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Hinduism and Buddhism: History and Modern Appeal

Introduction As two of the world’s oldest and most established religions, Hinduism and Buddhism have their similarities, as well as differences. Both religions are practiced in Southeast Asia, starting in India and have influenced each other. Hinduism dates back to 5,000 years ago, while Buddhism was created three centuries ago. I will explore what the two religions share and what separates the two from one another covering the origins, number of followers, the texts used, and the belief system followed. Origin of Hinduism Hinduism is one of the oldest religions still practiced in modern times.

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Hinduism originated in India, by several civilizations. The civilizations of the Indus Valley and Harappan present the first elements of early Hinduism. Hinduism is also known by the name, Sanatana Dharma, which means the eternal tradition or religion (Knott, 2000, p. 6). Hinduism dates back to as early as 1500 BC. Hinduism does not have a known founder. Hinduism has an estimated 900+ million followers. Hinduism is not limited to the India, but has migrated and emigrated throughout the world. Hinduism’s Sacred Texts Hinduism has been kept alive through it’s sacred writings.

These sacred writings are: Shruti and Smriti. Shruti means the truths have been divinely revealed. (Knott, 2000). Shruti explains how Hindu saints or sages lived in the woods and were able to obtain consciousness with the universe. The sages remained anonymous, as they realized that these truths pre-existed and were not their own, but from the Almighty God. The Shruti is compiled of two parts: the Upanishads and the Vedas. The Vedas consists of four parts: Royal Knowledge, Knowledge of Sacrificial Rituals, Knowledge of Chants, and Knowledge of Incarnations.

Known to be most important are the Bhagavad-Gita and the Sutras. Oral and written tradition through stories, poems and writings has kept Hinduism alive through a wide span of time. Modern Appeal Of Hinduism There are several reasons why Hinduism has modern appeal, that are linked with the basic beliefs found in the religion. Hinduism does not regard a Heaven or Hell. There is not an ultimate destination. It is believed that how an individual treats others determines one’s current status and future status.

Even though there is a “Supreme Being”, Hindus do not subscribe to the predestination at the hand of the “Supreme Being”. Hindus believe that once one’s current life ends, then one’s soul transcends, which is known as transmigration. The soul passes into is born into either an animal or human form. This endless cycle of births and rebirths is called reincarnation. (Balasubramaniam, Unknown) The enjoyment of one life to the next is based on how an individual leads there life. If one’s life was full of generosity and little sin, then each life will be one of goodness and only get better.

On the other hand, if one’s life is full of sin and maltreatment of others, lacking discipline, then this individual will be held accountable in this life and the lives to follow, with a life of sorrow. This concept is known as “karma”. The concept of “karma” ensures that each individual is held accountable for one’s own actions and provides for punishment for wrongdoings that will continue through reincarnations. Each individual decides one’s future based on the life led. The past determines what the future will bring.

The concepts of “karma” and “reincarnation” are part of the modern appeal, as one is in control of the future, whereas, most religions carry the premise of God, dictating if one will be poor, rich, sick or healthy. Hinduism follows a non-violent life style. This lends to even the dietary practice of being vegetarian. There is no harm or killing involved through consumption of vegetables, unlike the slaughter of animals for consumption. Hindus see God in every form of life. This is another aspect of modern appeal to Hinduism (Balasubramaniam, Unknown)

Hinduism does not place the “Supreme Being”, into one form. The “Supreme Being” is found in an infinite set of forms, personalities and manifestations. Hindus worship everything around them. Hinduism is monotheistic, yet is thought to be polytheistic for the preceding reasons. The premise surrounding this belief is that the “Supreme Being” found in so many forms. Not placing limited parameters on the “Supreme Being”, as other religions are known to, is yet another modern appeal to Hinduism. Origins Of Buddhism Buddhism is one of the oldest religions.

Buddhism dates back over 3 centuries. Buddhism was founded by an Indian prince, named Siddharta Gautama around 500 BCE. The prince was born into the high echelon of the caste system, and was Hindu. Since the prince was Hindu, it is told that before being born into this world, he saw the sufferings of people and was moved by this turmoil so much, that he vowed to manifest himself in the sentient world and relieve people from their sufferings. Reincarnation presents itself in the early beginnings of Buddhism. The transcending of the soul is present in Buddhism.

