How are Buddhism and Hinduism different?
Let’s find out:
Table of Contents
- Basic theology
- Beliefs about the afterlife
- Hinduism is grounded in a firm belief in many gods, who all are manifestations of one supreme god
- Buddhism most often is considered non-theistic, and many of its followers would consider themselves atheists
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the main practices in Buddhism?
- What are the main practices in Hinduism?
- What are the main holy texts in Buddhism and Hinduism?
- What is the role of Karma in Buddhism and Hinduism?
- How do Buddhism and Hinduism view death and the afterlife?
- How does the role of meditation differ between Buddhism and Hinduism?
- Can someone be a Hindu and a Buddhist at the same time?
Christian Theologian | Growth Strategist, Nine Peaks Media
We can, in a sense, see Buddhism as what Protestantism is to Catholicism – Buddhism as “reformed” Hinduism. That is, Buddhism was founded by Siddharta Gauthama, an Indian prince who was born Hindu, and he criticizes two main things about Hinduism in India, the caste system and asceticism.
Hinduism in ancient India emphasizes strongly on the caste system where there are four castes.
Brahmana (priest), Ksatria (nobles), Vaisya (artisans, merchants, farmers), Sudra (common folk), and Paraiyar or Pariah (slaves). Castes are inherited by birth and cannot be changed by any means even if you are adopted by the higher caste.
Meanwhile, in Asceticism, monks or priests emphasize meditating and training by applying pain and suffering to oneself.
Buddhism rejects these two (among others) and there are no castes. Buddhism meditation avoids asceticism and focuses on finding inner peace.
Hinduism is a polytheist religion with many gods (called the Vedic pantheon).
The most important ones are called the Trimurti (meaning three forms). These are Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver of lives, and Shiva the destroyer of lives.
Buddhism doesn’t believe in God but instead believe that men can reach the state of divinity, the Buddha.
Siddharta believes that the gods of Hindu pantheon haven’t reached this state of Buddha, and not worthy of worship.
Beliefs about the afterlife
Hinduism believes in the eternal state of the soul.
The soul is called the atman, and the deeds of good and evil are weighed in the karmic system (karma is originally a Hinduism concept). If you do more good deeds, you will enter Swarga (heaven), if you do bad, you will enter Naraka (hell).
Buddhism doesn’t believe in heaven and hell concept but rather believe that after a human’s death, they will reincarnate into new beings.
If you do good, you will be reincarnated as a human, getting closer to the state of Buddha. If you do bad, you will be reincarnated as lower beings like animals. When you do reach perfection, which in Buddhism concept is abstaining from any desire at all, you will become Buddha and enter Nirvana – the Buddhism concept of heaven where there is absolute nothingness.
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It is easy to understand why most people confuse Hinduism and Buddhism. Both seem foreign to the average westerner, as they were both founded in the country of India thousands of years ago and have few if any similarities to religions more familiar to them, such as Christianity and Islam. That being said, the two are extremely different.
Hinduism is grounded in a firm belief in many gods, who all are manifestations of one supreme god
This belief varies across the many schools of thought within Hinduism but is very common.
Hindus believe in a cycle of rebirth called Samsara, what westerners might call reincarnation. While Hindus believe that they may one day be released from this cycle, it would only be after many lifetimes of having good karma. The belief if Heaven and Hell is mostly a construct found in Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).
Buddhism most often is considered non-theistic, and many of its followers would consider themselves atheists
The search for truth in Buddhism does not come from prescribed teaching from a god, but instead from a search within oneself and life devoted “The Four Noble Truths” and “The Eightfold Path” leading to Nirvana.
It is essential to build an understanding of the two faiths based on their differences, mostly their differing beliefs about the nature of gods and the divine.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the main practices in Buddhism?
Meditation: This is a central practice in Buddhism and is seen as a way to calm the mind and gain insight into the nature of reality.
Ethical conduct: Buddhism places a strong emphasis on ethical conduct and encourages individuals to avoid harmful actions and to cultivate positive qualities such as compassion, generosity, and wisdom.
Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present at the moment and is seen as a way to increase awareness and reduce suffering. Buddhists are encouraged to cultivate mindfulness in all aspects of their lives, from their daily activities to their interactions with others.
Compassion: Buddhists are encouraged to cultivate compassion for all beings and to practice it in their daily lives as a way to relieve the suffering of others.
Study and reflection: Buddhists are encouraged to study the Buddha’s teachings and reflect on their own experiences to deepen their understanding of the path to enlightenment.
Devotion: In some forms of Buddhism, devotion to the Buddha, bodhisattvas, or other enlightened beings is seen as a way to cultivate positive qualities and to receive blessings and guidance on the path.
What are the main practices in Hinduism?
Puja: This is a devotional ritual involving offerings, prayers, and worship songs to one or more Hindu deities. Pujas can be performed at home or in a temple, and they are often accompanied by the lighting of lamps, the ringing of bells, and the burning of incense.
