10 Common Misconceptions about Buddhism and Hinduism and their Influences in the West


1. Hinduism is not Polytheism. It’s Henotheism, meaning each god is believed to be a window on the One or the All.

2. In Hinduism, “the physical realm doesn’t exist.”
The supreme reality is known as Brahman. The same god, if you can’t grasp the abstractness of infinite cosmos represented by an infinite being, can be encountered physically by Saguna Brahman, god-with-physical-attributes. This version of the deity is very close to the Jewish and Christian image of God as the loving Father. If nothing exist, how can there be Saguna Brahman, by your argument?

3. Hinduism’s Karma divide them into a cast system and divides them void of any human sympathy. “They got what they deserved by karma’s justice.”
In Hinduism, nothing stands alone; nothing is or can be separate from anything else. Harm to one part is harm to another; benefit to one part benefits others as well. In this sense, what one person does to another, that person does to himself or herself. This is the true meaning of the law of karma, sometimes called the laww of sowing and reaping: “In my ignorance it may seem to me that I can inflict harm on my foot without harming the rest of me, but if I think this I am simply deluded.”

Also “Refrain from harming living things” sounds like “Thou shalt not kill.” in Christianity.

Karma is very much like African communal ethics .Instead of emphasizing the autonomous individual, African ethics tends to focus on the communal nature of human society and consequently on the reciprocal character of human moral obligations: ubuntu. Ubuntu asserts the basic connectedness of all human beings ,ven those of victim and perpetrator. Tutu puts it this way: “The African view is that a person is a person through other persons. My humanity is caught up with your humanity, and and when your humanity is enhanced — whether I like it or not — mine is enhanced as well. Likewise, when you are dehumanized, inexorably, I am dehumanized as well.”

The deep African yearning for communal peace and harmony rests on this view of personhood. You probably know that this is the root of South Africa’s Restorative Justice between 1995 and 1998, after Apartheid ended. Nelson Mandela, did not seek vengeance, but sought healing for the entire community, rather than mere retribution in a racially polarized society where the wealth of the country belonged mostly to the White Dutch. He did not seek redistribution of wealth, but harmony instead.

Karma is also very close to what’s called the ethics of care, observed by Carol Gilligan, describing the culture and ethics between women universally. She explains that an authnomous self sees morality in terms of justice, fairness, and rules and rights, whereas a caring self focuses more on people’s needs, wants, and aspirations. “In our culture, men’s concern for autonomy tends to lead them to the first viewpoint, whereas women’s concern for relationships often leads them to the second.”

If you think Christianity is the only religion that’s got it right when it comes to ethics and morality: “morality tends to be mostly black and white, with very little gray area like how the Bible clearly defines right from wrong” like you stated in your personal view, then you haven’t really studied Law.

For example, from East to the West, the old Soviet Union to a highly individualistic society such as the United States of America, Substantive Law is defined as such. If you think right and wrong is black and white encompassed by universal morality (and none of it is a social construct), then take a look at the international justice system!

“Substantive law encompasses both criminal and civil law since it defines the boundaries, limitations, and exceptions. For instance, substantive law addresses what types of felonies and misdemeanors exist.

In order to pass Substantive Laws, it must go through a lengthy process of drafting, editing, and voting in the legislature before the president can approve it. However, substantive law can also come to pass through an initiative wherein the public (and common people) can vote on its passing into codification.

There are instances when substantive law can be repealed. Such instances are only done when it is proven by public voting that the law is antiquated or is unnecessary. When these instances occur, a process is undergone in order to rescind the specific law so as to ensure that substantive law is clear and concise.”

Buddhism (a religion that sprung out of Hinduism)

1. You ridiculed Buddhism for monks deluding themselves to think of one’s non-existence. However, humans are contingent beings, and there is no logical contradiction in thinking of ourselves as not existing.

2. You said, “Buddha was agnostic or even could have being an Atheist.” Buddha was not against God. He was only against notions of God that are mere mental constructions that do not correspond to reality, notions that prevent us from developing ourselves and touching ultimate reality. Buddhism have said “a good theologian will say almost nothing about God, because the notion of God might be an obstacle for us to touch God as love, wisdom, and mindfulness.” People can worship the Buddha and can believe whatever they want to distort Buddhism into a religion! But if you go into a monastery, novice monks in the Buddhist tradition are told, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!” One must kill the Buddha concept to experience the real Buddha directly. All images and scriptures are limiting, allowing some possibilities and excluding others. The “real thing” is so much more. “When the Master’s finger points toward the moon, it is vital to see the moon, not the finger.”

