Hinduism and Buddhism are both religions that originated on the Indian subcontinent. For centuries they have grown side by side, like a brother and a sister, sharing a history. But, as with all siblings, there has historically been some rivalry between them.
One of the interesting things to note about these two religions is that Buddha was born, and raised as a Hindu. Hinduism is a much older religion. It dates back to 2,000 B.C.. Siddhartha Gautama, born to a princely life as a member of a Hindu family, reached enlightenment and began teaching Buddhism around 500 B.C.
Even though the Hindu religion teaches religious tolerance, in the early days there were instances where Hindus persecuted the followers of Buddha. One Hindu leader known as Sasank went so far as to vandalize Buddhist monuments and to burn the tree under which Buddha claimed to have attained enlightenment.
In spite of the difference that existed between Hindus and those who followed Buddha, the two religions have also had great influence on one another. For example: the Buddhist teaching of compassion and respect for all sentient life was drawn from the culture of India. In return Hindus took from Buddhism the act of meditation and breathing.
These two religions share similarities other than the continent on which they originated. For example, both the Hindu and the Buddhist religions emphasize the idea that life is an illusion. Both religions also espouse the role of karma in binding people to the earth in a cycle of births and deaths.
Though these religions share some tenets, they have differences as well. For example, Buddha taught his followers that life is equal to suffering. Buddhism places an emphasis on suffering and urges followers to find their way down the pathway to the place where suffering ends. On the other hand, Hindu teaching recognize suffering as part of the human condition, but emphasizes the state of Bliss as a reward that is worth working toward. These ideas may seem similar, and they are. The difference is on the emphasis. Buddhism tends to emphasize suffering while Hinduism tends to emphasize bliss.
Both Buddhism and Hinduism teach the principle of compassion and non-violence to all sentient forms of life. Followers of both religions have been known to carry insects outside and release them rather than to destroy them.
Both religions practice meditation, but they have different philosophies about meditation. Buddha taught that meditation was the primary road to enlightenment. However, in the Hindu culture, meditation is just one road out of many that will lead to enlightenment. Other paths include the path of knowledge, the path of actions, and the path of prayer and devotion. In Hinduism following any of these roads will lead to enlightenment.
Buddhism and Hinduism both teach the virtue of following the middle path. Neither a life of excess or a life of austerity are desirable. Instead, people should strive to walk down the middle path which is a pathway of moderation. This pathway will bring the most peace and balance for the mind.
One of the biggest differences between the two sister religions is adaptability. The Hindu religion is tied to the culture, the language, the people and the land of India. Because the package includes so many aspects, it is nearly impossible to export this religion to other parts of the world. On the other hand, Buddhism began in India, but quickly spread throughout the rest of Asia and is even now spreading into the west. Some have said that Buddhism is a stripped down version of Hinduism that is packaged for export. Others find that idea offensive. No matter what emotion that statement draws the fact remains that the Hindu religion has been contained predominantly to the subcontinent of India while Buddhism has spread around the world.
Other differences include the fact that in the Hindu religion there is not a prophetic leader, but of course Siddhartha Gautama or Buddha is the prophetic founder of the Buddhist religion. The Hindu religion has several sacred texts that act as guides. The principle text is called the Vedas, though they also revere the Upanishads and the Bhagwad Gita. Buddhists do not follow these texts, but instead refer to the oral teachings of Buddha. Also, those who follow the Hindu faith tend to worship individually, whereas the followers of Buddha tend to group together in monasteries, therefore Buddhism is more of a group worship.
This comparison between the Hindu and Buddhist religions is not comprehensive, but it does provide some insight into the similarities and the differences between the two religions. Just like human siblings, even though Hinduism and Buddhism sprang from a shared womb, the land of Mother India, each one has it’s own characteristics and is clearly a unique individual.