Between Buddhism and Hinduism

By Manu Rheaume

July 28, 2020

For a long time I’ve wanted to challenge the conventional spiritual beliefs held by many of my spiritual brothers and sisters but have backed off because, in a world with so much information, my personal opinion always seemed more like adding to the confusion rather than lead to any real discussion. However, I’ve recently realized that in bringing up what I believe, I will be confronted with either new information that either will change my view or strengthen the view I currently have.

With that said, the first view I’d like to bring up is that Buddha never rejected Hinduism, but Brahmanism. Brahmanism at the time was this belief in an enforced caste system and a priestly caste based on heredity. The priests made lots of money and did meaningless rituals for good luck and other things. To contrast this, I believe Hinduism teaches about suffering, a hierarchy of Gods (which both manifest externally and internally), and includes the Vedas.

Now in general it is my belief that most religions or sects are started from very high enlightened or spiritual beings and then their teachings are deluded, fractured or distorted, many times for political power. With that said, what I consider Hinduism only includes the perspective I’ve gained from Hindu teachers I highly respect; I fully acknowledge therefore that when I talk about Hinduism I am being biased and selective. This is however preferable because looking at these things in an academic sense would only lead to an endless conversation about things that aren’t really relevant.

Moving right along, so on the Hindu side, I believe that the Buddha never rejected the Hindu Gods and supported the Vedas. Throughout the suttas, the Buddha makes references to many Gods. In fact, even in the epithet of the Buddha, it says he is the teacher of the Gods and devas.

Now when this is often brought up, people often say that in Hinduism the Gods are external beings and that the Gods are control of people’s fate, not the individuals themselves. Now, while there are definitely sects of Hinduism that believe this, there are also sects that don’t. I was always taught that we live in a holographic universe and that therefore the Gods have an internal and external manifested reality. Also, from everything I have studied about Hinduism, I was always told that I can change my own karma by doing certain spiritual practices. In this sense, I see no difference with Buddhism. My intention here is to compare those whom I believe are liberated on both sides and see if I can find a difference because my view is that most people in general, spiritual or not, are highly misguided.

Usually, after I say this, the next argument people come up with is that Hindus have animal sacrifices and other rituals that go against Buddhism. Now while I fully recognize that there are certain Hindu sects that do this, from all the Hindu and Vedic teachers I have come across, say that this is not correct according to the Vedas. For this reason, I see those who do this as being misguided.

The other argument is that Buddhists don’t believe there is an external God living in the clouds, which is really a straw man argument against Christianity that Hinduism gets looped in with. The next more sophisticated argument is that dependent origination puts us as the source of our reality, but if you grant me that the Gods in Hinduism are the internal representations of energies as well, then it’s the same thing.

Next, is that Buddhism doesn’t believe in one universal all-powerful God and Hinduism does believe this. My argument against this is that it comes from, once again, a misunderstanding of what the Hindu Gods really are. If you combine all the Gods you also get Man in his entirety and it all gets very non-dual. Man and God are not considered two separate things in Hinduism at the ultimate level.

So I know I put a lot in here, but I’m curious to see what people have to say. Please try to post things that are constructive and are addressing a point I’ve made. I’m really trying to open this up for conversation, not destroy traditional Buddhism. Also, please don’t just link things unless it’s supportive evidence that directly relates to what you’re saying. In other words, speak for yourself.