India is a beautiful land with a rich history. When you think of India, the first thing that is likely to cross your mind is the beautiful, ivory-white marble mausoleum called The Taj Mahal. Perhaps you might even think of snake charmers, monks meditating, Gurus and Yoga instructors, or perhaps you might think of its beautiful landscape and people. India is filled with a rich history full of unique traditions, cultures, and religions.
India is the homeland of two ancient religions: Hinduism and Buddhism. Perhaps when one thinks of Hinduism by itself, one imagines someone worshipping statues like Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva or one of their many gods and goddesses. With Buddhism, one might imagine Buddhist monks praying towards a Buddha statue, or a Tibetan monk meditating for years in the quest and journey to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Although these two religions seem different from one another in the apparent, on the contrary, they have a lot more in common than you think.
According to scholars, Hinduism is one of the world’s oldest practicing religions that has survived for more than 4,000 years, whereas Buddhism is 2,500 years old.
However, although Hinduism is older, there is no question in regards to the relationship between these two religions. Both of these religions started in what is now modern-day India. Buddhism is said to be founded by Siddhārtha Gautama, the Buddha pbuh, whereas Hinduism, according to many, is said to have no named founder, rather it is the fusion of various beliefs into one religion.
Hinduism was founded by Krishna pbuh.
It is worth noting that Buddha pbuh was from a family clan known as the Shakya, who were the followers of the Vedic religion. Śuddhodana the father of Buddha pbuh was an adherent to the Vedic religion, and it is believed to be an ancient form of Hinduism which formed to what is today known as Hinduism. The Vedic religion’s holy scripture was ‘The Vedas’ The Vedas today is one of the foundations of Hinduism, and it is believed to have been written by a legendary author named Vyasa. Vyasa had also written the Mahabharata and the Puranas, which are some of the most ancient and important scriptures in Hinduism, yet, although most consider this religion to be without a founder, the reality and the truth is that Krishna pbuh is the true founder of Hinduism.
Buddha pbuh is believed by some historians to have been Hindu, and it is believed that Buddhism had grown out from Hinduism just as a branch grows off from the tree.
So what are the similarities between these two religions? Did both Buddha and Krishna pbut share the same teachings?
Although it seems as if followers of Hinduism have nothing to do with Buddha pbuh, according to contemporary Hindus, Buddha is believed to be one of the Avatars of the god Vishnu. You can find statues and places of worship to Buddha pbuh as Vishnu in some Hindu temples, showing that Buddhism does have a connection to Hinduism. Today it is considered that Buddhism is just another form of Hinduism, although some of the adherents of Hinduism and Buddhism conflict and differ when it comes to small understandings and interpretations, one cannot ignore the fact that both of these religions share more things in common than what they differ over.
One of the most important spiritual practices in Buddhism is meditation. According to the dictionary to meditate is to; ‘focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.’ But why do they meditate? One of the most iconic images in Buddhism is Sidhartha Guatama Buddha pbuh meditating peacefully under a Bodhi Tree this image is known everywhere, it is said that Buddha pbuh meditated under the Bodhi Tree for seven weeks in an attempt to reach enlightenment, at the end of the seven weeks he had attained Nirvana. In Hinduism, they practice Dhyana, which means ‘contemplation and meditation’, just like Buddhism the main goal of Dhyana is to reach and attain a state of enlightenment or liberation known as Moksha.
Another form of meditation is known as Yoga. Yoga in the west has become an increasingly popular trend, and is viewed as a form of exercise. But Yoga is about more than simple exercise. Yoga originated from Hinduism, and its ultimate goal is to achieve Moksha. Buddhism also teaches Yoga and believes it to be a spiritual practice in the esoteric teachings of Buddhism. Yoga is a form of meditation and its ultimate goal is attaining Nirvana.
So what is Nirvana and Moksha? Nirvana and Moksha to these two religions is the ultimate goal of the human being. The meaning of Nirvana and Moksha is Enlightenment or Liberation. It is a state that when achieved, according to both religions, one has released himself from the main root of all human suffering which is called Avidya, meaning Ignorance. This is accomplished through meditation. With meditation, one can silence the self or the ego, and eliminate any perception of what reality is. Through liberating oneself of desire and any attachments, enlightenment may be attained.
Both Hinduism and Buddhism have very interesting beliefs about the self of a human being. The self or the ego in Sanskrit is called Ahamkara, and it is the false-self or the ego of the human being. This ego acts as a stone in the way of the liberation or spiritual awakening of the human being.
The Indian Philosopher and Theologian, Adi Shankara said concerning the ego:
“When the false self ceases utterly, and the motions of the mind caused by it come to an end, then, by discerning the hidden Self, the real truth that “I am that” is found.”
