Term Paper: Buddhism and Hinduism

Pages: 4 (1114 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion  ·  Buy This Paper

Hinduism and Buddhism are two of the world's greatest and most influential religions. Both of these religions arose in India, and thus stem from a similar philosophy and culture.. The relationship between Hinduism and Buddhism is much the same as between Catholicism and Protestantism. One can equate Catholicism with Hinduism and Protestantism with Buddhism. Protestantism grew as a reform movement out of Catholicism. Just Protestantistm was a reaction to the corruption and power of the 15th century Catholic Church, Buddhism also grew out of the corruption, immorality, and restrictive power structure of Hinduism to give the people more freedom and dignity. Unlike Hinduism which evolved over many ages, Buddhism, like Christianity, was founded by a historic individual. The word 'Buddha' means 'enlightened one' or 'awakened one'. The person who became a Buddha was Siddhartha Gautama who was born in Northern India in or around the sixth century BCE. The traditional story describes him as a prince who became discontented with his life of pleasure when he began to realize that it would pass and that life was subject to old age, sickness and death. Consequently, he left his home and family and spent six years searching for enlightenment. To achieve this, he starved his body and undertook other activities hoping that he would find an ultimate answer to the mysteries of life. At the end of these six years, he realized that the methods he was using were not working. Therefore, he went back to eating properly again, thinking that it was important that he looked after his body enough to maintain health and vigor. Then, one day, he sat under a tree and began to meditate, determined to win enlightenment or die. Before he arose once again from that spot, Gautama Siddhartha had become an enlightened being - a Buddha. This paper will discuss the similariarities and differences between the two religions.

Dharma and Dhamma

The essential Hindu concept defining the individual and his responsibilities is dharma. Dharma refers a sense of obligation. One must fulfill his roles in society and the world. Such responsibilities include reproduction and caste duties, but extend into the philosophical realm of peaceful and humble acceptance of one's position. Dharma defines correct living for a Hindu.

Buddhism has a similar concept, dhamma (note even the linguistic similarity). Dhamma does not imply specific biological or social obligations, but maintains a comparable philosophical construct. The Buddhist definition of right conduct and personal obligation, dhamma is the path which must be taken to escape the suffering of worldly life. Like the Judeo-Christian tradtion has the ten commandment, Buddhism has a list of what constitute right and wrong actions and thoughts in the Noble Eightfold Path and the Five Precepts.

Caste System

Central to Hinduism is the caste system. The caste system divides the Hindu people into four major classes, Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra, and "untouchables," or people outside of all the classes. Members of certain castes have certain duties. Caste is determined by birth, allowing no social advancement, career choice, or individual freedom. The castes are socially ranked, forming an upper social division as well as lower ones. Caste, then, determines one's profession, one's potential education, one's social position, even defining these limitations for your children.

These social limitations are reinforced by the concept that caste is determined by sins or virtues in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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