Hinduism and Buddhism are often hailed to be two of the oldest religions of the world. While Hinduism comes from Sanatana Dharma, many believe that Buddhism is nothing but a branch of Hinduism. However, it is necessary to determine that these are two different branches with various similarities and differences.
Both religions believe in the concept of reincarnation, dharma, and Moksha. However, certain differences make them two different religions all at once. Here, we compare the two most significant religions of the world, Buddhism and Hinduism.
1. Hinduism and Buddhism: country of origin
Hinduism and Buddhism are believed to have been born around the Ganges in northern India during the “second urbanization,” which took place around 500 BCE. As stated above, they have similar beliefs yet are different from each other.
Hinduism is, however, a very new term for the Britishers coined it. However, it is necessary to note that this is an ancient religion. Some sources cite Hinduism as one of the ‘earliest or oldest’ surviving religions of the world. This comes from the evidence of the texts and books supposedly written around the 3rd-2nd millennium BCE.
Hinduism’s sacred texts written in vernacular languages or Sanskrit were responsible for spreading the religion in Southeast Asia. The transmission has had a huge role and has been predominantly existing in Southeast Asia since the 4th century BCE.
Buddhism, too, was founded in India. Although it was founded quite earlier, it wasn’t until Buddha Charita’s discovery that we knew Buddhism.
2. Hinduism and Buddhism: time of origin
The exact date of the origin of Hinduism isn’t known. But, it is anticipated to be one of the oldest religions of the world. Most Hinduism’s sacred texts are anticipated to have been written around the 3rd to 2nd millennium BCE.
It is expected that Hinduism has been existent since the times of Indus Valley Civilization. However, it became a major religion in Southeast Asia in the 4th century CE.
Unlike Hinduism, Buddhism was founded much later, around the 6th century BCE. This, too, is held to be one of the most important religions in the world. Gautama Buddha founded Buddhism when the concept of Karma, renouncing family, and the importance of truth were considered the essential Hinduism ideals.
3. Hinduism and Buddhism: founder of the religion
Hinduism and Buddhism differ in terms of Hinduism. Both are essential religions in Indian culture, but there is a huge difference between the two.
Although there are several Hindu Gods, some even suggest 36 million Hindu Gods, but there is no one God. Hinduism, by many, isn’t considered to be a religion but a way of life. Hence, Hinduism is not founded or developed by anyone but by the mixing or fusion of many beliefs surrounding it.
When the Indo-Aryan people started to settle around the Indus Valley, their language and culture began to blend with indigenous people. This intermingling and further advance resulted in the growth of the religion.
Gautama Buddha is the founder of Buddhism. The founder, Buddha, was born as a Prince on the foothills of Himalaya in Lumbini. He was kept aloof from the pain and sufferings of the world and led a lavish life. However, according to Buddhism symbols and teachings, during his visit to the nearby villages, the prince, Siddhartha Gautama, was brought one-on-one with the world’s pains and sorrows.
This brought about the awakening, and he set out on his search for truth. Eventually, he started his teachings around Sarnath (Benares). It is said that Gautama Buddha achieved enlightenment around Bodh Gaya under the renowned Bodhi tree.
4. Hinduism and Buddhism: goals of the followers
The goals of the followers in Hinduism and Buddhism are very much similar. The final aim in both the religion is Moksha or salvation. Both religions believe in the concept of Dharma and Karma.
Dharma stands for the true purpose in an individual’s life. It deals with the sense of duty and action every individual takes. Every Hindu and Buddhist has his or her agenda that needs to be fulfilled during life dutifully. The followers want to be free from the cycle of birth-rebirth, known as samsara. Hence, they must practice good Karma to attain this.
Karma in Sanskrit means “to do” and is a word that explains activity or action. It is one of the most commonly used terms to describe effect or cause. The word Karma and its importance have been described widely in many religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism.
Karma is extremely important in Buddhism as it is directly related to the person’s thoughts, actions and words. In Buddhism, it is believed that a person’s quality of life and words will bring about good or bad Karma. This further leads to the development of sila. However, the Buddhist teachings are slightly different from that of the pre-Buddhist concepts of Karma.
