The Seperation Of Hinduism And Buddhism

1727 words - 7 pages

The origins of Hinduism can be traced back to the Vedic traditions of the Indus Valley Civilization (Mittal and Thursby 23) where as Buddhism can be seen as originating from Hinduism, and yet they are seen as two completely different religions. Why? These religions do share some of the same practices, however there are also vast differences. The caste system is a major social institution of Hinduism, but Buddhism rejects the caste system. Buddhism opposes the idea of a soul, while Hinduism perceives the soul as being one with Brahman. Moksha and Nirvana are both the release from saṃsāra, but the pathways to attaining release are dissimilar.
One of the major Hindu beliefs that Buddhism rejects is the Caste System, or “jati” in Sanskrit (Esposito, Fasching, and Lewis 317). The caste system is the social structure of Hinduism. It starts with the Brahmins, who are the priests and scholars, followed by the Kshatriya or warrior class. Next is the Vaishya, merchant class, and lastly the Shudras, the lowest caste designated to perform the impure and foul jobs the upper castes would never do. (Esposito, Fasching, and Lewis 317) The rules of the caste system are specific. Inter-marriages between castes are heavily discouraged and one can never change their caste during their current lifetime. Each caste has its own cosmic duties to fulfill, and not doing so could be detrimental to the world or an individuals karma. These distinct duties are referred to as one’s Dharma. (Esposito, Fasching, and Lewis 317) The Laws of Manu state “Better to do one’s own dharma badly than another caste’s dharma well” (Esposito, Fasching, and Lewis 317). Through saṃsāra, the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, hopefully every soul will eventually be born as a male brahmin, and attain Moksha (Esposito, Fasching, and Lewis 312). This shows how important status is in Hinduism, where as in Buddhism, status does not matter.
The interesting thing about Buddhism's repudiation of the caste system is that the Buddha was originally had very high status as a Hindu. In the 6th century BCE, a man named Siddhārtha Gautama, was born in the Kshatriya caste, as a Hindu prince. (Mittal and Thursby 81) Siddhārtha grew up shielded from the outside world, and had everything he could ever desire within his grasp. (Esposito, Fasching, and Lewis 398) He never knew much of the world until he ventured beyond the palace walls and saw what are now known as the Four Passing Sights. There were an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and a religious mendicant. (DKWR 62) This was Siddhārtha’s first exposure to suffering and religious ascetics. He rejected his high status, and left everything behind to discover his way as a forest dweller. (Esposito, Fasching, and Lewis 398) Eventually Siddhārtha would create a reform group, that would become known as Buddhism and he as the Buddha. Buddhism may not have a caste system, but the religion does have a large monastic order. These monks and...

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