Despite being rooted in the fundamental underlying principle of reincarnation, the Eastern religions still exhibit significant peculiarities. The differences occur due to their conceptualization of and beliefs about God, their worshipping practices, means of salvation, the goal of religion, and confession of sins among others. This paper interrogates the similarities and differences between two Eastern religions, Buddhism and Hinduism. It also gives a considered opinion on which of them most adequately reflects the reality as I see it. Analysis indicates that Hinduism better reflects my views as it, unlike Buddhism, establishes the presence of a superior being, a God; appreciates salvation and its role and, most importantly, provides means to confess for unintentional sins alongside karmic mechanisms for intentional sins.
Buddhism and Hinduism share numerous similarities. First, and this is an underpinning characteristic, is that they both espouse reincarnation (Chaurasia, 2002). In both religions, the soul is conceptualized as an immortal part of deity. In Buddhism, when a person dies then he or she reincarnates into another being depending on the way they lived their life. There are 31 realms one can reincarnate into if the person does not attain Nirvana; 26 of the realms are happiness-oriented while the rest prescribe suffering (Gosling, 2013). The same concept applies to Hinduism. In this religion, the person reincarnates into another human being until the point where enlightenment is achieved (Burley, 2013). It is only after the Enlightenment that the cycle of death and rebirth gets broken.
Another similarity subsists in their goals of life. In both religions, the goal is to be emancipated from ignorance and sufferings of the world (Gosling, 2013). The ultimate aim is to transcend all the challenges of the world and be released to merge with the Divine either through Nirvana or enlightenment. Furthermore, Hinduism and Buddhism originated from India (Chaurasia, 2002). In both religions, tere is a belief in polytheism. The Buddhists, however, have a variety of choice as they may subscribe to atheism or even monotheism (Yandell & Netland, 2009). Another similarity exists in their use of statues. In both religions, the statues act as symbolic reminders of the gods, the faithful prays to (Gosling, 2013). Additionally, in both religions, the power distance between the male and female is almost nonexistent. Women, too, can become nuns and priests and serve in temples and other places of worship.
Despite the numerous similarities, Buddhism and Hinduism also exhibit several fundamental differences. The first major distinction is in their belief in God. Hinduism, on the one hand, prescribes that there is one creator, god Atman, who is represented by other gods (Burley, 2013). Buddhists, on the other hand, do not believe that there is a superior being, the Creator God. In fact, the Buddha taught that nothing is permanent; with the Theravada Buddhist fully reject the concept of an almighty God (Yandell & Netland, 2009). The second difference subsists in the means of salvation. While Buddhists do not believe in this concept, the Hindus believe that through the Path of Knowledge, Path of Devotion and Path of Good Deed one can attain salvation (Chaurasia, 2002). For the Buddhists, the purpose is simply to achieve Nirvana, which can be attained through defeating the worldly cravings, desires, and attachments. As such, the two religions also differ in the role of God in salvation. Since the Buddhists believe there is no creator God, he plays no role. To the Hindus, God selects those to get saved (Gosling, 2013). However, salvation can also be achieved through good deeds and living a righteous, holy life as provided in the Upanishads and Dharma, the scriptures, and eternal law.
The two religions also exhibit differences in the confession of sins. The Buddhism provides that one does not have to confess to the bad deeds already committed (Abu-Raiya & Pargament, 2015). Confession of sinss is especially not acknowledged by the Theravada Buddhists. The Buddha taught his followers how to dismiss the bad deeds and move on. However, in Hinduism, confession of sins is a basic practice. One is expected to pray for repentance in unintentional sins but as for intentional ones, the karmic consequences take their course (Burley, 2013).
In my considered opinion, Hinduism most adequately reflects the reality as I see it. First, Hinduism, unlike Buddhism, acknowledges the presence of God Almighty – the superior being responsible for all the happenings on the earth and beyond (Burley, 2013). God is in everything. Second, unlike Buddhism, Hinduism espouses the belief that God is the ultimate authority. Even in matters concerning salvation, it is God who chooses and designs our fate. Human beings are powerless, and they have to submit to God’s will. Third, just like Buddhism, Hinduism also accepts as true that there is life after death which, crucially, will be determined by how well one lived his or her life on earth (Chaurasia, 2002). Lastly, Hinduism, unlike Buddhism, accepts the fundamental systems of checks and balances where human beings pledge to lead righteous lives. If they sin then, the onus is on them to repent, and if they do not, or purposefully commit the sins, then they will be punished through karmic consequences (Burley, 2013). Entitling human beings to make choices without consequences and the need for confession or repentance is a recipe for anarchy.
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In summary, Buddhism and Hinduism share a host of similarities and also exhibit significant differences. The similarities exist in the goal of religion, reincarnation, and the afterlife, the immortality of the soul, use of statues and status of women among others. The differences subsist in the conceptualization of God, salvation, the role of God in salvation, and the need for confession of sins among others. The similarities and differences mentioned above are what make Buddhism and Hinduism uniquely Eastern religions.