Hinduism vs Buddhism: Metaphysical, Philosophical, and Spiritual Perspectives

Categories: Religion


Hinduism and Buddhism are two of the most influential and ancient religious and philosophical traditions originating from India. These belief systems share a fundamental quest: the pursuit of an authentic and meaningful existence while addressing the pervasive pain inherent in human life. Both traditions delve into the nature of suffering and seek pathways to liberation. However, despite some historical and cultural commonalities, Hinduism and Buddhism maintain distinctive identities through their metaphysics, symbolism, practices, and dimensions of religious thought. This essay explores the intricate tapestry of Hinduism and Buddhism, emphasizing their differences, unique philosophical foundations, and the potential for reconciling their seemingly contradictory views.

Metaphysical Foundations

Central to Hindu metaphysics is the concept of Atman, the individual soul, and Brahman, the ultimate, unchanging reality behind all appearances. According to the Vedas, considered the primary canonical texts of Hinduism, the Atman is an aspect of Brahman. The Katha Upanishad poetically describes the essence of Hindu soul philosophy, stating, "There is one Supreme Ruler, the innermost Self of all beings, who makes His one form manifold.

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Eternal happiness belongs to the wise, who perceive Him within themselves..." (Nikhilananda 80). Realizing this ultimate principle is the primary goal in Hinduism, emphasizing transcendent principles and metaphysical unity.

In contrast, Buddhism focuses on impermanence (anicca) and the rejection of Atman (anatman), the Hindu theory of an eternal soul. Buddhist philosophy teaches that the world is fleeting and momentary, and the doctrine of anatman rejects the existence of a permanent, unchanging self. Instead, Buddhism analyzes the conventional self into five aggregates or composite parts, emphasizing the interdependent, relational nature of the self.

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As Lesser argues, the Buddhist perspective asserts that "soul, in the sense of a permanent unchanging subject of consciousness, cannot exist" (59). This perspective diverges from Hinduism's emphasis on a permanent self and an ultimate metaphysical unity.

Scriptural Authority and Philosophical Inquiry

Hinduism traditionally upholds the authority of the Vedas, ancient scriptures believed to express eternal truths beyond human comprehension. Despite the diversity of Hindu philosophical thought, the belief in the soul as a spiritual substance is nearly unanimous. This scriptural authority underpins various interpretations within Hinduism, including theistic and monistic tendencies. In Hinduism, questions about ultimate reality are addressed through teachers and scriptures, regardless of potential contradictions or esoteric claims.

Buddhism, on the other hand, encourages questioning and empirical inquiry, often cautioning against dogmatic interpretations of religious authority. The Kalama Sutta, a pivotal Buddhist text, advises against relying solely on reports, legends, or scriptures. Instead, it encourages investigation and testing of beliefs through practical application. The Buddha himself remained silent on metaphysical questions, suggesting that such knowledge does not necessarily alleviate suffering. This contrasts with Hinduism's emphasis on scriptural and institutional authority.

Seeking Compatibility and Unity

While Hinduism and Buddhism maintain their distinct identities, scholars and practitioners have explored the potential for reconciling their seemingly contradictory views. Some propose that both traditions describe the same experiences while employing different metaphysical contexts or unique sets of symbolism. David Loy suggests that the difference between Buddhist nirvana and Vedantic moksha is one of perspective, with the actual experience being the same (73). Ankur Burua further highlights that both traditions describe introspective experiences differently but may ultimately point to the same reality (229).


Hinduism and Buddhism, while distinct in many aspects, share a common root in the search for an authentic and meaningful existence while addressing the human condition's inherent suffering. Their metaphysical foundations, scriptural authority, and philosophical approaches may diverge, but they also provide opportunities for reconciling seemingly contradictory perspectives. Exploring the compatibility and unity between these ancient traditions can lead to a richer understanding of the profound insights they offer. In embracing both their differences and commonalities, individuals can embark on a journey towards a more holistic comprehension of the human quest for meaning and liberation.

Works Cited

  1. Burua, Anukur. “Indian Philosophy and the Question of the Self.” Hindu and Buddhist Ideas in
    Dialogue : Self and No-Self. 13 (2012): 217-229. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.
  2. "Kalama Sutta, translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu." Access to Insight. Access to
    Insight (Legacy Edition), 1 Jan 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.
  3. Lesser, A. H., "Eastern and Western Empiricism and the 'No-Self' Theory." Religious Studies 15.1 (1979): 55-64. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.
  4. Loy, David. “Enlightenment in Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta: Are Nirvana and Moksha the Same?” International Philosophical Quarterly 22.1 (1982): 65-74. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.
  5. The Upanishads. Trans. Swami Nikhilananda. New York. Harper and Row Publishers, 1963.
Updated: Oct 25, 2023
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Hinduism vs Buddhism: Metaphysical, Philosophical, and Spiritual Perspectives. (2021, Oct 05). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-similarities-and-differences-between-hinduism-and-buddhism-essay

Hinduism vs Buddhism: Metaphysical, Philosophical, and Spiritual Perspectives essay
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