Many of the Eastern religions are founded in similar principles but vary in some of the most underlying rituals and beliefs. Western cultures often find these differences to be very confusing and tend to couple the entirety of the religions into one in terms of understanding and often, despite intentions, stereotyping of the practices and followings. While the Dalai Lama encourages a collectivism in understanding one another in a shared world, it is important to establish the differences for several reasons. The first being the ability to have open discussions that will lead to a mutual respect. The second reason is to avoid making claims or statements that could be taken as disrespectful or exhibiting a lack of concern for the independent beliefs. Finally, it is important to establish differences and similarities for the purpose that will promote a true understanding of the world as it relates to religious values and cultural differences as the world continues to be more globally connected. In short, “a variety of religions (each of which promotes the same basic values after all) is both desirable and useful” (Dalai Lama). Therefore, for the purpose of creating this understanding, Hinduism and Buddhism, two of the largest Eastern based religions, can be discussed in regards to the emphasis of karma, the worship practices and beliefs in a supreme being, and the principle dogma or philosophy of the religions.
The concept of Karma is a principle belief in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Both religions consider the fact that an action creates a reaction and that this reaction is a direct result of the action. Researchers note that “the doctrine of karma, as elaborated in the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religious traditions, offers a powerful explanatory account of the human predicament, and in particular of seemingly undeserved human suffering” (Chadha and Trakakis 533). However, where the two differ is in the fundamental time line as to when the effects of Karma will take place. In Hinduism, where the principle of Karma is said to have originated, Karma occurs in a straight line and is its own cycle with no deity being in charge of the reactions. Karma is a natural occurrence whereas the past dictates the present and the present dictates the future. Karma is not a punishment whereas an evil act is punished in the future, but simply is a process of the natural order of life. In sum, in Hinduism, “Karma is thus a way of explaining evil and misfortune in the world, even for those who do not appear to deserve it – their misfortune must be due to wrong actions in their previous life” (“Hinduism”). Buddhism does recognize a deity in relation to Karma as “Amoghasiddhi.” The principle of Karma is nonlinear whereas the present actions also influence the present as well as the future. In fact, Karma is thought to be the primary force that shapes a person’s life in a circular pattern.
Worship practices and beliefs of Hinduism and Buddhism can also be considered similar and varying in the same context. This is because Hinduism “includes numerous traditions, which are closely related and share common themes but do not constitute a unified set of beliefs or practices” (“Hinduism”). However, despite variations, the primary belief is in “the existence of Brahman, the unifying principle and Supreme Reality behind all that is” (“Hinduism”). Notably, this is one Supreme Being as opposed to the Buddhist belief in existence of multiple gods but focused “instead on the Four Noble Truths by which they can free themselves from suffering” (“Buddhism”). Furthermore, Buddhism does not claim that the world was created by a god and the beliefs clearly state that nothing is permanent. While both religions promote medication and devotion in practice, Hinduism also emphasizes a pilgrimage to holy cities in pursuit of one’s purpose in life. Finally, while both religions teach of reincarnation, Hinduism claims that one is reincarnated until they gain enlightenment whereas Buddhism claims less of a purpose and states that “Life is a journey. Death is a return to earth” (“Buddhism”).
The philosophies of both religions are related to ending suffering and gaining salvation or ending the cycle of reincarnation. Hinduism is much more open to various paths to achieve this salvation as “Hindu religious life might take the form of devotion to God or gods, the duties of family life, or concentrated meditation” (“Hinduism”). However, Buddhism is much more organized in the path to salvation through the Eightfold path whereas the following seeks the Four Noble Truths. The Eightfold path consists of “Right Understanding, Right Intent, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration” (“Buddhism”). The Four Noble Truths lead the follower to freedom from suffering. In both religions, the path to freedom from suffering is closely related to Karma and meditation as well as living a life of goodness.
The Dalai Lama explained that the similarities are far more important than the differences as the similarities among the religions promote goodness. The differences of how Karma is controlled or how it returns to the individual are not as relevant as the idea that good deed result in good reactions and the same is true of evil deeds. The purpose of the practices, to achieve enlightenment and to end suffering, are far more important that the number of gods and the types of prayers. Finally, the philosophies as to how to achieve the end of suffering are far less important than the end of suffering itself. In sum, the religions vary in actual beliefs, but are similar in the concepts of what is important on whatever path an individual may follow.
- “Buddhism.” ReligionFacts.com. 10 Nov. 2015. Web. Accessed 18 Nov. 2015.
- Chadha, Monima, and Nick Trakakis. “Karma And The Problem Of Evil: A Response To Kaufman.” Philosophy East & West 57.4 (2007): 533. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
- Dalai Lama: Bstan-ʼdzin-rgya-mtsho. Ethics for the New Millennium. New York: Riverhead Books, 1999. Print.
- “Hinduism.” ReligionFacts.com. 10 Nov. 2015. Web. Accessed 18 Nov. 2015.