Hinduism and Buddhism are both eastern traditions with much to say about the human condition as well as the reason human beings exist at all. In some ways they are different while also being similar in other ways. In this essay, those differences will be discussed and the similarities examined for their message. In conclusion, we will examine what these two faiths offer to the human beings of the twenty-first century.
According to Hinduism, at the most basic level, the purpose of life is to perform one’s social duty and live the exemplary life of the householder by marrying, having children, providing for them and observing the rituals required by the gods. Later, the Upanishads claimed that the purpose of life is to achieve unity with Brahman, the divine essence of all life. Humans were not to pursue worldly goods but choose a life of asceticism and seek enlightenment. This view is similar to what Buddhists believe the goal of life should be and they also share an explanation of the human condition. Both Buddhism and Hinduism cite worldly attachment and ignorance of the true self as the causes of human suffering which occurs in unending cycles (samsara or the wheel of death and rebirth) until we finally free ourselves from our own blindness. [ 3 ]
Buddhism teaches that the reason for being a human is that it gives a soul a chance to finally achieve enlightenment, describing in detail what other varieties of conscious beings must endure because they do not have an opportunity to gain merit or to perform dharma. The human being is a singular entity that may achieve enlightenment and become a Buddha through good works, right living, and meditation. [ 1 ]
Hinduism, on the other hand, teaches that human beings exist to uphold the structure of dharma and perform the tasks strictly assigned (as described by Krishna in the Mahabharata) to them by their caste. Atman puts on one body and performs that...