In his book What the Buddha Taught, the Theravadin scholar Walpola Rahula said,
“According to the teaching of the Buddha, the idea of a self is an imaginary, false belief which has no corresponding reality, and it produces harmful thoughts of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, selfish desire, craving, attachment, hatred, ill-will, conceit, pride, egoism, and other defilements, impurities and problems.”
It is upon the human being to conquer the ego, for it is a stone in the way towards our reality and purpose.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, it is asserted that everything is impermanent. They both believe that the world is nothing more than an illusion, called Maya. This world seems real, but it is just an illusion.
One of the oldest and most revered Hindu sages by the name of Vasishtha stated:
“Just as when the dirt is removed, the real substance is made manifest; just as when the darkness of the night is dispelled, the objects that were shrouded by the darkness are clearly seen, when ignorance [Maya] is dispelled, truth is realized.” –Vasishtha
According to Buddhism, when Buddha pbuh was on his 7-week meditative journey which resulted in his enlightenment, an entity named “Mara” tried to prevent this.
Mara tried to disturb Siddhartha’s pbuh concentration by conjuring up many fearful apparitions. He manifested hosts of terrifying demons, some throwing spears, some firing arrows, some trying to burn him with fire, and some hurling boulders and even mountains at him. Through the force of his concentration, the weapons, rocks, and mountains appeared to him as a rain of fragrant flowers, and the raging fires became like offerings of rainbow lights.
Mara here seemingly acts like Maya, the illusion itself, by trying to throw Siddhartha pbuh off track and into the temptations and indulgence of the illusion that he was living in, which was the ornaments of this world.
Mara manifested his daughters to entice and seduce Siddhartha pbuh from his quest, the three daughters are identified as Taṇhā, meaning Thirst, Arati meaning Aversion, Discontentment, and Raga meaning Attachment, Desire, Greed, Passion. But Siddhartha pbuh responded by developing even deeper concentration. In this way, he triumphed over all the demons of this world, which is why he subsequently became known as a “Conqueror Buddha.”
With this concentration, he removed the final veils of ignorance from his mind and in the next moment became a Buddha.
When Buddha pbuh realized he had achieved enlightenment he said:
“House-builder, you’re seen! You will not build a house again. All your rafters broken, the ridge pole destroyed, gone to the Unformed, the mind has come to the end of craving.”
– Dhammapada, Verse 154
Buddha pbuh has said concerning this world:
“One who looks upon the world as a bubble and a mirage, him the King of Death sees not.”
– Dhammapada, Verse 170
Everyone in the world is governed by some way of life, whether through the norms of general society, or from their personal religious beliefs. This is what separates Human beings from the animal kingdom.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, this way of life or law is called Dharma. Dharma is derived from the root Sanskrit word ‘Dri’, which means ‘to hold together.’ The Opposite of Dharma is known as “Adharma” and it is derived from combining “a” with “dharma”, which implies “not-dharma”. It can be taken to mean ‘immoral, sinful, wrong, wicked, unjust, unbalanced, or unnatural.’ Dharma thus can be viewed as righteous norms and traditions or righteous duties one upholds to attain good Karma, thus performing positive actions and being virtuous allows one to be in accordance with Dharma.
According to Hinduism,
‘Nothing is higher than dharma. The weak overcomes the stronger by Dharma, as over a king. Truly that Dharma is the Truth; Therefore, when a man speaks the Truth, they say, “He speaks the Dharma”; and if he speaks Dharma, they say, “He speaks the Truth!” For both are one.’
– Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, hymn 1.4.14
According to Buddhism, Dharma is the nature of what-is; the truth of what the Buddha pbuh had taught. It is the truth of the way things are.
Buddha taught that there are four noble truths: The first being that there is suffering, second is that the origin of suffering is craving, third, that there is an end to suffering, and finally, the way to the end of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.
If one wants to break out of suffering, he must adhere to The Noble Eightfold Paths, which consist of having Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.
The Eightfold Paths is usually represented by a popular symbol in Buddhism known as the Dharmachakra. Chakra is usually translated to mean “wheel”, and it is associated with the movement of energy in your body. The esoteric traditions in Buddhism generally teach four chakras: the navel, heart, throat, and crown. However, A system of five chakras is common among the Mother class of Tantras and these five chakras are, the basal, abdominal, heart, throat, and lastly the crown chakra.
