Buddhism Vs. Hinduism

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Buddhism and Hinduism are 2 out of 5 major religions. As of now, Hinduism has 900 million followers and Buddhism has 376 million. Both of these religions originated in India. Both religions have the common goal of releasing the soul from reincarnation. Reincarnation is a cycle of rebirth, in the eyes of a Buddhist and Hindu, this would be considered a cycle of endless suffering called samsara. They also have the same view on karma, acts that influence reincarnation. To be released from this, both Buddhists and Hindus would follow dharma. Dharmas are laws and moral teachings about the universe. There are two different words for achieving liberation from reincarnation, but they both mean the same thing. In Buddhism liberation is Nirvana and in Hinduism it is moksha.

The symbol of Hinduism is the Om and it symbolizes the universe. Om as a syllable does not mean anything but it is used the beginning of meditation because it is the sound of the soul. The symbol is intricate in an aesthetic way. The symbol of Buddhism takes the form of a wheel. The name for this wheel is the Wheel of Teaching or Dharmachakra. The wheel has many meanings to it, and it gives the reason why it takes the form of a wheel. The eight spokes represent the Noble Eightfold Path- right understanding, right intention, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right contemplation. The rim of the wheel represents the cycle of reincarnation. The hub symbolizes self-discipline. The wheel is essentially the meaning of Buddhism (Robert 1). Both religions share the swastika. Before the Nazis took the on the symbol of the swastika and turned it into something hateful the symbol was used to be something of peace.

Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, a prince that went down the path of enlightenment after witnessing a life-changing event during a stroll on a chariot outside of his palace. On that stroll, he witnessed the Four Passing sights- an elderly man, someone who was gravely ill, a body that was going to be cremated, and someone who abandoned ordinary life. The prince abandoned his life of nobility going so far as to leave behind his family and went on a journey to become holy for several years. It was a long strenuous journey of self-discipline. He also made the Middle Path because he knew the way he was taking to reach enlightenment was not working (Robert 2). Hinduism does not have a known founder like Buddhism. The religion is mostly built off sacred texts and local beliefs. There are traces of Hinduism left from the Indus River Civilization around 2500 B.C.E. There were seals with depictions of cows on them, the illustration of people in poses similar to yoga, and figures of a female possibly being the goddess of fertility (Roots of Hinduism).

In Hinduism, there is a caste system. Hindus believe that reincarnation plays a role in their society. Depending on karma that one has acquired, it would determine the person's place in the system. Good Karma increases your rank while bad karma will lower it. By reaching the top, you would be able to reach salvation and end the cycle of suffering. The system is composed of 5 classes- Dalits, Shudras, Vaishyas, Kshatriyas, and Brahmin. Dalits are at the very bottom of the system and they are the outcaste, doom to reincarnate as something below human. Shudras are fourth in the caste system. It is the lowly working class; it means you would be a servant. Vaishyas are third in the system. It is also a working-class, but it is held at higher standards. Instead of being a servant you would be a merchant. The second class in the system is Kshatriyas. This is where rulers would stand. The top of the system would sit the Brahmin. It is a priestly class. Priests are to pass down sacred knowledge. Buddhism does not have a caste system. Buddhist believe that anyone can become a buddha and can reach Nirvana.

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There are gods to be worshipped in Hinduism. There are many gods that many are devoted too but the major ones are Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu, and Shiva’s children Ganesha and Karthikeya. Shiva is the god of destruction. Hindus believe that destruction is an important part of the universe. By destroying all impurities and removing obstacles the universe can be re-created to reach a better path of liberation. Shiva is depicted in many forms but the most iconic thing around him would be his snakes. Vishnu is the protector of the world. He maintains the universe and fights off enemies of humans and deities alike. Brahma is the god of creation. Although worshipped, he does not compare to that of Vishnu and Shiva which has their practices; Vishnu-Vaishnavism and Shiva-Shaivism. These three gods form the Trimurti (Principal Deities of Hinduism). Ganesha is a God that is loved because he paves the way to success. Karthikeya is the god of war. There are no deities to be worshipped in Buddhism. Buddhists are responsible for reaching Nirvana on their own. The road to reach enlightenment is a journey that requires a great amount of self-discipline The Buddha is not a god but someone who is looked on upon for sacred wisdom. Even though Buddhism does not have gods to worship, both Buddhism and Hinduism are polytheistic religions. Buddhism has been brought up in many different areas so the belief in a god or goddess would come from something else.

