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Similar But Different: Hindu and Buddhist Meditation Practices
This paper is a comparison of Hindu preparations for and execution of meditation rituals as opposed to Buddhist meditation rituals. The ritual in specific we will be looking at the ritual of meditation which is done in many ways for both religions however the basic elements can be examined for their similarities and differences to a satisfactory degree. When Hindus prepare for a ritual the first most important thing is achieving mental and physical purity. This includes avoiding dead things, a lack of meat consumption, physical cleanliness, and other such ablutions. Buddhists also emphasize cleanliness of thought and speech when meditating, as their minds should be free of lies and evil thoughts when they come to meditate. Both Hindus and Buddhists use vegetarian offerings because meat is abhorrent due to the violence that was involved in its slaughter. Animal products in general are frowned upon, instead citing vegetarian dishes of rice as a much purer form of offering. Flowers and fruit are the preferred items for the altar, still showing respect for the Divine and the abundance it has created in human lives.
Both Buddhists and Hindus use incense in their rituals as an offering. According to the International Buddhist Society, the burning of incense is “a gesture of paying one’s highest respects to the Buddha.” (www.buddhisttemple.ca) Both Hindus and Buddhists believe in reciting sacred texts during meditation. Some Hindus may chant the Guru Gita or verses from the Vedas, as well as special mantras. Buddhists may chant sacred teachings of the Buddha from the Tripitaka. (www.religionfacts.com) These chants can be as an individual although are more often observed in a group setting within a temple or an ashram.
Both Hindus and Buddhists bow before an altar of some sort before beginning a meditation or prayer. Hindus will usually have a representation of God in one of His avatars (Rama, Krishna, etc.) and possibly also a picture of the guru who founded that particular temple or ashram or who leads the particular type of yoga that the Hindu follows. Buddhists will usually have a statue of Buddha or the Bodhisattvas. Observing ritual meditation videos for both religions (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPd8ETyl7D0 Buddhist, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8CQWZ9ETpk Hindu) revealed that while practitioners can often meditate anywhere, there are formal ways of doing so within a temple setting or in an ashram. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKbeQ7-LJIE&feature=related) Examples of meditation in other settings include beside rivers, in caves, or within any small space where a person can be alone with their mind and their soul on God.
The methods of the rituals are all designed to connect the devotee or follower with the Divine through intense focus on the inner harmony of a person. The chanting and ringing of chimes, the burning of incense, all are directed to create the atmosphere that will assist seekers in freeing themselves of their earthly bonds, their cares and worries, and transport them to a place where they are focused solely on God and confronting their worldly attachments. This introspection is very healthy from many standpoints including psychological ones. Many researchers and philosophers have long extolled the virtues of introspection to improving the quality of a person’s life. The creation of an atmosphere not otherwise experienced during the routine of a normal day allows the mind to be focused inward or on more spiritual matters, free of distractions.
Some of the major differences between the two systems of belief do exist however. One difference that is easy to spot is that the focal point of these meditations is different for Buddhists than Hindus. Buddhists focus on the Buddha and his teachings, specifically the rules he set forth for living a balanced life which strives to...