Buddhism and Hinduism

Buddhism and Hinduism

Buddhism and Hinduism are two closely related religions that are in some ways parallel each other and in other ways are divergent in theory and practice.

The Vedic, Buddhist, and Jain religions share a common regional culture situated near and around north eastern India - modern day eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Nepal. Both the Buddha and Mahavira (the historical founder of Jainism), hailed from this region. Also the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, considered to be among the very earliest Upanishads, [Helmuth von Glasenapp, from the 1950 Proceedings of the "Akademie der Wissenschaften und Literatur." Accessed at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/vonglasenapp/wheel002.html] was compiled in this region, under King Janaka of Mithila.

Ancient India had two philosophical streams of thought, the Shramana religions and the Vedic religion, parallel traditions that have existed side by side for thousands of years. [Y. Masih (2000) In : A Comparative Study of Religions, Motilal Banarsidass Publ : Delhi, ISBN 8120808150 Page 18. "There is no evidence to show that Jainism and Buddhism ever subscribed to vedic sacrifices, vedic deities or caste. They are parallel or native religions of India and have contributed to much to the growth of evenALOT OF PENIS AND VAGINAs."] Both Buddhism and Jainism are continuations of Shramana traditions, while modern Hinduism is a continuation of the Vedic tradition. These co-existing traditions have been mutually influential.

However, Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, for the most part rejected relying on Vedas for salvation, which included the Upanishads. He redefined Indian cosmology, incorporating many existing terms in his doctrine, but redefining them for his purposes in explaining the Middle Path, also teaching that to achieve salvation one did not have to accept the authority of the scriptures or the existence of God. [ Sir Charles Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhism,Vol. I (London 1954)]

Later Indian religious thought was in turn influenced by the new interpretations and novel ideas of the Buddhist tradition. [ [http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/ew27039.htm The Impact of Early Buddhism on Hindu Thought (with Special Reference to the Bhagavadgiitaa) ] ] Buddhism attained prominence on the Indian subcontinent, but was ultimately eclipsed (in the 11th century C.E.) at its point of origin by Hinduism and Islam. After this, Buddhism continued to flourish outside of India. Tibetan Buddhism predominates in the Himalayan region, as does Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, and Mahayana Buddhism in East Asia.

Early history

The Buddha according to Buddhist texts was a descendant of either the Vedic sage Gautama or the Vedic sage Angirasa. [ "The Life of Buddha as Legend and History", by Edward Joseph Thomas ]

Several Hindu texts, like the Puranas, are believed to have been composed after the birth of Gautama Buddha. [Vinay Lal (2007), http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/southasia/Religions/texts/Puranas.html] The Buddha is mentioned in many Puranas. [ [http://srimadbhagavatam.com/1/3/24/en1 Bhag-P 1.3.24] "Then, in the beginning of Kali-yuga, the Lord will appear as Lord Buddha, the son of Anjana, in the province of Gaya, just for the purpose of deluding those who are envious of the faithful theist."] The scholarly consensus is that the Bhagavad Gita is post-Buddhistic. ["As with almost every major religious text in India no firm date can be assigned to the IAST|Gītā. It seems certain, however, that it was written later than the 'classical' Upanishads with the possible exception of the IAST|Maitrī and that it is post-Buddhistic. One would probably not be going far wrong if one dated it at some time between the fifth and the second centuries B.C." R. C. Zaehner, p. 7.] [K.N. Upadhaya, "The Impact of Early Buddhism on Hindu Thought." Philosophy East and West Vol.18(1968) pp.163-173, accessed at http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/ew27039.htm.] The same is said by Buddhist scholars to hold for all but the five early prose Upanishads. [V.A. Gunasekara, http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebdha255.htm] [Helmuth von Glasenapp, from the 1950 Proceedings of the "Akademie der Wissenschaften und Literatur." Accessed at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/vonglasenapp/wheel002.html]

Certain Buddhist teachings appear to have been formulated in response to ideas presented in the early Upanishads - in some cases concurring with them, and in other cases criticizing or re-interpreting them. [Harv|Gombrich|1997|p=31]

In later years, some Hindu kings might have supported Buddhism as many Buddhist kings such as Ashoka supported Hinduism. One "National Geographic" [ January 2008, VOL. 213, #1 ] edition reads, "The flow between faiths was such that for hundreds of years, almost all Buddhist temples, including the ones at Ajanta, were built under the rule and patronage of Hindu kings."

imilarities between Hinduism and Buddhism

Technical language

Almost every technical and religious Sanskrit term in the Buddhist lexicon has a counterpart in Hindu philosophy.Fact|date=August 2008 The Buddha adopted many of the terms already used in philosophical discussions of his era; however, many of these terms were then re-interpreted or redefined in the Buddhist tradition. For example, in the Samanna-phala Sutta, the Buddha is depicted presenting a notion of the 'three knowledges' ("tevijja")- a term also used in the Vedic tradition to describe knowledge of the Vedas- in terms of knowledge of fundamental Buddhist doctrines. [Harv|Gombrich|1997|p=29-30]


