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Hinduism and Buddhism, Two Very Old And Sacred Religions

Hinduism and Buddhism are two very old and sacred religions. Although they are very similar in many ways, the differences are distinct enough to separate them completely. One significant difference is the idea of a god or supreme being. While Hinduism believes and puts faith in a god, Buddhism does not. Hinduism teaches of an ultimate reality called Brahman. It is without qualities and limiting attributes, transcending this universe. (pg. 101, A) The Brahman is the center of all reality and the force that controls life.

It is beyond understanding to any man but is very personal to the Hindus and highly reverenced. In fact, it is every Hindus goal to know the Brahman better, but it takes much dedication and spiritual insight. (pg. 102, A) Every person possesses a true nature or self called an Atman. In western views, it is similar to a soul without carrying any personal characteristics. (B) Everyones Atman is what makes up the ultimate Brahman. So, in a sense, by learning more about the Brahman, Hindus are in turn learning more about themselves and the unity around them.

Because the Atman keeps no record of personality of other traits, the reincarnation cycle continues through a persons karma- which is the actions or deeds that one committed during their past life. By building good karma, one can draw closer to ending the cycle and release his Atman. Buddhism also believes in this Hindu concept but has several differences as well. Buddhists believe that everyone is suffering. Nothing in the world is permanent and because of this, life is unsatisfactory.

The only way to be free of this suffering is realize the impermanence of life, overcome all worldly desires, and become free from the law of karma. (C) Buddhists do not believe in a god, but they reverence the Buddha and his teachings as though he were one. According to the Buddha, there are no gods, no Atmans, nor is there a Brahman or supreme being because all is impermanent. To have faith in a higher power is nothing more than an illusion. The Buddhist atheist view seems to have a lot to do with the fact that life is not a reality.

Through meditation, a person strives to reach the Nirvana. The Nirvana is the blowing out of the flame of desire by ending the vicious cycle of reincarnation. (D) By ending all desire for the illusions of this world, one is able to reach enlightenment and finally rest from his suffering. The Hindu view of Brahman has much to do with life. In the Upanishads, (Chandogya Upanishad 6. 13. 1-3) a wise father, Uddalaka, is telling his son Svetaketu about the Atman and states, That thou art. This statement means that the Brahman is the same as ones true self, or his Atman. (pg. 8, A)

The Brahman is the backbone of the entire Hindu religion and everyone person in the world. By realizing that everyone is a part of the unified Brahman and coming to grips with the idea that the Atman is the only enduring part of this world, one can finally be free from the continuous reincarnations. Because of this extreme difference in belief, Hindus and Buddhists live very different lives and have different rituals. The Hindus are divided into different castes, or social groups, and it is said that ones karma from the previous life determined which caste they would be in this life.

If one leads a good life, then they can hope to be in a higher caste the next time around, and vice versa for those who had bad karma. Not only do the Hindus worship Brahman, they worship several other gods as well. By worshipping other gods, they can get a fuller understanding of Brahman on a more personal level. Of course, these gods are in the reincarnation series, or the samsara, so they are not ultimate, but they help to bring liberation throughout the grueling cycle.

They allow one to understand Bhakti, the importance of loving and devoting ones soul to Brahman and turning all needs and desires over to It rather than to ones self. It is important that every Hindu meditate on Brahman to realize that It is the only true existence in the world. This brings spiritual growth and progress. Buddhists do not worship a god, but rather believe in the Four Noble Truths and follow the Eight-fold path set by the Buddha. By living and thinking honestly and right, good karma is acquired. Meditation is a large part of Buddhism as well.

It is the act of pursuing enlightenment and concentrating on it. Maura OHalloran, a Zen Buddhist monk, spoke of her meditations on mu, which means nothingness. (pg. 19, E) By grasping the idea of nothingness and disciplining oneself spiritually, one can eventually reach enlightenment. In my life, I have found a new respect for two religions that were foreign to me, but it did not cause me to change my personal beliefs. One thing that I truly value is life itself. It is hard for me to comprehend the idea that life is suffering and that I should want to escape it.

Perhaps the reason I feel that way is because I am suffering, but I dont really see it. My Christian views are similar to Hinduisms in that I follow an eternal, ultimate God. Although my prayers are much different than the Hindu meditations, they can reach the same spiritual depth and be just as, if not more, meaningful. However, that is about the only similarity. The Christian God has a lot more to offer His children that the Brahman does. We only live one short, meaningful life and then we die. Each one of us is an individual, created by God, in His likeness.

We have a free will to make our own decisions and whether or not we chose to accept Him, we will all have an eternal afterlife. God offers His children a Nirvana, but this one is more of a paradise than it is a freedom from suffering. One thing that I noticed in Hinduism/Buddhism that is significantly different from Christianity is that there is no evil force. The samsara could be considered an enemy and I read of Mara trying to tempt the Buddha, but there is no constant battle of good versus evil. Its more of a self versus self battle. This concept adds another difference to the Christian God.

He is a protector and comforter for all of us, and rather than just accept the terrible things that happen to us in life as the Hindus do, we can look to Him for guidance. Though all three of these religions have some similarities, each one is very distinct in its own way. Each view on life, and idea of a god is amazingly unique. I think that in a way, I have acquired a slightly different view of my own beliefs because here, in the Western world, most religions are focused around one God and one main idea. By learning about these new concepts, I have started to think more about why I believe what I do rather than what.

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