The concept of Moksha, salvation or being free from the cycle of birth-rebirth, is extremely important in Hinduism and Buddhism. In both religions, the main goal of followers is to achieve salvation and be free from samsara.
Hindus and Buddhists aim at being free from the birth-rebirth cycle by doing good deeds or Karma. Hence, the actions of one’s previous and current lives will have a massive role in determining whether one will receive the freedom or not. Thus, as per the belief, every Hindu should work towards breaking the cycle.
5. Hinduism and Buddhism: supreme gods
While Buddhism follows only one God and the rest are Gurus or teachers, Hinduism exists far more. There are several Gods in Hinduism.
The Holy Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara or Shiva is hailed to be the most important Gods in Hinduism. It is believed that the male Gods or Yakshas are all a part of creating the three main male gods. Hindu goddesses Saraswati, Parvati, and Lakshmi, are the most important ones.
As per popular belief, Brahma is the creator of the universe, Vishnu is the preserver, while Shiva is the one who destroys it. Some of the standard terms or names given to the Hindu gods include Daiva, Ishvara, Bhagavan, or Bhagvati.
Param Brahma is considered to be the supreme God of Hinduism. However, it is necessary to note that Param Brahma isn’t Brahma. The Hindus worship the Supreme being through different names. Hence, this difference of worshipping the Supreme God in different ways gave birth to the concept of Shaktism, Vaishnavism, Smartism, and Shaivism.
In Vaishnavism, Maha Vishnu is the Supreme God. In Shaktism, Goddess Shakti is the supreme being. In Shaivism, Lord Shiva is the supreme being. However, on Smartism, all deities are considered to be the reflection of one God. Hence, it is up to the devotee in Smartism, who they want to follow or worship as the supreme being.
In Buddhism, the devotees want to achieve Nirvana through the path created by their God, Lord Buddha. However, unlike Hinduism, there isn’t a concept of personal God. According to Buddhism, nothing in this world is permanent or fixed, as everything is temporary, and change can occur anytime.
6. Hinduism and Buddhism: scriptures
The Holy book of Buddhism is known as Tripitaka. As it was written in Pali, Tripitaka is also referred to as Pali Canon. Pali is one of India’s oldest languages, and it is said that Buddha himself spoke the language.
The Tripitakas are also referred to as Three baskets of wisdom, which is said to be divided into three sections:
- Vinaya Pitaka or the book of discipline
- Sutta Pitaka or The Teaching Basket
- Abhidhamma Pitaka of the Higher doctrine basket that talks about the teaching of Buddha’s.
The three types of scriptures in Buddhism
- Sutras or the discourses
- Vinaya that states the discipline of monastic life.
- Abhidharma that talks of the analytical texts
According to Theravada Buddhism, Pali Sutras are closely associated with the original words of Buddha. Hence, the Mahayana Buddhist texts are very similar or high in spirits as Buddha’s actual teachings.
Unlike Buddhism, there are several holy texts or scriptures of Hinduism. There are usually two different categories of the texts: the revealed and the remembered. The revealed texts of Hinduism that are essential to the culture are known as the Vedas. The Vedas are further divided into four different sections known as Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Vedha, and Atharva Veda.
The Upanishads come after the completion of Vedas and are referred to as Vedanta. Vedas are often studied less than other Hinduism texts, but they are considered one of the most critical or sacred scriptures.
All the remembered texts are post-Vedic texts. These post-Vedic texts are two important texts: Mahabharata and Ramayana. The Bhagavad Gita is one of the most important texts of Hinduism and is a part of Mahabharata. The text focuses on the teachings of Lord Krishna. Another essential scripture in Hinduism is Dharmasastras, which consists of all important about dharma and the aphorisms of dharma.
7. Hinduism and Buddhism: perception of human nature
Hinduism and Buddhism differ in terms of the perception of human nature. Hinduism believes that the concept of human nature is different from what is perceived easily.
Accordingly, human beings are divided into two parts: the ahankara and the Atman. As per the Hindu scriptures, ahamkara is the pride of worldly manifestation within a person. It is the description of worldly possessions, physical characteristics, and social structures.
