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Discover the Connections between Buddhism and Hinduism in Southeast Asia

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Buddhism is one of Southeast Asia’s main religions.  It is closely related to Hinduism and shares a very long history with it, similar to Christianity and Judaism.  The connections start with Buddha’s birth (Buddha was born in a Hindu family) and continue all the way to the present day, where it is common to see Hindu deities, creatures and epics decorate Buddhist temples and stupas.

Borobudur Temple at sunset. Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia.

Buddhism became popular in India, its country of origin because its teachings created hope and aspiration as well as allowing people the freedom of choice at a time when society strictly adhered to a caste system.  With the spread of Buddhism across the Indian subcontinent along with trade and sharing of ideas with Southeast Asia, Buddhist teachings and ultimately conversions start to spread and grow, bringing along certain Hindu influences with it.

So, what are other similarities and connections between these two major world religions?  Several similarities are listed below:

•    The concept of karma – Both religions adhere to karma, which implies that every action results in a reaction.  In other words, it is a term used to describe the cycle of cause and effect that exists in these two religions.

•    The idea of reincarnation – It is believed that the idea of reincarnation originated in ancient India and that it greatly influenced later religions that developed in the country.  The soul is eternal, but the body goes through a process of birth, life, decay, old age and eventually death.  The sum of one’s actions throughout his life determines his incarnation (a direct correlation to karma).

•    Desire is suffering – Hinduism and eventually Buddhism teaches that desire leads to suffering and the removal of desire leads to a cessation of suffering.

•    Cosmology and worldview – Both religions share the concept of multiple heavens and hells.  Mount Meru (mythological concept of a central world mountain) is also central to both religions.  In addition, entities such as nagas (serpent deities), devas (demigods), asuras (demons) and apsaras (female cloud and water spirits) are accepted in Buddhism (but not worshipped as gods however).

•    Meditation, yoga and spiritual enlightenment – Both religions believe in several spiritual practices in attempts to get beyond the thinking mind and into a state of relaxation and awareness.

•    Rites and rituals – Both Hinduism and Buddhism share several common practices such as homa (making offerings into a consecrated fire), ancestor worship and prayers for the deceased.

Of course with these similarities, there are differences between the two religions.  Buddhism was founded by a single prophet while Hinduism is an absorption of different ideologies throughout time.  Buddhism does not see Hindu gods as such (they are however accepted and viewed with a subordinate stance) and does not specifically believe in gods while Hindu religion adheres to several deities.  Hinduism sees Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu (one of the Hindu gods), while Buddhism does not recognize anything to be equal to or above Buddha in terms of status.

It is interesting to see Hindu’s influence on many Buddhist temples, art, architecture and even philosophy.  Our Southeast Asia Discovery tour introduces you to some of the region’s finest historical landmarks, where the co-existence of these two religions is evident for you to see.  In addition, we will also take you to the less-visited sites, dense jungles and other natural wonders as you enjoy the best that Southeast Asia has to offer.  You may also see our multi-country tours page for other ideas in Southeast Asia or contact us for any questions or tweaks to our tours.

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