"Ahimsa" is a religious concept which advocates non-violence and a respect for all life. "Ahimsa" (अहिंसा unicode|ahiṁsā) is Sanskrit for avoidance of sacrificial "himsa", or injury. The Buddha's dialogue in the Culakammavibhangasutta with the Brahmin Subha on killing is interesting considering the Vedic emphasis on sacrificial "himsa." The focus on "ahimsa," non-harm to all beings, in Buddhist ethics was a definitive move away from the killing inherent in the sacrifices of the Vedic ritual tradition. This move away from sacrificial "himsa" was also being made in other Sramana traditions. The Upanishadic literature, for example, is often critical of Vedic ritual and emphasises the internalization of the meaning and symbolism of sacrifice, rather than its literal enactment. [Dharmacarini Manishini, "Western Buddhist Review." Accessed at http://www.westernbuddhistreview.com/vol4/kamma_in_context.html ] Long life-span was much sought after by the composers of the Vedas. The Buddha's explanation of karma in the Culakammavibhangasutta challenges the Vedic idea that a life of sacrifice accrues benefits and excellence for oneself and one's family. The Buddha expounds his view that intentionally killing living beings leads not to the good, but to something that was problematic for the brahmins of his day, that is, shortness of life. [ibid]


Karma (Sanskrit: unicode|कर्म from the root unicode|kṛ, "to do") is a word meaning "action" or "activity" and, often implies its subsequent results (also called karma-phala, "the fruits of action"). It is commonly understood as a term to denote the entire cycle of cause and effect as described in the philosophies of a number of cosmologies, including those of Buddhism and Hinduism.

The general understanding of karma in Indian religion is that individuals undergo certain experiences throughout their lives as a result of actions which they have chosen. The effects of all deeds actively create past, present and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one's own life, and the pain and joy it brings to others. In religions that incorporate reincarnation, karma extends through one's present life and all past and future lives as well. [Yogananda, Paramahansa, Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 21 ISBN 1-56589-212-7]

Karma is a central part of Buddhist teachings. Buddhist teachings re-interpret certain aspects of the pre-Buddhist conception of karma, removing the idea of a perfect moral equilibrium present in some versions of those teachings. [Harv|Gombrich|1997|p=37] Meanwhile, certain aspects of Buddhist teachings on karma, such as the transfer of merit or karma, seem to have been borrowed directly from earlier Hindu teachings, despite presenting apparent inconsistencies with the Buddhist doctrine of karma. [Harv|Gombrich|1997|p=56-7] clarifyme


Dharma (Sanskrit, Devanagari: धर्म or Pāli Dhamma, Devanagari: धम्म) means Natural Law or Reality, and with respect to its significance for spirituality and religion might be considered the Way of the Higher Truths. Hinduism is called "Sanatana Dharma"Fact|date=June 2007 which translates to "the eternal dharma." Dharma forms the basis for philosophies, beliefs and practices originating in India. The four main ones are Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, all of whom retain the centrality of Dharma in their teachings. In these traditions, beings that live in harmony with Dharma proceed more quickly toward Dharma Yukam, Moksha, Nirvana (personal liberation). Dharma can refer generally to religious duty, and also mean social order, right conduct, or simply virtue.


A mantra (मन्त्र) is a religious syllable or poem, typically from the Sanskrit language. Their use varies according to the school and philosophy associated with the mantra. They are primarily used as spiritual conduits, words or vibrations that instill one-pointed concentration in the devotee. Other purposes have included religious ceremonies to accumulate wealth, avoid danger, or eliminate enemies. Mantras existed in the Vedic religion and were later adopted by Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains, now popular in various modern forms of spiritual practice which are loosely based on practices of these Eastern religions.


Concentrated meditation was an aspect of the practice of the yogis in the centuries preceding the Buddha. They used it to search for knowledge of the Self. The Buddha built upon the yogic/Upanishadic concern with introspection and developed their meditative techniques, but rejected the yogis' doctrines of the Self. [Michael Carrithers, "The Buddha." Taken from "Founders of Faith", published by Oxford University Press, 1986, page 30.] Religious knowledge or 'vision' was indicated as a result of practice both within and outside of the Buddhist fold. According to the Saamaññaphala Sutta this sort of vision arose for the Buddhist adept as a result of the perfection of meditation (dhyana) coupled with the perfection of ethics. Some of the Buddha's meditative techniques were shared with other traditions of his day, but the idea that ethics are causally related to the attainment of religious insight was original. [ Dharmacarini Manishini, "Western Buddhist Review." Accessed at http://www.westernbuddhistreview.com/vol4/kamma_in_context.html ]