Buddha and followers strive to transcend into “Nirvana”. Nirvana happens after one becomes enlightened and attains release from the sufferings. Sanskrit words and meanings are used in Buddhism as in Hinduism. Siddharta lived a lavish life as royalty, until one day while on a trip; he saw signs of suffering for the first time. He witnessed an old man, a sick man, a poor man, and a corpse. This event was the catalyst to Siddharta renouncing his royalty and family, to seek enlightenment through asceticism. Siddharta partook in an extreme fasting.

He ate a single grain of rice for each of the first two years, drank a single drop of water for each of the second two years, and took nothing at all during the last two. The asceticism did not produce enlightenment, as Siddharta had assumed. Siddharta sat under a tree and vowed that he would sit there until he had gained enlightenment. After days, under the tree, he arose as the Buddha, “The Enlightened One” (Religionfacts, 2007). Buddhism was born in India, yet China, Japan and Southeast Asia have followers. Today, there are an estimated 300+ million Buddhism followers (Adherents, 2007).

Buddhism’s Sacred Texts Buddhism is keep alive through it’s sacred writings. Buddhism uses the following texts: Tripitaka, Mahayana Sutras. The Tripitaka is a collection of Buddha’s teachings and was passed down orally. The oral teachings were later put into writings after the death of Buddha. To ensure the validity of the teachings, over 500 Buddha disciples were summoned. The Tripitaka is means “three baskets,” this references the manner in which it was written on leaves and woven, then stored in baskets. It also references three important principles, discipline, discourse, and the higher knowledge.

The Mahayana Sutras reference the concepts of a particular sect of Buddhism, called Mahayana and is more widely used by this group. Buddha’s vow to help people reach nirvana is covered, the importance of realizing one’s Buddha-like nature, plus the five elements of human nature. Modern Appeal Of Buddhism There are several reasons why Buddhism has modern appeal, that are linked with the basic beliefs found in the religion. Meditation is central in Buddhism. It serves several purposes. There are different forms of meditation. There are two main types: insight meditation, tranquility meditation.

Meditation is a mental concentration that will lead one toward spiritual freedom and enlightenment. This provides modern appeal, as individuals look from within to find answers and peace. Going to a church is not needed in order to follow Buddhism, but within oneself, which in the times we live in, is modern appeal. Buddhism, like Hinduism follows a life of nonviolence. This is a reason for the modern appeal and is a shared characteristic of the two religions. Anger is frowned upon. It is said that anger clouds the mind. Anger is sad to be a destroyer for oneself and others around.

With anger, one cannot be happy or wealthy or even sleep well at night (Bhikkhu, 2009). Conclusion Overall, Hinduism and Buddhism are ancient religions, yet both continue to be relevant to the population at large in today’s society. The two religions have similarities, but still have distinct concepts that separate the religions. The concept of nonviolence is prevalent in both religions. In Hinduism, hurting another is wrong but if the war will cause undo suffering to others, then violent acts are justifiable. “There is no greater good for a warrior than to fight in a righteous war” (Bhagavad-Gita, Gita, 2:31).

The concept of reincarnation and suffering is common in both religions. “The cycle of rebirths, samsara, is the very condition of all life. No existence escapes it, unless it gets to nirvana” (Carriere, 1999). Hinduism can be considered the “Mother” of Buddhism, due to the commonalities, even though the belief in GOD is not present in Buddhism. The commonalities were explored as well as the concepts that separate the two from one another, while covering the origins, number of followers, the texts used, and the belief system followed.

The modern appeal of Hinduism is based on the concepts aforementioned; nonviolence, no regard for existence of a Heaven or Hell, and that how an individual treats others determines one’s current status and future status. The modern appeal of Buddhism is based on the concepts aforementioned; nonviolence, focus on answers and inner peace through meditation, and not a standardized church service. Bibliography Knott, Kim (2000), Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. P. 5-6 (June 15, 2000) Sunil Balasubramaniam “Hinduism the World’s Oldest Religion. Accessed 24 August 2009 last modified: unknown Anonymous. “Buddhism. ” ReligionFacts. 4 December 2007. Accessed 14 August 2009 Last modified: unknown Adherents. com “Major religions of the World ranked by number of Adherents. “ Adherents. Accessed 14 August 2009 Last modified 9 August 2007. Thanissaro Bhikkhu “Non-violence: A Study Guide” Access to Insight, June 7, 2009, Accessed 24 August 2009 Last modified: unknown (Bhagavad-Gita, Gita, 2:31) Gyatso, T Carriere, J. C (1999) New Leaf Pub. The Power of Buddhism, p. 189

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