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INTRODUCTION

As a high-ranking member of the Kshatriya caste, second only to the Brahmin caste, Prince Gautama was well indoctrinated with Hinduism. So the logical way to begin a study of Buddhism is to explore the influences of Hinduism on Gautama.[1]

The purpose of this study is to comprehend the reform movement, within Hinduism, initiated by Gautama. But before one can grasp the philosophy of Buddhism, one must reflect upon Hinduism and its beliefs. Schipper correctly says, as cited above, that the most logical way to begin an examination of Buddhism is to research the influence of Hinduism on Siddhartha Gautama (g"t-m). To determine the events that shaped his life, one must seek answers to the following questions: What did Gautama find repulsive in Hindu teachings? What did he find appealing in Hindu teaching? What were the events that led to his rejection of Hinduism in his search for an end to suffering? What did he propose as a means to eliminate suffering?

This essay explores how Buddha’s repudiation of Hinduism led to his now famous Four Noble Truths and the development of The Eightfold Path to eliminate suffering. To understand clearly the reaction of Buddha (b›"d) to Hinduism, one must compare the mindset of Hinduism to the mindset of Buddhism. Chapter one of this paper reviews a brief history of Hinduism and its beliefs; then, chapter two delves into the history of Buddhism and its beliefs.

CHAPTER 1

HINDUISIM: ITS HISTORY AND BELIEFS

"Hindu" comes from a Persian word meaning "Indian." Therefore, in a broad sense, Hinduism may be defined as the religion of the Indian people. This includes more than 350 million believers in India, 20 million Hindu inhabitants of Asian and African nations, not to mention some 350,000 Hindus in the Americas.[2]

Brief History

Hinduism predates Buddhism at least a thousand years. Dean Halverson says that the origins of Hinduism can be traced back to about 1500 B.C.[3]  Hinduism began as a polytheistic and ritualistic religion. In its early stages, the rituals were simple enough to be performed by the head of the household. But eventually, the rituals became so complex that a special class developed to train other priests to perform correctly the rituals.[4]

Hinduism may be one of the most difficult religions to define because it has adopted so many customs and concepts of other religions that it is difficult to determine the boundaries. There are so many schools of Hindu thought that any statement concerning belief must be qualified.[5]   David Jeremiah says that Hinduism "is unorganized, has no national church system, and embraces many contradictory beliefs, meaning different things to its vast number of devotees."[6] Again, he writes, "Hinduism may be defined as the religious beliefs and practices common to India."[7]

Priestly Period

Hinduism traces its source to sacred scriptures called "the Vedas" (which means knowledge). This assortment of books is considered to be divinely inspired by the Hindu gods and interpreted by ancient Hindu seers. This collection of religious literature bears the imprint of spiritistic influences.[8]

Veda (v"d…, literally means wisdom or knowledge) is the term assigned to the oldest of the Hindu scriptures; these scriptures were originally transmitted orally and then preserved in written form. The Vedas[9] contained the hymns, prayers, and rituals.[10] These scriptures were written over a period of one thousand years, beginning about 1400 B.C.[11] The Vedas include the entire collection of wisdom books, also known as the Samhitas, which include the following: (1) rig-veda, collection of over 1000 hymns that praise the Hindu deities, (2) sama-veda, hymns that are chanted, (3) yajur-veda, collection of mantras [holy name or phrase; spiritual formula] carried out by the executive priest and his assistants, and (4) athara-veda, magical spells and incantations carried out by the priest. Each of these texts contain three parts: (1) mantras (mn"tr): hymns of praise to the gods, (2) brahmanas: a guide for practicing ritual rights, and (3) upanishads ((-pn"…-shd") teachings on religious truth and doctrine.[12] To interpret these writings, a class of priests, called Brahmins, arose. Two of the above collections of religious writings appeared (800 to 600 B.C.) on the scene to provide guidance for religious rituals: Brahmanas and Upanishads.[13]

The Brahmanas contained the regulations for sacrifices to the gods and commentaries on the prayers of the Vedas. Also, the Brahmanas are a collection of writings that teach the existence of the supreme god, Brahma (br"m). For the Hindu, Brahma is the personification of the eternal, unchanging World Spirit, Brahman. "Through prescribed sacrifices and rituals, the Brahmanas teaches a person how to achieve union with the Cosmic Spirit."[14] According to the Hindu, "Only one thing is real and unchanging – Brahman, the universal spirit, of which the soul of every living creature is a part."[15] Through the prescribed rituals and sacrifices, the Brahmanas teaches a person how to obtain union with this Cosmic Spirit.[16]

The Upanishads were composed between 800 to 600 B.C. as a collection of speculative treatises. The name means "sitting near a teacher."[17] The Upanishad[18]s employs the notion of mysterious, or secret, teachings about the eternal Brahman, which is the basis of all reality,[19] and the atman (t"mn), which is the self, or the soul.[20] The Upanishads differ with the Brahmanas in that the Upanishads teach that for a person to obtain union with Brahman, each person must be devoted to strict asceticism and meditation.[21] On the other hand, the Brahmanas contain priestly directions, but the Upanishads is more prophetic; that is, "free wheeling philosophical commentaries on the ideas of the Vedas."[22] According to Schipper, the Hindus prefer the concrete (sacrifice and chanted prayers -- Brahmanas) to the abstract (meditation – Upanishads).

