Hinduism vs. Buddhism: How Alike are They?

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Difference between Hinduism and Buddhism

Two of the oldest continuous religions in the world are Hinduism and Buddhism. Both have followers numbering in the millions, a number that is comprised of people from all walks of life. Interestingly enough, relatively few people are truly aware of what each religion is all about, and many others in fact think that they are the same religion or–equally absurdly–that one is merely a slight variation of the other. Here then is a comparison of Hinduism’s and Buddhism’s more salient points in order to help clear things up.

Hinduism
Buddhism

Origins And Main Philosophy

Hinduism is thought to be at least a thousand years older than Buddhism, with some believing that it is actually two thousand years older. Although most experts do agree that Hinduism came first, some Buddhists believe that the Buddha who formed the basis of the religion was only one in a succession of Buddhas and was in fact followed by others.

One thing that the two religions have in common is their broad perspective on worship, with Hinduism being polytheistic in its belief system, while Buddhism discards the notion of a distinct “god” entity, much less one in human form. And although both Hinduism and Buddhism preach placing the collective good over personal gain, Hinduism tends to favor the establishment classes without much concern over issues such as social rights and advancement of the lower classes. Buddhism for its part teaches of the eventual release from suffering and seems to encourage "moving up" or overcoming the trappings of the class/caste system.

Stance On Specific Issues

Both Hinduism and Buddhism teach the view of the world as being largely illusive, with karma having the role of ultimately determining the outcome of the cycle of birth and death. Both religions also teach of the suffering that can result from desire, and the importance of discarding the trappings of worldly existence as a way to salvation.

Practitioners of Hinduism believe that the Buddha is descended from one of the gods in the Hindu trinity, namely that Siddhartha Buddha is accepted as an avatar of Vishnu. However, Buddhists do not place any spiritual importance on any of the Hindu gods. Hinduism also teaches of the four stages in the life of a living creature, a view that is not shared by Buddhists.

Influence On Each Other

Interestingly enough, Hinduism and Buddhism have influenced each other to some degree regardless of their obvious differences. For instance, the Buddhist teachings with regard to compassion for all creatures are based on ancient Indian tenets, and even certain Indian traditional worship practices have been adopted. Buddhism for its part had a significant role in influenced Hinduism, most notably in the disciplines of breathing and meditation.

Summary

Hinduism

  • Is older than Buddhism and some say by at least one to two thousand years
  • Is polytheistic and believes in many gods or more precisely many manifestations of the Creator’s aspects
  • Accepts Siddhartha Buddha as an avatar of the Hindu deity, Vishnu
  • Closely tied in with the caste system, though the caste system was not associated with Hinduism in the beginning
  • Teaches compassion towards all living creatures

Buddhism

  • Although most scholars and historians agree that Buddhism came around well after Hinduism was established, some proponents claim that the Buddha born around 500B.C. was preceded–and followed–by several other Buddhas
  • Buddha is a state of enlightenment attainable by all human beings
  • Does not teach of an independent, “God” entity, rather recognizes the manifestations of All That Is
  • Teaches the eventual release from suffering
  • Teaches compassion and non-violence

Which religion is credited with initiating ecological thinking?
  • Hinduism
  • Buddhism
 
 

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