Full version Hinduism Jainism And Buddhism

Hinduism Jainism And Buddhism

This print version free essay Hinduism Jainism And Buddhism.

Category: Religion

Autor: reviewessays 03 December 2010

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Hinduism is the oldest and most complex of all religious systems. The origins of Hinduism can be traced to the Indus Valley civilization sometime between 4000 and 2500 BCE. Though believed by many to be a polytheistic religion, the basis of Hinduism is the belief in the unity of everything. This totality is called Brahman. The purpose of life is to realize that we are part of God and by doing so we can leave this plane of existence and rejoin with God. This enlightenment can only be achieved by going through cycles of birth, life and death known as samsara. One's progress towards enlightenment is measured by his karma. This is the accumulation of all one's good and bad deeds and this determines the person's next reincarnation. Selfless acts and thoughts as well as devotion to God help one to be reborn at a higher level. Bad acts and thoughts will cause one to be born at a lower level, as a person or even an animal. Hinduism is like a multifarious ocean of beliefs and modes of worship with an indeterminate origin. It comprises within itself the most sublime philosophies and gross fetishism of all kinds of objects which are worshipped.

Hindus follow a strict caste system which determines the standing of each person. The caste one is born into is the result of the karma from their previous life. Only members of the highest caste, the brahmins, may perform the Hindu religious rituals and hold positions of authority within the temples.


The founder of the Jain community was Vardhamana, the last Jina in a series of 24 who lived in East India. He attained enlightenment after 13 years of deprivation and committed the act of salekhana, fasting to death, in 420 BCE. Jainism has many similarities to Hinduism and Buddhism which developed in the same part of the world. They believe in karma and reincarnation as do Hindus but they believe that enlightenment and liberation from this cycle can only be achieved through asceticism. Jains follow fruititarianism. This is the practice of only eating that which will not kill the plant or animal from which it is taken. They also practice ahimsa, non-violence, because any act of violence against a living thing creates negative karma which will adversely affect one's next life.

Literally Jaina means a conqueror, that is, one who has conquered the worldly passions like desire, hatred, anger, greed, pride, etc. by one's own strenuous efforts and has been liberated himself from the bonds of worldly existence, the cycle of births and deaths. Jaina, therefore, is a human being and not a supernatural being or an incarnation of an all mighty God. Hence the term Jaina is applied to a person who is a spiritual victor.

Further, human beings have the potentiality to become Jaina and, as such, Jaina is persons of this world who have attained supreme knowledge, subjugated their passion and are free from all sorts of attachment and aversion. Jainism is thus a set of principles preached by the Jaina. Hence Jainism is not an apauruseya religion, i.e., a religion propounded by a non-human being or based on a sacred book of non-human origin. On the contrary it is a religion of purely human origin and is preached by one who has attained omniscience and self-control by his own personal efforts. In short, Jainism is the substance of the preaching of those perfect souls who have attained the state of Jaina.


Buddhism developed out of the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama who, in 535 BCE, reached enlightenment and assumed the title Buddha. He promoted 'The Middle Way' as the path to enlightenment rather than the extremes of mortification of the flesh or hedonism. Long after his death the Buddha's teachings were written down. This collection is called the Tripitaka. Buddhists believe in reincarnation and that one must go through cycles of birth, life, and death. After many such cycles, if a person releases their attachment to desire and the self, they can attain Nirvana. In general, Buddhists do not believe in any type of God, the need for a savior, prayer, or eternal life after death. However, since the time of the Buddha, Buddhism has integrated many regional religious rituals, beliefs and customs into it as it has spread throughout Asia, so that this generalization is no longer true for all Buddhists. This has occurred with little conflict due to the philosophical nature of Buddhism.

The Buddha’s teachings can be understood on two distinct levels. One is logical and conceptual and is concerned with an intellectual comprehension of man and the external universe. The second level is empirical, experiential and psychological. It concerns the ever-present and inescapable phenomena of human experience -- love and hate, fear and sorrow, pride and passion, frustration and lation. And most important, it explains the origins of such states of mind and prescribes the means for cultivating those states which are rewarding and wholesome and of diminishing those which are unsatisfactory and unwholesome. It was to this second level that the Buddha gave greater emphasis and importance.


In matters like theories of rebirth and salvation, descriptions of heaven, earth and hell, and belief in the fact that the prophets of religion take birth according to prescribed rules, we find similarities between Jainism and Hinduism. Since the disappearance of Buddhism from India, the Jains and Hindus came closer to each other and that is why in social and religious life the Jaina on the whole do not appear to be much different from the Hindus. In matters like dress and ornaments, occupations and professions, games and amusements, language and literature, outlook on life and behavior, superstitions, beliefs and practices, religious festivals and fasts, sacraments and rituals, there are various common things between Jaina and Hindus, and especially the vegetarian Hindus, in various geographical regions of India. In fact there are certain castes whose members are found in both the Hindus and the Jaina and to some extent marital relations are still maintained between the Jaina and Hindu sections of the same caste.