Incarnation Period

The Mahabharata[23] is a story of the Aryan (r"-n) clans. This epic consists of over 100,000 verses and was composed over a period of 800 years, beginning with 400 B.C. This book teaches the values of loyalty, truthfulness, and bravery through the story of good and evil.[24] This epic also contains the great classic, the Bhagavad Gita[25]. This work (Bhagavad Gita, b"g-vd-g"t),[26] added sometime in the first century A.D., is still the best known, best read, and most cherished of all Indian works in the entire world.[27] In addition to this epic, the Mahabharata contains another classic, the Ramayana (composed of 24,000 couplets),[28] the second of two major epic tales of India. This is a story about the life of Rama (r"m), a deposed prince, who conquered the forces of evil through courage, modesty, and selflessness.[29] Through these writings, other gods emerge.

First, as time went on, the Hindus became more god-centered and two gods emerged: Vishnu (vsh"n) and Shiva (shv"…).[30] These two gods joined Brahma as prominent deities. Thus, the common people could relate to these personal forces of an abstract Cosmic Force. As a result, devotion to a personal god took form in prayers, offerings, incense, music, and, temples.

Second, the love of God and love of humanity were introduced into the Bhagavad Gita (Song of the Adorable One),[31] the best-known poem of the Mahabharata; this Song of the Adorable One is often called the "gospel of Hinduism."[32] The hero of this poem, Arjuna (r"j-n), receives encouragement from Krishna (krsh"n), a fellow warrior. Krishna reveals to Arjuna that his true identity is an incarnation of the Cosmic Force or Supreme Being.[33] Schipper explains that

The idea of divine incarnation made it possible to worship the abstract gods of the past in the forms of animals and heroic men, which was now understood to be incarnations of the god Vishnu. Eventually, as many as ten specific major incarnations of Vishnu developed. The epic poems produced new legends and a revival of primitive practices.

The new legends included fantastic stories of the gods and their wives. The wives of the triumvirate (Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu), were deserving of worship and praise. As rapidly as the legends developed, new sects formed, each devoted to one of the gods or goddesses.[34]

Again, Schipper poignantly captures this essence of incarnation: "For the first time, the Cosmic Spirit enters human life and provides direct, concrete advice on how to live."[35] Once more he writes: "The idea of divine incarnation made it possible to worship the abstract god of the past in the forms of animals and heroic men, were now understood to be incarnations of the god Vishnu."[36]

Hindu World View

The Western concept of the creation is that the world had a beginning. At a certain point in time, God created the world. But for the Hindus, the universe is unending and filled with many worlds. The Western mindset is the straight line: beginning and ending. On the other hand, the Hindu thinks of countless eternal laps around a tract that is locked into samsara (sm-sr"…--cycle of birth and rebirth).[37] The doctrine of samsara teaches that life goes through an endless succession of rebirths. "Every living thing is on the wheel of life, and each new rebirth depends on the karma [kr"m] built up in its past lives."[38] History for the Hindu is cyclical. Carlson and Decker explains cyclical history this way:

In Eastern philosophy history or time is viewed as cyclical. Man, according to Hinduism and Buddhism is caught in an endless cycle of rebirth over and over again, seeking to purge himself of karma and transcend this physical world of illusion.

In India this is known as transmigration. Hinduism teaches that based on the law of karma, your good and bad deeds will determine how you well come back in your next life. If you live a bad life and do not do the things required in Hinduism and Buddhism to renounce this world of illusion, you my come back as a lower form. This possibility of returning as a cow or rat have made both animals sacred in India.[39]

The Paths of Salvation. In Hinduism, unlike Christianity, one earns his salvation through good deeds.[40] For one to obtain union of the atman[41] ("self," the innermost soul in every creature) with Brahman (the supreme reality underlying all life, the divine ground of existence, the impersonal Godhead),[42] one may employ a number of ways to accomplish this salvation.[43] For instance, Hinduism teaches four yogas (y"g),[44] or paths of salvation: (1) Karma Yoga: way of action of good works, (2) Bhakti Yoga: way of love and faith, (3) Jnana Yoga: way of knowledge, and (4) Raja [r"j] Yoga: way of salvation.[45]

To simplify still further the Hindu concept of salvation, Hindu salvation consists of (1) the way of works, that is to say, the path to salvation through religious duty. In other words, the worshipper performs prescribed ceremonies, duties and religious rites; (2) the way of knowledge, that is, understanding the cause of human suffering based upon ignorance. The error of man, according to the Hindu, is in not understanding his own nature; for example, man must not see himself as a separate and real entity. Hindus say that the only reality is Brahman, there is no other. Selfhood is an illusion. As long as man sees himself as a separate entity, then, the wheel of birth, death, and rebirth will continue. The only way to be released from the cycle of births is to gain a proper understand that one does not have an independent self; and (3) the way of devotion, that is, one must exhibit devotion to deity through acts of worship, one must display love, not only for deity, but also for family, master, etc. This discipline comes only after self-discipline and meditation.[46]

The ultimate end in Hinduism and Buddhism is to liberate oneself from the "physical personal existence" and become one with the "Impersonal All." This "Impersonal All" is often referred to as the Brahman-Atman[47] or the true reality.[48] It is the objective of all Hindus to reach the status of "Enlightenment." Enlightenment is known by diversified names in the religious world. Carlson writes,

This state of "Enlightenment" is called by many names. In Hinduism it is called "Moksa," "Samadhi," or "Kaivalya"; in Buddhism it is called "Nirvana"; in Zen it is called "Satori." In the Western countries, terms like "cosmic Consciousness," "Unified Field of Creative Intelligence," "Absolute Bliss," or "One with Self" are commonly used to refer to this final state.

