What Makes Buddhism & Hinduism Distinct From Other Religions?

by Tiffany Andras Google
Hinduism and Buddhism form the majority of religious affiliation in India.

Hinduism and Buddhism form the majority of religious affiliation in India.

Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

As two of the oldest sustained world religions that both developed in and spread from India, Hinduism and Buddhism have many similarities in basic beliefs despite their large differences. Though Hinduism, like other major religions, ascribes to a belief in God, Buddhism does not -- one of the biggest points of divergence between the two. However, because of their parallels in origination, there are tenets that form the basis of both religions that make them discrete from most others, with the exception in large part to Jainism and Sikhism which have their origins in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy themselves.

View of The Self

Unlike the Abrahamic monotheistic world religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism both assert that the traditional view of the self is nonexistent. Instead, what people view as themselves is actually an image created by the ego. In truth, the soul is seen as an integral part of the whole of the universe. In the Hindu system this manifests as a belief in the natural state of the soul being one with God; however in Buddhism it speaks to the belief in the interconnectedness of all beings.

Karma

A belief in karma, defined as the cosmic reaction to every action you make, forms the basis of Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions. Both religions believe in the process of reincarnation, in which your karma dictates not only what your present life brings you but also into what caste you shall be reborn. It is the combination of karma and ego, teach both religions, that keep people trapped in a state of suffering and reincarnation termed samsara, freedom from which is the ultimate goal of both -- enlightenment.

Enlightenment

Though it has many names (liberation, nirvana or moksha), enlightenment lies at the heart of both Hinduism and Buddhism. This state of being, though subtly different between these early Indian religions, is believed to be attainable through dissolution of the ego and therefore desires. An enlightened mind is said to be each person's natural state of being; however through development of the ego and accumulated negative karma, people become trapped in a wrong view of themselves and the world that leads to suffering, which is why reaching an enlightened state is the goal for practitioners of both traditions.

Various Paths to Liberation

While most religious traditions teach that salvation through God is the only path to freedom after death, both Hindu and Buddhist teachings tell of multiple ways to attain liberation. In Hinduism this comes in the form of four distinct purposes to your life; karma (fulfillment of desire), dharma (fulfilling your purpose), artha (prosperity) and moksha (attaining enlightenment). In Buddhism, however, this is largely explained by the three vehicles; theraveda (enlightenment to break the cycle of reincarnation), mahayana (enlightenment for the benefit of all beings) and tantra (the fastest route to enlightenment).

About the Author

Tiffany Andras received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Georgia Tech in Biology and Biochemistry. Her work was first published in the "Journal of Chemical Ecology" as both a full-length article and the journal's cover. She has been writing professionally since 2012, with articles spanning topics from French culture to nutrition and brain disorders.

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images