In Hinduism, they have what is known as the Kundalini, or ‘the coiled one,’ which is a form of divine energy believed to be located at the base of the spine. It is believed that this energy, when cultivated and awakened, is believed to lead to spiritual liberation or moksha. In Hinduism, there are seven chakras, which are commonly known especially in western modern spirituality and New Age thought. These seven chakras are The root chakra located at the base of the spine, followed by the Sacral chakra located below the navel, in the pelvic region, followed by the Solar Plexus chakra located at the top of the abdomen, around the diaphragm area, followed by the Heart chakra located directly above the heart, followed by the Throat chakra located at the base of the throat, followed by the Third Eye chakra located on the forehead, followed by the last chakra, the Crown Chakra which is located at the very top of the head. Although both religions differ as to the number of chakras and their locations, they both agree on the importance of these channels of energy and the need to harness and awaken them, and to liberate and purify oneself by focusing on these chakras which is related to Dharma and the Eightfold Path.
A person goes through a cycle of birth and rebirth in this world many times, but is there a life besides this life? A world besides this world? In Hinduism, there is the belief in an afterlife, for example, Hell in Hinduism is called Naraka and it is ruled by Yama. It consists of many realms where the souls are punished with various types of tortures depending on the evil deeds they had committed and the negative karma they had built up in their lifetimes. After a soul had received its ascribed punishment, the soul is then reincarnated back into the world as an animal or as a human. Heaven is also made up of many realms and it is ruled by Indra. The souls receive and enjoy many pleasures along with the other gods and goddesses. But just like hell, heaven is temporary and the soul is placed back into the world to continue. Moksha is the ultimate goal to end the never-ending cycle of death and rebirth.
In Buddhism heaven and hell also exist, and just like in Hinduism, Buddhists believe that a person’s residence in either realm is only temporary until they come back into this earth to reincarnate and start life on this planet anew. The name for hell is also the same, Naraka, where the soul incarnates to receive its punishments with various types of tortures depending on the evil deeds they had committed and the negative karma they had built up in their lifetimes. Heaven is the same as it is in Hinduism, consisting of many realms and a place with many pleasures. However, you are not free from the cycle of Samsara, so after you have used up all your good karma, you are reincarnated again, and if you want to get back after death, you must live life righteously. Nirvana is the ultimate goal to escape Samsara.
Do the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism believe in a Higher Power? When it comes to Buddhism, it is assumed that there is no God, no Higher Power, no Supreme Being. In Hinduism, there are many different gods and goddesses. Some have even claimed that in Hinduism, it is believed that there are 330 million gods. Hinduism is therefore Polytheistic, and each God has certain powers and attributes, yet who is the Higher Power or Supreme God? The Omnipotent Supreme God or the Higher Power is Brahman. Everything that existed and exists and will exist later is because of Brahman. Brahman is believed to be far too great to be understood and known, and the gods and goddesses whom he created are mere manifestations and reflections of himself, so that this way the creation may know Him and be guided. In reality, Hindus aren’t worshipping different gods and goddesses. The truth is they believe in worshipping Brahma through these different gods and goddesses because they cannot comprehend the One God. They cannot hear nor see him physically, so they look at who He had sent as his representatives who carry attributes like His because they came from Brahman, and they exist because of Brahman. This is no different to Christians seeing Jesus pbuh as their intercessor between them and their Lord or as Muslims seeing Muhammad pbuhahf as there intercessor between them and their Lord. Krishna pbuh, for example, reflects Brahman. Krishna says to Arjuna:
“But the great souls, who take shelter of My divine energy, O Parth, know Me, Lord Krishna, as the origin of all creation. They engage in My devotion with their minds fixed exclusively on Me.”
– Bhagavad Gita 9:13
“Having realized Me as the enjoyer of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all the worlds and the selfless Friend of all living beings, My devotee attains peace.”
– Bhagavad Gita 5:29
Although some may believe Krishna pbuh is making himself out to be Brahman himself, those who understand the scriptures will not take the verses out of context and view Krishna pbuh as the Absolute Supreme Lord, but rather a reflection, as Krishna tells Arjuna pbut.
“The Supreme Lord dwells in the hearts of all living beings, O Arjun. According to their karmas, he directs the wanderings of the souls, who are seated on a machine made of the material energy. Surrender exclusively unto Him with your whole being, O Bharat. By his grace, you will attain perfect peace and the eternal abode.”
– Bhagavad Gita 18:61-62
Hinduism, by nature, is the worship of one God. It is a Monotheistic religion, and although they believe other gods and goddesses exist, they are not worshipped in partner with Brahman. They are all subordinate to the Brahman, and mankind is guided to Brahman through his manifestations.
Most people understand Buddhism to be a religion without a god. But if it is true that Buddhists deny the existence of God, then why do we find other Buddhists who DO believe in God?