The Caste System. George Mather and Larry A. Nichols captures succinctly the divisions in Hinduism:

Another important aspect of modern Hindu life, the CASTE SYSTEM, began to emerge during the Vedic period. The system of classifying individuals into castes is vocational and related to skin color. The Rigveda speaks of five social castes: (1) the BRAHMINS—the priestly scholarly caste; (2) the KSHATRIYAS—the warrior-soldier caste; (3) the VAISHYAS—the agricultural and merchant caste; (4) THE SUDRAS—the peasant and servant caste: (5) the HARIYAN—the outcasts or "untouchables." Over time these castes underwent thousands of subdivisions. The top of the social scale remains the Brahmins, while the very bottom is comprised of what became known as "untouchables."[49]

This caste system[50] developed four social levels: (1) Brahmins: the priest and religious teachers; (2) Kshatriyas [k-sht"r-]: the rulers and soldiers; (3) Vaishyas [v"sh]: the merchants and farmers; and (4) Sudras [s›"dr]: the peasants and servants. According to McDowell, "The Sudras are the lowest caste whose duty is to serve the upper castes as laborers and servants. They are excluded from many of the religious rituals and are not allowed to study the vedas."[51] The caste that one belongs to determines the work that one performs, the clothes that one wears, the food that one eats, the person that one marries, and the treatment that one receives from his fellow man. An individual cannot change his status. Whatever the parent’s caste is, then the child remains in that station throughout his lifetime. The untouchables are the lowest of the low. The untouchable is a communal slave living apart from the rest of the village. His job is to look after the sanitation: remove and skin dead animals. He gets enough food to keep his body alive; if there is a famine, he is the first to die[52].

Franky A. Schaeffer fully assesses the distinctions between Hinduism and Christianity. One cannot show this point more clearly than by quoting at length from Schaeffer:

Christians and others must realize that there are vast distinctions between Hinduism and Christianity. Even more important, we must realize that there are even larger differences in the results that the two religious systems bring. Judaism and Christianity have produced cultures in which the concepts of individual dignity and worth, including the sanctity of life, have been produced and preserved in a way that Hindu culture has never known.

There is the matter of fantasy versus reality here. In the world of fantasy, India is a peace-loving country full of gentle, loving, vegetarian pacifists who go about their daily business in a way that should make those of us who are westerners humble and willing to "learn from them." In the world of reality, India is a country in which violent bloodshed is commonplace, wars with neighboring countries—Pakistan, China--are routine, the atom bomb has been tested and exploded, and rival Hindu and Muslim tribes hack at each other with farming implements, paying special attention to killing women and children. It is time that westerners—Christians and Jews—adopt a little more self-confidence in answering the challenge of Hinduism. Christians in particular need to reaffirm the fact that there is only one Christ and Savior and his name is Jesus, not Gandhi."[53]

Reincarnation. The doctrine of the transmigration of souls (samsara) teaches that all life goes through an endless succession of rebirths. The following extract from Boa may help to explain the hopelessness of Hinduism:

Every living thing is on the wheel of life, and each new rebirth depends on the karma built up in its past lives. Salvation—breaking away from this wheel—could be achieved by philosophical speculation on the words of the sages and by meditation. Release and liberation from the wheel of life (mosha or mukti) would finally come when one realized his individual soul (the atman) was identical with the universal soul (Brahman).[54]

Again, Schipper concisely states the "reincarnation" belief:

Trapped in the cycle of samara, the atman can be reborn into another form in the next life cycle. Technically, reincarnation means rebirth into a new existence at the same level as the previous one. The exact terms for rebirth at a higher or lower level is transmigration ("to migrate across") of souls. Each atman in any life form seeks, through successive rebirths spanning countless cycles of time, to move upward to ultimate reunion with Brahman.[55]

Since history is viewed as cyclical by Hinduism and Buddhism, then man, according to Hinduism and Buddhism, is caught in an endless cycle of rebirth over and over again. His rebirth is based upon his karma, that is to say, his good or bad deeds. Halverson captures this concept: "A person’s karma determines the kind of body—whether human, animal, or insect—into which he or she will be reincarnated in the next lifetime.[56]" His or her karma determines the status one assumes in the next go around; for instance, one may return as a cow, a rat, a snail, etc. If one should kill a cow or rat, one might be killing his relative.

