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Hinduism and Buddhism: Similarities and Differences

Many religions take similar paths and steps to help their followers or believers reach enlightenment. Other religions require their followers or believers to accept one idea or creed. Some believe in God and others do not. Whether they believe in gods or not, each religion has its followers who believe and follow the practices of their religion. Hinduism and Buddhism are two religions that have a lot of followers. The Hindu religion began about 5000 years ago.

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The word “Hindu” came from the name of the river “Indus” which flows through Northern India. The Persians who migrated to India called the river “Hindu”, the land of the “˜Hindustan’ and the people that lived near this river were called the “Hindus.” The religion came to be known as Hinduism. The basic tenets of Hinduism were brought to India by the Aryans who settled along the banks of the Indus River.

Hinduism is thought to be the oldest religion in human civilization. Hinduism is the dominant religion in India. Over 80% of India’s people practice the Hindu religion. Hinduism may be divided into three periods”. The Hindu followers believe in idol worship, caste system, reincarnation, karma, dharma, and moksha. They also believe in moral ideals, for example, nonviolence, friendship, compassion, truthfulness, self-control, fortitude, purity, and generosity. They believe in one supreme God called Brahman. They are associated with many gods, and they worship all of them. The gods and goddesses that they worship are all mini aspects of the Brahman. They are also in different forms such as spirits, animals, and plants. The gods or deities symbolize divine power.

Buddhism began in about 600 BC. The civilians were getting tired of the caste system. They were getting very materialistic and they were getting too attached to the soil. The cities were building up and it was becoming an agricultural economy. The Indo-Aryan tribes were settling down and becoming farmers, instead of shepherds of flocks like wanted. Siddhartha- a Hindu prince who was sheltered most of his life, decided at the age of 19, to leave his family and go out into the real world from his palace, and see the reality.

He was upset by what he saw which included suffering and death. Siddhartha realized that people were not happy, so he went on a 7-year journey and while he was there, he accomplished total enlightenment, and he became the first “Buddha.” (Ninian, 1993) He founded the religion known as Buddhism, by taking certain aspects of other religions to create it. Buddhism accepts some Hindu concepts such as Moksha (the liberation from rebirth) samsara (the world as an ocean of births and deaths), and karma (the cosmic law of cause and effect).

Buddhism and Hinduism are two very similar religions. They both believe in reincarnation, they both believe in their religion focusing on more than one god, they both believe in the afterlife, and they both believe in peace, more than anything else. Siddhartha took milder parts of Hinduism and different aspects of other religions and made Buddhism. He founded Buddhism because the whole city he lived in was becoming intolerant of the religion they followed. They figured that the religion had too many rules, and regulations and it was unfair to everyone. There is no creed or anything that you must follow in Buddhism. Anyone who practices Buddhism can reach Nirvana (enlightenment), unlike in Hinduism it’s difficult to reach enlightenment.

In Hinduism or any unified system of beliefs and ideas there seemed to be no moral responsibility, while in Buddhism, there was the introduction of the concept of no-self, karma, and moral responsibility. Buddhism seems to be a mild form of Hinduism. In many ways, it is similar to using some of the same practices and teachings for all the people. Buddhism seems more realistic, so when Siddhartha created it, he must have been going for religion with reality. (John, 1995) The people past, as well as the people in the present, follow Buddhism with the idea that it is a looser version of Hinduism.

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Hindus and Buddhists are very kind and respectful to animals. They believe that every animal has a soul. Many Hindus and Buddhists are vegetarians. (Gavin, 1996) Because they believe in reincarnation, any animal could be another form of a relative or close friend. Eating them would bring bad karma, and break the Eightfold Paths. Although there are many similarities, there are also many differences. Hinduism has a castes system or social classes, unlike Buddhists.


Gavin Flood, An Introduction to Hinduism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

John S. Strong, The Experience of Buddhism: Sources and Interpretations (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1995).

Ninian Smart, The Religions of Asia (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993).

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