What are the main differences between Buddhism and other eastern ideas?

In answer to Quora question: "What are the main differences between Buddhism and other eastern ideas?"

Wow...this is a BIG question, and people spend years studying the subtleties of comparative religion to arrive at a satisfactory answer - satisfactory for them, that is. So to really understand the differences, you would need to explore all Eastern religions in depth as well as Buddhism, and then draw your own conclusions. And actually that is what I would encourage you to do, simply because it will be beneficial in other ways as well.

That said, here are some (relatively superficial) points of comparison for three Eastern religions:

1) In Buddhism and Taoism, the existence of a central creator deity is deemphasized and does not factor into routine spiritual practice or its objectives, nor are the other deities we find in religions like Hinduism considered very important (except in certain sects).

2) Although the methods and objectives of different schools of Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism - in terms of spiritual practice, peak experiences, insights and outcomes - are seemingly quite similar (in terms of meditation methods, states of consciousness, spiritual insights and various conceptions of "liberation"), the philosophical underpinnings are quite different. To adequately encapsulate those differences would take more time that I'm allowing myself in this Quora post, but in terms of a personal spiritual path, suffice it to say that Taoism leads to the apprehension of the single Source of all things, Hinduism leads to the apprehension of the unity of individual and Universal soul, and Buddhism leads to the apprehension that nothing exists intrinsically, but only in relation to other things. These are horrific oversimplifications, and do not touch on the broader objectives of each religion, but again...even this one aspect of difference is a much more complex topic than we can adequately discuss here on Quora.

3) Hinduism generally affirms the transmigration of the individual soul after death, Buddhism describes the transfer of conditioned experience into a new life, and Taoism implies a continuity of individual existence which is not interrupted by death. These all may sound like reincarnation on the surface, but they actually describe very different processes, with differing outcomes and differing intended emphasis.

4) Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism all have conceptions of karma, but each conception differs from the others in significant ways.

5) The consequences of not following the teachings in each religion with diligence, persistence and self-discipline vary in their particular details, but can nevertheless be characterized as "increased suffering."

6) There are venerated principles and historical figures in all three traditions - some of which are revered more worshipfully than others. And although each tradition would define "worship" and the objects of that worship differently, worship exists in all Eastern religions.

7) Non-attachment is an important concept and practice in Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism, but here again there are subtle differences in how it is framed, how it is realized, and how it is operationalized.

8-) A profound attenuation of egoic self-concept is central to all of these Eastern religions, as is a nurturing of skillful, wise compassion towards oneself and others.

9) In my experience and observation, Hinduism tends to emphasize a more thorough, multidimensional cultural integration in religious practice than Buddhism. For example, you won't find a lot of music, theatre, literature or art as primary features or encouraged professions among the Buddhist traditions, but the Hindu traditions are rich with them. There is justification for a deemphasis of these areas among Buddhist scriptures which we do not find in Hindu scriptures.

10) And, of course, and perhaps most importantly, each of these religions has its own source material (its own "scripture" if you will), its own primary historical figures, and its own cultural artifacts, etc. that result from the regions and times in history where the religion developed.

Additionally, there are other traditions to be considered that I haven't touched upon at all - Jainism, Confucianism, Shinto, Sikhism - in part because I'm less familiar with them, and in part because I need to get started on some other tasks today and this post could turn into a lengthy essay! :-)

And that's just scratching the surface. But I hope it was helpful.


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