This concept of reincarnation, instead of transmigration, was introduced into America in 1891. Carlson writes,

The idea of transmigration was introduced in 1891 at the World’s Fair on Religions in Chicago by a man named Swami Vivikananda. When Vivikananda introduced this idea of transmigration, he discovered that Americans were not very excited about the idea of coming back as a rat, a frog, or a snail. So the concept was changed to reincarnation, which says that you can only come back as another human being. This was much more palatable for Western consumption.[57]

Reincarnation and Christianity. For one to believe in reincarnation is to deny the personality of God. God has created man as a personal being and has personally revealed Himself to man. Hinduism, as well as New Agers, believes that everyone is a part of an impersonal universe. This doctrine of reincarnation denies that God is personal and that God has revealed Himself to man. Reincarnation does away with the atonement of Jesus Christ for the sins of mankind. Also, reincarnation does away with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Carlson says, "He defeated death and is the living Savior."[58]

CONCLUSION

Hinduism. The Aryans who conquered much of Greek culture also conquered much of present day India. The Aryans’ pantheon of gods combined with the Indians beliefs and practices to form Hinduism. Hindus can be worshipers of a god or they may be atheists.

Salvation and the Afterlife. For the Hindu salvation is the escape from the endless round of birth, death, and rebirth. Most Hindus believe that they have many incarnations ahead of them before they can reach the state of Nirvana (complete extinction of self). Hinduism teaches four ways of reaching this state of the realization of the unity of all life: (1) jnana yoga is the way of knowledge or wisdom. Knowledge employs philosophy and the mind to apprehend the unreal nature of the universe; (2) bhakti yoga is the way of devotion or love. In other words, one reaches salvation through devotion to a divine being; (3) karma yoga is the way of action. One strives toward salvation by performing works without regard to personal gain. To state more clearly, it is the path of selfless service; and (4) raja yoga employs meditative techniques

Morals. Hinduistic philosophy recognizes that most people lack spiritual development, therefore, they grant admittance for individuals to lead normal lives, not the life of a monk. But as people grow old, they often forsake their worldly possessions to follow the life of a wandering monk. For the Hindu, one’s renouncing the fruits of one’s labor is the supreme act of morality. Hindus are conscious of the illusory nature of the world and, therefore, they seek to rid themselves from all forms of "material, emotional, and even spiritual rewards and property."[59]

Another terrible plight upon the Indian people is the philosophy of the Indian caste system. As a result of the beliefs about reincarnation and karma, the Hindus have employed these beliefs to support cruelties to the Indian people.

Worship. The Hindus believe that one acquires spiritual "points" through holy objects and persons. This is the basis for Hindus to keep icons of their gods in their homes. As a part of their worship, the Hindus revere animals such as cows, monkeys, and snakes. Also, the Indian people revere their holy men; their objective in this reverence is in the hope that some of the holiness of the holy men will rub off on them and that this will assist them in their salvation

God. Hinduism accepts many gods, but the chief among them are (1) Brahman, (2) Shiva, and (3) Vishnu. Brahman is seen by some Hindus as a personal, loving God who desires the salvation of all men; but, on the other hand, there are other Hindus who view this god as supreme and impersonal, that is, a god that is above all creation and not involved with life upon earth. Shiva represents the creative and destructive sides of divinity. Vishnu’s incarnations (or avatars, v"…-tr") include Rama, a benevolent king, and Krishna, an impetuous, violent, erotic figure. Brahman, on the other hand, is the supreme and impersonal being above all creation and uninvolved with the earth.

Man and the Universe. Hindus do not believe in the universe as a creation of a personal God. To many it is an unconscious emanation from the divine. Hindu philosophy teaches that the universe is beginningless, endless, and an illusion. The only reality is Brahman.

CHAPTER 2

HISTORY OF BUDDHISM

Brief History

Siddhartha Gautama (g"t-m…, 563-483) founded Buddhism about the time that the people of Judah were exiled (586 B.C.) in Babylon.[60] Approximately, twenty-five hundred years ago Siddhartha wandered through India and was known as Buddha (b›"d), or "the Enlightened One." Siddhartha lived a sheltered life in the hill country bordering modern-day India and Nepal (n-pl"). Sometime after marriage and the birth of a son, he became aware of those who were suffering, sick, and dying. As a result of this encounter with the real world, he left his family and became an ascetic.[61] After six years of this life style, Siddhartha was reduced to skin and bones. During this time, he sat down under the Bo (b) or Bodhi (Wisdom) tree[62] near the river Gaya (g-y"). During this period of meditation, he achieved "Enlightenment" and became known as the Buddha, that is to say, "The Enlightened One" (525 B.C.).[63] Thus, Buddha entered Nirvana (nr-v"n)[64] while still alive. Terry Muck observes:

Buddhism teaches that suffering and existence are inseparable; salvation, or more properly liberation from suffering, comes only from realizing that each person is part of this inseparable connection. That knowledge leads to an inward extinction of self and the senses until it culminates in a state of illumination that is beyond suffering and existence. This final state of illumination is called nirvana.[65]

Buddhism versus Hinduism

As stated above, one needs to distinguish between Buddhism and Hinduism. First, Hinduism predates Buddhism at least a thousand years. Second, the two religions differ in that Hinduism is religious pantheism[66] whereas Buddhism is a nonreligious monism,[67] which is closer to atheism.[68] On the other hand, both religions teach reincarnation and karma.[69] Today, there are about 309 million followers of Buddha, with 554,000 in North America. Hinduism has approximately 719 million followers, with 1.26 million in North America.[70]

