I read in Peter Harvey's book an Introduction to Buddhism that there was a syncretistic religion in Bali that was a mixture of Buddhism and Hinduism. He didn't give many details as it was a very minor point. Has anyone got any details about this religion. I'm particular interested on how it deals with the notion of the self. My rudimentary understanding of Hinduism is that there is most definitely a self (atman??) whereas in Buddhism a central tenant is that there is no fixed self (anatman). The two religions seem to conflict on this point so I'm interested how this is reconciled.

As a note I think there is also this kind of religion in Cambodia but I could be wrong in that.

2 Answers 2


According to this source (from this book):

All Southeast Asians had practiced a mixture of Hinduism, Buddhism and native religions since the beginning of the modern era.

This mixture of Hinduism, Buddhism and native religions is likely to be cultural and superficially philosophical, similar to the mixture of Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism (three teachings) among the Chinese.

From a philosophical perspective, Buddhism and Hinduism appear to be superficially compatible or harmonious except in the area of anatta. Those who do not look closely, may think both religions have many common philosophical elements e.g. rebirth, dharma, karma, monasticism, meditation, enlightenment etc.

Advaita developed in Hinduism after contact with Buddhism, and Mahayana developed in Buddhism after contact with Hinduism. Tibetan Buddhism absorbed deities, yoga, tantra, mandalas and other similar elements from Hinduism.

Of course, if you study deeper into the details, you will find that rebirth, dharma and karma all do not have the exact same meaning between the two religions. Anatta is a major difference, that is said to have been pioneered by the Buddha in his era. And in terms of meditation, both religions have Samatha, but Buddhism claims that only Buddha had invented Vipassana. Meanwhile, Hinduism has more esoteric techniques like Hatha Yoga and Pranayama.

In other words, there are many cultural and philosophical similarities between the two religions, at least at the surface, that it is not impossible for certain South East Asians to appear to practise a mixture of the two religions.

If you are looking for a way to reconcile Atma and Anatta, take a look at this question. From the definitions there, it is possible to see Brahman and Atman (from an Advaita perspective), as being similar to Nirvana.


Please do not vote on this answer since it doesn't directly address the question about the religion in Bali, but does go to a nearby place. I misread the question and wrote out this answer, and don't want to throw it away, in case it maybe of use to someone. Happy to delete it if anyone objects to it staying here.


I've personally found the idea of samvritti bodhicitta to be indistinguishable from the Atman. However I am no expert. FWIW, the exact position of the five skandhas / heaps as defining the self is hotly debated within Buddhism, there is no single position on this matter that satisfies all schools, past and present, as far as I know.

I find there's a lot of Hindu opinion that Buddhism is really not a different religion, so much as a clearly refactored expression of Hindu ideas.

Famous Indian Hindu scholars like the ex-President of India the late Radhakrishnan state ‘The Buddha did not feel that he was announcing a new religion. He was born, grew up, and died a Hindu. He was restating with a new emphasis the ancient ideals of the Indo-Aryan civilization.’ (2500 Years of Buddhism, 1971, Government of India, foreword, p.ix). Swami Vivekananda said that the Buddha was a great Vedantist for Buddhism was really only an offshoot of Vedanta (The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, volume 7, p. 59 and Inspired Talks, volume 3, p. 527). Likewise, Nepalese scholars like Mr. Chudanath Bhattarai, Swami Prapannacharya and scores other Nepalese and Indian scholars, too numerous to be mentioned here, have written that Buddhism is a reaction, a reformation of Hinduism. The Buddha tried to reform some of the malpractice within Hinduism and he never wanted to create a new religion. In short, according to these scholars, Buddhism is correct Hinduism without any malpractice and evils and what is called Hinduism is the malpractice and distorted form of the Vedas.

Source: http://www.byomakusuma.org/teachings/MadhyamikaBuddhismVisAVisHinduVedanta.aspx

p.s. above source goes on to refute this position - but it occurs to me this is treading in muddy water territory since it's the kind of debate no one is truly equipped to answer. Anyone unenlightened would be arguing from a position of bias, and be worried about the implications of consequent gain or loss of power. An enlightened one would probably find the whole debate silly. I find it hard to side with either the Buddhists or the Hindus on this.

It is also said by Hindus that Shankaracharya, a leading Hindu saint of the 8th century defeated the leading Buddhist scholars of his day {source 1}, {source 2} in debate and converted them to Hinduism by showing them that their position on self wasn't so unique.

Also see, Wikipedia article on Shankara - this debate incident is often not mentioned on Wikipedia because of its obvious capacity to incite emotions.

Thirdly, Hindu belief is that the various Buddhas are an avatar of Bhagavan Mahavishnu.

My off the cuff comment on all this:

There is no heresy or apostasy in Hinduism, it is the most accommodating of any religion I've known.

Unlike several religions including Islam and Christianity, there was never any effort at the harmonization of Hinduism into one standard religious idea; because the very idea of Hinduism as a distinct religion is a recent Westerner's view of things.

According to the modern Indian constitution (since 1950) all believers in Indian religions such as Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs are clubbed together as Hindus. So that's what it says on the Indian passport unless one is a believer in an imported religion such as Christianity, Judaism or Islam.

Hinduism in the way that appeals to me at least has a breathtakingly grand view of religion as its core definition, according to which all beings share the same spiritual essence since they share the same physical essence. There isn't a special Christian blood group or a Christian planet earth and a Hindu planet earth, so how can there be different truths of the world?

If someone has an idea of God, and godliness is found in all, then aren't all ideas of God manifestations of God?

Note however, the Buddha doesn't go anywhere near such philosophy. He simply wasn't interested, because it wasn't going to lead to the end of suffering. He wasn't interested in absolute ultimate truths that didn't liberate people from everyday suffering. (see Simsappa sutta)

However in this grand view, the essence of religion is that there is no religion. There is no beginning, no founder, no end. The cosmic truth is too vast to be divided along the lines of human thought. The only things that matter are ethical living and peace in the here and now.

"Hinduism is about correct action, not correct belief. Orthopraxy not Orthodoxy."

I like this definition, and it isn't very far at all from Buddhism. However as Buddhism traveled across other cultures, a bit of orthodoxy of the lands did slip in, unused as they were to the idea of orthopraxy.

As long as one believes like the original idea of Hinduism as the all religion, anyone can be a Hindu.

This is easier said than done - religious conflicts have festered in India for a very long time, with Siva temples being destroyed to make way for Vishnu temples, or the other way around; or Buddhist monasteries being razed to make way for Siva temples or the other way round; or temples being razed to make way for mosques and churches and so on, ad infinitum.

It is as if no one wants this memo that all religious identity is unreal, because it all arises from thought.

  • 4
    Perhaps you could ask the question in the way you misread it and then give this answer. In case you didn't know we can answer our own questions.-Metta-
    – Lowbrow
    Aug 25, 2015 at 17:10

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