Hinduism and Buddhism Compared and Contrasted
Hinduism and Buddhism are ancient religions that have millions of followers today. They both started in ancient India. Although they are different religions, Hinduism and Buddhism share many similarities with regard to their beliefs, and their practices. Hinduism began around 3,000 years ago near the Indus River of northwestern India. This religion has no original founder and no single holy text. Brahmins were the first Hindu teachers. They passed down the teachings of Hinduism through oral stories. This continued until approximately 1,500 B.C., when these stories were written down in a text known as the Rig-Veda by a group of people called the Arayans. Around the 1st century B.C. two more important Hindu scriptures emerged. These Hindu scriptures were two epic poems called the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, which tell stories of warfare, religion and kings. (Messina, Colleen. p. 1) The Ramayana, Mahabharata, and another Hindu scripture called the Upanishads contain the core beliefs of Hinduism. (Messina, Colleen. p. 4) Hinduism is a peaceful religion. It stresses non-violence and believes in dharma, reincarnation, karma, and the belief in Brahman. The belief in Brahman is one central belief in Hinduism that believes that Brahman is the universal spirit behind everything and the force behind all of the Hindu deities. Every Hindu has a favorite deity, and temples to worship these deities cover the landscape of India. (Messina, Colleen. p.4) Of the many Hindu Gods, the three most important Gods are called the Hindu Trinity. The Hindu Trinity is composed of the holy trinity, which has three parts. They are the Hindu Gods; Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. Brahma created the universe. Shiva’s job is to constantly keep destroying one life cycle to create another life cycle. The other part of the Holy Trinity is Vishnu who keeps order in the universe. (Messina, Colleen. What is Hinduism? p. 5) Hindus also believe in reincarnation, which is the belief that we are born many times and that the soul does not stay in one place. Hindus believe that the soul first enters something simple, not human, like a bug. The soul would evolve over time, entering more and more complex things, like a cat, until the soul finally enters a human. During this stage, the law of Karma takes affect. Karma will affect the person’s fate in his or her next rebirth. For example, if a person has good karma and makes good choices than that would lead to good things in his or her next lifetime. However, if a person has bad karma and does unkind acts then that will leave to hardship in his or her next lifetime. (Messina, Colleen. What is Hinduism? p. 6) In addition, karma also affects a person’s position in the caste system. The caste system is a system of social groups in which people are born into and can rarely be changed. Caste systems were based on an ancient Hindu text called the Bhagavad-Gita, and this social structure influences India to this day. Hindus believe that if they earn good karma they will be reborn into a higher caste. These castes are grouped by order from highest to lowest: Brahmins (priest and scholars), Kshatriyas (rulers and warriors), Vaisyas (merchants and farmers), and Sudras (servants and laborers). The dalits or “untouchables” were not considered part of the caste and performed the most menial jobs. The higher up a person is in a caste then the more pure and therefore closer the person is to achieving moksha, the union with Brahman, then someone from a lower caste. (Messina, Colleen. The History of Hinduism, p 1) Hindus also believe in Dharma, which are the religious and moral duties that a person has to fulfill during his or her lifetime. A person’s dharma would depend on the person’s age, class, occupation, and gender. Everyone has dharma. Dharma is important because it is important for Hindus to fulfill ones purpose and most importantly achieve the main goal of life, moksha, which is the...
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