Four Noble Truths

Siddhartha’s approach to religion clashed with Hinduism out of which he was raised. Hinduism had generated into empty philosophical speculations and disputes. Also, polytheism, rituals, magi, and superstition permeated Hinduism. The caste[71] system also dominated this society. Siddhartha rejected the caste system with all its forms of speculation, ritual and occultism. Buddhism is constructed on the Four Noble Truths: (1) "Life is suffering, (2) Suffering is caused by desire, (3) The cessation of desire eliminates suffering, and (4) The stopping of desire comes by following ‘The Middle Way’ between the extremes of sensuousness and asceticism."[72]

Eightfold Path. Life for Buddha was full of pain and suffering (dukkha). This is evident in birth, sickness, decay, and death. For Buddha, suffering is also caused by an insatiable desire for pleasure, existence, and prosperity. If one wishes to overcome suffering, then he or she must eliminate these desires. But how can this be accomplished? Buddha taught that for one to escape suffering, one must follow in the Eightfold Path, also known as "The Middle Way." Kenneth Boa captures well this scheme of remedial treatment when he writes:

The Eightfold Path is a system of therapy designed to develop habits that will release people from the restrictions caused by ignorance and craving. Each follower must join an order (the sangha) and associate with other disciples of Buddha. The Eightfold Path consists of: (1) right knowledge (the Four Noble Truths), (2) right aspirations (intentions), (3) right speech (overcoming falsehood and promoting truth), (4) right conduct, (5) right livelihood (certain occupations must not be followed, such as slave trader, tax collector, or butcher), (6) right effort, (7) right mindfulness (self-analysis), and (8) right meditation (the techniques of Raja Yoga).[73]

Again, this "Eightfold Path" or the "Middle Way" is succinctly stated by Carlson and Decker as (1) Right View, (2) Right Resolve, (3) Right Speech, (4) Right Action,[74] (5) Right Livelihood, (6) Right Effort, (7) Right Concentration, and (8) Right Ecstasy.[75] Right View means that one comprehends the Four Noble Truths. Right Resolve is the determination to obey the Four Noble Truths. If one wishes to avoid suffering, then one must have Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood. In addition to the practical aspects, one must also adopt the spiritual aspects, namely, the emptying of the mind (Right Effort), the higher states of the mind and body control (Right Concentration), and cessation of sense experience and receiving universal knowledge (Right Ecstasy).[76]

"The goal of each Buddhist" writes Boa, "is the attainment of the state of nirvana."[77] Again, Boa points out that "Gautama’s original teaching was that nirvana is not God or heaven, for his system has no place for deity."[78] For Gautama (Siddhartha, Buddha) the Absolute is totally impersonal, and salvation is achieved by one’s own labor. He also adopted the Hindu philosophy of transmigration (samsara, sm-sr"…) and karma into his reasoned doctrine.

Buddha modified the teaching about the transmigration of souls by asserting that men do not have souls. "There is no enduring self or no actual substance (anicca) which goes through rebirth, but only a set of feelings, impressions, and present moments. All external reality is illusion (maya, m"y).[79] Buddha also taught that each man is an island unto himself. "Buddha said, ‘If someone is suffering, that is his karma.’ You are not to interfere with another person’s karma because he is purging himself through suffering and reincarnation! Buddha said, ‘You are to be an island unto yourself.’"[80]

The Two Main Branches. Even before Buddhism reached into other countries, the movement divided into conservative and liberal schools of thought. The conservative form is known as Theravada (thr"…-v"d…--The Way of the Elders). This conservative movement is also known by Hinayana (h"n-y"n…--The Lesser Vehicle) Buddhism. It is also called Southern Buddhism since it is the strongest in Sri Lanka (sr lng "k), Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia.[81] The liberal school is called Mahayana (m"h-y"n…--The Greater Vehicle) Buddhism. This school is also known as Northern Buddhism. It is strongest in Nepal, China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, and Indonesia.[82]

Differences between Theravada and Mahayana:

Comparison between Jesus and Buddha:

Pastor H. S. Vigeveno of Hollywood captured in a nutshell the basic belief of Buddhism:

Man is his own savior. He achieves enlightenment, eventually. He earns his own rewards, and they will bring him to heaven (Nirvana). So man works his way to God. Grace does not really set him Free.[84]

 

CONCLUSION

Buddhism. Buddhism is a reform movement within Hinduism. Buddhism arose out of the atheistic strands of Hinduism in the sixth century. Buddha discovered the life of luxury and the life of asceticism. His life of extreme asceticism did not bring spiritual fulfillment. As a result of monastic type life, he proposed the "Middle Way."

Buddhism eventually became a missionary religion. Out of Buddhism developed two main sects: (1) the Therevada school, and (2) the Mahayana school. The Therevada school is the more austere, which flourishes in Sri Lanka, Burma, and southeast Asia. On the other hand, the Mahayana school developed a cosmology and a pantheon of semi-deities, which is found in China, Korea, and Japan.

