Hinduism & Buddhism
Religions Founded in India
Name: _____________________________ Date: ________________ Period: _______________
Origins and Early History: Hinduism began in India more than 3,000 years ago. Unlike many
other religions, Hinduism is not based on the beliefs of a single great religious leader, or founder.
When Northern invaders, known as the Aryans, conquered the people already living in India they
spread the ideas of Hinduism. Since then Hinduism has flourished in India, and has also been a
major influence on parts of Southeast Asia.
Major Beliefs: Hindus believe the world is united by a single spirit, known as
Brahman. Hindus also believe in many gods and goddesses, called polytheism.
These are all seen as different appearances of Brahman. The most important of
these gods and goddesses are Shiva and Vishnu. Shiva is the destroyer; the god
of death and destruction. Shiva is also the god of reproduction
and the god of dance. (He is very diverse!) (God Shiva)
Vishnu is known as the preserver, struggling to protect the world and to help humanity.
Hindus believe that Vishnu sometimes changes himself into human or animal form. This
allows him to go about the world performing acts of love, mercy, and goodness.
Hindus also believe in reincarnation. They believe a person’s soul never dies. At death, a
person’s spirit leaves the body to be reborn in another living thing. If a person has been
(God Vishnu) good and performed his or her duties in life, the person will be reborn in a higher social
class. However, if a person has not acted properly, he or she will be reborn into a lower social class or
maybe even as an animal. This belief of karma refers to the principle that one's actions have effects on
one's fortunes in this life and condition of rebirth in the next. Hindus believe there is not just one purpose of
human life, but four: Dharma - fulfilling one's purpose; Artha - prosperity; Kama - desire, enjoyment; and
Moksha – enlightenment. Once a person is able to find their “inner-self,” known as ātman, they can
identify and connect with Brahman and thereby reach their moksha.
Holy Books: No one book like the Bible or Koran is central to Hindus. The oldest and most
important Hindu books are the Vedas. The Bhagavad-Gita is also of special importance. It is a long
poem telling the story of a warrior about to go into battle. In the poem, the god Krishna explains
Hindu beliefs to the warrior and explains why he should perform his duty.
Major Practices: Hindus believe the cow is a holy animal, therefore they will
not eat beef. Cows roam on the streets in India, and are a part of their daily
life. Hindus also believe the Ganges River in India is holy. They bathe in the
Ganges to wash away their sins. Traditional Hindus divide themselves into
social groups known as castes. One is born into a caste, and cannot move
from one caste to another. Hindus believe the caste one is born into is based
on one’s performance in past life. The highest caste, known as the Brahmans (Hindus bathing in the Ganges)
were once religious leaders in India. The next caste was made up of warriors, rulers and professional
people. Lower than the other castes is a group known as the “untouchables.” Although the caste system
continues to exist in India, laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of caste in many areas.
Places of Worship: Hindus sometimes worship images of Hindu gods and goddesses in
the home or temple. They provide small amounts of food, perfume, or flowers as an
offering to the gods.
Main Divisions: Many varieties of belief are permitted within Hinduism. Hindus believe in
one ultimate spirit, the Brahman, however believe that the messages of the Brahman are sent
through the many gods. Some Hindu groups emphasize the worship of Vishnu, others of Shiva.
Origins and Early History: Buddhism developed in India out of
Hinduism. The founder of Buddhism was an India prince named
Siddhartha Gautama. Born in 576 B.C. Siddhartha led a sheltered life as a
child. Later, he was shocked to learn of the sufferings of the common
people. At age 29, he left his wife, child and privileged life in the palace
to wander the countryside. In search of the true meaning of life,
Siddhartha traveled, studied and thought. After six years of study and
being alone, he still found no answers. Suddenly, one day, while resting
under a tree, the major ideas of Buddhism came to him. From that
moment when he began teaching, Siddhartha became known as
Buddha, or the “Enlightened One.” The religion that eventually developed
from his teachings spread to China, Japan, and Southeast Asia.
Major Beliefs: Buddha taught that ordinary life is filled with sorrow, pain and suffering. This suffering
is caused by our desire for material goods and success. We can put an end to our pain and
suffering, and find happiness and peace by giving up our love of
material things. This takes great discipline! Buddhism teaches that
each person should follow an Eightfold Path consisting of right
views, right intention, right speech, right action, right occupation,
right effort, right concentration and right meditation, or deep
thinking. By following this path a Buddhist believes it may be
possible to escape the cycle of reincarnation, or continuous
rebirth of the soul. The final reward for leading a proper life is that
one will reach a state of blessed happiness and peace known as nirvana. It is only on reaching
nirvana that people are freed from the endless cycle of being reborn.
Holy Books: Like many other religious leaders, Buddha did
not write down his teachings. After his death, his followers
brought together his key teachings into books called Sutras.
Major Practices: A good Buddhist must learn to give up the
desire for material things, to act in a worthy manner, to
speak truthfully, to respect all living things, and to think about
life. While Buddhists follow the Hindu concept of
reincarnation, Buddhists reject the caste system.
Places of Worship: Buddhist places of worship are known as temples and shrines. Some Buddhists
retreat into monasteries, where they meditate and study Buddhist teachings.
Main Divisions: There are many types of Buddhists. Each type
emphasizes a different way of reaching nirvana. The Zen
Buddhists of Japan, for example, are known for their rigid self-