Religion has been the driving force behind society throughout history. It is human beings best and worst creation. It is these beliefs that has provided us with peace and brought about war. Religion has provided people something higher to answer too when they lay there heads down at the end of a long day and question their purpose. To understand the similarities and differences between religions provides us a greater understanding of the people that follow them. To understand these characteristics helps us as a western culture educate ourselves objectively away from our Christian dominated culture and understand the world that surrounds us. Gandhi helped India gain its independence from British rule in 1947 as a practicing Hindu. The Dalai Lama continues to be one of our generation’s greatest leaders as a practicing Buddhist. These two religions share many similar beliefs but also differ in equally as many ways The Vedic Tradition or Hinduism is more than a religion, but a way of life, it is a complete philosophy and it’s based on universal spiritual truths which can be applied to anyone at anytime. Vedic Hinduism is also called Sanatana-Dharma, the eternal nature of the soul. It does not limit itself to any one philosophy and it includes various schools of thought and ways of understanding spiritual truths. The Vedic tradition recognizes that the individual soul is eternal, beyond the limitations of the body, and that one soul is no different than another. The soul undergoes its own karma, the law of cause and effect, by which each person creates his own destiny based on his thought, words and deeds. The soul undergoes this karma in the rounds of reincarnation. The soul incarnates through different forms (called samsara or reincarnation) until it reaches liberation (moksha) from the repetition of birth and death. No one individual founded Vedic culture, and there is no single prophet, holy book or way of worship. The Vedic culture has a collection of four texts know as The Vedas, the earliest sacred books of Hinduism, to help explain the nature of these truths and the reasons for the traditions. The Vedas, which originally were preserved only in oral form but were eventually written down. The name Veda means “knowledge” or “sacred lore,” which translated means vision and knowledge. (Molloy) The four collections of the Vedas are The Rig Veda, The Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda, and the Artharva Veda. Ascetic traditions also play a huge role in Vedic Hinduism. The English term asceticism derives from the Greek askesis, originally meaning "to train" or "to exercise," specifically in the sense of the training and self-denial that an athlete undergoes to attain physical skill and mastery over the body. The Stoics adapted the word to refer to the moral discipline of the sage who learns, through self-mastery, how to act freely—how to choose or refuse a desired object or an act of physical pleasure at will and how to control the emotions with reason. While asceticism is a feature of virtually every religion, it plays an especially prominent role in Indian religions such as Hinduism. (http://science.jrank.org/pages/7504/Asceticism-Hindu-Buddhist-Asceticism.html) Another system connected to Vedic Hinduism is the caste system which is a division in society based on occupation and family lineage. There are four distinct divisions based on certain criteria; The Brahmins, who were the priestly class and were considered the middle men between Gods and men, the Kshatriyas, who were the warriors and were by tradition commanded to protect the people, the Vaishyas, who were considered the merchants and peasant class, and the Shudras, who were the laborers, and their duty was to serve the other three castes. The lowest of the caste system was the Chandalas also know as the Untouchables. (V) Mahayana Buddhism, also known as the Great Vehicle, is the form of Buddhism prominent in North Asia. Arising out of divisions—about both doctrine and monastic rules—within Indian Buddhism in the first century C.E., the Great Vehicle considers itself a more authentic version of the Buddha's teachings. Instead of regarding Buddha as a divine being, the Mahayana believes that Buddha was a manifestation of a divine being. They believe that Buddha takes on three entities: essence, godlike form, and body. Essence is the collection of his spiritual qualities that make him Buddha. In his godlike form, he is seen meditating and revealing himself to his people. In his body form, he is shown as a mortal that walked the earth like his believers. They believe that the Tipitaka is an important resource, but they also use other sutras, or written records of Buddha’s experiences, as forms of teachings to live by. (Oracle; Think Quest) The Mahayana doctrine of the Trikaya says that each Buddha has three bodies. These are called the dharmakaya, sambogakaya and nirmanakaya. Very simply, dharmakaya is the body of absolute truth, sambogakaya is the body that experiences the bliss of enlightenment, and nirmanakaya is the body that manifests in the world. Another way to understand the Trikaya is to think of the dharmakaya as the absolute nature of all beings, sambogakaya as the blissful experience of enlightenment, and nirmanakaya as the embodiment of dharmakaya in human form. (Barbara O'Brien) Mahayana emphasizes that nirvana can be reached not only by monks, but it can be reached by anyone including women. The most distinctive teaching of the Mahayana is that of the great compassion that is an inherent component of enlightenment is manifest in bodhisattvas or enlightenment beings. These beings postpone nirvana or final enlightenment in order to assist and guide those beings still suffering in the cycle of rebirths. The amazing amount of tolerance of Mahayana Buddhism is in consonance with its metaphysical views. It is asserted that all religions are revelation of the same Dharmakaya and bring out some aspects of truth.[Footnote: Radhakrishnan, op. cit., p. 597.] Dharma is the all-pervading spiritual force, the ultimate and the supreme principle of life. It is interesting to note that there is an attempt to personify dharma in the conception of Buddha. He is considered the first cause, the eternal God, superior to all things the supreme and first of all Buddha’s. He is the devatideva, the paramount God of gods. He is the creator of all bodhisattvas. All beings are his children. "The tathagata, having left the conflagration of the three worlds, is dwelling in peace in the tranquility of his forest abode, saying to himself all three worlds are my possession, all living beings are my children, the world is full of intense tribulation, but I myself will work out their salvation." "To all who believe me I do good, while friends are they to me who seek refuge in me."[Footnote: Quoted in Radakrishnan, op. cit., p. 600.] However there is more than one Buddha. There are a number of Buddha’s endowed with the highest intelligence and love. They too are working constantly to save the world. There have been an infinite number of these Buddha’s in the past, and there will be an infinite number in the future. All of these Buddha’s are transitory manifestations of the one eternal being. ("The Chief Characteristics and Doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism") Bodhisattva vow:
However innumerable the sentient beings, I vow to save them all. However inexhaustible the passions (klesas), I vow to extinguish them all. However immeasurable the dharmas, I vow to master them all.
However incomparable the truth of the Buddha, I vow to attain it. (Major Characteristics of Mahayana Buddhism)
Hinduism and Buddhism share equal similarities as well as differences because both influenced the Indian culture but Buddhism came much later than Hinduism. Both Hinduism and Buddhism practice the belief of reincarnation after death. Buddhism believes in the process of reincarnation based on deeds of the present life. Hinduism also believes that everyone is a part of an impersonal world and therefore, one's soul reincarnates into another body of any being, based on the deeds of the present life. These religions are both cyclic and do not believe in a beginning or an end. In Buddhism one has to work for salvation oneself and therefore, cannot blame others for the same. The salvation depends on the good deeds of a person. In Hinduism also, one attains salvation as per one's own fate and deeds. Buddhism and Hinduism both believe that there are many paths to attain enlightenment such as overcoming through your feelings and desires and controlling over the six conscious senses. Many of these core beliefs are so similar because Buddhism came from a Hindu influenced environment. Both believe that excessive attachment to things and people in the physical world causes pain and suffering. Therefore, we must free ourselves from the illusions of 'Maya' or worldly desires. Both of them give an emphasis on the practice of meditation and other forms of yoga, which not only helps one to concentrate on the truth of life, but also facilitates the path of enlightenment and liberation. As similar as these two religions are they are also equally different. One of the major differences between these Hinduism and Buddhism is the practice of the caste system. While Hinduism is based on this practice, Buddhism is not. There are four major practices of Buddhism and none follow this belief. Buddhism placed equality on all people. On the contrary, there are a number of castes and sub-castes in Hinduism, and the