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Buddism Essay, Research Paper

Buddhism emerged during the period of the Upanishads, but it is not so much one religion as two. Only two sects of Buddhism exist today that had formed after Buddha?s death. Although these three religions have some important things in common, the differences that divide them are profound.

The Upanishads teach that there is a supreme or absolute reality. This reality consists of the Brahman, which constitutes the true identity, the Atman, of every being. Spiritual liberation or moksha, bringing release from endless cycles of birth, death, and rebirth (samsara) is attained through the realization of this identity. Buddhism has similar ideas as the Upanishads but in two very different forms: Theravada, and Mahayana.

Theravada Buddhism is based on Buddha?s teaching. This teaching is contained especially in the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and the Ten Precepts. Mahayana Buddhism differs from Theravada in that Mahayana Buddhism is based on the Buddha?s example and his actions. For the Mahayana, the Buddha is the embodiment of infinite compassion. The compassion of the Buddha is symbolized in the concept of the Bodhisattva, who renounces Nirvana in order to help others, and by that fact enters it. The Buddha-nature is the sole and absolute reality, expressed in the concept of emptiness. Mahayana Buddhism exists in two different but related forms which are the meditational and devotional. Meditational Mahayana emphasizes that we are already saved and only need to realize that fact. Devotional Mahayana seeks the aid of the Buddhas and Budhisvattas in achieving salvation and in overcoming the trials of life.

There are many more specific distinctions between the two main types of Buddhism and the religion of the Upanishads but the general idea has hopefully been conveyed correctly to the reader.

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