How Does Hinduism Differ From Buddhism? [Google Questions Answered]

Curious to know what people were wondering about Hindus and Hinduism, I went to Google and entered some prompts. For example, I typed “How Does Hinduism” and then paused to see what questions would come up. Today’s question is…

How Does Hinduism Differ From Buddhism?

This is a great question and I’m glad people are asking it. I’m glad people are trying to understand the differences between religions and not just lumping them all together as the same thing.

Hinduism and Buddhism are closely related. Buddha was a Hindu prince before founding his own path to enlightenment. For westerners I’ll often say that the relationship between the two is like the relationship between Judaism and Christianity in some ways. Christianity was inspired by the life of a Jew and Buddhism was inspired by the life of a Hindu (though the Buddha rejected Hinduism and did not find it to be the right path for himself).

One of the really stark differences is between Everything or Nothing.

–> Hinduism sees the ultimate reality as being all things united as one glorious divinity. Buddhism sees the ultimate reality as nothingness. While Hindus gain Moksha and become one with everything in the universe; Buddhists gain Nirvana by detaching from everything until nothingness remains.

–> Another big difference related to this is that one of Buddha’s fundamental principles is that life is suffering. When we accept that, we want to escape from the world, and so we dedicate ourselves to meditation and breaking the cycle to achieve the nothingness of Nirvana.

Hinduism, on the other hand, believes that life is actually full of joy. Yes, as Buddhism says, suffering arises when we feel attachment to things and to people, but suffering is part of the physical body and the physical plane. There is a bigger reality into which we can step and in that True reality, the world is perfect and everything is bliss.

–> While Hindus turn to the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Gita, and the Ramayana to understand life, Buddhism does not accept any of the Hindu scriptures.

–> Buddhism does not worship or follow the Gods. Some don’t believe Gods exist and others believe they exist but are not beings worthy of worship, as they are also stuck in the illusion of the world and cannot guide anyone out. It could be said that Buddhism has no Gods while Hinduism has all the Gods!

–> In day to day practice the most noticeable difference is in ritual. Hinduism has a lot of ritual about it and proper ways to arrange an altar, proper offerings to make, proper compass directions to face. Buddhism’s original forms had none of that.

It gets more complicated, though, as both religions have continued to grow. There are sects of Buddhism now that differ dramatically from the original stark teachings.

My knowledge of Buddhism is not profound, as it is not my religion. It is, however, the religion of my husband, so I’ve learned about it from him.

Though on the one hand Buddhism has tended to be more welcoming of outsiders, American Buddhism has really developed into its own sect. I highly recommend American Buddhist Perspective on Patheos. The writer is very intelligent and really knows how to distill and explain Buddhism and in particular, American Buddhism. Here is an article he linked to recently with common misconceptions about Buddhism: (Number ten makes me laugh because I feel the same way about Hinduism!)

There are those who do not believe Buddhism to be a separate religion and would categorize it as a form of Hinduism. In fact, in many counts of Vishnu’s avatars, the Buddha is one.  I’ve thought about that and I don’t know that I can agree. I find Buddhism’s emphasis on nothingness to be fundamentally at odds with Hinduism’s beliefs. My sect of Hinduism (Advaita Vedanta) and my husband’s form of Buddhism are quite similar in many ways and we have plenty of common ground, but there are distinct differences that we stumble across occasionally in philosophical debate.

The Buddha found his own way to understand the world and it’s a good path for many, many people. But it is a different take than that of Hinduism.

Learn more:

Comparison chart:



A related question on Google is How Does Hinduism Differ From Other Religions? I think a great resource for answering that question is the book How To Become a Hindu by Subramuniyaswami. There is a large section detailing Hindu beliefs and the beliefs of many other world religions and belief systems. You can read the book for free by clicking the links here:


Other Google Questions Answered

Why Do Hindus Pierce Their Nose?

What Does Hinduism Say About Homosexuality?

Why Do Hindus Wear Turbans?

Why Do Hindus Not Eat Beef?

How Does Hinduism Differ From Buddhism?

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Ayan

    One of the puzzling thing about Buddhism is that they believe in cycle of birth & death but not in concept of soul.

    • Ambaa

      That is interesting!

      • Chandran Avinjikat

        Great to see in depth discussions of Hinduism and Buddhism. I believe both profoundly philosophical religions meet at the basic concept. ope to hear more about the nuances of Hinduism.

