World Religions Report
Many view religion in general as fundamentally the same. It worships a god or gods; it believes in good and evil, and hopes that eventually good will triumph in the end. While there are probably innumerable religions existing today, each of these are different only and somehow in certain aspects, as they are presented by their followers.
Nevertheless, in spite of these seeming differences, the purposes and uses of religions are the same. Religions exist to answer the same existential questions such as: Why am I here? What is the purpose of my existence? Is there life after death? What happens when a man dies? How should I conduct my life here and now? These are some important questions that religion somehow pacifies inside a person who seeks to quiet down the turbulence of conscience if these queries aren’t addressed (Wenner, 2001). Although, as stated, religion basically is held by many as serving the same existential purposes, this paper is an attempt to delineate certain foundational differences between Christianity and Hinduism.Hinduism: Its OriginsHinduism, as a word, did not start as a name for a religion but was used to mark a specific geographical location. The word hindu was taken from the Sanskrit word sindhu. It was the Persians who originally coined the name “hindu” to allocate the surrounding area of land around Indus River.
The Persians mispronounced the Sanskrit word “sindhu” as “hindu,” and from then on the area, as well as its inhabitants, were called hindus. Invaders like the Muslims around A.D. 712, trying to distinguish themselves from the non-muslim inhabitants of the land called the people of that geographic location around the Indus Valley Hindus. Unfortunately, it was an indiscriminate description.
All the people and their religions, regardless of how diverse those religions might be at that time, all were named after hindu (Bass, 2008). The same mistake was committed by Christians who upon entering the area found the inhabitants having their own respective religions were provoked and as a result attached a moniker on them calling the people gentoo, a combination of two words – “gentile” and “hindu. The name was actually a derogatory label, much the same as when the disciples of Jesus Christ were first called Christians at Anthioch (Acts 11:26). It was to disparage the group. Apparently, the name that stuck was that which the Persians and Muslims called them – Hindus.
Thus, the name as it came to be signified originally a region which covers all religious groups and all the natives in a certain area of South East Asia. Therefore, to rightly understand Hinduism, it is helpful to trace the etymology of the name. Contrary to common impressions, Hinduism encompasses varied religions. Today, it is primarily found in India.Basic Beliefs of HinduismThe diversity of Hinduism lies in the fact that its adherents are free to worship their preferred deities in their localities.
In spite of this multiplicity in practice and of deities, Hinduism is unified and regulated by its core beliefs. The creator’s name is Brahm?. He is one of the members of the triad of principal gods. The other two which completes this company includes Visnu and Siva. Siva is also the sustainer as well as the one who has the authority to destroy life. Brahman is, according to Hinduism, the life force of the universe that holds everything together and is the embodiment of existence (http://www.
mnsu.edu/emuseum/cultural/religion/hinduism/terms.html). To achieve equilibrium, a person must arrive to a point where he is at one with the Brahman.The Hindu scriptures, which is actually a compilation of a wide variety of texts that includes all forms of literary genre, and is the regulatory principles in all of Hindu practices, is called the Vedas.
A particular text known as the Rigveda is a very ancient text which approximately dates back to sometime around 1400 B.C. In all, the Hindus holy scriptures encompasses texts which are very old, some written around 16th Century A.D., while some, quite new relatively, like some of the writings of the revered gurus of the current century. According to their holy book, one must understand his/her true self, that the self must be attuned – if this is the proper term to describe the union – to the universal force which is embodied in the Brahma.
The biggest problem of humanity is its ignorance of this need to reach balance with creation and its failure to reach this oneness with everything. Because of this predicament in which humanity has been confined, it keeps every human being in a trap that hold an individual stashed in a vicious and non-stop cycle of death and reincarnation.The ultimate pursuit therefore of a Hindu is the liberation of the self from this evil cycle of death and recreation. Another of Hinduism’s basic beliefs is its awareness of the paradoxes in creation. It believes that to attain the ideal status of existence, there has to be a balanced intermingling or interplay of all opposing forces like light and darkness, cold and hot, male and female, and etc. Thus, it is held among the Hindus that the Vedic medicine’s aim or principle in healing bodily ailments is, again, like their core belief – to attain equilibrium and maintain it.
The doctrine of karma is also basic among hindus. It is the belief that every action that a man decided to take in life has its own consequences in the next life which is the incarnation. “Karma” means “action.” The concept that has been developed though and contained in the word “karma” has to do more with the consequences of actions whether positive or negative. It is not mere “action” but the rewards or punishments determined by past or present deeds that are in focus.
Moreover, what is retained and stressed in the idea is the negative – the prospect of punishment in the future. Notwithstanding the seeming overemphasis on just the one side of the meaning of the word, karma is to Hinduism “action.” It is a principle that holds the doer accountable to all of his/her actions. If the deeds of the doer were good there will be payback which, if not in the future of this present life, will eventually be received in the reincarnation. The same law applies to bad actions.