In India the concept of reincarnation (along with karma, samsara, and moksha) was developed by non-Aryan people outside of the caste system whose spiritual ideas greatly influenced later Indian religious thought. Buddhism and Jainism are a continuation of the this tradition, and the early Upanishadic movement was influenced by it. [Karel Werner, "The Longhaired Sage" in "The Yogi and the Mystic." Karel Werner, ed., Curzon Press, 1989, page 34. "Rahurkar speaks of them as belonging to two distinct 'cultural strands' ... Wayman also found evidence for two distinct approaches to the spiritual dimension in ancient India and calls them the traditions of 'truth and silence.' He traces them particularly in the older Upanishads, in early Buddhism, and in some later literature."] [Gavin D. Flood (1996), An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge University - Press : UK ISBN 0521438780 - “The origin and doctrine of Karma and Samsara are obscure. These concepts were certainly circulating amongst sramanas, and Jainism and Buddhism developed specific and sophisticated ideas about the process of transmigration. It is very possible that the karmas and reincarnation entered the mainstream brahaminical thought from the sramana or the renouncer traditions.” Page 86.] [Padmanabh S. Jaini 2001 “Collected Paper on Buddhist Studies” Motilal Banarsidass Publ 576 pages ISBN 8120817761: "Yajnavalkya’s reluctance and manner in expounding the doctrine of karma in the assembly of Janaka (a reluctance not shown on any other occasion) can perhaps be explained by the assumption that it was, like that of the transmigration of soul, of non-brahmanical origin. In view of the fact that this doctrine is emblazoned on almost every page of sramana scriptures, it is highly probable that it was derived from them." Page 51.] [Govind Chandra Pande, (1994) Life and Thought of Sankaracarya, Motilal Banarsidass ISBN 8120811046 : Early Upanishad thinkers like Yajnavalkya were acquainted with the sramanic thinking and tried to incorporate these ideals of Karma, Samsara and Moksa into the vedic thought implying a disparagement of the vedic ritualism and recognising the mendicancy as an ideal. Page 135.] [A History of Yoga By Vivian Worthington 1982 Routledge ISBN 071009258X - "The Upanishads were like a breath of fresh air blowing through the stuffy corridors of power of the vedic brahminism. They were noticed by the Brahmin establishment because the yogis did not owe allegiance to any established religion or mode of thought.. So although, the Upanishads came to be noticed by Brahmin establishment, they were very largely saying what may well have been current among other sramanic groups at that time. It can be said that this atheistic doctrine was evidently very acceptable to the authors of Upanishads, who made use of many of its concepts." Page 27.] [A History of Yoga By Vivian Worthington 1982 Routledge ISBN 071009258X: "The idea of re-incarnation, so central to the older sramanic creeds is still new to many people throughout the world. The Aryans of the Vedic age knew nothing of it. When the Brahmins began to accept it, they declared it as a secret doctrine. […] It will be seen from this short account of Jains, that they had fully developed the ideas of karma and reincarnation very early in history. The earliest Upanishads were probably strongly influenced by their teachings. Jainism the religion, Samkhya the philosophy and yoga the way to self discipline and enlightenment dominated the spiritual life of Indian during the Dravidian times. They were to be overshadowed for over thousand years by the lower form of religion that was foisted on the local inhabitants by the invading Aryans, but in the end it was Sramanic disiplines that triumphed. They did so by surviving in their own right and by their ideas being fully adopted by the Brahmins who steadily modified their own vedic religion." Page 35.] Reincarnation and was adopted from this religious culture by Brahmin orthodoxy, and Brahmins first wrote down scriptures containing these ideas in the early Upanishads. [“This confirms that the doctrine of transmigration is non-aryan and was accepted by non-vedics like Ajivikism, Jainism and Buddhism. The Indo-aryans have borrowed the theory of re-birth after coming in contact with the aboriginal inhabitants of India. Certainly Jainism and non-vedics [..] accepted the doctrine of rebirth as supreme postulate or article of faith.” Masih, page 37.]

According to Hinduism, the soul ("atman") is immortal, while the body is subject to birth and death. The idea that the soul reincarnates is intricately linked to karma, another concept first recorded in the Upanishads. Karma (literally: action) is the sum of one's actions, and the force that determines one's next reincarnation. The cycle of death and rebirth, governed by karma, is referred to as samsara.

The Buddha rejected all theories according to which beings have an eternal, immutable self that transmigrated- the 'dweller within the body' or "atman" - he also rejected the idea "there is no self" (See below).

Buddhist scriptures regularly discuss the future and past lives of living beings, and reincarnation is widely accepted among Buddhists. The details of reincarnation or rebirth - the process by which the end of one life gives rise to another - are explained in various scriptures.


The practice of Yoga is intimately connected to the religious beliefs and practices of both Buddhism and Hinduism. [The Yoga Tradition: its history, literature, philosophy and practice By Georg Feuerstein. ISBN 8120819233. pg 111] However there are distinct variations in the usage of yoga terminology in the two religions. In Hinduism, the term "Yoga" commonly refers to the eight limbs of yoga as defined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, written some time after 100 BCE. Whereas in the Vajrayana Buddhism of Tibet, the term "Yoga" is used to refer to any type of spiritual practice; from the various types of tantra (like Kriyayoga or Charyayoga) to "Deity-yoga' or 'guru-yoga'. According to the "Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia" the "austerities, spiritual exercises, and trance states" in Buddhism are a sign of the strong influence of Yoga. [ [http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761552068_2/Yoga.html#s5 "Yoga," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2007 © 1997–2007 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.] Exact Quote : "The strong influence of Yoga can also be seen in Buddhism, which is notable for its austerities, spiritual exercises, and trance states."] A contemporary scholar with a focus on Tibetan Buddhism, Robert Thurman writes that Patanjali was influenced by the success of the Buddhist monastic system to formulate his own matrix for the version of thought he considered orthodox. [Robert Thurman, "The Central Philosophy of Tibet." Princeton University Press, 1984, page 34.]

There is a range of common terminology and common descriptions of the meditative states that are seen as the foundation of meditation practice in both Hindu Yoga and Buddhism. Many scholars have noted that the concepts of dhyana and samadhi - technical terms describing stages of meditative absorbtion - are common to meditative practices in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Most notable in this context is the relationship between the system of four Buddhist "dhyana" states (Pali: "jhana") and the "samprajnata samadhi" states of Classical Yoga. [Samadhi: The Numinous and Cessative in Indo-Tibetan Yoga By Stuart Ray Sarbacker. ISBN 0791465535. pg 77] Also, many (Tibetan) Vajrayana practices work with the chakras, inner energy channels (nadis) and kundalini, called tummo in Tibetan.