Yoga: A physical, mental, and spiritual practice rooted in Hinduism. Yoga involves postures, breathing exercises, and meditation, and it is aimed at promoting physical and mental health, as well as spiritual growth.
Fasting: Hindus fast for a variety of reasons, including religious observances, purification of the body and mind, and as an offering to the gods. This can be in the form of food abstinence for some time or can involve only eating certain foods.
Mantra recitation: Hindus may recite certain mantras as a form of devotion or as a way of invoking a particular deity. Mantra recitation can be done alone or in a group, which is believed to bring peace, clarity, and blessings.
Pilgrimage: Pilgrimages can be individual or communal, and they often involve rituals, such as bathing in sacred waters, making offerings, and performing pujas.
What are the main holy texts in Buddhism and Hinduism?
In Buddhism, the main holy texts are known as the Tripitaka or the “Three Baskets.” The Tripitaka consists:
• Sutras (discourses of the Buddha)
• Vinaya (monastic rules)
• Abhidharma (philosophical treatises).
Some of the most famous Buddhist texts include the Dhammapada (a collection of sayings by the Buddha), the Heart Sutra, and the Lotus Sutra.
In Hinduism, the main holy text is the Vedas—a collection of hymns, prayers, and rituals that are considered to be divinely revealed knowledge. The Vedas consist of four collections:
Hinduism also has a vast array of other sacred texts, such as:
• Upanishads (philosophical texts that explore the nature of reality and the self)
• Bhagavad Gita (a dialogue between the warrior prince Arjuna and the god Krishna)
• Puranas (mythological and historical texts)
What is the role of Karma in Buddhism and Hinduism?
• Karma refers to the idea that our actions have consequences and that those consequences shape our future experiences.
• In Buddhism, the goal is to create positive karma by acting ethically and compassionately and to avoid negative karma by avoiding harmful actions.
• Positive karma can lead to a better rebirth, while negative karma can lead to a worse rebirth.
• The goal of Buddhism is to escape the cycle of rebirth altogether, which is achieved through the attainment of enlightenment.
• Karma is seen as a moral law of cause and effect, where our actions in this life determine our fate in future lives.
• In Hinduism, the law of karma is considered to be a central aspect of the cosmic order and is believed to maintain balance and fairness in the universe.
• Hindus believe that our karma is recorded and that it shapes our circumstances and experiences.
• Hindus also believe that we can purify our karma through good deeds and devotion to the gods.
So, in both Buddhism and Hinduism, the concept of karma encourages individuals to live ethically and strive for a better future. It’s a reminder that our actions have consequences and that we are responsible for our own destinies.
How do Buddhism and Hinduism view death and the afterlife?
Buddhism views death as a natural part of life and the impermanence of all things. Buddhists believe that death is not the end but a transition to a new state of existence. However, they reject the idea of an eternal soul and instead propose the concept of rebirth based on the law of cause and effect, known as karma. The ultimate goal in Buddhism is to reach enlightenment and escape the cycle of rebirth.
In contrast, Hinduism sees the concept of reincarnation is central to its understanding of death and the afterlife. Hindus believe that the soul is eternal and that it goes through a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, with each life determined by the karma of the previous one. The ultimate goal is to reach moksha, a state of liberation and freedom from the cycle of rebirth.
Both religions share the idea that their actions in life determine the nature of one’s afterlife and that there are different realms of existence based on one’s karma.
However, the specifics of these realms differ between the two religions. Hinduism has many gods and goddesses and a more complex hierarchy of realms, while Buddhism focuses more on the individual’s journey toward enlightenment.
How does the role of meditation differ between Buddhism and Hinduism?
In Buddhism, meditation is seen as a means to achieve enlightenment, to end suffering, and attain nirvana. The Buddha taught that through meditation, one could develop mindfulness and insight into the nature of reality, leading to a profound understanding of the self and the world.
In Hinduism, meditation is seen as a way to achieve union with the divine and attain ultimate reality. The ultimate goal of Hindu meditation is to still the mind and experience a state of pure consciousness.
In both religions, meditation is viewed as a path to inner peace and spiritual growth. However, while Buddhism places a strong emphasis on the cultivation of mindfulness and insight, Hinduism places more emphasis on devotion and surrender to the divine.
Can someone be a Hindu and a Buddhist at the same time?
Yes, a person can follow both Hinduism and Buddhism simultaneously. It’s not uncommon for people in India and other South Asian countries to hold beliefs from multiple spiritual and religious traditions.
While these two religions may have different beliefs and practices, they also share some similarities, such as a focus on inner peace, compassion, and understanding. Many people find that incorporating elements from both Hinduism and Buddhism enriches their spiritual journey and helps them maintain a sense of balance and harmony in their lives.
An individual can embrace both Hinduism and Buddhism and use the teachings and practices of both religions to form a unique and personal spiritual journey.
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