Many people confuse Buddhism and Hinduism, but they are two very separate and distinct religions. They do however have some similarities, such as the belief in karma and reincarnation. Since the Buddha lived in India and was originally a Hindu, it’s understandable that the two religions would have close correlations.

Buddhism originated in India about 2500 years ago and migrated to Tibet in around 170 AD. Buddhism in Tibet didn’t really become widespread until the year 641 AD, when King Songtsen Gampo took two wives from Nepal who were both Buddhists. He then declared that Buddhism was the official religion of Tibet.

In the year 774, Padmasambhava came to Tibet from India. He’s credited with spreading Buddhism more widely throughout the region by merging it aspects of the native shamanistic Bon religion. This original branch of Tibetan Buddhism became known as the Nyingma School. Since the exile of the Dalai Lama to India in 1959 and the prohibition of its practice by the Chinese, Tibetan Buddhism has spread throughout the world. The worldwide influence and preservation of Tibetan Buddhism is largely credited to the magnetism, dignity and popularity of the Dalai Lama.

Today there are four major branches of Tibetan Buddhism:

The Gelugpa branch of Buddhism is the largest sect being practiced today and is also called the Yellow Hat School. It’s the most recent of the schools, having been founded in the late 1300s. Its focus is achieving concentration through meditation and bodhisattva practices. It’s credited with restoring monastic discipline to the monks of Tibet through celibacy, higher learning and the prohibition of alcohol. It discourages tantric and magical practices. The Dalai Lamas are the leaders of the Gelugpa branch of Buddhism and have been the heads of state of Tibet since 1642.

Nyingma, which, as noted above, is the oldest and original school of Buddhism. It is based on the teachings of Padmasambava (‘the Second Buddha’), who is highly revered by practitioners of this branch.

The Kagyupa School was brought to Tibet by the Buddhist saint Marpa in the 11th century after he travelled to India to study under the master teacher Naropa. The primary parts of the Kagyupa branch of Buddhism are the teachings of the Mahamudra and the Six Doctrines of Naropa which incorporates some of the teachings of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

The Sakyapa school of Tibetan Buddhism began in 1073 and is a combination of tantric teachings, vajrayana teachings and logic. It is named for the Sakya monastery in southern Tibet. This branch of Buddhism became very influential in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Hinduism is considered to be the oldest religion that’s still practiced today and is now the world’s third largest religion, with over a billion devotees. It originated in India and is a complex blend of beliefs, traditions, ethics and philosophies that is intricately woven into the fabric of that country.

No one knows precisely when Hinduism was conceived, but the oldest of its scriptures, the Rig Veda originated in the year 6500 BC. The primary tenet in Hinduism is the belief in reincarnation and the desire to be liberated from the cycle of birth and death through enlightenment. Karma is another important aspect of Hinduism, in which it’s believed that one’s actions, whether good or bad, sow the seeds of events in a person’s life.

The primary gods in Hinduism are Brahma, the creator of the universe; Vishnu, the preserver of the universe; and Shiva, the destroyer of the universe. There are many other gods who have a place in the Hindu tradition, including Krishna, Ganesh, Kali and Annapurna.

Author's Bio: 

Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism are topics of interest to Sylvia Smelcer, who is the owner of e-commerce Buddhist websites.