Zen Buddhism

Zen is a form of Mahayana Buddhism. The Mahayana school of Buddhism is noted for its proximity with Yoga.Zen Buddhism: A History (India and China) By Heinrich Dumoulin, James W. Heisig, Paul F. Knitter (page 22)] In the west, Zen is often set alongside Yoga, the two schools of meditation display obvious family resemblances. [ Zen Buddhism: A History (India and China) By Heinrich Dumoulin, James W. Heisig, Paul F. Knitter (Page xviii) ] Zen Buddhism traces some of its roots to yogic practices. [Zen Buddhism: A History (India and China) By Heinrich Dumoulin, James W. Heisig, Paul F. Knitter (page 13). Translated by James W. Heisig, Paul F. Knitter. Contributor John McRae. Published 2005 World Wisdom. 387 pages. ISBN 0941532895 [Exact quote: "This phenomenon merits special attention since yogic roots are to be found in the Zen Buddhist school of meditation."] ] Certain essential elements of Yoga are important both for Buddhism in general and for Zen in particular. [Zen Buddhism: A History (India and China) By Heinrich Dumoulin, James W. Heisig, Paul F. Knitter (page 13). Translated by James W. Heisig, Paul F. Knitter. Contributor John McRae. Published 2005 World Wisdom. 387 pages. ISBN 0941532895]

Tibetan Buddhism

Buddhist Yoga was introduced to Tibet from India, in the form of Vajrayana teachings as found in the Nyingma, Kagyupa, Sakyapa and Gelukpa schools of Tibetan Buddhism.


Tibetan Buddhist doctrines unite a seemingly diverse group of practices as as to offer a variety of ways to truth and enlightenment. These practices involve the use of tantra and yoga. Yoga used as a way to enhance concentration.Simple Tibetan Buddhism: A Guide to Tantric Living By C. Alexander Simpkins, Annellen M. Simpkins. Published 2001. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0804831998]

Nagarjuna's Madhyamika philosophy and Yogacara's Mind-Only philosophy are used in Tibetian Buddhism as bases for Yoga practices. Focused meditation clears the mind of unenlightened concepts.

In the 13th and the 14th centuries, the Tibetan developed a fourfold classification system for Tantric texts based on the types of practices each contained, especially their relative emphasis on external ritual or internal yoga. The first two classes, the so-called lower tantras, are called the Kriya and the Chatya tantras; the two classes of higher tantras are the Yoga and the Anuttara Yoga (Highest Yoga). [The Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Mediational Art By John C. Huntington, Dina Bangdel. Published 2003. Serindia Publications, Inc.ISBN 1932476016. pg 25]


The word nirvana (Pali: Nibbana) was first used in its technical sense in Buddhism, and cannot be found in any of the pre-Buddhist Upanishads. The use of the term in the Bhagavad Gita may be a sign of the strong Buddhist influence upon Hindu thought. [K.N. Upadhaya, "The Impact of Early Buddhism on Hindu Thought." Philosophy East and West Vol.18(1968) pp.163-173, accessed at http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/ew27039.htm.]


* Mudra: This is a symbolic hand-gesture expressing an emotion. Depictions of the Buddha are almost always depicted performing a mudra.
* Dharma Chakra: The Dharma Chakra, which appears on the national flag of India and the flag of the Thai royal family, is a Buddhist symbol that is used by members of both religions.
* Rudraraksh: These are beads which devotees, usually monks use for praying.
* Tilak: Many Hindu devotees mark their heads with a tilak, which is interpreted as a third eye. A similar mark is one of the characteristic physical characteristics of the Buddha.
* Swastika: The swastika is a symbol to keep evil away. It can be either clockwise or counter-clockwise and both are seen in Hinduism and Buddhism. The Buddha is sometimes depicted with a swastika on his chest or the palms of his hands. [ [http://img.search.com/0/0f/300px-Buddha_image_-_stone_-_with_disciple.jpgBuddha image] ]

Cosmology and worldview

Both Hinduism and Buddhism have the concept of Naraka and Svarga lokas, the mountain Sumeru, Jambudvipa, entities such as devas, asuras, nāga, preta, yaksha, gandharvas, kinnars, brahma, etc. Cosmological time is measured in kalpas.

Fire ritual

In Japan, the Shingon Fire Ritual is derived from Hindu traditions. [R.K. Payne: The Tantric Ritual of Japan. Feeding the Gods: the Shingon Fire Ritual., and Koenraad Elst: Who is a Hindu. 2001] Similar rituals are common in Tibetan Buddhism.

Differences between the two religions

Despite the similarities there exist differences between the two religions. The major differences are mentioned below.


Gautama Buddha (as portrayed in the Pali scriptures, the agamas) set an important trend in nontheism in Buddhism in the sense of denying the notion of an omnipotent God. cite web | title=The Buddhist Attitude to God| work=Statement made to a Multi-religious Seminar|author=Dr V. A. Gunasekara| url=http://www.buddhistinformation.com/buddhist_attitude_to_god.htm | accessdate=2007-04-27] Nevertheless, in many passages in the Tripitaka gods (devas in Sanskrit) are mentioned and specific examples are given of individuals who were reborn as a god, or gods who were reborn as humans. Buddhist cosmology recognizes various levels and types of gods, but none of these gods is considered the creator of the world or of the human race.