    • 5w_haul

      it has several very illogical concepts that why adishanker destroyed it in various shastrarth and Buddhism rejected in india and authority of vedas were reestablished. i bow to great guru!

      • Ayan

        Adi sankaracharya himself had made a lot of modification in the vedas to counteract buddhism……..

        • 5w_haul

          what modification ? vedas provide truth and foundation for adishanker’s philosophy i didn’t see any contradiction of vedas in his texts.

    • David

      from a Zen Buddhist perspective, life is not reincarnation but
      moment to moment rebirth.

      • Ambaa

        That is a great perspective on it! I like that.

      • 5w_haul

        is it Buddha’s perspective ? or zen ?

        • David

          I think the answer is more culturally based e.g. Tibetan Buddhism has reincarnation. Zen Buddhism not so much.
          and of course, there can always be individual differences
          with Zen Buddhism but the basic take is moment to moment rebirth. There was a great quote from M. Abe that Zen Buddhist are all heretics.

          • 5w_haul

            its not about Tibetan or zen, its about what buddha himself said. what contradict buddha teaching is not buddhism they qualify as different philosophy

          • David

            it is important to consider the evolution of Buddhism. to make a static entity, kills it.

          • David

            The teaching of Buddha, the three turnings of the Dharma Wheel, can be specified according to vehicle:

            1. Hinayana
            anatman (no self)
            (the term may have a different meaning in Hinduism)
            2. Mahayana
            Bodhisattva ideal (Wisdom/Compassion)
            3. Vajrayana
            Buddha Nature (Tathagatagarbha)

          • Brad Choate

            Hinayana is a derogatory term. The term Theravada is preferred.

    • urownexperience

      No personal self/soul survives or travels. Impersonal tendencies seek material existence. If you want to call impermanent, transient tendencies a soul, ok.

      • 5w_haul

        tendencies travel on what? when tendencies are transient then the previous being is not you and next one will not be you, so seeking liberation doesn’t make any sense, you are liberating from what?

      • Ambaa

        And that might be one of the differences! I do believe in a soul that travels. Although, since we really are all the same substance, it travels while not really going anywhere, I suppose.

  • Ashutosh Pathak

    There is no religion called Hinduism. It is merely an interpretation of
    Sanatana Dharma (Buddha calls it Sanatana Dhamma in Dhammapada, Chapter
    1, verse 5) which was practised by the settlers of the Indus valley
    civilisation. Indus was called Sindhu back then. The Persians pronounced
    the syllable ‘S’ as ‘H’ and hence these were called ‘H’indu- the people

    of Sindhu and their religion as ‘H’induism. There is not one occurrence
    of the word Hinduism in any of the vedic texts. Consideration of this
    fact agrees with the current world’s opinion about differences between
    Hinduism and Buddhism and at the same time eradicates the argument
    Secondly, Advaita vedanta was very well explained by
    Krishna. God is Everything. God is Nothing. Everything is nothing and
    Nothing is everything. Metaphorically, its like traveling in opposite
    directions on a round globe and arguing which way is Australia. Its both
    ways! If God is the superset, then everything in the subsets is God but
    at the same time those subsets are not God. Another example: if sea
    water is God, then God is in Fishes (the water is in them aswell) but
    the fishes are not God.
    Finally, that’s all jolly good but why did
    Buddha turn his back on Sanatana Dharma? Because in the absence of any
    true Gurus, Sanatana Dharma faced the problem of biased interpretations.
    The self proclaimed ministers of religions started twisting meanings
    for personal agendas. Idol worship and burning widows, it became the
    case of The Church vs Science. Buddha’s own guru Kaundilya was forced
    into exile by his father’s ministers. So like any true scientist, he set
    out to find the truth himself. He finally rested in the glaciers of
    Tibet where no more Pundits will bother him. What a shame for India.
    Most of his selfless and sacrificial austerity filled preachings can be
    found dot to dot in the Bhagwad Gita. Krishna calls it the Karma Yoga.
    will end it with this, majority of Sanatana dharma scriptures have been
    lost. A small example is of Chandogya Upanishad mentioning the Fifth
    Veda. What was left suffered deliberate manipulation from Muslim and
    Christian conquerors over hundreds of years. When asked whom to believe
    in such circumstances about Sanatana Dharma? My Guru said ”The one who
    says I don’t know much about Sanatana Dharma”. Namaste!

