, it is as old as humanity. According to historians, the early civilization that took place in the Indus valley contributed significantly towards the origin of Hinduism.
Historical records indicate that northern India was the most likely origin of Buddhism. The fifth century B.C.E marked the first time when Buddhism came into limelight. However, the cultural origin of Buddhism is believed to be Gotama. He is the principal Buddha.
The latter term refers to an individual who has been spiritually elevated and therefore more enlightened than other Buddhists. Buddhism has also been associated with the desire to alleviate human suffering across the world. Since the time it came into being, Buddhism has undergone several modifications in terms of religious beliefs and practices.
Specific Religious Practices
The aspect of worship is one of the most vital religious practices in Hinduism. Worship entails seeking the attention of God and Devas. For instance, when they need blessings, Devas is believed to be the provider of good tidings. God’s awareness in Hinduism has been enhanced through worship.
For instance, prayer, praise and invocations are collectively known as mantras (Flood, 2003). The meanings portrayed in the mantras can bring the presence of the gods close to them. Mantras also involve chanting and expressing full devotion to gods. A sacred river is used by those devoted to Hinduism to perform morning ablutions.
The second most important religious practice in Hinduism is the Bhajan. This entails singing to the deities as way of praising them. It is usually a devotional song that may be presented as a simple or complicated devotion. In most instances, Bhajans express love for the spiritual gods and may also be lyrical in terms of composition. The songs contain statements from scriptures and denote the supreme nature of the deities.
Finally, Hinduism values rituals as part and parcel of religious practices. Rituals are executed regularly. Some of the religious rituals are done in homes a part form the usual places of worship. However, individuals, villages and regions carry out the various rituals in diverse ways.
For example, rituals may be carried out after taking a shower or late in the evenings in order to appease the gods. When rituals are being carried out, the deities’ images are made available as a symbol of their presence (Michaels, 2004).
Buddhists believe in the practice of meditation as the only way through which followers can be enlightened both in the physical and spiritual world. Buddhists’ meditation also brings about spiritual freedom according to their belief systems. All the major practices of Buddhism often involve meditation because it is a central theme or pillar. However, different Buddhist nations have adopted various ways of meditating.
Both tranquility (samatha) and insight (vipassana) are used in Buddhism in the process of meditation. The second common type of religious practice is the mantras. It entails hymns and chanting that are directed to the divine powers. The mantras are believed to contain powers that are beyond human understanding. The term has been derived from one of the Indian sub tribes. It basically means safeguarding the mind.
Finally, the Mundras are also evoked through the mind by making use of certain images drawn from Buddha. During Buddhist meditation, particular ideas are supposed to be evoked in the mind. Ritual meditations also demand the use of mundras. The Buddha’s identity is symbolized by the mundras.
Hinduism and Buddhism Practiced in the World Today
The two forms of meditation in Buddhism may be used at the same time or separately. Sitting meditation has been adopted by Buddhist schools in both Japan and China as way of exercising religious freedom in worship. The Tibetan Buddhism is particularly notable in the practice of Mantras.
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This segment of the population that predominantly practices mantras has a strong belief that the presence of the deities can be brought closer when this religious practice is exercised. In other words, the deities are easily invoked through the mantras (Coogan, 2003).
In addition, Hinduism has fundamental practices that are unique in each geographical location. In some regions across the world, religious customs in form of rituals can hardly miss during important events such as death, marriage and birth. For instance, such rituals are common in India.
As can be seen, there are several similarities and differences between Hinduism and Buddhism. For example, both religions embrace meditation and mantras as ways of worshipping the deities. However, the Mundras exist only among the Buddhists.
Coogan, M.D. (ed.) (2003). The Illustrated Guide to World Religions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fisher, M. P. (2014). Living religions (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Flood, G. (2003), Blackwell companion to Hinduism. New York: Blackwell Publishing.
Michaels, A. (2004). Hinduism: Past and Present (5th ed.). New York: Princeton University Press.