World Religions – Buddhism and Hinduism

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The next two religions on our list are Buddhism and Hinduism. Buddhism has 520 million followers while Hinduism has 1.2 billion followers. I am not combining these religions because they are similar, but because they find themselves in Southeast Asia. Buddhism is heavily practiced in Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Cambodia. Hinduism is predominant in India. Both religions are practiced by varying percentages of the populations around the world.

While Buddhism is strongest in Southeast Asia, it originated in India between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. Hinduism is often stated to be the oldest religion dating to 3000 BCE with its earliest writings dating to 1500 BCE.

Because of the great differences between the two, I will give each religion it’s own section.

Buddhism

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According to buddhismzone.org, “Buddhism is a non-theistic system…and is beyond religion”. Buddhism explains life and is a way of life. This may be what attracts so many people worldwide to the belief. Buddhism’s core beliefs are:

  • Reincarnation – Soon after death one begins a new life in one of six realms, some good and some bad. The rebirth and the realms, while exhibiting a continuity of life, do not consist of the same “self” or soul. There is no eternal entity of self or soul in that regard.
    • Note: Buddhism has no concept of the soul. “In its denial of any real permanent Soul or Self, Buddhism stands alone… The Buddha is quite categorical in its exposition and would have no compromise. In a famous passage He declares, “Whether Buddhas arise in this world or not, it always remains a fact that the constituent parts of a being are lacking in a Soul,” [G. P. Malalasekera, The Buddha and His Teachings (Colombo, 1957), pp. 33–34]
  • Karma – Consider karma as good or bad actions, speech, or thought. Which realm the rebirth will occur in is determined by the accumulated karma. (Karma will be discussed in detail under Hinduism.)
  • Meditation – Focusing the mind on achieving an inner stillness that leads to a state of enlightenment. Most notably it is the practice of focusing on a particular object, practice, phrase or sound.
  • The Four Noble Truths
    • Life is made of suffering.
    • Suffering is caused by desire and attachment.
    • Suffering can be stopped.
    • The way to end suffering is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.
  • Noble Eightfold Path
    • Have the Right View / Understanding
    • Have the Right Thinking
    • Right Speech
    • Right Conduct
    • Right Livelihood
    • Right Effort
    • Right Mindfulness
    • Right Concentration (meditation)
  • The Five Precepts – These are ethical guidelines or things to avoid
    • Murder
    • Alcoholism
    • Sexual Misconduct
    • Stealing
    • Evil-minded Thoughts

In summary, Buddhism is a way of life to reduce suffering and provide for a better in the next incarnation. While the continuity of life is taught through reincarnation, it is not the same individual as there is no belief in a soul. In that regard, Buddhism can be considered materialistic and a form of atheism.

Hinduism

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Hinduism is widely practiced worldwide with its epicenter in India. There are four major denominations of Hinduism: Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Smartism. These differ in their sources of authority from Hindu texts as well as historical tradition. As there are so many beliefs compared to other religions, one can consider Hinduism complex in its structure.

Of paramount importance is the belief in the Soul or Atma. The atma exists inall living entities: plants, animals and humans. Vaishnava Seva Dasa affirms that bacteria have atma. This does not mean that every living thing is sentient or even individual. Hindus believe all souls are part of the Supreme Soul, Parmatma. This in turn is a manifestation of the Brahman, or life force. The atma is explained by some to be the same as the Hebrew nefesh or Arabic nafs.As the part of Parmatma that gives life to the organism progresses in its journey towards perfection, it is striving to be one with Parmatma. This is called Nirvana, Moksha.

According to hinduismfacts.org, the soul travels through 84 million species (Jahnu Dasa says 8.4 million) before gaining a human body. Once the soul has entered a human body and depending on the Karma accumulated in the current life, one may move on to a new human body or back to a lesser form.

Note: In contrast to Spiritism as we studied it, the Hindu soul is not an identifiable, individual entity that continually grows closer to perfection. It is a piece of a greater whole that may move forward or backwards.

Karma?

Karma is the consequence of good and bad thought and action in the current life. There are three types of Karma.

  • Good Karma
  • Bad Karma
  • Spiritual Karma

Good and Bad Karma do not cancel each other out. Instead, they pay forward with good and bad experiences in the next life. Unlike the illustration above, whether or not current karma affects future aspects of the current life is debated. “The working of karma cannot be proved conclusively as we cannot accurately establish the connection between our actions (causes) and their consequences (effects).” [hinduwebsite.com] This would especially be difficult from one life to the next. The chance of encountering documentation from a previous life and confirming it was your karma would be rare indeed. [IMHO]

Spiritual Karma is the energy you put out into the world. It is the non-physical interaction with others. Think in terms of the concept of good or bad vibrations. Ones life force affects those in close proximity in good or bad ways.

As I mentioned, there are four major denominations in Hinduism. The differences manifest themselves fundamentally in the concept of the Supreme Being and the relationship to the Supreme Soul. The complexity of these differences is described in the Wikipedia article on Paramatman. You may recognize the three gods in Vaishnavism, Vishnu, Shiva and Shakti. Another set of three gods are Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. This raises the question is Shakti Brahma? Another trio is Brama, Vishnu and Mahesh. As I researched I kept seeing these variants, likely due to denominational differences. But in general, one creates, one sustains, and one destroys (for the next creation). Brahma is not to be confused with Brahman, who is the supreme god force present within all things. [factsanddetails.com]

  • Supreme Being: Brahman
  • Creator: Brahma
  • Protector: Vishnu
  • Destroyer: Shiva

In Shaivism, the main gods are Shiva, Parvati, Durga and Mahkali (the supreme being).

In Shaktism, the main goddesses are Shaktas (the supreme being) who creates, empowers and destroys. Under Shaktas there are many goddesses to worship.

In Vaishnavism, or Vishnuism, Vishnu is considered the supreme being. The denomination has many forms so that Krishna, Radha Krishna, Rama and twenty more avatars are personifications of the supreme being.

In the Smarta tradition, there are five primary deities, all treated as equal – Shiva, Vishnu, Surya, Ganesh, and Shakti.

This variation in belief can be traced to the many ancient Hindu writings. The list includes the Puranas, Itahasa, Vedas, Bhagavad Gita, Agamas, Bhagavata Purana, and Yajnavalkya Smriti. [Source] Each of these titles represents volumes of writings from many sources.

The Hindu beliefs can be summarized by saying there is a supreme creative force, fragments of the supreme soul live in all living creatures, the soul fragments traverse millions of beings before achieving human habitation, karma may influence the body and experience of the next incarnation, there are a plethora of gods and goddesses to worship, and ultimately we may become one with the supreme being.

I trust these posts are interesting to you. They are provided for educational purposes only. As I have stated before, if I misrepresent your religion, I would like to know so I can share your views with others. I can do this anonymously if you email me: info@jdrockel.com.

There are two more world religions I will present, Islam and Christianity. I also plan to provide a side trip when I present, “Build a God”. Your comments are always welcome below. I would love to hear from you.

Main internet references: Buddhism; Buddhism; Buddhism; Buddhism; Hinduism; Hindusim; Hinduism

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