  • 5w_haul

    Buddha rejected Hinduism – lol the most common used line by Buddhist, could you testify that claim

    • amrik

      No he didn’t the word Hinduism didn’t even exist, he took ideas from Sanatana Dharma, infact everything in Buddhism is taken from Sanatana Dharma. All Buddhists are just a branch of this religion.

      • Dhamma dude

        They are perhaps a heterodox branch along with Jains. I suppose it all depends on what one considers the Sanatana Dharma. They have views very different from the Vedas and different social structures.

    • Dhamma dude

      The Buddha did not reject Hinduism true, but he was unsatisfied with what he was being taught by various Sramana teachers at the time. As a result of this his own enlightenment led him to views in many ways and crucially practices, different from those around him at the time.

      • 5w_haul

        priests of royal palace and kapilvastu were not sramana teachers they practiced karma-kandas. in fact the buddhism and jainism are born from sramana tradition, buddha learnt everything from sramana sannyasis in forest. these traditions are heavily influenced from Sankhya system.

  • 5w_haul

    @disqus_8DgPk7IBSx:disqus exactly he rejected his royal lifestyle and worldly pleasures not hinduism or whatever it was called then

    • amrik

      @5w_haul:disqus true glad to see there are sane people still out there, we need more people like you to stop people spreading lies and misinformation about religion

  • justinwhitaker

    You’ve got to be pretty brave to take on this topic, Amba! I feel like “what is Buddhism?” and (likely) “what is Hinduism?” alone are tough topics to tackle without rocking a few boats, so combining them is sure to raise some eyebrows. You did an admirable job of it though and I appreciate the kind words about my own blog :) Many thanks, and keep up the great work.

    • Ambaa

      Thank you! I’m sure this will be a continuing discussion. :)

  • Brad Choate

    Hey Everyone, I’m Ambaa’s husband.

    This is an interesting topic, and certainly I have learned a lot about Hinduism from Ambaa and my own research since meeting her. I have studied Buddhism both academically and as a personal faith. I think Ambaa’s assessment that our particular beliefs based on our traditions within our respective faiths is correct. If one were to take a different sect of Hinduism and a different sect of Buddhism than there would be any number of discrepancies. As to this particular example I think there are even fewer places of disagreement than were mentioned.

    I think the translation of ‘Dukkha’ is problematic, while often it is translated from Pali into English as ‘suffering’ I think there is a better translation: dissatisfaction. This fits with the overall Theravada philosophy. Basically putting forward that eternal rebirth is ultimately dissatisfying both in its pleasure and its pain. I know some of you are familiar with the story of Gautama Buddha’s life, but just to recap it is said he lived part of his life as a prince having every pleasure fulfilled and he was unsatisfied then he lived part of his life as an ascetic starving and flagellating himself and found the pain unsatisfying. This he found a middle path to the release from suffering.

    I’ve had discussions with Ambaa’s father (Now my father-in-law) about the difference between Atman and Anatman. Truly if we look at the means of realization of either goal (in the traditions of Advaita Vedanta and Theravada) the method is to release attachments through meditation. Once a person has achieved Moksha they no longer incarnate and are merged with Atman. Once a person has achieved Nirvana they no longer incarnate and are dissolved into Atman. doesn’t see that different to me.

    When I posed these point to my wife she asked, “Well what does make them different? Why are you not Hindu?” I think the short answer is that I could be; I don’t see our beliefs as mutually exclusive. My attraction to Buddhism over Hinduism is the way Buddhist arguments are built. Gautama has the four noble truths and the eight fold path. Essentially he identifies a problem: dis-satisfaction. He confirms it source: attachment to static things, Then he works out a solution in a few short sentences. Which is not to say the practice is easy or simple, but the basis is.

    There is one fundamental, if obscure and non-utilitarian difference I see between my beliefs and those of Advaita Vedanta. (I wish to note here that I speak only for myself in the beliefs that follow and not for any sect of Buddhism in particular) In my understanding of Advaita Vedanta, we are all Bramha, which is to say we are either physically Bramha, or perhaps we are all projections of Bramha. This we are all of the same matter, I am you exactly and there is no difference. In western philosophy this is called Static-Monism. As the old Buddhist argument goes that would mean there is no difference between beer and bleach. I believe that we are fundamentally, and inseparably connected to one another through existence. Forgive the analogy but think of a jello mold. within the jello there can be regions of darker or lighter color, there can be high density regions and watery regions, but there is no distinct end of one region into another. I think that is a more accurate description of existence. I western philosophy this is called Dynamic-Monism. That being said, I don’t think that this fundamental difference really has any effect on how I live vs how my wife lives.

