The fundamental difference between Hinduism and Buddhism rests on the idea of the soul or atma. Hindus say that there is a soul. They clarify that there is a soul within every individual living (jiva-atma) being and there is a cosmic soul that encompasses the universe (param-atma). By contrast, Buddhists believe that there is no soul in the universe. What we call consciousness is actually an aggregation of various elements!
In the Buddhist worldview, the fundamental elements of the world are: Earth, Fire, Water, Wind and ‘Aakash’ or Space and what we nowadays refer to as radiation. In Japan when a person dies, the grave is often marked by a tombstone which has five symbols—square for the earth, circle for water, triangle for fire, a crescent for the wind and an octagon or an almond-shaped crown to represent space. This is the Buddhist equivalent of the Christian concept: you are dust, and you return to dust.
When these five elements (or rather unseen energies) come together they form particles known as ‘parmanu’. These particles again join together and form aggregates called ‘anu’ and these aggregates keep forming until they can be perceived by sense organs. In fact, the sense organs are also formed by such aggregations.
It is a series of what is called dependent origination. Nothing exists autonomously, everything depends on something else.
Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist, author and communicator whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, religion, mythology, and management.