Salvation and the Afterlife. "Buddhism sees ignorance rather than sin as the roadblock to salvation. That is, the belief that the world and self truly exist keeps the illusory wheel of existence rolling; only destruction of that belief will stop the mad course of the world."[85] Buddha summed up this doctrine in the Four Noble Truths: (1) life is basically suffering; (2) the origin of suffering lies in desire; (3) the end of suffering is through the cessation of desire; and (4) the way to cease suffering and escape continual rebirth is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.

Morals. Buddhist laity are to follow the Five Precepts: (1) no killing, including animals; (2) no stealing, (3) no illicit sexual relations; (4) no wrong speech, including gossiping; and (5) no drugs or alcohol. But monks and nuns followed a life of moderate asceticism. The two schools (Theravada and Mahayana) adopted different philosophies in their quest for nirvana. The Theravada school emphasizes meditation and self-denial; on the other hand, the Mahayana teaching stresses "compassion," which involves helping people in every area of life, even though such help does not lead to nirvana. In other words, one school is concerned with insight and wisdom, the other with feelings and compassion.

Worship. For the Buddhist, one shows respect for Buddha when one bows before an image of Buddha. Meditation involves one’s own attitude in which one seeks to rid his mind of all his desires. Kenneth Boa writes: "Gautama’s approach to religion was quite different from the Hinduism out of which he had come. Hinduism had degenerated on the one hand to empty philosophical speculations and disputes, and on the other hand to a crass form of polytheism, rituals, magic, and superstition. Gautama attacked the caste system and rejected all forms of speculation, ritual, and occultism."[86]

God. For Buddha there is no absolute God. Even though Buddha did not deny the existence of God, nevertheless, he encouraged individuals to concentrate on their own spiritual paths, rather than relying on outside help. Buddha did not claim divinity or even claim his teachings from a divine source.

Man and the Universe. Buddha does not explain the ultimate nature of the world. Buddha also maintained that man is simply a fiction: there is really no such thing as "self."


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Prabhavananda, Swami and Christopehr Isherwood. Bhagavad-Gita. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1965.

Rhodes, Ron. New Age Movement. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.

Schipper, Earl. Religions of the World. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982.

Smith, Huston. The World’s Religions. New York: Harper SanFrancisco, 1991.

Starkes, M. Thomas. Today’s World Religions. Chattanooga, TN: Global Publishers, 1986.

Sumrall, Lester. Where Was God When Pagan Religions Began. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1980.


ENDNOTES

[1] Earl Schipper, Religions of the World (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982), 68.

[2] M. Thomas Starkes, Today's World Religions (TN: Global Publishers, 1986), 33. Since Starkes wrote his book, the figures by 1992 were reported to be 600 million. See Richard Hoggart, ed., "Hinduism," in Richard Hoggart, Oxford Illustrated Encyclopedia of Peoples and Cultures (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 142, where he writes, "Hinduism is followed by approximately 600 million Indians, and through migration, has spread to East Africa, South Africa, South-east Asia, the Caribbean, the USA, and the UK."

[3] Dean C. Halverson, "Hinduism," in The Compact Guide to World Religions, general ed. Dean C. Halverson (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1996), 87.

[4] Ibid.

[5] See Kenneth Boa, Cults, World Religions and the Occult (USA: Victor, 1996), 17.

[6] David Jeremiah and C. C. Carlson, Invasion of Other Gods: The Seduction of New Age Spirituality (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1995), 29.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] "Veda [from vid `to know'] `Knowledge': the name of the most ancient Sanskrit scriptures, considered to be a direct revelation from God to the mystics of the past," in Eknath Easwaran, The Bhagavad Gita (California: Nilgiri, 1996), 236.

[10] See Wendy Doniger O'Plahberty, The Rig Veda: An Anthology (New York: Penguin Books, 1981) for a collection of one hundred and eight hymns. See also Easwaran, The Bhagavad Gita, 3, where he writes: "The oldest part of the most ancient of Hindu scriptures, the Rig Veda, dates from this period [Aryan tribes]--about 1500 B.C., if not earlier.

[11] Josh McDowell and John Stewart, Handbook of Today's Religions (San Bernardino, California: Here's Life Publishers, 1983, 285.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Schipper, Religions of the World, 26.

[14] Ibid., 27.

[15] E. G. Herod, World Religions (Illinois: Argus Communications, 1975), 12.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Johannes G. Vos, A Christian Introduction to Religions of the World (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1965), 34.

[18] "Ancient mystical documents found at the end of each of the four vedas," in Eknath Easwaran, The Bhagavad Gita (California: Nelgiri, 1996), 236.

[19] Huston Smith, The World's Religions (New York: Harper San Francisco, 1991), 60, where he writes, "We may begin simply with a name to hang our thoughts on. The name the Hindus give to the supreme reality is Brahman, which has a dual etymology, deriving as it does from both br, to breath, and brih, to be great."

[20] See McDowell, Handbook of Today's Religions, 287, where he says, "Brahman, the ultimate reality for the Hindu, is a term difficult if not impossible to define completely, for its meaning has changed over a period of time."

[21] Schipper, Religions of the World, 27.

[22] Ibid.

[23] McDowell, Handbook of Today's Religions, 287 states that the Ramayana and the Mahabharata depict characters who have become ideals for the people of India in terms of moral and social behavior.

[24] Schipper, Religions of the World, 27.