Buddhist canonical views about God and the priests are mentioned below:

13. 'Well then, Vasettha, those ancient sages versed in ancient scriptures, the authors of the verses, the utterers of the verses, whose, ancient form of words so chanted, uttered, or composed, the priests of to-day chant over again or repeat; intoning or reciting exactly as has been intoned or recited-to wit, Atthaka, Vamaka, Vamadeva, Vessamitta, Yamataggi, Angirasa, Bharadvaja, Vasettha, Kassapa, and Bhagu [11] -- did even they speak thus, saying: " We know it, we have seen it", where the creator is whence the creator is, whither the creator is?

From the Buddhist perspective, man has created God out of the psychologically deep-rooted idea of self-protection. Walpola Rahula writes that man depends on this creation "for his own protection, safety, and security, just as a child depends on his parent." He describes this as a product of "ignorance, weakness, fear, and desire," and writes that this "deeply and fanatically held belief" for man's consolation is "false and empty" from the perspective of Buddhism. He writes that man does not wish to hear or understand teachings against this belief, and that the Buddha described his teachings as "against the current" for this reason. [ Walpola Rahula, "What the Buddha Taught," pages 51-52.]

The authority of scriptures

The Buddha is recorded in the Canki Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 95) as saying to a group of Brahmins:

O Vasettha, those priests who know the scriptures are just like a line of blind men tied together where the first sees nothing, the middle man nothing, and the last sees nothing.

In the same discourse, he says:

It is not proper for a wise man who maintains truth to come to the conclusion: This alone is Truth, and everything else is false.

He is also recorded as saying:

To be attached to one thing (to a certain view) and to look down upon other things (views) as inferior - this the wise men call a fetter.

Walpola Rahula writes, "It is always a question of knowing and seeing, and not that of believing. The teaching of the Buddha is qualified as "ehi-passika," inviting you to 'come and see,' but not to come and believe... It is always seeing through knowledge or wisdom, and not believing through faith." [ This whole section is largely verbatim quotes from Rahula's "What the Buddha Taught," pages 9-10.]

Nastika and Pasanda

In Buddhism, non-Buddhist Dharmas classified as heterodox are known as "Pasanda",

They are called pasanda because they lay out a snare (Be: pasam denti; Ce: pasam oddenti); the meaning is that they throw out the snare of views among the minds of beings. But the Buddha's dispensation frees one from the snare, so it is not called pasanda; the pasanda are found only outside the dispensation. [ Discourses of the Ancient Nuns (Bhikkhuni-samyutta) Translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi]

In Hinduism, different philosophies within Indic traditions are classified either as Astika or Nastika, that is, philosophies which either affirm or reject the authorities of the Vedas. According to this tradition, Buddhism is a Nastika school since it rejects the authority of the Vedas. [cite book | author=Broughton, Jeffrey L. | title=The Bodhidharma Anthology: The Earliest Records of Zen | location=Berkeley | publisher=University of California Press | year=1999 | id=ISBN 0-520-21972-4 p. 2.]


Since the Hindu scriptures are essentially silent on the issue of religious conversion, the issue of whether Hindus evangelize is open to interpretations. [http://www.himalayanacademy.com/resources/books/hbh/hbh_ch-5.html "Does Hinduism Accept Newcomers?"] ] Those who view Hinduism as an ethnicity more than as a religion tend to believe that to be a Hindu, one must be born a Hindu. However, those who see Hinduism primarily as a philosophy, a set of beliefs, or a way of life generally believe that one can convert to Hinduism by incorporating Hindu beliefs into one's life and by considering oneself a Hindu. The Supreme Court of India has taken the latter view, holding that the question of whether a person is a Hindu should be determined by the person's belief system, not by their ethnic or racial heritage. ["Brahmachari Siddheshwar Shai v. State of West Bengal" (Supreme Court of India), "available at" [http://www.hinduismtoday.com/in-depth_issues/RKMission.html] ]

Buddhism spread throughout Asia via evangelism and conversionFact|date=December 2007. Buddhist scriptures depict such conversions in the form of lay followers declaring their support for the Buddha and his teachings, or via ordination as a Buddhist monk. Buddhist identity has been broadly defined as one who "takes refuge" in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, echoing a formula seen in Buddhist texts. In some communities, formal conversion rituals are observed. No specific ethnicity has typically been associated with Buddhism, and as it spread beyond its origin in India immigrant monastics were replaced with newly ordained members of the local ethnic or tribal group.Fact|date=October 2007


In Hinduism, the atman is considered the essential 'self' of a person.

The pre-Buddhist Upanishads link the Self to the feeling "I am." [Peter Harvey, "The Selfless Mind." Curzon Press, 1995, page 34.] The Chandogya Upanishad for example does, and it sees Self as underlying the whole world, being "below," "above," and in the four directions. In contrast, the Buddhist Arahant says: "Above, below, everywhere set free, not considering 'this I am.'" [Peter Harvey, "The Selfless Mind." Curzon Press, 1995, page 34.]

