Buddhism and Hinduism are some of the popular religions in the world with their origins dating back to the Common Era in India. To some extent, these religions share similar ideologies and origin, even though Hinduism is older than Buddhism and ranks third in terms of popularity world.
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Despite the various similarities between these two religions, Hinduism and Buddhism differ in certain aspects. Therefore, this essay compares and contrasts the religious practices and rituals of Buddhism and Hinduism.
Buddhism and Hinduism share several similarities. For instance, these religions are polytheistic. The major gods are those related to compassion and wisdom in Buddhism. On the other hand, Hinduism has a god of reproduction, destruction and the Supreme deity.
In addition, these religions share a belief in Samsara. This means that the process of birth has to be broken to achieve Moksha, which means the achievement of freedom. Both Hinduism and Buddhism share the belief of reincarnation. According to Buddhism, reincarnation is related to the present actions of a person while Hinduism believes that an individual lives in an impersonal world.
Duiker and Spielvogel note that, “asceticism evolved into the modern practice of body training that we know as yoga (union), which is accepted today as a meaningful element of Hindu religious practice” (Duiker, and Spielvogel 42). Therefore, the body of a person transforms into another shape based on his or her actions.
Both religions believe in salvation with Buddhists believing that each person has to strive for his or her salvation and cannot shift blames on others for religious failures. In addition, this salvation relates to the good actions of a person. According to Buddhism, each person must strive to attain salvation based on his actions. However, an individual has to use four paths to attain this type of salvation.
The first path is Raja Yoga, which means the path of salvation. In addition, there is Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga that mean the path of knowledge and love respectively. Karma Yoga means that a person attains salvation by pursuing good actions.
Besides, there is mediation in both religions as Duiker and Spielvogel observe in their analysis. Mediation is a religious practice that brings the believers close to nirvana. During the worshipping process, Hindu believers chant repeatedly the syllables “OM.” These syllables help them meditate with an aim of reaching a high standard of consciousness.
The believers focus on inner awareness that connect them to the deity, which is achieved through focusing. According to the Hindu religious practices, mentioning the syllable draws an individual closer to the Supreme Being and closer to the truth of knowledge. This is similar to Buddhists who draw their inspiration from mediation.
For instance, it is through this process that Buddha revealed the being of Dharma. Therefore, according to Buddhism, one has to concentrate on inward reflection to reveal nirvana. This means that Buddhism and Hinduism differ in the structure of their social system. However, they share similar religious beliefs of mediation, which are believed to bring about nirvana (salvation).
Furthermore, both Hinduism and Buddhism share a belief on enlightenment. According to these religions, there are different ways through which one could achieve enlightenment. For instance, one can achieve it through overcoming emotions, passion, and having control over his or her senses. In addition, both religions share similar understanding of the cause of suffering.
For example, both religions believe that a person suffers when he or she commits sin in the world. Therefore, these religions believe that people should get rid of illusion and the desires of the world. Moreover, they share similarities in the interpretation and practice of tantric.
For instance, Tantrayan is a dominant sect in Buddhism. This sect bases its actions on tantric practices. Among Hindu believers, tantric is a common practice among those who worship Shiva and Kali.
According to Duiker, “Buddhists occasionally remark that someone who asks for a description does not understand the concept, At the same time, the new doctrine differed from existing practices in a number of key ways” (Duiker 48).
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In the same note, Duiker observes that it seems likely that Hindu devotionalism rose precisely to combat the inroads of Buddhism and reduce the latter’s appeal among the Indian population (Duiker 227) Based on these, the emergence of Buddhism challenged the existence of Hindu religious practices.
The two religions have the rights of passage, even though the numbers and practices of these rights differ1. For instance, Hinduism has sixteen rites of passage that each member should go through in his or her life. For instance, Ashrama consist of four stages, which are vital for each person.
These stages are student, householder, forest dweller, and sannyasin. On the other hand, Buddhism is more of a guide that directs how people should live. It provides three stages that direct a person to enlightenment.
These steps include developing awareness of the past life, samsara, karma and Moksha. Therefore, whereas Hinduism is more of rights of passages, the steps presented by Buddhism are rules that guide people.
Manu’s laws originate from Hinduism, which describe the karma. Manu developed these religious concepts based on legal standards. According to these guidelines, karma is the belief in the impacts of an action.
Consequently, these laws have one major aim of improving Hindusdo good actions in order to avoid the negative impacts. Buddhists also share the concept of karma, even though the two religions differ in the system of caste. In Buddhism, there is division of the society based on castes.
However, Hindus believe in the concept of the caste system. Because of these hierarchies, Hindu religion opposes intermarriages between ranks, something suggesting that intermarriages between members from different ranks are highly discouraged. They make traditional arrangements where a couple vows before a holy fire, which carries the vow to their deity.
As the couple draws closer to the sacred fire, God Agni keeps an eye on them in order to lead the family into a new life. In Buddhism, there are no ranking laws and marriage is allowed among various classes. However, they have significant ceremonies to mark the process of marriage.
Nine Buddhists chant blessings to the bride and groom. They use holy water to bless the newly wedded couple. During the process, they offer presents to the monks. The wedding starts after this ceremony where monks tie a string on the arms of the couple as they make good wishes over their lives.
Another difference between Buddhism and Hinduism is related to the ideas of anataman and anatta. Duiker and Spielvogel observe that, “Buddhism was probably able to stave off the Hindu challenge with its own Salvationist creed of Mahayana, which also emphasized the role of devotion, but the days of Buddhism as a dominant faith in the subcontinent were numbered” (Duiker and Spielvogel 241).
This shows that the two religions were in constant competition over controlling the religious maters of the subcontinent. Hinduism supports the idea of self-determination, which leads a person to eternity meaning that an individual determines his or her own destiny2.
The aim of Hinduism is to lead an individual to understand extreme truth through Moksha. However, Buddhist Theravada opposes the idea of self since the community should play a role in religious practices.
Therefore, Hindus argue that everything is dynamic implying that the reality that human beings perceive is a phenomenon of a moment. In addition, Mahayan is very radical in interpreting the concept of self, which reflects the idea of emptiness.
Buddhism and Hinduism are ancient religions of India that resemble each other in various aspects, but differ in a number of ways, especially when it comes to practices. Buddhism is believed to have originated from Hinduism. However, despite these contrasts, these religions share many similarities, as discussed in the previous section.
Duiker, William, and Spielvogel, Jakcson. The Essential World History. New York: Cengage Learning, 2013. Print.
1 William, Duiker and Jackson, Spielvogel (The Essential World History 2013), p. 227. Hinduism has never appreciated the existence of Buddhism because it views it as a great threat. This explains why Hindu believers oppose it whenever they get an opportunity.
2 William, Duiker and Jackson, Spielvogel, The Essential World History (New York: Cengage Learning, 2013), p. 244. According to Hinduism, the community has no business interfering with the life of an individual because each person is expected to do as he or she wishes. It goes against the idea of following the established communal set of standards.