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Compare and Contrast



1.         Buddhism and Hinduism are alike in many ways, one of which is the fact that they are both polytheistic. Some of the key Bodhisattvas of the Buddhist religion are Manjushri (Bodhisattvas of Wisdom) and Avalokiteshvara (Bodhisattvas of Compassion). Similarly, in Hindu Polytheism there are three major deities: Vishnu (God of Order), Shiva (God of Destruction and Reproduction), and Maha-Devi (The Great Goddess) 
 
2.         Buddhism and Hinduism both hold beliefs in Samsara. This is the idea of a cycle of birth and rebirth. There is a way to break the cycle and that is a belief in the concept of achieving Moksha. This is the idea that one can reach freedom from Samsara and therefore birth, death, rebirth, re-death, and so on.
 
3.         In Hinduism there are 16 total distinct rites of passage each person is supposed to perform through out their life. The Ashrama, or four stages of life, could be considered the most important. These four stages are:
     1) Student
     2) Householder (family, marriage, children, prosperity)
     3) Forest Dweller (children have children and you give up the household life and live            as a hermit)
     4) Sannyasin (completely separated from the world and your family)
 
In Buddhism, since it is more of a guideline for how you should live your life, has three parts that lead to your enlightenment. These are not so much rites of passage as much as they are three steps that one must accomplish to reach enlightenment. These three steps are
     1) Becoming aware of Samsara and previous lives
     2) Becoming aware of Karma and the past lives of others such as: animals, gods, goddesses, demons, angels, etc.
     3) Becoming aware of Moksha and how to escape rebirth
 
4.         In Hinduism, Krishna, plays a big role as he is the Supreme Person. Krishna is the speaker of the Bhagavad-gita, which is recognized as a holy book of wisdom. There is an annual Pan-Indian festival that takes place in celebration of Krishna. During this celebration, performances take place re-enacting scenes of Krishna's life and all cast restrictions are ignored while this spring festival takes place. 
Buddhism began with Shakyamuni Buddha, also named Gautama. He was born into the ruling family of the Shakya clan. He was said to have been able to walk and speak right after birth. Astrologers told his parents that he would become the greatest conqueror of the world or the greatest spiritual being of the world. So one day Gautama was displeased with being shielded from the world and went out of the palace walls. What he saw displeased him and eventually resulted in his decision so abandon his life of luxury and furthermore leading him to the three nights of enlightenment. This is when Gautama became aware of Samsara, Karma, and Moksha and how he became the Buddha.
 
5.         According to Hinduism, there are these laws of Manu. This is a way of action or Karma. Manu expressed his religious ideas vividly in a legal code. This idea of Karma is a belief of certain effects for particular actions. Therefore making Hindus strive to be good to one another to ensure good Karma. This idea of Karma is the same in the Buddhist religion. Where these two religions differ is in the aspect of a caste system. Where in Buddhism there is no caste or rank system, Hindus believe in a social hierarchy, and because of this social construct no intermarriage between castes is permitted.
 
6.         In Hinduism, intermarriage between castes is not permitted. Marriages are traditionally prearranged and during Vivaha (marriage) certain vows are exchanged before a sacred fire to carry the vows to the Gods. The God Agni watches this ceremony where the bride and groom circle around the fire to mark the beginning of a new family. In Buddhism there is no caste system or rules against marriage. But there are large ceremonies involved. The tradition is to have the couple blessed by nine Buddhist monks. Incense is lit and the couple wai as the nine monks chant verses from sacred Buddhist texts and the nine monks each bless the couple with holy water. Gifts are given to the nine monks and then they are each given a plate of food. After the feast the wedding ceremony takes place. Wishes of happiness, good health, good fortune, and children are made by the monks as string is tied into bracelets on the couple's arms and is to be worn until the string breaks and falls off.
 
7.        In 1956 the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act was formed. This act containing over a dozen contingencies regulates Hindu adoptions. The main restriction is that only Hindus are applicable for the adoption. This act does state, however, “To any person who is a Hindu inclusive of Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, this act is applicable.” In either religion, adoption is allowed and in some instances even encouraged as a way of practicing good karma.
 
8.         Both, Hinduism and Buddhism, are firm believers in non-violence. In Buddhism the first of the five precepts that all Buddhists must follow is to avoid any killing or harming of any living thing. No where in the Buddhist religion or in Buddhist scripture is violence described as a way of resolving conflict. In some instances firm Buddhist believers have refused to take up arms even if their death could result. Both religions express this concept of Ahimsa or non-violence, as the most important virtue.
9.        When believers of the Hindu religion have questions they turn to the priests, also know as Brahmins. Similarly, in Buddhism, there exists a monastic community of monks and nuns they call a Sangha. In these communities of monks and nuns the writings and oral traditions of Buddha's life and sayings are preserved. 
10.        The Buddhist soteriological scheme is to give up ignorance to achieve enlightenment. Hinduism holds these same beliefs, only in different words. The “big” problem is the cycle we know as samsara. The “big” solution to the problem would then be, to do good things and have good karma to do well and have good things in the next life. Or, the ultimate goal, would be to achieve moksha or release from samsara.
11.        Asceticism is defined as through renunciation of worldly pleasures it is possible to achieve a high spiritual or intellectual state. Through time asceticism grew rapidly as more and more Hindu's began giving up their worldly lives and became wandering hermits, forest dwellers, and beggars. Today, the ideal in Hinduism is extreme asceticism. Buddhist beliefs have many similarities but in general focus more on the “middle way” which rejects extreme asceticism and extreme worldliness. It is, rather, a balanced attitude and way of life, between the two.
12. The satisfaction that followers receive from either of these religions is very similar, not only to each other, but also to the “big” solution or goal of these religious traditions. What they have to offer is the release from the cycle of birth, death, rebirth, and so on. There would be no more worrying over acquiring merit, or having good karma, and praying for a better or more prosperous return in the next life. If you follow these religions to the fullest, what they offer you is that freedom from the cycle samsara. To have the ability and opportunity to achieve moksha, sounds appealing to all believers of samsara. 


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