While the pre-Buddhist Upanishads link the Self to the attitude "I am," others like the post-Buddhist Maitri Upanishad hold that only the defiled individual self, rather than the universal self, thinks "this is I" or "this is mine". According to Peter Harvey,

This is very reminiscent of Buddhism, and may well have been influenced by it to divorce the universal Self from such egocentric associations. [Peter Harvey, "The Selfless Mind." Curzon Press, 1995, page 34.]
The Upanishadic "Self" shares certain characteristics with nibbana; both are permanent, beyond suffering, and unconditioned. However, the Buddha shunned any attempt to see the spiritual goal in terms of "Self" because in his framework, the ego-sense is the very thing which keeps a person in the round of uncontrollable rebirth, preventing him or her from attaining nibbana. [Peter Harvey, "The Selfless Mind." Curzon Press, 1995, page 34.] Harvey continues:
Both in the Upanishads and in common usage, self/Self is linked to the sense of "I am" ... If the later Upanishads came to see ultimate reality as beyond the sense of "I am", Buddhism would then say: why call it 'Self', then? [Peter Harvey, "The Selfless Mind." Curzon Press, 1995, page 34.]

Buddhist mysticism is also of a different sort from that found in systems revolving around the concept of a "God" or "Self":

If one would characterize the forms of mysticism found in the Pali discourses, it is none of the nature-, God-, or soul-mysticism of F.C. Happold. Though nearest to the latter, it goes beyond any ideas of 'soul' in the sense of immortal 'self' and is better styled 'consciousness-mysticism.' [Peter Harvey, "Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha." In Karel Werner, ed., "The Yogi and the Mystic." Curzon Press 1989, page 100.]

Possibly the main philosophical difference between Hinduism and Buddhism is that the concept of atman was rejected by the Buddha. Terms like anatman (not-self) and shunyata (voidness) are at the core of all Buddhist traditions. The permanent transcendence of the belief in the separate existence of the self is integral to the enlightenment of an Arhat.

The Buddha criticized conceiving theories even of a unitary soul or identity immanent in all things as unskillful. [Thanissaro Bhikkhu, "The Not-Self Strategy." [http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/notself.html] . For the sutta see [http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.15.0.than.html] .] In fact, according to the Buddha's statement in Khandha Samyutta 47, all thoughts about self are necessarily, whether the thinker is aware of it or not, thoughts about the five aggregates or one of them. [Nanavira Thera, "Nibbana and Anatta." [http://www.nanavira.org/] . Early Writings -> Nibbana and Anatta -> Nibbana, Atta, and Anatta.]

At the time of the Buddha some philosophers and meditators posited a "root": an abstract principle out of which all things emanated and which was immanent in all things. When asked about this, instead of following this pattern of thinking, the Buddha attacks it at its very root: the notion of a principle in the abstract, superimposed on experience. In contrast, a person in training should look for a different kind of "root" — the root of dukkha experienced in the present. According to one Buddhist scholar, theories of this sort have most often originated among meditators who label a particular meditative experience as the ultimate goal, and identify with it in a subtle way. [Thanissaro Bhikkhu's commentary to the Mula Pariyaya Sutta, [http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.001.than.html] .]

B. Alan Wallace writes that the transcendental notion of the self is an "idol" that cannot "withstand empirical investigation or rational analysis." [B. Alan Wallace, "Contemplative Science." Columbia University Press, 2007, page 152.]

Rahula writes,

Two ideas are psychologically deep-rooted in man: self-protection and self-preservation. For self-protection man has created God, on whom he depends for his own protection, safety, and security, just as a child depends on its parent. For self-preservation man has conceived the idea of an immortal Soul or Atman, which will live eternally. In his ignorance, fear, weakness, and desire, man needs these two things to console himself. Hence he clings to them deeply and fanatically. The Buddha's teaching does not support this ignorance, fear, weakness, and desire, but aims at making man enlightened by removing them and destroying them, striking at their very root. According to Buddhism, our ideas of God and Soul are false and empty. Though highly developed as theories, they are all the same extremely subtle mental projections, garbed in an intricate metaphysical and philosophical phraseology. These ideas are so deep-rooted in man, and so near and dear to him, that he does not wish to hear, nor does he want to understand, any teaching against them. The Buddha knew this quite well. In fact, he said that his teaching was 'against the current,' against man's selfish desires. [Rahula, pages 51-52.]


Together with above concept of emptiness (shunyata in Sanskrit), in the Buddhist Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions, the attitude of bodhicitta (Sanskrit) are seen as the two major aspects in order to achieve full enlightenment of a Buddha. Bodhicitta is defined as the wish to lead all sentient beings to enlightenment, and in order to do this, one aims to become a Buddha oneself. 'Bodhi' means enlightenment and 'citta' means mind, as combination it can be translated as a mind aimed at enlightenment. This concept is unknown in Hinduism.


The Buddha repudiated the caste distinctions of the Brahmanical religion, [K.N. Upadhaya, "The Impact of Early Buddhism on Hindu Thought." Philosophy East and West Vol.18(1968) pp.163-173, accessed at http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/ew27039.htm.] and was as a result described as a corrupter and opposed to true dharma in some of the Puranas. [cf. Shiva Purana 2.5.1-6, Skanda Purana Discussed in Wendy O'Flaherty, "Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology." University of California Press, 1976, pages 186 and 193.]