There will be a definite retribution in the future for the wrongs done. Closely connected to the doctrine of karma is the belief in reincarnation. Reincarnation, or the rebirth of man’s souls is also central in the teachings of Hinduism. Samsara, or the “wandering” of souls is due to the fundamental belief of the eternity of human souls; and most directly related to the doctrine of samsara is, it is believed among Hindus that since karma is practically not possible to experience all of them within one’s lifetime, this necessitates to Hinduism’s doctrine of the soul’s transmigration; in other words, reincarnation. By the way, this reincarnation does not mean necessarily a rebirth to the same class of species as or like as it was before – a human being. In the soul’s rebirth, the soul could be in another kind of life form – an animal, or anything in creation.
It just depends on the due karma of the individual as a consequence of that individual’s past deeds.Christianity: Its OriginsAlthough it is loosely believed by many that all religions – including Christianity – are the same fundamentally, at this point, the remaining argument will be focused on delineating the marked differences of Christianity from Hinduism. When looked at the surface, seeming corresponding truths could be found in both camps, like for instance, the belief in a Supreme; or as in the case of Hinduism, a belief in many deities. These similarities will eventually vanished when, given the time, both beliefs are investigated in an in-depth manner, which unfortunately be covered in this paper. However, certain points can be discussed which hopefully will render clarification on some fundamental issues.
Christianity was founded by its Head and leader – Jesus the Christ. He is believed to be the promised coming Messiah of the Jews, and the Savior of the world. His only extensive biography is found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. (An elaboration on this subject will be done in the last portion of this paper). First, the Christian belief in one God. It is true that to the Christian, this one God is composed of three distinct persons in the Godhead.
The Godhead is the term used to describe the one true God of Christianity (Rom.1:20, Col.2:9). For all eternity, God is one and is self-sufficient. This statement means that he is not dependent on anything outside of Himself to be satisfied.
He is in and of Himself sufficient. “I AM WHO IAM” is His revelation of Himself to Moses, the Hebrew law-giver (Exo.3:14). The very name suggests the eternity of God. God is eternal. From Him proceeded time, and therefore He is outside of it.
God is timeless.The Psalms (one of the books of the Bible – the Christians’ Holy Scriptures) declare God to be existing “from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps.41:13). He does need to create anything to be happy Himself, nor to achieve contentment in Himself. Since He is three persons in one Godhead, He is complete in Himself.
This is self-sufficiency. Another core belief of Christianity is that this one God is jealous (Exo.20:4-5). Because God is the Creator, He commands that His creation – including man – should worship Him alone, and not anything no matter how magnificent or grand among His creation. God (Elohim in Hebrew) alone is to be worshipped. He is not one, nor the top/supreme among other gods, which is one fundamental difference of Christianity from Hinduism.
To Christians, God has no equal. The second distinct and fundamental stand of Christianity is its view of the Holy Scriptures – the Bible.The Bible is a collection of 66 inspired books/letters written by more or less 40 authors. It is held as sole authoritative word for everything in life to the Christian. In the Bible, God has revealed Himself. It is a progressive revelation that spans approximately 6,000 to 8,000 years (http://trinitytheology.
org/?page_id=9). In the Bible, God initiated the unveiling of Himself to man, for He cannot be known otherwise. Hence, the Bible is not the product of ordinary men’s musings or meditations of the infinite or the Divine. For the Christian, it is impossible for any man in the past or present, no matter how disciplined or saintly or intellectual that man might be, to know God by mere religious acts – may it be meditation or prayer. God has initiated the revelation of Himself to man, and the Bible is the product of His series of revelations.
Today, true knowledge of God is achieved through a careful study and prayerful meditation of His Words found in the Bible. What makes Christianity distinct from Judaism and other religions is its belief in the Person of Jesus Christ as the Messiah – the Savior of the world. This is fundamental to Christianity. Without this core belief, any group or individuals who claim to be Christians cannot be defined as true Christians in the real sense. Humankind is fallen. After the fall of the first man and woman (Adam & Eve), God began to reveal His redemptive plan for the whole of humanity.
This is, in a nutshell, the whole thrust of the Bible. God’s calling of Abraham, His forming and choosing of the nation of Israel, and His eventual sending of Jesus, are all essential parts of Redemption scheme. Everything event in the Old testament pointed to the coming Savior. The New Testament, from Matthew (its first book) to Revelation (its last book) assumes the Messiahship of Jesus. Christianity holds that Jesus is not just Messiah per se, in an ordinary sense.
He is God, and one of the three persons in the one Godhead.ConclusionOn the surface, there might seem to be similarities in both Hinduism and Christianity. But a closer look will only reveal certain fundamental differences. As discussed, the differences can be seen in both religions’ belief in the Supreme Being/God, authoritative Scriptures for life and godliness, and way of salvation. Hinduism’s salvation is through man’s good works, while Christianity is through God’s work in the person of Jesus Christ.