Essay, Research Paper: Hinduism And Buddhism


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Hinduism and Buddhism are two very old and sacred religions. Although they are
very similar in many ways, the differences are distinct enough to separate them
completely. One significant difference is the idea of a god or supreme being.
While Hinduism believes and puts faith in a god, Buddhism does not. Hinduism
teaches of an ultimate reality called Brahman. It is without qualities and
limiting attributes, transcending this universe. (pg. 101, A) The Brahman is the
center of all reality and the force that controls life. It is beyond
understanding to any man but is very personal to the Hindus and highly
reverenced. In fact, it is every Hindu’s goal to know the Brahman better, but
it takes much dedication and spiritual insight. (pg. 102, A) Every person
possesses a true nature or self called an Atman. In western views, it is similar
to a soul without carrying any personal characteristics. (B) Everyone’s Atman
is what makes up the ultimate Brahman. So, in a sense, by learning more about
the Brahman, Hindus are in turn learning more about themselves and the unity
around them. Because the Atman keeps no record of personality of other traits,
the reincarnation cycle continues through a person’s karma- which is the
actions or deeds that one committed during their past life. By building good
karma, one can draw closer to ending the cycle and release his Atman. Buddhism
also believes in this Hindu concept but has several differences as well.
Buddhists believe that everyone is suffering. Nothing in the world is permanent
and because of this, life is unsatisfactory. The only way to be free of this
suffering is realize the impermanence of life, overcome all worldly desires, and
become free from the law of karma. (C) Buddhists do not believe in a god, but
they reverence the Buddha and his teachings as though he were one. According to
the Buddha, there are no gods, no Atmans, nor is there a Brahman or supreme
being because all is impermanent. To have faith in a higher power is nothing
more than an illusion. The Buddhist “atheist” view seems to have a lot to do
with the fact that life is not a reality. Through meditation, a person strives
to reach the Nirvana. The Nirvana is the “blowing out” of the flame of
desire by ending the vicious cycle of reincarnation. (D) By ending all desire
for the illusions of this world, one is able to reach enlightenment and finally
rest from his suffering. The Hindu view of Brahman has much to do with life. In
the Upanishads, (Chandogya Upanishad 6.13.1-3) a wise father, Uddalaka, is
telling his son Svetaketu about the Atman and states, “…That thou art.”
This statement means that the Brahman is the same as one’s true self, or his
Atman. (pg. 108, A) The Brahman is the backbone of the entire Hindu religion and
everyone person in the world. By realizing that everyone is a part of the
unified Brahman and coming to grips with the idea that the Atman is the only
enduring part of this world, one can finally be free from the continuous
reincarnations. Because of this extreme difference in belief, Hindus and
Buddhists live very different lives and have different rituals. The Hindus are
divided into different castes, or social groups, and it is said that one’s
karma from the previous life determined which caste they would be in this life.
If one leads a good life, then they can hope to be in a higher caste the next
time around, and vice versa for those who had bad karma. Not only do the Hindus
worship Brahman, they worship several other gods as well. By worshipping other
gods, they can get a fuller understanding of Brahman on a more personal level.
Of course, these gods are in the reincarnation series, or the samsara, so they
are not ultimate, but they help to bring liberation throughout the grueling
cycle. They allow one to understand Bhakti, the importance of loving and
devoting one’s soul to Brahman and turning all needs and desires over to It
rather than to one’s self. It is important that every Hindu meditate on
Brahman to realize that It is the only true existence in the world. This brings
spiritual growth and progress. Buddhists do not worship a god, but rather
believe in the Four Noble Truths and follow the Eight-fold path set by the
Buddha. By living and thinking honestly and right, good karma is acquired.
Meditation is a large part of Buddhism as well. It is the act of pursuing
enlightenment and concentrating on it. Maura O’Halloran, a Zen Buddhist monk,
spoke of her meditations on mu, which means nothingness. (pg. 19, E) By grasping
the idea of nothingness and disciplining oneself spiritually, one can eventually
reach enlightenment. In my life, I have found a new respect for two religions
that were foreign to me, but it did not cause me to change my personal beliefs.
One thing that I truly value is life itself. It is hard for me to comprehend the
idea that life is suffering and that I should want to escape it. Perhaps the
reason I feel that way is because I am suffering, but I don’t really see it.
My Christian views are similar to Hinduism’s in that I follow an eternal,
ultimate God. Although my prayers are much different than the Hindu meditations,
they can reach the same spiritual depth and be just as, if not more, meaningful.
However, that is about the only similarity. The Christian God has a lot more to
offer His children that the Brahman does. We only live one short, meaningful
life and then we die. Each one of us is an individual, created by God, in His
likeness. We have a free will to make our own decisions and whether or not we
chose to accept Him, we will all have an eternal afterlife. God offers His
children a “Nirvana”, but this one is more of a paradise than it is a
freedom from suffering. One thing that I noticed in Hinduism/Buddhism that is
significantly different from Christianity is that there is no evil force. The
samsara could be considered an enemy and I read of Mara trying to tempt the
Buddha, but there is no constant battle of good versus evil. It’s more of a
self versus self battle. This concept adds another difference to the Christian
God. He is a protector and comforter for all of us, and rather than just accept
the terrible things that happen to us in life as the Hindus do, we can look to
Him for guidance. Though all three of these religions have some similarities,
each one is very distinct in its own way. Each view on life, and idea of a god
is amazingly unique. I think that in a way, I have acquired a slightly different
view of my own beliefs because here, in the Western world, most religions are
focused around one God and one main idea. By learning about these new concepts,
I have started to think more about why I believe what I do rather than what. BibliographyA. Ludwig, Theodore M. The Sacred Paths: Understanding the Religions of the
World (Prentice Hall, 1996) B. “Hinduism: An Ancient Path in the Modern
World” (Brown ROA Publishing Media, 1987) C. Long Search #3: “Buddhism:
Footprint of the Buddha-India” (Ambrose Video Publishing, 1982) D. Http://
E. O’Halloran, Maura. Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind (The Berkley Publishing
Group, 1994)
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