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Vedic Hinduism, Classical Hinduism, and Buddhism: A Uniting Belief Systems Essay

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Updated: Nov 20th, 2021

As a background of Hinduism, Vedic and classical, as a religion it should be mentioned that it lacks a uniting belief system. In other words, Hinduism is actually many beliefs and practices labeled as a single religion. Thus, it can well be enumerated that Hinduism is more of a compilation of different conflicting school of thoughts unlike more modern traditional religions like Christianity or Islam. Hinduism can be compared to sociological or artistic theories like expressionism or surrealism or for that matter modernism or post modernism and not any religion.

The difference between Vedic and Classical Hinduism is fundamentally approach towards life rather than beliefs or reformation and the progression from the former to latter is not clear in terms of time. The Vedic part is based on poetic expression of nature and spirituality whereas the classical part is more spiritual and philosophic in nature and it developed around 2000 BC. There are no fundamental differences between the two but more of a transition from one school of thoughts to another. The basic of Classical Hinduism is based on six parallel theories, the Shadadarshan or the ‘Six Philosophies’. These are Shyankhya, Yog, Patanjjal, Dbytabad, Adbytabad and Mimansa. Out of these six only two believe in the existence or the need of existence of God. This form of expression received its complete shape around 1000 BC. (Bhaskarananda, 59)

The saints of Hinduism, Vedic or classical, never referred to these philosophies as religion. Rather they called it Dharma- the way of life or how a life should be led. Dharma is basically a code of conduct for citizen more in the pattern of Capitalism or Communism. Whereas, the term ‘Karma’ signifies the profession one must take up in life. It is more about completing one’s job properly and when one excels in the respective trade with success it is said that the ‘Karma’ of life has been achieved. Thus in traditional sense the idea of Hinduism is more about philosophy than religion. (Bhaskarananda, 87-8)

Hinduism and Buddhism have an often-overlapping quest for the ultimate end in life- Enlightenment. The concept of enlightenment in Buddhism is called Nirvana, a Sanskrit word that connotes extinction or extinguishing (of passions). It is a state of mind and existence that is free from emotions and thoughts of desire, lust or cravings- the ‘Kileshas’, and is marked by inner peace, contentment, and freedom from sorrows or ‘Dukha’. This state of “the highest happiness” as defined by the Buddha in ‘Dhammapada’, is not a ephemeral, material happiness, but an enduring and transcendental one integral to the calmness attained through enlightenment.

Hinduism approaches the concept of enlightenment through a sense of the higher and inner Soul or the “I” in contrast to Buddhism that describes the notion of void and selflessness. In Hinduism ‘Moksha’ or salvation happens when the soul or ‘jivatman’ recognizes its union with the source of all phenomenal existence – the Brahman. Advaita Vedanta says that the Self or Supreme Soul is formless, beyond being and non-being, beyond tangibility and comprehension (Bhaskarananda, 228).

Thus, the path to selflessness is a deep, truthful understanding of the self rather than creating a void. Moksha is seen as a final release from one’s worldly conception of the self and breaking free of the shackle of experiential duality and re-establishment of one’s own fundamental nature (Sinha, 47-48). The state of salvation is seen differently from each ones’ perspective depending on the inner soul and this is the main difference between Hinduism and Buddhism. As it can be seen, Buddhism is a more organized form of Hinduism with a central belief system whereas Hinduism is a collection of diverse schools of philosophies.

Works Cited

Bhaskarananda, Swami. The Essentials of Hinduism: a comprehensive overview of the world’s oldest religion. Seattle, WA: Viveka Press, 1994.

Sinha, H.P. Bharatiya darshan ki ruparekha (Features of Indian Philosophy). Motilal Banarasidas Publ, 1993.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Vedic Hinduism, Classical Hinduism, and Buddhism: A Uniting Belief Systems." November 20, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/vedic-hinduism-classical-hinduism-and-buddhism/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Vedic Hinduism, Classical Hinduism, and Buddhism: A Uniting Belief Systems'. 20 November.

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