Compare and contrast Hinduism and Buddhism.

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Hinduism and Buddhism are alike in a few basic ways, but when you start getting into the details, their differences outweigh the similarities.

Both have their roots in India. Hinduism as we know it began around 1900 BCE, though the roots of its beliefs can be traced back much farther to the very beginnings of Indian religious thought. Buddhism is a relative newcomer to the world’s spiritual stage—the founder, Siddhartha Gautama (who would become the Lord Buddha), was believed by some to have been born around 623 BCE. Hinduism, as an amalgamation of many ancient spiritual practices, has no definitive founder.

The polytheistic Hindus pray to a wide variety of deities, each with their own requirements and preferences. Buddhists accept that there may be a God or many gods, but faith and worship of these beings isn’t required. Instead, Buddhists follow the “Four Noble Truths,” a set of ideals that lead to the elimination of desire (and therefore suffering). Hindus study the Vedas, a collection of spiritual writings that were assembled over time from several belief systems.

Both religions believe in reincarnation. For Buddhists, the object of existence is to attain enlightenment and eventually enter Nirvana, a state of non-being in which the soul no longer exists. This process takes many lifetimes, although by following the Four Noble Truths, it is possible to achieve this during the course of one life. For Hindus, the soul is eternal and cannot be destroyed in this way. They believe that we live many lives, the circumstances of each being a reward or punishment for our actions in previous lives. We may eventually reach Moksha, in which the self unites with the universal consciousness.

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