From these similarities between the Jaina and the Hindus, it should not be considered that the Jains are a part of the Hindus or Jainism is a branch of Hinduism. On the contrary, if we compare Jainism and Hinduism, we find that the differences between them are very great and that their agreement is in respect of a few particulars only concerning the ordinary mode of living. Even the ceremonies which appear to be similar are in reality different in respect of their purport if carefully studied.

Hence the significant differences between Jainism and Hinduism can be briefly noted as follows: Scriptures

The sacred books of the Hindus like Vedas, Smrtis, Puranas etc. are not accepted by the Jaina and the Hindus also do not recognize even a single scripture of the Jaina.

Origin of the world

While the Jaina regards the world as eternal, the Hindus hold it to have been made by a creator.

Objects of worship

In Jainism, worship is not offered to an eternal and eternally pure God, but to those great ones who have realized their high ideal and attained Godhood for themselves; in Hinduism worship is performed of many forms of one God who is the creator and the ruler of the world.

Purpose of worship

The significance of worship in Hinduism is also not the same as that in Jainism. In Jainism, there is no offering of food and the like, nor is a prayer made to the deity for boons. On the other hand, in Hinduism the attainment of the desired object is by the will of certain divine beings that are to be propitiated.

Practice of sacrifices

As Hinduism is a sacrificial religion, the performance of several sacrifices for a variety of reasons and for different duration has got an important place in it. This is not the case with Jainism and especially the animal sacrifices practiced by the Hindus have absolutely no place in Jainism.

Attainment of Salvation

While the Hindus believe that Gods alone can attain salvation, the Jaina consider that it is the right of human beings only.

Path of salvation

The path of salvation prescribed by Jainism is only one and it is known as Ratnatraya-marga, i.e., the threefold path of Right Belief, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct, which is to be simultaneously pursued by all persons. But in Hinduism, there is no prescription of one single, definite and clear path of salvation. Instead, in Hinduism different ways have been laid down for the attainment of salvation by various religious preachers in different periods of time.

Idea about karma

The Hindus regard Karma as an invisible power but the Jaina think it as a form of matter which can stick to the soul.

Principles in Logic

In the systems of Jains logic there are distinctive principles like Syadvada, Nayavada, Niksepa etc. which are not found in the Hindu system.

The liberated soul

According to Hinduism, the liberated soul enjoys eternal happiness in heaven or gets merged with Brahman i.e., the Primeval Being, the originator of the world. But as per Jainism, the soul after liberation remains for ever at the top of the loka, i.e., universe.

Religious objects

The Jaina deities, temples, places of pilgrimage, holy days, fasts, festivals, rituals and ceremonies are quite different from those of the Hindus.

Religious Practices

The peculiar Hindu practices like niyoga, i.e., levirate and sati, i.e., ascending the funeral pyre of the husband, are not approved by the Jaina. Further, a large number of Hindu religious practices which are repugnant to Jainism, have been termed as mudhatas or stupid customs and beliefs and the true Jaina are required to be absolutely free from them. They are sun-worship, bath during eclipses, giving away money at the end of eclipses, fire-worship, the worship of edifices, ceremonial bathing in rivers and the ocean, adoration of trees, sacred offerings of boiled rice, religious suicide by falling from a precipice, bowing at the tail of a cow and taking cow's urine, etc.

From the facts mentioned above, it is evident that there are several items of religion on which there are basic differences between Jainism and Hinduism. It is also pertinent to note that these differences are persisting even up to the present day.


There are many similarities between Jainism and Buddhism. Both are Indian religions in every sense of the term and both are representatives of Sramana culture in India; while Hinduism is the representative of Brahman culture in India. As such both Jainism and Buddhism:

1. Do not regard Vedas of the Hindus as authoritative and binding;

2. Do not accept the permanent power of God as the creator of the world;

3. Do strongly oppose the violent or animal sacrifices;

4. Do assign prominent place of sadhus and sadhvis, i.e., religious ascetic organizations. Further, both Tirthankar Mahavira and Lord Gautama Buddha hailed from Magadha, i.e., modern Bihar, were contemporaries and had many common points in their lives and activities.

In spire of these similarities, we do find that there are some basic differences between Jainism and Buddhism as follows:

Nature of Religion

Buddhism belongs to the category of 'Founded Religion' as it was founded by a specific person viz. Lord Gautama Buddha, at a particular period of time i.e. in the sixth century B.C. But this cannot be said about Jainism which is a traditional religion continuously existing in India from remote past.

Concept of Soul

Jainism is an atmavadi religion in the sense that it is based on the existence of soul and that it deals, in detail, with various aspects, conditions and progress of the soul till it reaches its highest position after getting liberated from the bondage of karmas. But Buddhism holds completely contrary views. Buddhism is, therefore, termed as anatmavadi; religion i.e., a religion which does not give any importance to the soul. According to Buddhism, soul is not a permanent thing and that it will wither away in due course.

