Buddhism is a religion which began in the northeastern parts India. It is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who came to be known as Buddha. The Buddhism religion revolves around the notion that suffering does exist, and that there is the need to get rid of it. It also involves changing oneself so as to develop awareness, kindness, and wisdom in the long run. The basic tenets of Buddhism state that there is nothing that is permanent. There are consequences to any action and that change is possible in an individual’s life.
However, before the Buddha came along, the Brahmins were already present preaching equality among the masses. The fact that they preached equality for all gave them authority and the right to guide the society. The present-day Brahmins are believed to be the descendants of the Aryans. The Aryan society was divided into three classes; the priests, the warriors and the rest. Members of the Brahminic society were expected to control their emotions, senses, truthfulness, tolerance and renounce their material wealth. The Brahmins adhere to the Brahmanism principles, for example, they should accept ham of the Vedas with reverence. Adherence to this position will mean believing that God is one but has many different names and ways to worship due to the different existing cultures and language. They believe in the whole world being one family. They are reformers, communists and atheists. Most of today’s Brahmins practice vegetarianism.
Though the two religions seemed similar at first, they did not agree on a few issues. The Brahmins saw Buddhism as a threat to their existence and decided to fight Buddhism using two tactics. First was by entering the Sangha and secondly, fight from the outside as well. Brahmins were different from Buddhists in that the Brahmins usually enjoyed the comfort found in Viharas; they were neither loyal disciples nor loyal preachers. The actual preachers were the non Brahmins. A major difference between the two traditions is that Brahminism used the Sanskrit language while Buddhism used the local language of the masses. This made the Buddha require no interpreters wherever he went (Harvey 25-27). The original tenets of the Buddha were sincere, easy to follow and free from any metaphysical speculation, unlike the Brahmins’.
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The two religions were also different in that the Buddhists believed in the infallibility of Vedas, a creator, bathing in sacred rivers, caste system and self mortification while the Brahminic society did not. In addition, the earlier Buddhists did not agree with the Brahmins in matters concerning epistemology; the Buddhist only recognized the truth. Another significant difference between the two was that the Buddhist monks used the local language of the local people without chanting. Moreover, the dharma taught by Buddha was meant for individuals to have experience in life rather than a form of supernatural revelation as evident in the Brahminic society. The Buddha used to encourage everyone to experience the dharma. The dharma principle in itself was a scientific tradition different from the Vedas which was a revelatory one. The Buddhist did not believe that an individual needed an intermediary so as to discover the truth or attain a form of salvation. Nirvana was achieved by one’s own effort (Davidson 20-26).
The Buddha also discarded the early Brahminic idea of liberation at death. The Buddhism religion rejected the claims of Brahmins to pre-eminence. It did not agree with the external qualifications of being a Brahmin. For example, the Brahmins believed in purity of birth, knowledge of the Vedas, a handsome appearance and a fair complexion. The Buddhist said that, the Brahminic sacrifices did not lead to the release, but only rebirth in the Brahma world. The Brahmins were also expected to maintain the three fires in order to carry out fundamental sacrifices. The Buddha was not in agreement with the idea that there were exceptional duties belonging to an individual in virtue of birth.
Buddhist bhikshu, also known as a monk, was a wanderer who was the first to spread the Buddhism religion. He used to carry Buddha’s message of compassion and code of ethics from one village to another. More often than not, he followed trade routes that connected wealthy towns and urban emporiums with a thriving seaport and trading centers on the west coast. He would come across a caravan of merchandise on its way to Barygaza or Sopara where ships would carry the goods to countries overseas. In this company, there would be a Greek or Roman merchant who would be eager to listen to the teachings and donate generously to the Buddhist order. The bhikshus traversed the hilly terrain evident in central India and sheltered in secluded caves during unfavorable weather. The rainy retreat they encountered on the way encouraged their monastic way of life, meditation and the prayer rituals they performed. In these caves that the bhikshus stayed in, they carved out viharas, chaityas and residential cells for their monastic complexes. It is amazing to note that they did all these using basic tools. As people increased, the bhikshus also enlarged their caves. In each group of the viharas, a cave was used as a chapel for meditation and prayer rituals. Rich merchants and ordinary villagers near would worship in these temples within the caves. The bhikshus’ faith was unusually deep and illuminated by an imaginative, artistic mind.
Monastic institutions have gone a long way to help in the spread of culture and education. The monasteries provided the community around them with development projects, care for the less privileged and promoted art. The Buddhist monastic order was subdivided into two, the male bhikkhu assembly, and the female bhikkhuni assembly (Davidson 25-26). Monks and nuns were required to perform certain duties in the Buddhist community. First, they were supposed to preserve the discipline and doctrine of the Buddhism religion. They were supposed to provide a living example for the laity and an opportunity for the laymen and women to earn merit. The lay community earned merit by supporting the monks in any way they could. In return, the monks and nuns were to dedicate their lives into the study of the Buddhist doctrine, meditation and be morally upright. However, many monks and nuns have continued to be in touch with their former families.
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For one to join the Buddhist monasticism, there are conditions to be met. A Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni ordains a novice for a about year. The individual should be aged between seven and seventy years. For quite some time, the male novices have been ordaining at a tender age, but not younger than eight. On the other hand, women always choose to ordain as adults because they are not projected to do so when they are still young. The Samameras are expected to live a life observing the Ten Precepts. However, they are not responsible for the full set of the monastic rules. In addition, higher ordination is always given to those who are twenty years old or more. Women monastics live a longer period as Samaneras (they can go up to five years). Monks can give the Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni vows back and go back to a non-monastic life. The discipline instilled among the monks and nuns create a simple and focused life. In Buddhist monasticism, celibacy is hugely valuable; this is what separates them from a normal householder. Depending on strictness of observation or the community, monastics usually eat only one meal per day. The food can either be a donation or from their kitchen (Harvey 67-80).
However, Buddhist monastics are not forced to obey a superior. They are only expected to respect the senior members in the Buddhist Order. Each group of monastics makes decisions in collectiveness through a gathering. The decisions made in this gathering touch on the welfare of the monastic institutions. However, there are no formal positions or authority to give orders vested among the superiors. An abbess is the one who is responsible for the daily administration of the monastery. He may appoint others to help with the work around the community. The abbess can either be voted for by the monastics or chosen by the lay community.
In conclusion, despite their differences, Buddhism and Brahminism are similar in very many aspects. For example, both religions do not believe in God. Instead, they have shifted their focus on the livelihood of the masses. This has led to some people debating on whether the two can be placed under religion or not. Some believe that a religion which does not believe in God is a cult and not a religion. However, both religions relate in the fact that they have monks who live in societies and depend on their followers for gifts or food. They have principles that they follow as a guide.