3. You said. “In Buddhism, nothing exists. If nothing exist, why bother doing anything.” Well, karma exists. This communal philosophy and ethics exists. Reincarnation exists .Natural Laws are everywhere in the Buddhist Scripture about the condition and reality of this world. They are very different from the religions of the Book (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) in which rules for living are laid down by a superior being who demands obedience and judges disobedience, in Buddhism ( a much more relaxed and laid-back philosophy ) there is only the invitation to wake up and see things as they are. What Buddha said are mere suggestions, guideposts along the way from someone who has traveled farther and can help show the path. You are under no obligation to follow them, unless you wish to suffer less.

The natural laws in the Buddhist scriptures tell you if you wear bathing suit into the freezing weather, you will die or at least get frostbite. You can choose to ignore the “true nature of the world” and suffer as a consequence, or you can choose to sober up.

According to religions of the Book, the human condition is a fallen one. Having lost our original innocence in the Garden of Eden, we are predisposed to sin. In Buddhism, such a condition is described as “a person who does not understand the true nature of the world is variously described as asleep or drunk; the goal is to wake or sober up to reality.” Buddhism is a complicated philosophy with thousands of years of addition and revision. Nothing exists yet everything exists. I think you made up your joke about questioning a Buddhist “If nothing exist, why share your faith.” “Hmmm…” the Buddhist replied, “You got me there.”

Existentialism: (which borrowed heavily from Buddhism, you have to read the actual text to see this or you’ll think Existentialism is something completely original)

1. You overly simplified Existentialism and condemn Nietzsche as the biggest anti-Christ, because of the obvious: “God is Dead.” But you missed the whole point about Existentialism. Did you know that Christianity is borrowing heavily from Existentialism these days from another form of it called Humanistic Psychology.

“Humanistic psychology is a psychological perspective which rose to prominence in the mid-20th century, drawing on the work of early pioneers like Carl Rogers and the philosophies of existentialism. It adopts a holistic approach to human existence through investigations of meaning, values, freedom, tragedy, personal responsibility, human potential, spirituality, Christianity, and self-actualization.” – Wikipedia “Humanistic Psychology”

Jean-Paul Sartre was a Christian who insisted that there are no fixed essences. A person is neither fixed by heredity nor trapped by environment, but instead is free at every moment to actualize any possibility. It’s an empowering belief!

Democracy and Capitalism and Freedom (ideas which were heavily influenced by Existentialism, in which the West borrowed from the Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism)

“While meaningful existence (or authenticity) is slightly different for Søren Kierkegaard than it is for Friedrich Nietzsche or Jean-Paul Sartre, in all cases it is something that can only be brought to fruition if it becomes part of one’s subjectivity. Making the existential project “mine” is only hindered by the objectification that results when conscious intention or individual choice is displaced by norms from without. This objectification, therefore, refers to the manner in which those properties that are singular to my existence are rendered into generalized and meaningless categoricals. Because politics itself was considered one of these categoricals – a matrix of duties and forced socialization that hindered authenticity or transcendence – politics was scaled back to serve the basic requirements of equilibrium and the restraint of harm.

But there was another facet to existentialism which resonated with American intellectuals: its commitment to realism and even an “essential” realism. Specifically, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche illustrated how the constancy of certain existential truths such as power and sin served to compromise all political action. American political thinkers absorbed this mode of thought and crafted a political realism which took for granted a darkened human nature. The result was a particular brand of realpolitik and a narrative of political fallibility that eschewed change (political activism) and criticized the liberal-democratic emphasis on progress and popular political participation.” – Existentialism and Politics (p 12)

If you are an apologist for Christianity thinking “Christianity is true and reasonable because it works in real life!” Well, I think you shot yourself in the foot with that argument. I hope I have shown you that Eastern Religions also work, and they work even better than Christianity!

Author: Charles L. Wang

I lived a good life - a hard one, but I sleep peacefully at night knowing that I have made a difference in someone's life... Oh by the way, I'm from China: Downtown, China... Read my full bio.

1 thought on “10 Common Misconceptions about Buddhism and Hinduism and their Influences in the West

Comments are closed.