Though the basic texts of Hinduism, the Vedas, appeared thousands of years before the Buddha was born, both Hinduism and Buddhism have similar religious ancestry. In the time before either religion developed in India, the primary religious affiliation was Brahmanism, from which both religions stem. Despite the close relationship in the development of both religions, there are a number of distinct differences in basic beliefs to go along with the philosophical similarities between Hinduism and Buddhism.
The biggest and most apparent difference between Hinduism and Buddhism is that Hinduism recognizes a deity while Buddhism ascribes to belief in no traditional God. Because all gods are seen as emanations of a single Supreme Being, Hindu practitioners generally focus their worship on one deity. In contrast, Buddhists do not worship any being or deity. The Buddha himself is not deified but, instead, respected as a being who came to understand the true nature of reality, freeing himself and reaching enlightenment -- a path Buddhists believe is possible for all beings.
Both Hinduism and Buddhism assert that the laws of the universe are governed by the idea of karma, meaning "action" in Sanskrit, which suggests that every action you take in this life will affect what comes your way in this life and every life to come. Karma is related to the idea of reincarnation, the cycles of birth, life and death souls go through before attaining an enlightened state of being. The belief in karma suggests that every action creates either good or bad merit and that the accumulation of this merit determines which realm you are born into in your next life. Though the basic tenets of karma and reincarnation are the same in both religions, the details of accumulating karmic as well as the mechanism of reincarnation differ between the two.
The idea of enlightenment in both Hinduism and Buddhism comes from the belief in the existence of a single reality to which most people are unaware of. Both Hindu texts and the teachings of Buddha suggest that the ego is at the heart of separating each individual from the world around him. Enlightenment comes with the dissolution of the ego, control of the mind and a true understanding of the nature of reality. For Hindus and Buddhists alike, there is no single path to enlightenment. The Buddha taught of the Middle Way, neither abstinence nor indulgence, with a heavy focus on meditation; Hindu texts describe the importance of meditation in conjunction with other practices like worship and yoga.
Purpose of Life
The Hindu faith asserts there to be four purposes: karma (fulfillment of desire and enjoyment), artha (prosperity), dharma (fulfilling your purpose) and moksha (attaining enlightenment). In Buddhism, the sole purpose is the attainment of enlightenment, not simply for yourself, but for the benefit of all beings.
- Buddhanet: Dharma Data: Hinduism
- BBC: Religions: Hinduism at a Glance
- BBC: Religions: Buddhism at a Glance
- University of Louisiana: Hindu and Buddhist Concept of Reincarnation
- Buddhanet: The Buddha and His Message
- University of Wyoming: Hinduism: The Four Stages of Life
- View on Buddhism: The Three Vehicles
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