Buddhism implicitly denied the validity of caste distinctions by offering ordination to all regardless of caste. [Mrozik, Susanne. "Upali" in McMillian Encyclopedia of Buddhism, pg. 870. "All account emphasize that caste has no bearing on a person's status in the monastic community."] [Andrew Skilton, "A Concise History of Buddhism." Windhorse Publications, 1997, page 144.] The Buddhist writer Ashvaghosa directly opposed the caste system of Hinduism by drawing upon anomalous episodes in Hindu scriptures. [Andrew Skilton, "A Concise History of Buddhism." Windhorse Publications, 1997, page 144.] While the caste system constitutes an assumed background to the stories told in Buddhist scriptures, the sutras do not attempt to justify or explain the system, and the caste system was not generally propagated along with the Buddhist teachings. [Cohen, Richard S. "India" in McMillian Encyclopedia of Buddhism, pg. 358. "Though Buddhist texts take the existence of "caste" for granted, they attempt neither to justify the social system, nor to disseminate it."]

The notion of ritual purity also provided a conceptual foundation for the caste system, by identifying occupations and duties associated with impure or taboo objects as being themselves impure. Regulations imposing such a system of purity and taboos are absent from the Buddhist monastic code, and not generally regarded as being part of Buddhist teachings. [Harv|Robinson|Johnson|Thanissaro|2005|p=51]

Notable views

Some scholars are of the opinion that Buddhism should be regarded as "reformed Hinduism", [e.g., John Woodroffe (Arthur Avalon): Shakti and Shakta. Koenraad Elst: Who is a Hindu (2001). Christian Lindtner: "From Brahmanism to Buddhism", Asian Philosophy, 1999] and many Hindus believe that Buddhism is a sect of Hinduism. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan has claimed that the Buddha did not look upon himself as an innovator, but only a restorer of the way of the Upanishads, [Radhakrishnan: Indian Philosophy, vol.2, p.469.] despite the fact that the Buddha did not accept the Upanishads, viewing them as comprising a pretentious tradition, foreign to his paradigm. [Carrithers, page 38.]

In many Puranas, the Buddha is described as an incarnation of Vishnu who incarnated in order to delude either demons or mankind away from the Vedic dharma. The Bhavishya Purana posits:

At this time, reminded of the Kali Age, the god Vishnu became born as Gautama, the Shakyamuni, and taught the Buddhist dharma for ten years. Then Shuddodana ruled for twenty years, and Shakyasimha for twenty. At the first stage of the Kali Age, the path of the Vedas was destroyed and all men became Buddhists. Those who sought refuge with Vishnu were deluded. [Wendy O'Flaherty, "Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology." University of California Press, 1976, page 203.]

It is believed by some scholars that the Buddha avatar, which occurs in different versions in various Puranas, may represent an attempt by Brahmin orthodoxy to slander the Buddhists by identifying them with the demons. [O'Flaherty, page 200.] Helmuth von Glasenapp attributed these developments to a Hindu desire to absorb Buddhism in a peaceful manner, both to win Buddhists to Vishnuism and also to account for the fact that such a significant heresy could exist in India. [von Glasenapp 1962 page 113, cited in O'Flaherty, page 206.]

The Hindu philosopher, Vivekananda, wrote in glowing terms about Buddha, and visited Bodh Gaya several times. [Sister Nivedita: The Master as I Saw Him. Koenraad Elst 2001: Who is a Hindu]

Ananda Coomaraswamy, a proponent of the Perennial Philosophy, claimed:

Hinduism is a religion both of Eternity and Time, while Gautama looks upon Eternity alone. it is not really fair to Gautama or to the Brahmans to contrast their Dharma; for they do not seek to cover the same ground. We must compare the Buddhist ethical ideal with the identical standard of Brahmanhood expected of the Brahman born; we must contrast the Buddhist monastic system with the Brahmanical orders; the doctrine of Anatta with the doctrine of Atman, and here we shall find identity. Buddhism stands for a restricted ideal, which contrasts with Brahmanism as a part contrasts with the whole. [COOMARASWAMY, Ananda Kentish: Buddha and the Gospel of Buddhism. Citadel Press, Secaucus NJ, 1988 (1916). ]

He also maintained:

The more superficially one studies Buddhism, the more it seems to differ from Brahmanism in which it originated; the more profound our study, the more difficult it becomes to distinguish Buddhism from Brahmanism, or to say in what respects, if any, Buddhism is really unorthodox. [ [http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN8170172772&id=tH7KRNqIin4C&pg=PA33&lpg=PA33&dq=Buddhism+and+Hinduism&sig=TxE6c3_NXwI5MxTOFyLUWsCz3DQ] Ellora Concept and Style by Carmel Berkson ]
Some Hindu scholars have also accepted Buddhism as a fulfillment of Sanatana Dharma philosophy: [Speech delivered in Colombo in 1927, quoted by Gurusevak Upadhyaya: Buddhism and Hinduism, p. iii., and Koenraad Elst: Who is a Hindu (2001) ]
The relation between Hinduism (by Hinduism, I mean the religion of the Vedas) and what is called Buddhism at the present day, is nearly the same as between Judaism and Christianity. Jesus Christ was a Jew, and Shakya Muni was a Hindu. The Jews rejected Jesus Christ, nay, crucified him, and the Hindus have accepted Shakya Muni as God and worship him. But the real difference that we Hindus want to show between modern Buddhism and what we should understand as the teachings of Lord Buddha, lies principally in this: Shakya Muni came to preach nothing new. He also, like Jesus, came to fulfill and not to destroy. [ [http://www.hindunet.org/vivekananda/chicago/buddhism_hinduism] Buddhism: A fulfilment of Hinduism]