The misunderstanding lies in the popular belief that Buddha pbuh denies a Supreme God or Creator. However, if one looks closely into the scriptures, one finds that Buddha pbuh never denies the existence of God. In fact, when you take a close look into the religion, you will find mention of Devas. Devas are gods and goddesses like Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Buddhists and Hindus actually share the same, and believe in the same Gods. For example, Buddhists in Sri Lanka venerate Vishnu as the custodian deity of Sri Lanka and protector of Buddhism. In Hinduism, one of the most important gods that reflect the Supreme God Brahman is known as the creator god Brahma, and he abides in Brahmaloka. In Buddhism, this realm exists, and they agree with Hindus that it is the highest of the celestial worlds. If Buddhism is so spiritual and mystical, filled with gods and goddesses, how can there not be a Supreme God who is omnipotent? Does Buddha speak of a creator? As a matter of fact, Buddha pbuh did believe in a Higher Power….
The Pali Canon is a collection of Scriptures in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, and is said to be the most complete, early Buddhist Canon. The Udana is one of those scriptures within the collection.
Buddha pbuh says in the 8th chapter on The Third Discourse about Nibbāna:
“There is, monks, an unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned. If, monks there were not THAT unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned, you could not know an escape here from the born, become, made, and conditioned. But because THERE IS an unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned, therefore you do know an escape from the born, become, made, and conditioned.”
– Udāna 8.3; Tatiyanibbānasuttaṁ 73. The Third Discourse about Nibbāna.
What Buddha pbuh is saying is that because there is a God, there is an escape from Samsara and there is a way to attain Nirvana. To deny God is to deny the ability to attain Nirvana, and to accept and believe in God and to submit it to him and his teachings is the only way to attain Nirvana.
In Buddhism, they ascribe this being to be the “Adi-Buddha”, the first Buddha or Primordial Buddha, which is said to be Vajradhara, the ultimate Buddha.
One of the most important scriptures of Tantric Buddhism Guhyasamāja Tantra, it states:
“Then Vajradhara, the Teacher, who is bowed to by all the Buddhas, best of the three diamonds, best of the great best, supreme lord of the three diamonds.”
Isn’t it clear that Buddhism, in its core, believes not only in the gods and goddesses of Hinduism, but they also believe that there is the Supreme Lord and an unborn, uncreated being? Isn’t it obvious that they have many similar beliefs and practices? It cannot be denied, despite the details that some may use to try to cause differences and conflicts between the two. The differences between the two are slim. Both religions seek for its adherents to free themselves and liberate themselves from this illusionary world and its fleeting pleasures. They both share the same practices and understandings. They both believe in the gods and goddesses and the belief in the One, Absolute, Higher Power…And they both believe in the End Times….
Like many religions around the world, Hinduism and Buddhism share the belief and idea of ‘The End Times’, and in turn, a new age or era rises from. Today, most people believe that we are living in The End Times, and the Hindus and Buddhists are awaiting their savior to come and to turn the wheel of Dharma once again, to usher in a new and great era, an era that will teach humanity that which they have forgotten and abandoned. The Hindus are waiting for the Kalki to come with his Banner and teachings after humanity has lost its ways. He i smeant to restore Dharma anew and bring justice into the world, and the Buddhists are waiting for the Maitreya to restore the true Dharma after it had been forgotten and abandoned.
According to the Digha Nikaya, Buddha pbuh says:
“At that period, brethren, there will arise in the world an Exalted One named Maitreya, Fully Awakened, abounding in wisdom and goodness, happy, with knowledge of the worlds, unsurpassed as a guide to mortals willing to be led, a teacher for gods and men, an Exalted One, a Buddha, even as I am now. He, by himself, will thoroughly know and see, as it were face to face, this universe, with Its worlds of the spirits, Its Brahmas and Its Maras, and Its world of recluses and Brahmins, of princes and peoples, even as I now, by myself, thoroughly know and see them”
– Digha Nikaya, 26
Who would have thought to themselves that such faiths that are so different on the apparent would actually share so many similarities hidden in plain sight? Both of these faiths believe in One Omnipotent God, they believe in Heaven and Hell, and Buddha is viewed with reverence in both faiths. The belief in Reincarnation, Karma, Dharma, the Chakra system of the body is also believed by both of these faiths, and that this physical world we live in is nothing more than a mere illusion. They both practice meditation and yoga, and they both believe in the End Times, and in the coming of a Saviour. Is this not a clear proof as to how we are all one?
Glad tidings to all who have been waiting, because the Saviour of the world is here, and he has come to teach mankind the true Dharma, to free humanity from their chains, and from the tyrants who have enslaved the people for so long. This Saviour is none other than Imam Ahmad Al-Hassan fhip, the one who rises with the truth, the one who will spread justice and equity into this world.
It is time that we return to the true Dharma and flock to the one who can free us from our chains. It is time that we put aside our small and pointless differences, and see the bigger picture. It is time for us to come together under the banner of the Kalki. It is time for us to accept the teachings of the Maitreya. It is time for us to become united.