The concept of atman believes in other-selves. It is said that we are all connected, and it is necessary to stay away from the concept of ego or ahamkara. Unlike popular belief, atman isn’t the concept of consciousness but the subject of consciousness.
It brings forth the reflection of oneness or unity. However, Hinduism believes that ignorance of reality is one of the main problems of human nature.
In Buddhism, humans are essential as they help perceive nature and quality of life, further determining the enlightenment achievement properties. Unlike Hinduism, Buddhism believes that humans are essential as they are indispensable sentient beings. Hence, they think that Manushya or humans are animals with brains.
Enlightenment is a fundamental concept in Buddhism. Hence, humans tend to be important in Buddhism, too, for they are considered the essential brings believed to have the power to achieve enlightenment. According to the teachings of Buddhism, “Buddhas, however, are always humans.” One can experience Bodhisattva at different times of his life.
8. Hinduism and Buddhism: practices
The difference between Hinduism and Buddhism practices is because of pre-existing beliefs and practices. To understand the difference between the two, it is necessary to look at Digha Nikaya and Samannaphala Sutta. In the Sutra, the teachings of Buddha are listed.
The text has been empathizing with what the new faith was not. There is a stark contrast between the two.
One of the significant differences in practice is in their worship of Gods. While Hinduism identifies several deities, Buddhists deny the existence of so many gods. Although Buddhists believe in one God’s concept, they consider it unnecessary to seek God.
Hindus practice meditation for spiritual, mental, and physical benefits. Their main goal is to gain control over the mind. However, Buddhists do not believe in the concept of God for meditation. They believe or consider meditation to be an essential aspect of religion. While Buddhism’s main aim is to achieve control of the mind, Buddhists aim to achieve Nirvana or self-realization through Hinduism.
9. Hinduism and Buddhism: clergy
Clergy are the formal leaders in particular religions. However, the roles and traditions will vary for each religion. The individual clergy is referred to as clergymen, but monks are the clergy in Buddhism. However, in Hinduism, the priests are the clergy.
The Buddhist clergy is known as Sangha and is made up of female and male monks. There are two schools of Buddhism- Mahayana and Theravada. Each of them is described and culturally adaptive. However, it is the Mahayana school of Buddhism that is more innovative with forms and culturally adaptive.
The Theravada school of Buddhism is practiced in Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka. It isn’t as adaptive as the Mahayana school of Buddhism. The broad differences further brought about the major Buddhist monastics through the Early Buddhist Schools.
The Hindu priests are the clergy in Hinduism. They are known as Pujari. In Hindu temples, a purohit is often the family priest who comes from the Brahmin varna and belongs to India’s different parts and have different functions.
10. Hinduism and Buddhism: place for worship
The sacred place of worship for Hindus is known as mandir or temple. The temple is dedicated to a particular deity or God. It is believed in Hinduism that a temple is a place where God resides on Earth. Being home to God, the temple is treated with the utmost respect in Hinduism.
Many temples forbid the devotees from entering wearing modern clothes or leather belts and shoes. According to the rules, one must open their shoes on the temples’ gates as they enter God’s home.
The sacred place of worship in Buddhism is a monastery. The followers of Buddhism, Buddhists visit the monastery from time to time to reflect their love of God.
They are made of different structures such as chaitya, the stupa, wat, and vihara. The concept of the monastery is different for different countries. It is the pure environment where Buddha resides. Hence, one must treat the place with the utmost respect.
11. Hinduism and Buddhism: life after death
According to Hinduism and Buddhism, there is a life after death or rebirth. The life after death, however, will be influenced by one’s Karma of the previous birth. According to Hindus, the cycle of birth-rebirth can be broken through the cycle of samsara. The enlightened cycle can only be broken if one follows good Karma.
Both Hindus and Buddhists believe that after the physical body’s death, the Atman or soul is transferred to a different birth. In both religions, it is believed that one may or may not have rebirth directly. Some people often believe that the soul travels to different realms before being reborn.
