Comparison Chart: Buddhism, Hinduism, Traditional Judaism, and the Gospel

Theravada Buddhism Mahayana Buddhism Hinduism Traditional Judaism The Gospel
Meaning of birth We are reborn from a previous life until we reach nirvana (extinction of all desire and release from suffering). The cycle of death and rebirth is called samsara. We are reborn from a previous life until we reach nirvana (extinction of all desire and release from suffering). The cycle of death and rebirth is called samsara. We are reborn from a previous life until we realize our “oneness” with Brahman. The cycle of death and rebirth is called samsara. We are made in the image of God and come into the world with the capacity to opt for good or evil. We are made in God’s image but come into the world inclined to sin because of the sin of Adam. Redemption is needed.
Way to Truth Follow the teachings of Buddha, e.g., the Four Truths and the Eightfold Path. The written Scripture, the Tripitaka (“three baskets”), includes the teachings of Buddha. Through the study of scriptural texts running to more than five thousand volumes. Spiritual disciplines like yoga enable one to achieve the enlightenment and truth needed. Suffering and samsara result from ignorance of self-truth. Vedas are scriptures that hold final authority. Bible (Hebrew Scriptures). Oral Law provides the authoritative interpretation for knowing how to live. Truth is seen in deeds more than in creed, although a cardinal tenet of belief is the Unity of God. Bible (Old and New Testaments) as divinely revealed. It is final arbiter, although various creeds give expression to its teaching. Yeshua is the ultimate embodiment of truth.
Goal of spirituality Deliverance from samsara through reaching nirvana. Deliverance from samsara through reaching nirvana is not to be sought for the individual alone. Deliverance from cycle of death and rebirth and realizing “oneness” with Brahman. To know God. To serve God and others. To know God. To serve God and others.
Way to spirituality Practice of some disciplines leads to nirvana. No personal God. One can achieve deliverance from samsara and become a Buddhist saint. But this deliverance is only for the few who can attain it. Seeking personal deliverance and assisting in others’ salvation. Ideal follower is a bodhisattva, one who forsakes his own salvation to aid others. Salvation is not merited, open to all. Practice of spiritual disciplines such as yoga delivers one from the cycle of death and rebirth by helping one to realize his or her “oneness” with Brahman. Many incarnations and deities may be worshipped. Observance of mitzvot, study of Torah and other holy books leads to blessing in life. Prayer, repentance, and the need to perform the mitzvot with the proper intention or kavannah are also important. Faith in Yeshua as God’s requisite for atonement and salvation. Continued spiritual growth and blessing come through living a life of service and love.
Meaning of death Leads to rebirth from which we can be delivered by reaching nirvana. Rebirth is not by chance but is based on the universal law of cause and effect (karma). Differs from Theravada Buddhism in accepting the existence of the individual soul, in which case rebirth is also called transmigration. Leads to rebirth of the soul, or transmigration, from which we can be delivered by realizing our “oneness” with Brahman or ultimate reality. Cessation of bodily life and entrance into the “world to come” or some other place. Cessation of bodily life and entrance into either heaven or hell.
Afterlife Until nirvana is reached, after life is rebirth. Nirvana itself is neither continued existence of the soul nor annihilation. On the way to nirvana, the individual soul may pass through a variety of heavens and hells. Afterlife is rebirth until deliverance is achieved. Then one merges into Brahman, the All. Many beliefs, including bodily resurrection. Few teach of a heaven and hell. Generally, Torah obedience leads to life in the world to come. Bodily resurrection after death and judgment. Heaven and hell are eternal destinies to which all people go based on choices made in this life.