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Hinduism, major world religion originating on the Indian subcontinent and comprising several and varied systems of philosophy, belief, and ritual.Although the name Hinduism is relatively new, having been coined by British writers in the first decades of the 19th century, it refers to a rich cumulative tradition of texts and practices, some of which date to the 2nd millennium ) was the earliest source of these traditions, as some scholars hold, then Hinduism is the oldest living religion on Earth.Initially it was an outsiders’ term, building on centuries-old usages of the word Hindu.
But, at the same time, the priestly class, which depended on rigid religious practices, could not like the Buddhist opposition to the existing social organisation and orthodox religious life of the people. Both in Buddha’s time and more so after his death, Buddhism was seen to break away from the old faith of the Hindu India.
It is believed that Buddha perhaps did not think of himself as the founder of a new religion.
At the most, he might have thought of himself as a reformer.
But, his personality was too unique and his messages were most powerful.
Famous as the Hinayana System, and thanks to Ashoka’s zeal, Buddhism spread outside India in Ceylon, Myanmar and Siam.
As the dimension of Buddhism began to grow, the character of the religion also began to change.
The principles which Buddha propounded were already there in one form or the other in the ancient scriptures of the Hindus. Rhys Davids, “Gautam was born and brought up and lived and died as a Hindu”. He challenged the systems where they deviated from original intentions and laid the greatest emphasis on the principles of absolute morality, purity, virtue, equality and human values which the ancient seers had preached but the later society did not observe.
“The difference between him and other teachers lay chiefly in his deep earnestness and in his broad public spirit of philanthropy”.
Gradually the distinction became primarily religious rather than ethnic, geographic, or cultural.
Since the late 19th century, Hindus have reacted to the term Hinduism in several ways.