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7th Grade Social Studies /  Lesson 2 - Hinduism and Buddhism

What will we be learning in this unit?
  • What are the beliefs of Hinduism?
  • What are the teachings of Buddhism?

Beliefs of Hinduism?
  • Belief in many Gods.
  • Every person has an essential self or atman. The ultimate goal of existence is achieving moksha or union with your atman. To do that individuals must free themselves from selfish desires. Most people cannot do that in one lifetime, but Hindus believe in reincarnation, which allows individuals to keep working towards moksha.
  • Hindus believe they can achieve moksha by obeying the law of Karma(all actions of a person's life that has effect in the person's next life).
  • Another key principle of Hinduism is ahimsa, which is the idea of nonviolence.

  Gautama Buddha: The Enlightened One
  • Gautama's early life is buried in legend. We know that he was born about 566 b.c. to a high-caste family. According to tradition, his mother dreamed that a radiant white elephant descended to her from heaven. Signs such as this led a prophet to predict that the boy would someday become a wandering holy man. To stop that from happening, Gautama's father kept him in the palace, surrounded by comfort and luxury. Prince Gautama married a beautiful woman, had a son, and enjoyed a happy life.

Gautama Buddha: The Enlightened One
  • One day, as Gautama rode beyond the palace gardens, he saw a sick person, an old person, and a dead body. For the first time, he became aware of human suffering. Deeply disturbed, he bade farewell to his wife and child and left the palace, never to return. He set out to discover "the realm of life where there is neither suffering nor death." 
  • Gautama wandered for years, vainly seeking answers from Hindu scholars and holy men. He fasted and he meditated. One day, he sat under a giant tree, determined to stay there until he understood the mystery of life. For 48 days, evil spirits tempted him to give up his meditations. Then, he suddenly believed that he understood the cause and cure for suffering and sorrow. When he rose, he was Gautama no longer, but the Buddha, the "Enlightened One."

Gautama Buddha: The Enlightened One
  • The Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching others what he had learned. In his first sermon after reaching enlightenment, he explained the Four Noble Truths that stand at the heart of Buddhism:
    1. All life is full of suffering, pain, and sorrow.
    2. The cause of suffering is the desire for things that are really illusions, such as riches, power, and long life.
    3. The only cure for suffering is to overcome desire.
    4. The way to overcome desire is to follow the Eightfold Path.

  Gautama Buddha: The Enlightened One

  • The Buddha described the Eightfold Path as "right views, right aspirations, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right contemplation." The first two steps involved understanding the Four Noble Truths and committing oneself to the Eightfold Path. Next, a person had to live a moral life, avoiding evil words and actions. Through meditation, a person might at last achieve enlightenment. For the Buddhist, the final goal is nirvana, union with the universe and release from the cycle of rebirth.
  • The Buddha saw the Eightfold Path as a middle way between a life devoted to pleasure and one based on harsh self-denial. He stressed moral principles such as honesty, charity, and kindness to all living creatures.


 Buddhism and Hinduism compared
  • Buddhism grew from the same traditions as Hinduism. Both Hindus and Buddhists stressed nonviolence and believed in karma, dharma, moksha, and a cycle of rebirth. 
  • Yet, the two religions differed in several ways. The Buddha rejected the priests, formal rituals, and many gods of Hinduism. Instead, he urged each person to seek enlightenment through meditation. Buddhists also rejected the caste system, offering the hope of nirvana to all regardless of birth.