[25] McDowell, Handbook of Today's Religions, 287, writes: "The significance this story has on Hindu belief is its endorsement of bhakti [bk"t], or devotion to a particular god, as a means of salvation, since Arjuna [r"j...-n...] decides to put his devotion to Vishnu [vsh"n>] above his own personal desires. The Gita ends with Arjuna devoted to Vishnu and ready to kill his relatives in battle. . . . The poor and the downtrodden, who could not achieve salvation through the way of works or the way of knowledge, can now achieve it through the way of devotion."

[26] See Easwaran, The Bhagavad Gita (b"g...-vd-g"t...).

[27] McDowell, Handbook of Today's Religions, 286, where he says, "This work is not only the most sacred book of the Hindus, it is also the best known and most read of all Indian works in the entire world, despite the fact it was added late to the Mahabharata, sometime in the first century A.D." See also Lester Sumrall, Where Was God When Pagan Religions Began? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980), 85, where he says, "Still later, about the time of Christ, some Hindu writer composed a long epic poem known as the Bhagavad-Gita, which describes a battle between a man named Arjuna and his charioteer, Krishna. In the course of their struggle, the poem reveals that Krishna was the god Vishnu, who took human form to offer salvation to anyone who would surrender his life to Krishna. Because this seems so similar to the gospel of Jesus Christ, some scholars call the Bhagavad-Gita the `New Testament of Hinduism.'"

[28] For a symbol of the Hindu trinity, see Clare Gibson, Signs & Symbols: An Illustrated Guide to Their Meaning and Origins (New York, Barnes & Noble, 1996), 26.

[29] Schipper, Religions of the World, 27, 28.

[30] For a symbol of Shiva, see Richard Cavendish, ed., Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1992), 28.

[31] McDowell, Handbook of Today's Religions, 286, says, "The story, in short, consists of a dialogue between Krishna, the eighth Avatar [manifestation or incarnation of a Hindu deity] of Vishnu, and the warrior Arjuna, who is about to fight his cousins. The question Arjuna asks Krishna is: How can he kill his blood relatives?"

[32] See "Translators' Preface," in Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, Bhagavad-Gita (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1965), viii.

[33] Schipper, Religions of the World, 28. See also Easwaran, The Bhagavad Gita, 1-45, for an excellent introduction to this book.

[34] Schipper, Religions of the Wold, 29.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid., 30.

[37] Ibid., 34. See also McDowell, Handbook of Today's Religions, 289, where McDowell reminds his readers: "Samsara refers to the transmigration or rebirth. It is the passing through a succession of lives based upon the direct reward or penalty of one's karma. This continuous chain consists of suffering from the results of acts of ignorance or sin in past lives. During each successive rebirth, the soul, which the Hindus consider to be eternal, moves from one body to another and carries with it the karma from its previous existence."

[38] Kenneth Boa, Cults, World Religions and the Occult (USA: Victor Books, 1996), 19.

[39] Ron Carlson and Ed Decker, Fast Facts on False Teachings (Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1994), 95- 96.

[40] Salvation through good deeds is karma. See Erwin W. Lutzer & John F. DeVries, Satan's "Evangelistic" Strategy for This New Age (USA: Victor Books, 1992), 76, where they write: "The doctrine of karma refers to an irrevocable law that everyone gets what he or she deserves. There is an impersonal force in the world that causes us to build future debits and credits based on our behavior. The quality of life experienced in the next life depends on our present actions and behavior. Evil is always punished in the life to come; good is always rewarded. The more the soul renounces the material world by putting away its lust and pride, the more it loses itself in `the force' or `universal consciousness,' the freer it will become from this horrible material world. The final outcome will be nirvana, the salvation of the soul by being absorbed into the one eternal reality."

[41] Houston Smith, The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), where he says, "Never during its pilgrimage is the human spirit completely adrift and alone. From start to finish its nucleus is the Atman [t"m...n], the God within, exerting pressure to `out' like a jack-in-the-box. Underlying its whirlpool of transient feelings, emotions, and delusions is the self-luminous, abiding point of the transpersonal God. Though it is buried too deep in the soul to be normally noticed, it is the sole ground of human existence and awareness."

[42] Halverson, World Religions, 89, writes about the Impersonal Nature of Brahman: "Hindus see the ultimate Reality, Brahman, as being an impersonal oneness that is beyond all distinctions, including personal and moral distinctions. Since Hindus also consider Brahman to be an impersonal force of existence, the universe is seen by most Hindus as being continuous with and extended from the Being of Brahman."

[43] See Smith, The World's Religions, 26-50 for a detailed analysis of the "Four Paths to the God."

[44] Carlson, Fast Facts on False Teachings, 91, writes, "In Hinduism, Yoga became the main vehicle for transcending this world of illusion. In Sanskrit, the original language of India, `Yoga' means `yoke or union with God' (the Hindu concept of God as the Impersonal All). Yoga, as a religious Hindu teaching and technique, was systematized in India by Patanjali around 200 B.C." See also Sumrall, Where Was God When Pagan Religion Began, 89, where he concisely states, "Hindus define yoga as any method of finding union with the Divine Ground or Brahman. Yoga may involve long periods of meditation, chanting, bodily exercise, or self-inflicted suffering. A person who devotes his life to yoga is called a yogi."