    For a much better description of dynamic monism check out the work of Terry Horgan and Matjaz Potrc which is availiable online.

    • David

      From my little bit of knowledge, anatman / atman is the difference between the two religions. I know little of the meditation practices of Hinduism or specifically Advaita Vedanta but Zen’s focus after initial samatha is a direct experience of anatman. From brief experience, it can not be mistaken for anything else but I can certainly understand attempting to name it.


      • Dhamma dude

        The Buddha stayed silent on the existence of God because he saw it as irrelevant to his teachings. He claimed his teaching was about ‘Suffering and it’s end’, and saw the cause of that suffering in the human mind as opposed to some external force. The religious world in which the Buddha lived does seem to have the same concept of a single ultimate God that we know from the Koran, Bible and later Indian texts. The later Mahayana of Buddhism school often describes him as the teacher of men and Gods.

        • 5w_haul

          concept of ishvara is very different from biblical and quranic god

        • David

          “GOD”!! you are not happy with the entanglements in here already. We have a fundamental buddhist, a zen buddhist and I do not know how many varieties of Hindu.

      • 5w_haul

        again buddh never taught atman and anatman. and never did teach that anatman exist. both buddh and upanishads taught to remove ego attachment perceived as a self not THE SELF. final goal is the realisation.

        • David

          let us be a little more specific and not get hung up on the semantics of a lower vs an upper case “S”. The Buddha taught there is no independent fixed inherent self. The term “ego” is also problematic for some.

      • 5w_haul

        for further information you can read samkhyakarika and Mulamadhyamakakarika.

    • 5w_haul

      your first paragraph is good and very rationally put together what Siddhartha Gautama did like any doctor is identify problem, causes of problem and the process as a remedy. that whole Buddhism or Buddhas teachings irony is there is no religion in it.

      now coming to Buddhist religion what they did especially some sects. that they tried to create a metaphysical aspects out of it, without having any metaphysical foundation, concept like Bodhisattva and all other rubbish are result of it that’s why most Buddhist can’t have and win a logical argument. but despite of that it has very simple and good concept of universal human values to follow.

      now coming to question of Buddha himself i am presuming two possibilities
      1. he never got enlightened and never had answer of everything that’s why he never gave details of metaphysical aspects, which i myself find highly unlikely based on details of his life.
      2. he thought of these questions of metaphysical aspects and self as inconsequential in greater scheme of things that is bondage and suffering, and simply gave the method to follow.
      he never denied existence of self and god but remained silent on these issues, not speaking and denying are two different things. because he mentioned different planes of reality and being which are metaphysical in nature so he knew these things but choose not to answers them.

      so whats the conclusion of this:-

      Buddhist can’t say or claim that there is no god and self but say they don’t know or Buddha didn’t mentioned them
      no scope of metaphysical concepts, Buddhism is just a method so some sects. are not actual Buddhism.

      advaita is not static-monism you need to read more about it.

      by the way its good know you are Buddhist with clarity of mind most Buddhist i encountered makes claims and lose a argument in end with confusion and use defensive mechanism to hold ground.

    • Agni Ashwin

      “Once a person has achieved Nirvana they no longer incarnate and are dissolved into Atman.”

      Huh? Are you saying this is what Buddhism, or some particular Buddhist tradition, teaches?

      • tushar

        buddhist dont beleive in atman

      • tushar

        buddha said don’t believe in anything until u personally experience
        it,have u experienced what the atman is?or is it just out of belief that
        you are saying?

        • Ambaa

          That’s a good question. I have experienced something that I believe to be the Atman. I could be wrong, but believing that enhances and improves my life, so I do.

  • J N

    Hindu is word derived from Sindhu by arabians. so when we speak of vedic philosophy, buddhist, jain, sikh, are based on vedic philosophy. Buddha rejected idol worship, but he became idol n worshiped in temples. the worship concept is based on nirakara (formless) sakara(form based) leads to same goal at end,

  • Kumar

    Please read you will get clarity on Hinduism.

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