Work Title: Buddhism and Hinduism Defined
Work Author(s): Evan Sholle
Byline: Evan Sholle
Buddhism and Hinduism claim more than a billion adherents between them on the Eastern Hemisphere. These two ancient faiths are also attracting growing numbers of Western converts, bringing them to the forefront of American life. Here are some of the basic facts you might want to know:
Hinduism, the oldest organized religion in the world, came into being approximately 4,000 years ago. It has no "founder" per se and is perhaps not so much a unified religious body as it is an assemblage of local beliefs, gods, heroes, and mythologies that share common elements with each other and with Buddhism. Both Hindus and Buddhists believe in the concept of karma, the idea that one's actions influence the way in which one perceives reality, and in the idea of reincarnation, which states that we are reborn in an endless cycle, the position partially determined by our karma. The self, known as atman, is viewed differently by different groups of Hindus, but many seek to unify it with Brahman by breaking down external divisions and engaging in ritual and philosophical practices designed to bring one closer to the ultimate reality. Hindus follow a multifarious array of deities and heroes, and Brahman should not be misunderstood as simply a Hindu equivalent of the Judeo-Christian God. Different sects of Hindus devote themselves to the gods Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma (not to be confused with Brahman.) Their scriptures, the Vedas and the Upanishads, stand alongside national epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabarata to form a rich cultural tapestry of faith that dictates a wide array of rituals and practice. Yoga was originally a Hindu devotional practice, and many Hindus perform puja, or offerings to a shrine or image.