For anyone looking to understand world religions, knowing what Hinduism and Buddhism are all about is very important. And even though it takes entire treatises to cover religions, in order to get an idea of what they stand for and what their followers believe, along with what they are promised and what they get from it, we can try to compare one with the other and discuss the main ideas, seeing what makes them similar and what makes them different.
A Hindu is a practitioner of Hinduism. This religion is representative for the people living in India and Nepal and it is the third largest in the world. The scriptures of Hindus are the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Gita and the Ramayana. These texts encompass theology, philosophy, mythology and Yoga among others and they mostly refer to the fact that life means joy. They believe in Karma as being the result of one’s actions, and in reincarnation, which means being born again in the next life as a creature befitting your current life’s achievements.
The Gods of the Hindu pantheon are Deva (masculine) or Devi (feminine). Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Ganesha, Lakshmi, Kali, Harihara are just some of the gods Hindus can pray to. Believers can be devotees of one, all, some or none of the gods. The relationship to the deities is complex and it depends on the individuals as it is very much connected to the idea of oneness. Hindu rituals include chanting mantras, practicing yoga and meditating. Hindus pray in temples, they have festivals, they make offerings to their gods and they go on pilgrimage. Many Hindus are vegetarian as they actively advocate a non-violent way of life which means loving all living things.
Buddhism is said to have derived from Hinduism, as Buddha was a Hindu prince who ran away to learn about enlightenment through suffering. Tibet, China, Japan, Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Burma, Mongolia and Sri Lanka are the countries where Buddhism is a major religion.
The main point of practicing Buddhism is that of escaping the cycle of life and death and ascending to a higher dimension of spirituality. This means that Buddhists too believe in reincarnation. Other Buddhist beliefs include Karma as being the force behind the cycle of life and rebirth and it includes good deeds and bad deeds.
There is no God in Buddhism. People follow the teachings of Buddha and try to achieve personal enlightenment. Buddha himself refused to believe in the fact that one Supreme Being created the Universe. Buddhist practices include praying, chanting, meditating, making offerings and going on pilgrimage. Worshipers can pray in monasteries, shrines or temples.
Hindu vs Buddhism
So what is the difference between Hindu and Buddhism?
As some authors like to put it, Buddhism is to Hinduism what Christianity is to Judaism. One stemmed from the other and became a religion in itself. Although they still have a very solid shared core, their directions and practices have grown more and more apart. Although very permissive about the relationship to the gods, Hindus still keep a very big pantheon of gods to which they are devoted. The Buddhist system makes the individual much more responsible for the way in which he reacts to the events in his life.
Hindus can pray to the gods for being spared from suffering and have a duty to lead non-violent lives and preach non violence. Buddhists, on the other hand, accept suffering and pain as a way to personal salvation and to enlightenment. Only by going through this can a person understand the true meaning of life and appreciate it.
|Very old religion||Stemmed from Hinduism|
|Major religion in India and Nepal||Major religion in China, Japan, Korea, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, Tibet, Vietnam, Laos, Mongolia, Sri Lanka|
|Believes in reincarnation as the perpetual cycle of life and death||Believes in reincarnation and that the cycle of life and death can be broken through enlightenment|
|Karma is actions repaid||Karma is characterized by real intentions|
|Practices include yoga, meditating, mantras, making offerings, going on pilgrimage||Practices include chanting, meditation, praying, making offerings, going on pilgrimages|
|Devotees pray in temples||Devotees pray in monasteries, shrines, temples|
|There is a pantheon of gods||The is no one god – the objective is to achieve personal enlightenment|