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Kylie Hinerman

Religion 2300-400-sp17


Dharma is a very complex word that is used in both Hindu and Buddhist religions.

Although they are used in both religions they have been defined in different ways. Dharma

started in the Hindu religion and became a key role in the Buddhist religion. The Buddhist

religion has taken the word Dharma and manipulated it into something that works for them. The

Buddhist religion has adapted, rejected and changed the Hindu term Dharma.

Dharma means religion in the Hindi language. 1 For the Hindu people, Dharma is a

complex word that has many meanings. In the Hindu religion, Dharma refers to the moral order

it involves things in the peoples daily life such as duty, natural law, social welfare, ethics, health,

wealth, power and fulfillment of desires.2 In the Hindu religion Dharma is the foundation to life

and without it life cannot exist. However, although the word is similar in the Buddhist religion it

has a different definition. Per the glossary in the living religion textbook the Buddhist definition

of Dharma is "he doctrine or law. Before Buddha passed away he instructed his people to

study the Dharma and actively practice its teachings. Dharma in both Hindu and Buddhist

religion is extremely important and a vital part of each religion.

Both religions used to term Dharma however, Buddha developed his own meaning to the word.

Buddha changed it to what the Buddhist use today. Some things stayed the same, some things

were rejected while other things were simply adapted to fit the religion better. One thing that

1 (Fisher, 2014)pg71

2 (Fisher, 2014)pg71
Buddha rejected from the Hindu Dharma was Atman and Brahman. In the Hindu religion they

pray to gods, in fact according to tradition there are actually 330 million deities.3Atman in the

Hindu religion refers to the soul within ourselves. Brahman refers to the unseen but all-

pervading realty4 Brahman is the highest being in the Hindu religion, Brahman is the only true

god. This was rejected by Buddha because in the Buddhist religion they do not believe in gods,

the Buddhist people do not pray to any one god. The Buddhist religion also does not focus on the

unseen or the nature of the soul. Buddha taught Anatta which means there is no separate soul.

Buddha also taught the meaning of Sunyata which means emptiness. Nothing on earth lasts.

Buddha also rejected the caste system. The caste system in the Hindu religion is a persons social

class based on their occupations and hereditary. In the Buddhist religion he did not believe that

you were born into classes. He believed that everyone was born with the same potential.

There are also things that the Buddhist religion has adapted from the Hindu Dharma. Some of

these things being karma, samsara, rebirth, yoga and meditation. Karma means action and the

consequences of action. Everything someone says, does or thinks has a consequence. In both

Dharmas we seek liberation from the earthly life. In the Hindu religion people are seeking

moksha however in the Buddhist religion they are seeking nirvana. Both regions are seeking to

stop the cycle of birth and rebirth. Another adaptation used between the two religions is that in

the Hindu religion they do a lot of different yogas. Whereas in the Buddhist religion they focus a

lot on meditation, each religion does this to calm and cleanse the mind.

In conclusion, although Dharma is a complex word and it is used differently in both

religions it is an important part of each religion. Buddhist have adapted the term Dharma in a few

3 (Fisher, 2014)pg71

4 (Fisher, 2014)pg77
ways including the life and death cycle and the term karma. Buddhists have also rejected some

things that are in the Hindu Dharma such as Atman, Brahman and the caste system. No matter

how each religion adapts and changes the term Dharma it still stays as a major role for both


Fisher, M. P. (2014). Living Religions Ninth Addition. New Jersy : Pearson Education .