The Individual's Goal in Buddhism and Hinduism

Essay add: 29-03-2016, 11:02   /   Views: 13
The Individual's Goal in Buddhism and Hinduism
I have always been intrigued by Chinese philosophy. As a little boy growing up on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, I would try to read my uncle’s college books on philosophy and try to understand what is going on. I had no idea what was going on. Maybe it was because I was young, but I did not understand anything I was reading. Let us now go to the present. I am now in college and I am studying Asian Philosophy.

At this time I am studying the ways of Confucious, who speaks of humaneness, fillial devotion and ritual decorum. I am also learning about Mozi, who preaches of universal love, of Laozi, who teaches about simplifying life and being in harmony with the dao.

Lastly there is Zhuangzi, who...........

In Theravada Buddhism, the goal of the individual is to achieve Nirvana through the loss of individuality and cease to exist in the current world. In order to achieve this goal, Theravada Buddhists were taught to develop a state of mind in which any type of action towards them would not affect them in any way. They were taught to have a state of mind like the earth, for the earth if littered upon by men yet it does not get angry and hate. The same goes of water, air and fire, men defile all of these elements but these elements are not hurt by these actions. This way of thinking is useful because there will be encounters with unpleasant people throughout life, these such encounters, if not reacted upon in a neutral manner, can accumulate Karma, which for the Theravada Buddhist, means that Nirvana cannot be achieved. This is why having a passive state of mind could become useful. Furthermore, Theravada Buddhists should be conscious of the corruption of the body. This is important because passion will grow less. If passion grows less, then sin grows less. Also, meditation of the mind is exercised. This is done in order to develop the mind in such a way as to be conscious of even your last breath.

Moreover, according to Embree,”A monk becomes his own lamp and refuge by continually looking on hid body, feelings, perceptions, moods and ideas in such a manner that he conquers the cravings and depressions of ordinary men and is always strenuous, self possessed and collected in mind.” (112) This means that a monk should become self reliant and be able to control the cravings of being a human being in such a way as to suppress any outside desire and be steadfast and rigid as a rock at all times.

Another interesting aspect of Theravada Buddhism that I found out was that of thrift. Generally, there is a belief that “ expensive ceremonies and domestic rituals are wasteful as well as useless.”(114) They view fairs and festivals as places where men lose hard earned money, and where drinking and gambling are widespread. In other words, it is a big waste.


Furthermore, monks were supposed to beg for their food, no t take it. Monks were not to have sex, they must give up this desire in order to gain salvation. Monks must not lie and always speak the truth. A monk does not slander people, he only speaks of peaceful things. In the same way, he has given up talking bad to a person, all that he speaks is things that are nice to hear. He does not chat out of the blue, his words are thought out and concise. He will not participate in any normal event that a regular person might go to, such as fairs and shows. He is to be honest at all times and never injure another. This describes the road in which the Theravada monk must travel by in order to achieve Nirvana. He is to lose his individuality until he dies and ends up in Nirvana.

Mahayana Buddhism is in contrast to Theravada Buddhism in that Mahayana Buddhism believes that the Theravada thought of the complete loss of personality in order to achieve Nirvana is selfish and trivial. Mahayana Buddhism believes that emptiness is the absolute truth. This means that everything is empty. Even thoughts are empty. Therefore Mahayana monks have faith in Emptiness. The most striking description I came across was,” Pleasure does not please him, pain does not trouble him...one who maintains the doctrine of Emptiness has neither likes nor dislikes. What he likes he knows to be only emptiness and sees it as such.”(175) I thought this was interesting because if nothing exists, what is the point of doing anything?

Mahayana Buddhism believes in the Bodhisattva, who is a very compassionate being that has decided not to achieve Nirvana until everyone else achieves Nirvana, then he will go. This is interesting to me because it would seem impossible to get everyone to achieve Nirvana. In a lifetime, there will be people who will never get to nirvana, so the mission of the Bodhisattva is almost like if you were to go into a gunfight armed with a toothpick. It seems impossible to achieve, yet the Bodhisattva still goes on just because he wants to help people. I think that is hero quality.