According to Hinduism, the soul enters the swarg or narak (heaven and hell, respectively) before being born again. However, the soul’s stay in Heaven and Hell is limited for a particular time period.
Good and bad deeds influence the form of birth. The positive and negative merit will further influence the rebirth of atman. Many Hindus and Buddhists believe that one may be reborn as an animal only if he (or she) has done negative deeds. Furthermore, this may be valid if they’ve not learned the lessons from their negative deed while in their human birth.
However, living life in proper merit and as per the scriptures will lead to attaining Moksha or salvation.
12. Hinduism and Buddhism: rituals
The Buddhist and Hindu rituals are very different. However, Mahayana Buddhism in Japan follows the Shingon Fire ritual or urabon, which is very similar to Hindu traditions.
Furthermore, the Tibetan rituals of Buddhism also find their roots in the Hindu culture. The rites and rituals of purification of homa or yagna or havan are found in Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism. Both cultures believe in offering prayers to the ancestors and deceased soul for their purification and peaceful departure.
13. Hinduism and Buddhism: festivals
While there are limited celebrations or festivals in Buddhism, Hindus have many of them. Since Hinduism has so many branches, the number of festivals are huge. Diwali, the festival of lights, and Holi, the festival of colors, are some of Buddhism’s major festivals.
However, there is a range of other major celebrations in Hinduism, such as Ganesh Chaturthi, Rama Navami, Makar Sankranti, Onam, Maha Shivaratri, and more.
Vesak is, however, one of the most important Buddhist festivals. Vesak has no fixed date and is held on the first full moon day of May. It is also observed as Buddha Jayanti. However, Buddhist festivals are celebrated accordingly around different countries.
Some of Buddhism’s common festivals include Uposatha, Kathina Ceremony, Madhu Purnima, Loy Krathong, The Elephant Festival, The Ploughing Festival, Asala Puja, and Magha Puja.
14. Hinduism and Buddhism: symbols
The Hindu symbols are one of the holiest aspects. Over the years, the identity of Hinduism has only developed because of its iconic symbols. These iconic symbols have become a part of the Hindu iconography, which further imbibe the scriptures’ sense. Some of the common symbols of Hinduism include
- Shiva Lingam
- Sri Chakra Yantra
The Buddhist symbols are a major part of Buddhist art and represent dharma. In Buddhism, there are eight auspicious symbols. These essential symbols include
- Lotus Flower
- The endless knot or the mandala
- Golden Fish
- Treasure Vase
- Wheel of Dharma or the Dharma Wheel
- Conch Shell
- Victory Banner
15. Hinduism and Buddhism: art
Buddhist art is referred to as the artistic practices, which is an important part of Buddhism. The art media reflects the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and are essential. Mandalas are an essential part of the Buddhist culture. Buddhist art is an essential part of Central Asia and Eastern Asia.
Hindu art is eventually determined with its paintings, architecture, and sculptures and reflects the Indian subcontinent’s idea.
16. Hinduism and Buddhism: political presence
Both Hinduism and Buddhism are in favor of the Democratic regime method. The Buddhist societies are democratic and support the concept of free-thinking through autonomy support.
17. Hinduism and Buddhism: worldwide distribution
While Hinduism is widespread in India, hence, it is for this reason, India is also referred to as Hindustan. Buddhism is widespread around SouthEast Asia. Hinduism is found around India and Nepal. 15% of the world’s population are Hindus.
As per the records, around 500 million of the world practice Buddhism. Hence, 7-8% of the world’s population are Buddhists. Buddhism is the dominant religion across Tibet, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Bhutan, Cambodia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.
18. Hinduism and Buddhism: conversion
Buddhism is one of those religions that people can adopt with their minds and hearts without being involved in critical thinking. However, there are no hard and fast rules for converting to Buddhism. If you find the religion in you, one is welcomed in Buddhism.
Similar to Buddhism, there are no proper rules for entering Hinduism. Religion is not based on ornaments or certificates. Anyone can become a follower of Hinduism by dedicating their soul and heart to that. However, one must be ready to embrace the puja rituals and ceremony.