Over the past several thousand years, many faiths have arisen and developed all over the globe. All of these faiths are unique and seem to be quite different from each other, at least on the surface. However, when one starts to investigate more closely he realizes that there are oftentimes some startling similarities. A good example of this would be the religious traditions of the Middle East and Asia.
Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism, for example, have very similar philosophies and practices while they all have different origins. Upon examination of these faiths one will be able to more clearly see the relationship between the traditions of the Middle East. In Christianity, we bind our selves to the truth unveiled through scripture, myths, tradition, and the church’s teachings.
Hinduism, however has a much different interpretation of the idea of binding oneself to the truth. Like many religions Hindus have the basic belief that we all came from God and we must return to God. According to the Hindu faith, the way to accomplishing this is through freeing oneself from the material possessions and pleasures and thus obtaining Moksha. Moksha, for Hindus, would be the point of freedom and the attachment to Brahman.
The goal of a Hindu is to release themselves, but also to gain a complete understanding of life. By doing this, they are freed from the continuous cycle of reincarnation. The yogas are the specific direction taken to unleash the human potential of Moksha. The goal of the yogas is to come in to and remain in touch with Brahman.
The first way to God is through knowledge. The three steps taken on this path is learning, thinking, and the third, a little more complex, consists of separating one’s material ego form one’s Atman. The second way to God is through love. The love we show to others can be translated into a love for God.
The third path to God is though work. Through a devotion to one’s work, God can be seen through the highest rewards if done so wisely. The final Hindu path to God is through Psychophysical Exercises. In this way, a Hindu experiments with mental exercises and observing their effects. Not all Hindus take the same path to God, but the goal is identical.
The Buddha made much reform to the path to God. Well, not so much a reform as perhaps an alternate route. He called this the Middle Path. A way between sensuality and asceticism, the Middle Path lay through intelligence. All forms of life, according to the Buddha, can be shown to have three characteristics in common; impermanence, suffering, and an absence of permanent soul which separates us from other forms of life. The Buddha also pointed out that nothing is the same as is was only a moment ago.
Everything is changing. Even the hills are being worn away, and every human particle is being replaced every seven years. There is no finality or rest within the universe, only a ceaseless becoming and never-ending change. Buddhism denies that man has an immortal soul. The Enlightenment which dwells in life does not belong to one form of life. Man is always changing and entirely mortal. In addition, Buddhism is a natural religion. It does not violate either mind or body.
The Buddha became aware that men are born and die according to their good or evil actions, according to their self-created Karma – the consequences of good or evil deeds. Even though there are several different forms of Buddhism that have come into existence since Buddha’s death, there is still a basic essence that all Buddhists agree with. All Buddhists recognize these. In all, there are four basic noble truths. The first noble truth of the world according to Buddha is dhukka, or suffering. The second truth is tanha, or desire, which is the cause of suffering.
The third truth is that in order to free oneself from suffering, one must overcome desire. The fourth truth tells us how this can be accomplished through the eight-fold path. According to Buddha, the eight-fold path is the means to achieve liberation from suffering. It helps one weed out cravings and ignorance, to overcome rebirth, old age, disease, death, sorrows, lamentation, grief and despair. It helps to end mass misery and aids people in attaining Nirvana, or salvation.
Specifically, this path includes:
- Right View
- Right Thought
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
The most simple teaching of the Buddha was to do good, to avoid evil and to purify the heart. The main revolutionary idea behind the Buddha’s teachings was that he rejected asceticism, which at that time had been a popular belief and a socially approved route to salvation. Not only did he reject self-denial, but the worship of gods. In his Eightfold Path, there is never any mention of worship. Also, he refuted the idea that one had to pass through countless rebirths to reach the Brahmin caste before being able to obtain salvation. For this very reason, Buddhism ultimately failed in India, because of the widespread control by the Brahmins.
The most challenging concept for the Hindus to except was that the Buddha taught that the soul did not exist. Hindus thought that the Atman, or soul, was actually God. The Buddha reasoned that if the soul is purely God, then it is not individual and therefore is an An-Atman, or no soul.
The achievement of liberation then for Buddhist takes form in Nirvana. Nirvana occurs when people release their yearning for a false selfhood, which is similar to Hinduism. Paradoxically, as with Hinduism, the act of extinguishing this yearning occurs simultaneously with an As one can see, there is quite a strong relationship between Buddhism and Hinduism. They are very different in many aspects yet they have many similarities upon closer examination. Another religion which one can relate Hinduism and Buddhism to is Confucianism. Although Confucianism originated from Asia rather than India, some very interesting comparisons can be made.
The premise of Confucian teachings are centered around the idea of Jen or the virtue of humanity. To accomplish this divinity, five relationships must be honored: ruler and minister, father and son, husband and wife, elder and younger brother, and friend and friend. These relationships led a push for a revolution of the political system to adopt the methods of Jen.
Confucius sought to revive the ancient Chinese culture by redefining the importance of society and government. He described a society governed by reasonable, humane, and just sensibilities, not by the passions of individuals arbitrarily empowered by hereditary status. He felt that this could be achieved through education and the unification of cultural beliefs. He believed that a nation would be benefited by citizens that were cultivated people whose intellects and emotions had been developed and matured by conscious people. He felt that those born into the feudal system had a personal duty to excel socially by means of power.
Those who were of lesser class should also seek out education to better themselves. All purposes for betterment of man and society as one whole is known as Li. Li means the rationalized social order. Confucius felt that love and respect for authority was a key to a perfect society; this strict respect was practiced through rituals and magic.
The Confucius traditions have caused a tradition to set within its institution and is extremely active. It has, unfortunately, allowed the political institution to manipulate the Confucius system. On the surface, the practices and philosophies of confucianism appear to differ greatly from those of its Indian counterparts. Confucianism is much more politically oriented while Hinduism and Buddhism are more self oriented.
However, The main connection behind all three different beliefs is their striving for order and balance. Confucianism strives for order and balance through Jen and Li, while Hinduism and Buddhism use Yogas and the eight fold path. This balance and order brought about these different practices extends to a greater purpose which all three of these religions have in common, to achieve a higher form of enlightenment.