The two religions of Hinduism and Buddhism deal with familiar problems but proffer diverse solutions. Both the religions deal with a common theme or problem of the ‘Samsara’, which is actually the circle of life comprising of the three basic events in the life of a human; birth, death, and rebirth. Both the religions, Hinduism and Buddhism offer solutions to reduce this problem but by the means of methods detached from each other.
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The accomplishment of the elevating state of ‘Moksha’ is the final goal of Hinduism, whereas Buddhism aspires to attain the elevating state of ‘Nirvana’ as its final aim. ‘Moksha’, the final outcome of which is ultimate peace and knowledge of Atman (self) and Brahman (transcendent reality, God), can be defined as a “release from the cycle of rebirth impelled by the law of karma” (Dictionary.com, Moksha) and ‘Nirvana’ is a condition in which, “there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and Samsara” (Dictionary.com, Nirvana).
Thus we see how the two religions deal with a common objective of ‘ending the cycle of Samsara’, but with different approaches, the point of divergence being not only in the manner of achievement of the goal but also the actual goal itself along with the function of the ‘self’ or the ‘atman’ (conscience) at the final course of attainment of Samsara.
The primary distinction between the two religions, which necessitates emphasis, is the role of the ‘Brahman’, which, in Hinduism is elucidated as an everlasting, immeasurable ‘Being’ devoid of any gender and is considered to be the supreme actuality. In order to comprehend the process of attaining ‘Moksha’ in Hinduism, the role of the Brahman needs clear elucidation because the course that directs to the emancipation of the Samsara initiates only when the conscience/soul of a being recognizes its foundation/basis, which is the supreme source, the Brahman, from where it has actually stemmed.
Hinduism proclaims the attainment of moksha is crucial to ‘reach’ the Ultimate Self (Brahman) and can be achieved by following various paths or the yogas, such as the ‘Karma Yoga’ or selfless work, the ‘Jnana Yoga’ or Knowledge, the ‘Raja Yoga’ or meditation and in particular the ‘Bhakti yoga’ which entails absolute and total devoted dedication to god, which can be found in the Bhagvad Gita when Krishna tells Arjuna to keep him in his “mind and devotion, sacrifice to me, bow to me, discipline your self toward me and you will reach me!” (Barbara Stoler Miller, ‘Bhagavad Gita’, Chapter 9 verse 34).
Contrastingly, Buddhism does not propagate the Brahman and its relation to the yogas. It adopts a rather atheistic approach which directs the being to a personal, internal strive to attain deliverance, as Buddhism states that the endeavor of humans to try and understand Gods is a worthless one and essentially a waste of time. Adopting the atheistic approach to attain ‘Nirvana’ (Moksha), which Buddha believed could be reached by knowledge of the Four Noble Truths of life, The ‘Dukkha’ or suffering, the ‘Samudaya’ or the source of dukkha, The ‘Nirodha’ or the termination of dukkha and the ‘Magga’ which is the final path that leads to the end of all the Dukkha. (Walpola Rahula, ‘What the Buddha Taught’, Chapter II, Pg 16).
Thus we see how in Hinduism, ‘Moksha’ is the final and ultimate destination and entails the freedom of the Atman in the ‘Samsara’, whereas in Buddhism the ‘Nirvana’ is the ultimate final destination and entails the stifling of this Atman.
Miller B.S., ‘Bhagavad Gita’, Chapter 9 verse 34.
Walpola R., ‘What the Buddha Taught’, Chapter II, Pg 16.