Fundamental differences between the Bhagavad Gita and Buddhism
Buddhism teaches that life is suffering, caused by cravings, which can be eliminated or removed through the eightfold path of wisdom, morality, and
understanding. The general attitude of Buddhism is to not cling, to hold neither eternalist nor annihilationist view, and to essentially drop like a
pebble through the waters of life, until the bottom, nirvana, is reached. Nirvana is the destruction of rebirth and defilements, a holy and
enlightened state that can be reached in this life, and at death, permanently.
Comparatively, the Bhagavad Gita is about a crucial moment in life, a battle, where the warrior Arjuna feels defeated and unmotivated to fight because
his enemies are his family, so either way he feels he will lose, either he will die or he must kill his family. Krishna, the personification of the
Godhead, tells Arjuna that he speaks sincerely but his words have no cause, as the Self is eternal, incapable of slaying or being slain, indeed
Krishna tells Arjuna that all these warriors are already dead, for they are all subject to the laws of time, whereas the Self is eternal and free from
this delusion. Krishna tells Arjuna to fight, either win and conquer the earth, or lose and attain heaven, but either way one must not hesitate to
fight. Indecision is caused by selfish desires, which Krishna stresses are hidden within. By performing service for the world, one can act with the
benefit of all creatures, thereby imitating the divine act. Krishna diverts from the battlefield to discuss yoga with Arjuna, which he calls perfect
stillness of mind, complete absorption with the Self. Ultimately the battle is an inner battle, in which the external enemies are far less dangerous
than the hidden enemies within the mind.
So you can see how both Buddhism and Hinduism share a view of the world as like an illusion or lower state of consciousness, the main difference being
Buddhism teaches withdrawal from life in meditation, whereas the Bhagavad Gita stresses the need for constant action, even fighting, to promote the
wellness of the world. He who shirks from action is deluded by the laws of nature and thinks they are the doer. By succumbing to the three levels of
personality, high (sattvic), middle (rajasic), and low (tamas), one forgets that the Self is all. This stands in contrast to Buddhism which views the
all as aggregates, impermanent and subject to suffering.
In Buddhism, everything is suffering, according to the Bhagavad Gita, everything is the beauty of the creator. In Buddhism, enlightenment is a state
much like death, freedom from both suffering and joy, whereas with the Gita heaven is attainable on earth through one pointed meditation. Absorption
with the Godhead is better than even heaven, better than the accumulation of all earthly desires, because it is unity with that which is eternally
There are many similarities between the two. Both state that cravings are the cause of pain, but the Gita states that selfish cravings are the enemy
of the Self, but right cravings bring about joy. Both teach a path of righteousness, meditation, morality, and compassion. Buddhism is about
discovering the truth by one's own means, the Gita says to discover truth by your own dharma and no one else's, and that the knowledge of the
supreme is the highest truth.
Buddhism decries against eternalist views, but the Gita embraces eternalism. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is paranirvana, a state obtained at death
by which rebirth is stopped, and in life, a state beyond feelings, cravings, or consciousness. The ultimate goal of the Gita is unity with all things,
friendliness with all creatures, a service to all, and remembrance of the supreme.
Thanks for reading. Questions? Answers?