[45] For a detailed study of these four paths to salvation, see Schipper, Religions of the World, 38-41.

[46] McDowell, Handbook of Today's Religions, 290-291.

[47] Halverson, World Religions, 89, says concerning the "The Brahman/Atman Unity": "Most adherents of Hinduism believe that they are in their true selves (atman) extended from and one with Brahman. Just as the air inside an open jar is identical to the air surrounding that jar, so our essence is identical to that of the essence of Brahman. This is expressed through the phrase Tat tvam asi, `That thou art.'" Also, see Smith, The World's Religions, where he says, "We may begin simply with a name to hang our thoughts on. The name the Hindus give to the supreme reality is Brahman, which has a dual etymology, deriving as it does from both br, to breathe, and brih, to be great. The chief attributes to be linked with the name are sat, chit, and ananda; God is being, awareness, and bliss. Utter reality, utter consciousness, and utterly beyond all possibility of frustration--this is the basic Hindu view of God."

[48] Carlson, Fast Facts on False Teachings, 90.

[49] George A. Mather and Larry A. Nichols, "Hinduism History," in Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 117.

[50] See Smith, The World's Religions, 55-59 for an insightful analysis of the "Stations of Life."

[51] McDowell, Handbook of Today's Religions, 290.

[52] F. G. Herod, World's Religions (Niles, Ill: Argus Communications, 1975), 14.

[53] Franky Schaeffer, "Foreword," in Richard Grenier, The Gandhi Nobody Knows (New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983), ix-x.

[54] Kenneth Boa, Cults, World Religions and the Occult (USA: Victor Press, 1996), 19.

[55] Schipper, Religions of the World, 36.

[56] Halverson, The Compact Guide to World Religions, 90.

[57] Carlson, Fast Facts on False Teachings, 96.

[58] Ibid., 97. For an excellent refutation of reincarnation, see "The Truth About Reincarnation" in Ibid., 96-98.

[59] Steven Cory, The Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error 2: World Religions (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), "Hinduism." I am indebted to Cory for the thoughts put forth in this conclusion on Hinduism.

[60] Dean C. Halverson, "Buddhism," in The Compact Guide to World Religions, general ed. Dean C. Halverson (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1996), 54.

[61] Siddhartha abandoned his family at age 29.

[62] Kenneth Boa, Cults, World Religions and the Occult (USA: Victor, 96), 31.

[63] Carlson, Fast Facts on False Teachings, 23.

[64] Nirvana is the final outcome of one's salvation. In other words, the salvation of the soul is absorbed into the one eternal reality.

[65] J. D. Douglas, general editor, New 20th - Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Second Edition, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 127, s.v. "Buddhism," by Terry C. Muck.

[66] See Ron Rhodes, New Age Movement (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 9 where he says: "Pantheism: (a) Pantheism is the view that God is all and all is God. (b) The word pantheism is based on the Greek words pan ["all"] and theos ["God"]. (c) Benjamin Crme explains that `everything is God. There is nothing else in fact but God.' (d)The New Age pantheistic God is an impersonal, amoral `it.' (e) There is no distinction between the Creator and the creation in pantheism."

[67] See Ron Rhodes, New Age Movement (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 9 where he says: "Monism (a) Monism [m"nz"...m]is a theory that sees all reality as a unified whole. (b) The word itself comes from the Greek word monos [`one']. (c) Everything in the universe is viewed as composed of the same substance; all is organically one. As New Ager George Trevelyan puts it, `Life is a Divine Oneness.'" (d) Humanity, God, and the world of nature are likened to waves in a single cosmic ocean. (e) Perceived differences are apparent, not real. (f) Therefore, all of reality is interrelated and interdependent."

[68] Atheism is the belief that there is no God. The final reality is believed to be matter, not spirit. In the words of Carl Sagan, "The cosmos is all there ever was and is, all there will ever be." This quotation is cited in Erwin W. Lutzer & John F. De Vries, Satan's Evangelistic Strategy for This New Age (USA: Victor, 1992), 60.

[69]See Ibid., 76, where they explain: "The doctrine of karma refers to an irrevocable law that everyone gets what he or she deserves."

[70] David Jeremiah with C.C. Carlson, Invasion of Other God: The Seduction of New Age Spirituality (Dallas: Word, 1995), 29.

[71] kst

[72] Carlson, Fast Facts on False Teachings, 23,24.

[73] Boa, Cults, World Religions and the Occult, 32.

[74] Right Action, or Right Conduct demands five precepts: (1) forbidding killing, (2) stealing, (3) lying, (4) adultery, and (5) drinking intoxicants.

[75] Carlson, Fast Facts on False Teachings, 24.

[76] I am especially indebted to Carlson and Decker for this insight.

[77] Boa, Cults, World Religions and the Occult, 32.

[78] Ibid.

[79] Ibid., 33.

[80] Carlson, Fast Facts on False Teachings, 29.

[81] Boa, Cults, World Religions, and the Occult, 33.

[82] Ibid., 34.

[83] See Ibid., 34, 35.

[84] Cited in Lester Sumrall, Where Was God When Pagan Religions Began (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1980), 103.

[85] Cory, The Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error, "Buddhism."

[86] Boa, Cults, World Religions and the Occult, 31.