Principles of Ahimsa

Even though Buddhism and Jainism are regarded as religions based on the fundamental principle of ahimsa still there is a significant difference in the treatment and application of the principle of ahimsa in actual practice by both religions. Buddhism deals with the principle of ahimsa in a limited way in the sense that it enjoins upon its followers not to commit himsa themselves only. That is why a Buddhist can eat fish caught by others. But Jainism not only considers the principle of ahimsa in all its aspects, but also makes it obligatory on its followers to abstain from committing himsa in nine possible ways. In other words, it is expected of a devout Jains that he should not commit himsa through manas (i.e., mind), vachana (i.e., speech) and kaya (i.e., body) and each through the manner of krta (i.e., personally committed), karita (i.e., commissioned through others) and anumodita (i.e., giving consent for commitment by others).

Practice of Penance

It is true that both Jainism and Buddhism are considered as ascetic religions as they attach prominence to the ascetic way of life and to the practice of penance. But there is a great difference in the extent of practice of penance in both religions. Jainism always lays utmost stress on the strict observance of the practice of asceticism in all possible ways. In fact, Jains asceticism is considered as most difficult in the world and for its proper observance in practice, elaborate rules and regulations have been laid down giving rise to what is known as monastic jurisprudence. But Buddhism has shown complete aversion to extreme asceticism and in its place, it has laid down madhyam-marga i.e.. the 'Middle Path' lying between complete laxity and extreme asceticity.


Both Hinduism and Buddhism originated in the Indian subcontinent and share a very long, but rather peculiar and uncomfortable relationship. Despite the fundamental differences between both the religions, Hinduism and Buddhism influenced each other in many ways. The Buddhist notion of non-injury and compassion toward all living beings took deep roots in the Indian soil, while Mahayana Buddhism took cue from the traditional Indian methods of devotional worship. Buddhism influenced the growth and development of Indian art and architecture and contributed richly to the practice of breathing and meditation in attaining mindfulness and higher states of consciousness. The Hindu tantra influenced the origin and evolution of Vajrayana Buddhism.

Hinduism and Buddhism share some of the following similarities.

1. Both Hinduism and Buddhism emphasize the illusory nature of the world and the role of karma in keeping men bound to this world and the cycle of births and deaths.

2. Both religions believe in the concept of karma, transmigration of souls and the cycle of births and deaths for each soul.

3. Both emphasize compassion and non violence towards all living beings.

4. Both believe in the existence of several hells and heavens or higher and lower worlds.

5. Both believe in the existence of gods or deities on different planes.

6. Both believe in certain spiritual practices like meditation, concentration, cultivation of certain bhavas or states of mind.

7. Both believe in detachment, renunciation of worldly life as a precondition to enter to spiritual life. Both consider desire as the chief cause of suffering.

8. The Advaita philosophy of Hinduism is closer to Buddhism in many respects.

9. Buddhism and Hinduism have their own versions of Tantra.

10. Both originated and evolved on the Indian soil. The founder of Buddhism was a Hindu who became the Buddha. Buddhism is the greatest gift of India to mankind.

Following are some of the differences we can see in the principles and practice of these two religions.

1. Hinduism is not founded by any particular prophet. Buddhism was founded by the Buddha.

2. Hinduism believes in the efficacy and supremacy of the Vedas. The Buddhist does not believe in the Vedas or for that matter any Hindu scripture.

3. Buddhism does not believe in the existence of souls as well in the first cause, whom we generally call God. Hinduism believes in the existence of Atman, that is the individual soul and Brahman, the Supreme Creator.

4. Hinduism accepts the Buddha as an incarnation of Mahavishnu, one of the gods of Hindu trinity. The Buddhist does not accept any Hindu god either as equivalent or superior to the Buddha.

5. The Buddhists consider the world to be full of sorrow and regard ending the sorrow as the chief aim of human life. The Hindus consider that there are four chief aims (arthas) in life which every being should pursue. They are dharma (religious duty), artha (wealth or material possessions), kama (desires and passions) and moksha (salvation.)

6. Hindus also believe in the four ashramas or stages in life. This is not followed in Buddhism. People can join the Order any time depending upon their spiritual preparedness.

7. Buddhists organize themselves into a monastic Order (Sangha) and the monks live in groups. Hinduism is basically a religion of the individual.

8. Buddhism believes in the concept of Bodhisattvas. Hinduism does not believe in it.

9. Buddhism acknowledges the existence of some gods and goddesses of Hindu pantheon, but give them a rather subordinate status.

10. Refuge in the Buddha, the Sangha and Dhamma are the three cardinal requirements on the eightfold path. Hinduism offers many choices to its followers on the path of self-realization.




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