The way people dress in both of these religions is the same in terms of visuals. The clothing they wear is traditional robes but of course, they are different in their ways. Women would wear a traditional dress called a sari. It is 5 to 6 meters long and it is wrapped around the waist. It is then worn over the shoulder, so the free end is left loose. Blouses are worn underneath along a long skirt. Women would also wear heavy jewelry, specifically earrings that can stretch their earlobes, a sign of nobility. Women who are married would wear the bindi, a small circle that is placed on the forehead or between the eyebrows. Men would traditionally wear a dhoti. It is a large fabric that is wrapped around the waist and tucked into the thighs. A long loose coat called a kurta can be worn with a dhoti. Hindu men can also wear a turban. The sacred thread is the most important clothing item. The thread is a thin cotton cord that is given to boys at the age of 10 through a special ceremony (Robert 3). Buddhist robes that monks wear is made up of three parts. The Kashaya robe is a large rectangle of cloth that is 6 by 9 feet. It can be wrapped around the left shoulder leaving the right bare or can be wrapped around both. Antaravasaka is wrapped around the waist similar to that of a dhoti. Sanghati is an extra rectangle of cloth that is wrapped around the body for warmth (Barbara). Buddhists nuns wear the same parts as the monks with 2 additional parts making it 5-piece attire. None of their shoulders are to be bare. The robes are mute in color compared to the males that take on the color of saffron. The making of these robes in the past was a bit unique. They were made of “pure cloth,” which is an unwanted fabric. It is ironic because pure cloth was not pure in any way. The cloth would be tainted by animals chewing on it or it was stained by blood or fluids from birth. Monks would clean the fabric and stitch it into a robe. This practice is not done anymore.

Buddhists and Hindus have different ways of joining mind and body on a spiritual journey. Buddhists meditate and pray. Since there are no gods that a Buddhist would pray to, it has been speculated that they are praying for blessing from the Buddha. Blessings that would help them on their quest to achieve enlightenment. There are two types of meditation: trance meditation and insight meditation. Trance meditation has several steps, but it all requires the meditator to go above the physical and mental forms of perception. Insight meditation is the concentration of the mind. The meditator will gain the awareness that life is full of suffering both of these meditations are to help pave a way to Nirvana (Robert 4). Hindus do not practice meditation. Yoga is done to join the body and mind. The most popular type of yoga that is done in India is hatha yoga, bhakti yoga, Jnana yoga, and karma yoga. Hatha yoga is the path of one’s atman, bhakti yoga is the path of devotion. Jnana yoga is philosophical, and karma yoga is the path of selfless actions (Robert 5).

Burial rituals are about the same. Cremation of the body is the desired method. Hindus also do full body burials, but Buddhists have another unique method for the deceased. If they do not go for cremation, Buddhists would cut the body into parts, then give these parts to birds who will feast on them. This is a Tibetan practice (Robert 6).

Work Cited

  1. E., Van Voorst Robert. RELG: World. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2013.
  2. “Roots of Hinduism (Article).” Khan Academy, Khan Academy, www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-asia/beginners-guide-asian-culture/hindu-art-culture/a/roots-of-hinduism.
  3. “Principal Deities of Hinduism (Article).” Khan Academy, Khan Academy, www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-asia/beginners-guide-asian-culture/hindu-art-culture/a/principal-deities-of-hinduism.
  4. O'Brien, Barbara. “Get an Overview of the Robes Worn by Buddhist Monks and Nuns.” Learn Religions, Learn Religions, 18 Jan. 2019, www.learnreligions.com/the-buddhas-robe-450083.
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