Nineteenth century Indologist Richard Garbe believed that Samkhya was not Vedic in origin. [Next ref, page 130.] He also believed that Buddhism originated from Samkhya, [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=S6sLAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA127&lpg=PA127&dq=samkhya+and+buddhism&source=web&ots=2J8PepgCP3&sig=2GP2JxWcmeLIzwDX0WEANfv_0Vo] The Monist, Hegeler Institute ] though Buddhism provided a "great change for the better." He also wrote that Samkhya said nothing of morality, and that Buddhism supplied this "in the most admirable way." He also alleged that Samkhya played a part in "the unfavorable development of Indian national character." [Above ref, same page.] Modern scholarship, however, places Kapila, the traditional founder of Samkhya, in the period following the establishment of the Buddhist monastic system. [Robert Thurman, [http://books.google.com/books?id=eZT1JLe_RwoC&pg=PA35&lpg=PA35&dq=joshi+lm+studies+in+buddhistic+culture&source=web&ots=tB444mLoSu&sig=F2w0AwDMM0t6r-I1esdLsA6HkWM#PPA34,M1] ]

Alan Watts wrote the following:

Being a Hindu really involves living in India. Because of the differences of climate, or arts, crafts, and technology, you cannot be a Hindu in the full sense in Japan or in the United States. Buddhism is Hinduism stripped for export. The Buddha was a reformer in the highest sense: someone who wants to go to the original form, or to re-form it for the needs of a certain time... Buddha is the man who woke up, who discovered who he really was. The crucial issue wherein Buddhism differs from Hinduism is that it doesn't say who you are; it has no idea, no concept. I emphasize the words "idea" and "concept." It has no idea and no concept of God because Buddhism is not interested in concepts, it is interested in direct experience only. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=p4iFh9QKv-AC&pg=PT9&lpg=PT9&dq=%22hinduism+stripped+for+export%22&source=web&ots=0NDEjLc-sG&sig=Edpy56Miyg-IBLmbgFmhIQ67zNw Alan Watts edited Transcripts] ]

Buddhist scholar Rahula Walpole has written that the Buddha fundamentally denied all speculative views, such as the doctrinal Upanishadic belief in Atman. [Walpola Rahula, "What the Buddha Taught," page 51.]

B. R. Ambedkar, the founder of the Dalit Buddhist movement, believed that Buddhism offered an opportunity for low-caste and untouchable Hindus to achieve greater respect and dignity because of its non-caste doctrines. Among the 22 vows he prescribed to his followers is an injunction against having faith in Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. [Ambedkarite website, http://www.jaibheem.com/22%20Vows.htm] He also regarded the belief that the Buddha was an incarnation of Vishnu as "false propaganda". [Ambedkarite website, http://www.jaibheem.com/22%20Vows.htm]

ee also

*Buddha as an Avatar of Vishnu
*Comparative religion
*Vegetarianism in Buddhism
*Brahma (Buddhism)
*Eastern art history



* Citation
title=How Buddhism Began: The Conditioned Genesis of the Early Teachings
place=New Delhi
publisher=Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
author-link=Richard Gombrich

first3=Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff)
place=Belmont, California
publisher=Wadsworth/Thomson Learning
title=Buddhist Religions: A Historical Introduction

*cite book |series= |last=Zaehner |first=R. C. |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=The Bhagavad Gītā |year=1969 |publisher=Oxford University Press |location= |isbn=0-19-501666-1

Further reading

*N.N Bhattacharyya: Buddhism in the History of Indian Ideas.
*Chitrarekha V. Kher: Buddhism as Presented by the Brahmanical Systems.
*Coomaraswamy, Ananda Kentish: Buddha and the Gospel of Buddhism. Citadel Press, Secaucus NJ, 1988 (1916). -: (with Sister Nivedita): Hindus and Buddhists. Mystic Press, London 1987 (ca. 1911).
*Elst, Koenraad: Who is a Hindu, 2001. Delhi: Voice of India. ISBN-13: 978-8185990743
*GOEL, Sita Ram: Samyak Sambuddha. Bhârata-Bhâratî, Delhi 1997 (1957).
*Ram Swarup: Buddhism vis-à-vis Hinduism. Voice of India, Delhi 1983 (1958).
*V. Subramaniam, ed.: Buddhist-Hindu Interactions.
*Gurusevak Upadhyaya: Buddhism and Hinduism.

External links

* [http://www.iop.or.jp/0414/anand.pdf Gandhi and Lord Buddha]
* [http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-AN/26715.htm Enlightenment in Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta: Are Nirvana and Moksha the Same?] by David Loy, National Univ. of Singapore.
* [http://www.hinduweb.org/home/dharma_and_philosophy/vvh/vvhself.html The Ontology of Self in Three Systems of Indian Philosophy] (hinduweb.org)
* [http://www.byomakusuma.org/EnlightenmentBuddhismVis%C3%A0VisHinduism/tabid/72/Default.aspx Enlightenment: Buddhism Vis-à-Vis Hinduism] by Acharya Mahayogi Sridhar Rana
* [http://www.veoh.com/videos/v7071978efhj2aF6 Kanheri Caves Decoded is a short documentary about the history of Buddhism in India]

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