Buddhism’s break from Hinduism

Buddhism and Hinduism are believed to have originated from the Indian Subcontinent and they share a lengthy, unique but uncomfortable relationship than can be mirrored to that of Christianity and Judaism. Buddha was born to a Hindu family while Jesus was born to a Jewish family. Buddhism is now treated as a separate religion by Orientalists, after it was discovered outside of India, with no connections to India, where Buddhism had not been proven to exist. Buddhism had gone through several advancements and changes with total disregard for what was happening in India within a similar period. Evidence suggests that Buddhism was already an object of distinct discipline before connections being drawn to Hinduism. It is known that Buddhism has gained much eminence across India as a result of the many people from the shackles of orthodoxy and tradition who were previously ignored as subjects of their karma. This article explores Buddhism’s break from Hinduism as well As the response to caste.

Background of Religion in India

Religious heritage in India is diverse, rich, and ancient. The locals themselves have incredible histories, with some like the pre-Aryan aboriginals going back to the Stone Age period. What changed to Hinduism and later split off to other unique religions like Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism is also rich in legacy. Hinduism and Buddhism believers form approximately twenty percent of the Globe’s population. Though Hinduism is seen as the root of Hinduism there is a need for a clear and distinct overview of the various causes of this separation.

Hinduism

Hinduism often referred to as Brahmanism is an ancient mystery religion as opposed to metaphysical disciplines, from where we get precise information from literacy pieces and regarding the past 200 decades also through iconographs documents, and importantly the only one that withstood unbroken traditions and that is lived and followed currently my millions, some who are peasants and some learned enough to explicate their faith in different languages. Though the modern, as well as ancient scriptures and scriptures of the religion, have been scrutinized by scholars for close to a century, it is often an exaggeration to believe that the faithful account of Hinduism can be enumerated well indefinite denial of common statements that have been attributed to it,  by Indians trained within modern evolutionary and skeptical schools of thought or European scholars.

Unlike most religions, Hinduism does not have any specific single founder but is a conglomerate of various beliefs. In 1500 before Christ, the Indo-Aryan made their way to Indus valley, where their culture and language blended with that of the locals. This is the same period when the Vedas were composed often referred to as the Vedic period. The period was marked by rituals and chanting and Hindus began to promote the worship of deities particularly Shiva, Vishnu, and Devi.

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Buddhism

Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama in Southern Nepal. His father was a ruler of the Kshatriya class who is then alleged to have been informed by a Seer about the birth of his son, with promises that Gautama would be a great ruler. Nevertheless, if he were to see four things namely old age, disease, death, and a monk who renounced the world, then Gautama would have to abandon his earthly destiny to be a founder of new salvation to the world. Gautama’s father then sought to shield him from these experiences consequently. He constructed a palace within a sheltered park and gave orders that neither the aged, the sick, the dead nor the monk should be allowed close to the palace. This then enabled Gautama to grow away from the world. Further, from their origin stories, it is alleged that the gods intervened and within successive days as Gautama was being taken around the park, he identified a man covered with sores, an old man as well as a corpse and finally a monk.

As he was explained to, what each of these represented, he started meditating on the meaning of such revelations recognizing within it that all must grow old, occasionally sick, and finally die. Nevertheless, it was the peaceful experiences of the monk that made him see things differently and abandon his family to pursue salvation as a monk. It is said that one night he approached the door of his bed-chamber, observed his sleeping family, and left never to come back again. He dressed a yellow robe, shaved his hair, and began his quest for enlightenment.

The origin of the caste system

The caste system groups people into four hierarchies known as Varnas. The classification was based on occupation and ascertained access to power, wealth, and privilege. The Hindus often scholars and priests were at the very top. The top-level was followed by soldiers and political rulers who were then followed by Vaishyas and traders, and the next group was Shudras, who were peasants, Laborers, artisans, and servants, the last group was referred to as untouchables. These are persons who handled tasks that were deemed unclean or polluting, tasks that included skinning dead animals, scavenging, or outcasts. They were not even included within the ranked castes.