Furthermore, there is the Mahayana belief that goes against asceticism, it states that self mortification is useless because sorrow only goes to further sorrow. It is also said that “ the man who mortifies the flesh in order to gain rebirth in heaven is completely selfish and misguided, and his last state will be worse than his first.” (167) This states that it is fruitless to hurt yourself for salvation in heaven because you will not get salvation, what you will get is another lifetime in a state lower than what you have right now, say a rock, in which you might have to live eternity as that rock and suffer forever.

Moreover, the Mahayana monks believed in joy in all things. They say that, “Consciousness of sorrow and joy comes by habit; so, if whenever sorrow arises we make a habit of associating with it a feeling of joy, consciousness of joy will indeed arise. The fruit of this is a contemplative spirit full of joy in all things.” This means that even if the monk is beaten or sad, he will give his beating or sadness a connection with joy. This is useful because no matter what happens to the monk, he will always be happy, therefore his karma will not increase because he has no hate his oppressors. In all this is essential in becoming a Bodhisattva.

Also, there is the belief that poverty and hunger is evil. Poverty and hunger will lead to sin and an unhappy rebirth. They also believed that hunger is the source of evil cravings. This means that hunger and poverty is unacceptable because it is associated with evil. It is said that, “Food given to those who can afford it is charity wasted, but food given to those who cannot satisfy it otherwise is charity indeed...those who give food give life.”(172) This shows that if you are able to acquire food yet elect to stay in poverty, you are wasting charity, and wasting food that could go to someone who actually needed it.

In Hinduism, an individual would strive for the Four Ends of Man. The individual goes throughout the stages of the student, the householder, the hermit [he leaves the house to live in the forest and feed on berries.]and the ascetic. A caste system in Hinduism makes sure that society runs smoothly by having its inhabitants perform their own Dharma, or duty, to preserve the society.

In the First End of Man, Dharma, man is instructed in ways of righteousness, duty and virtue. Within the caste system, a person must do their Dharma or else disaster will befall everyone in society. According to Hinduism, “To adopt the Dharma of another is perilous.” Dharma is important and should not be violated because it sustains the entire universe. If one were to stop doing his Dharma or do another person’s Dharma, it would be bad because the universe would cease to function. In other words, people are supposed to stick to what they are doing. If you are a beggar, stay a beggar. If you are a cook, stay a cook, only then will the universe continue to function.

In the Second End of Man, Artha, “the object of activity is material gain and prosperity.”(209) According to Hinduism, “It is it [the science of polity] that the proper functioning of society depends....’On material gain depends the realization of Dharma and pleasure.” This shows just how important money and prosperity is to the Hindu. According to them, material gain is key to pleasure and the realization of Dharma. Dharma also means sustenance, so this would be logical because if you have material wealth, then you will be able to sustain yourself and your family [Dharma] and in that sustenance, you will find pleasure.

In the Third End of Man, Kama, “the object of activity is love or pleasure.”(209)

The Hindus speak of pleasure from enjoying the arts, hanging out with your friends and enjoying the company of a young lady. Also, ways of showing love such as biting were described. I think that pleasure is important to the Hindus because without the love of a woman or the companionship of friends, life would be boring, and people would be less compelled to do their Dharma, thus causing chaos.

In the Fourth end of man, Moksa, an Individual renounces activities such as prosperity and passion in order to concentrate on spiritual activities to achieve freedom from life in this world. I recall the passage where Arjuna tells Krishna that he does not want to fight in battle because he would be fighting and killing his cousins. Krishna tells Arjuna that essence of the person slain does not die, therefore nobody is killed. Basically, he tells Arjuna that it was hid Dharma to fight and that if he didn’t do it, it would be bad. Arjuna would be the receiving end of nasty comments and he will be viewed as a coward. He is told that if he is slain, he will go to heaven, and if he wins, he will rule the earth. Either way, he is not killed because his essence still lives on.


In conclusion, Buddhism and Hinduism have their differences in the way an individual would have to go in order to attain Nirvana and Freedom from worldly life. I thought it was interesting to see the difference between the various thoughts in the way they go about living their lives. The Theravada Buddhists complete loss of individuality as opposed to the Mahayanas compassionate Bodhisattva. The Hindu belief of Dharma seems a too strict for me, but if it works for them, why change it. I think I’ll just stick to my current views of the world and not become Buddhist or Hindu anytime soon in fear of being reborn as a pile of holy cow dung or causing the end of the earth by changing my job.

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