Once upon a time, there was a Queen named Maya who dreamt of a white elephant with 6 white tusk who made 3 circles around her, and then entered her womb. The king asked an astrologer to interpret the dream, who predicted that his son would either become a universal monarch, or an enlightened Buddha.
They gave birth to Prince Siddhartha Gautama, born into a Hindu family. One day, when he left the palace, he saw the harsh realities of life that had been shielded from him. He encountered:
- An old man
- A sick person
- A death
These experiences led him to realize that life is full of suffering, and that everyone experiences this. This put him on the path to seek enlightenment.
Prince Siddhartha left his palace and spent six years seeking enlightenment through various disciplines. He eventually abandoned extreme ends and meditated under a Bodhi tree, where he experienced a profound spiritual awakening and became the Buddha. He died at the age of 80, having dedicated his life to helping others find freedom from suffering.
The 4 Noble Truths
The foundation principles of Buddhism teach us to create awareness of suffering and its nature. They then teach us how to move past this suffering.
Truth 1: Life is suffering
Truth 2: The cause of suffering is craving and aversion
Truth 3: To end suffering, detach from the cravings and aversions
Truth 4: There is a path which leads one away from this suffering
The Eightfold Path: The Path that leads to liberation
Buddha's teachings consist of an Eightfold path to liberation:
- Right View
- Right Resolve
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
A Shared Goal
While Buddhism does not have multiple deities to worship, there is one shared belief between Hinduism and Buddhism. Both accept the idea of spiritual liberation (moksha) from the cycle of reincarnation, and they both promote similar spiritual practices (such as meditation, chanting, and devotion).
The biggest difference between Hinduism and Buddhism is the path to liberation.
- Rebirth: Hinduism states that an actual soul (atman) holds their karma and changes the body it inhabits each birth. On the other hand Buddhism states that the flow of life from one birth to the other is believed to be an effect created by our brains and senses that is re-created anew every moment.
- Enlightenment: While Hinduism says that the realization that everything is one, everything is in union with Brahman and one’s soul is the same as the universal soul, Buddhism says that the falling away of the illusion of "I". Freedom from ignorance, craving, and attachment, leading to inner peace and happiness.
- Liberation: Hindu belief is that the soul is bound to the samsaric cycle of birth, death and rebirth. The progress of the individual soul is cyclical and liberation is achieved by merging with Brahman. Buddhism belief says that humans, fish and clouds are bubbles in the same stream. The advantage of human birth is that humans have the capacity to gain freedom from ignorance.
Vesak is an important Buddhist festival celebrated to commemorate the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha.
Did you know-- Both Buddhism & Hinduism originated in India. Buddhism emerged during the 6th century BCE as a reform movement within Hinduism.