Several theories exist regarding the origin of the caste system. Religious theories are of the school of thought that castes were created from arms, the mouth, thighs, and feet of Brahman, or simply from his body organs. The genesis of the untouchables is not mentioned within the scriptures. Biological theories, on the other hand, believe that castes, restrictions, and rules relating to caste are derived from the purity or ratios of Sattva, Tamas and Rajas qualities manifested in all beings and objects. Social theories hold the opinion that caste started when fair-skinned Aryans arrived in India, who then displaced and, in most cases, disrespected the locals, they then seized power and divided themselves into three caste groups. The dark-skinned conquered locals were perceived as demons, and together with the children of Aryans and locals, they then became untouchables, commonly referred to as the most dangerous ones.

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Aryans took advantage of religion and scripture to gain privileges as well as mistreat and constrain untouchables. The Brahmins, priests were their most influential caste. The system then spread to Hinduism through Brahmanism. A class of homeless mystics then came up who conducted discussions on spiritual aspects. They characterized different religious persuasions, which had all mutually shared a deep resistance against the power of Vedic scripture as well as Brahmin priests, who acted and claimed to be gods. Buddhism then emerged from the experience and influence of these groups.

Breaking away of Buddhism

Buddha began by denouncing the caste system and instead preached that a person’s deeds are a measure of their character, whether a priest or outcast. He also denounced Brahmin priest’s authority, their rituals, and scripture. He went a step further to welcome outcasts and a number of the greatest tantric adepts who came from the lowest caste. Regrettably, Buddhists exist within India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka who still support and advocate for the caste system. It’s not simple or straight forward to deal with, even with laws as it requires concerted efforts to change thinking and believes. The social caste system is the biggest reason and contributor to the emergence and development of Buddhism. Buddhism broke away as retaliation to the Hinduism in India then.

Ideally, Gautam Buddha rebelled against systems that according to him strayed from the original intentions and set a platform for the biggest emphasis on the principles of purity, morality, equality, virtue, and human values that the ancient seers had prophesized about but not observed by the society in later years. The biggest distinction between him and Hindu priests was hi earnestness as well as elaborate public philanthropy spirit. The Greatness of Buddha as soon as he boldly elevated the standard of revolt against traditional Hinduism practices.

Furthermore, the Brahmanical order did not in any way hinder or protest against the tenets of Buddha, further encouraging him, the basis of this was that Hinduism was liberal to bring together all kinds of opinions under its all-pervading umbrella. Equally, the priest caste that relied on stringent religious practices, did not want to entertain Buddhist opposition internally and its impact on the existing social organization and religious lives of the people. Consequently, the rift between Hinduism and Buddhism widened before and after the death of Buddha. Buddhism also grew as it was perceived as an option to break away from ancient Hinduism faith.

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More so, many people followed Buddha given his perception of self, He did not see himself as a founder of a religion. His reformist agenda earned him more followers. His personality was unique with powerful messages. In embracing normal principles regarding the ancient Aryan thought, he attacked and exposed the sins and evils that were common in it, choosing to front calls for a total overhaul for the better.

His audacious outburst on the priestly supremacy within the social and religious lives of the people earned him a hero perception from people within and beyond his country. His preaching’s concerning man’s noble existence attracted paupers and princes to his feet. The old still was apprehensive of Buddhism, though some of them felt drawn to Buddha based on his noble path. 

Eventually, Buddhist movements increased and spread thanks to his moral impact on the popular mind. During the period when emperor Ashoka fronted the cause of Buddhism, Buddha religion adhered to its purity principles and was practiced as a form of the moral guideline by the people. This Zeal enabled Buddhism to spread internationally to countries such as Siam, Ceylon, and Myanmar. As a version of Buddhism expanded, the perception of religion also changed. Within Indian borders, it drifted towards the popular Hindu religion.

Just before the start of Christianity, a time when a Mahayana Buddhism version was introduced, several reforms happened to the old system. For instance, Kanishka the Buddhist monarch initiated the Mahayana Buddhism that then spread outside India. After some time, China, Tibet, and Japan adopted the Mahayana system. The same system that elevated Buddha to a god and followers were encouraged to offer devotion to Buddha as their god. This gains within such a short period encouraged the proponents of Buddhism to completely break away from Hinduism. The popular beliefs and moral character drew crowds into appreciating it and with Hinduism restricting reforms, it gave hope and an option to those who had felt humiliated and unappreciated by the caste system. 

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