By Thomas Mowery
The word "Hindu" is of Persian origin and means "Indian." Hinduism claims nearly 1 billion followers worldwide. Approximately 80% of India's population is Hindu. There are approximately 1.3 million Hindus in North America according to a 1993 census in Encyclopedia Britannica 1999. There are approximately 200 Hindu temples or Hindu centers in the U.S. (www.probe.org/docs/hindu.html). Hinduism is the root of Buddhism as Buddha (Gautama) was raised in Hinduism and drew heavily from its philosophies. Hinduism by its nature is eclectic, as it has no definable beginning or founder. Hindus have a saying: "Ekam Sataha Vipraha Bahudha Vadanti," which may be translated: "The truth is One, but different Sages call it by Different Names" Hinduism like all other non-Christian religions accept various ideas of "God" and cannot define a true saving relationship with the God of heaven and creator of us all.
I). History and Roots of Hinduism:
Hinduism's Roots Are From 2 Systems:
- 3rd Century B.C. ancient civilization in the Indus River Valley
- The Aryan people (a group of wandering nomads from Persia of Indo-European language) who came to the Indus Valley around 1500 B.C.
Its Roots Are Vedic.
"The religion of the Aryans is described in the writings of "holy men" contained in the Vedas (meaning "knowledge" or "wisdom"). The Vedas are four collections of writings composed between about 1500 and 500 B.C., which form the basis for Hindu beliefs, and which reveal a gradual development of religious ideas. The later sections of the Vedas are known as the Upanishads. These Vedic writings are considered inspired. Later Hindu writings, including the renowned Bhagavad Gita" (www.probe.org/docs/hindu.html)
II). Philosophy and Teachings:
Hinduism is marked by the worship and belief in many forms of "God." There are nearly 330 million deities in the Hindu belief structure making it difficult to define a major belief system.
While Hinduism has a diversity of beliefs, some common beliefs can be found:
The Hindu concept of God is best described by the series "Star Wars" and its idea of "The Force." It is this idea of an undefined "higher power" that has influenced much of Western culture from Alcoholics Anonymous' "God who you perceive Him to be" and Masonry's "great architect." All of these are a generic "God" that can be anything one chooses Him to be rather than the clearly defined God of Scripture.
- The Upanishads define God as "Brahman" which is the culmination of their many gods into one "Reality" beyond comprehension.
- Brahman became known as "Isvara" through the "Trimurti" (three manifestations) of Brahman. These three manifestations are: Brahma- the creator, Vishnu- the preserver, and Shiva- the destroyer.
- Ishvara became personified later by 10 mythical incarnations of Vishnu called "Avatars." Bhagavad Gita says, "When goodness grows weak, When evil increases, I make myself a body. In every age I come back To deliver the holy, To destroy the sin of the sinner, To establish righteousness." Some of these Avatars have been said to have been Krishna, Rama, Buddha and Jesus Christ, however they must be born in India to be a full Avatar. Hinduism says that Christ was more a "messenger of God" than an Avatar.
- According to www.religioustolerance.org Hinduism can be separated in 2 major groups: Vaishnavaism- which regards Vishnu as the ultimate deity (making up 80% of Hinduism) and Shivaism which regards Shiva as the ultimate deity.
- "Atman is Brahman" a decree of Hinduism that says your true self (Atman) is, as are all living things, Brahman ("God"). Hinduism teaches that we are ignorant of our divine nature and therefore we live with personal desires and egos which cause our pain. This is the same idea that is taught in Buddhism through the "4 Noble Truths" and much like Scientology's "thetan" concept. This is also the reason that many Hindus are vegetarians not wanting to kill any life ("Ahimsa"- non-injury to living things) that might be "God."
Karma, Samsara & Moksha:
- Karma is "cause and effect" much like Buddha taught in Buddhism. It is the idea that everything one does will affect him in a later life. For some it breeds fatalism in that you are doomed because of the past and so you simply accept it.
- Samsara is reincarnation or transmigration. This also was transferred into Buddhism with some changes. In Hinduism, the soul (atman) is reborn in another body (human or animal). Along with Samsara is the "Caste" system where people are in 4 basic castes or social classes. These castes are Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaisyas (merchants, farmers), Shudras (laboring class). One's caste is determined at birth or by personal karma and cannot be improved upon.
- Moksha is liberation, like the Buddhist idea of Nirvana. Moksha is the solution to karma and attachment to personal goals and desires. "This can only occur when we truly realize that our separate self is actually an illusion and that only the undifferentiated oneness of Brahman is real. We must therefore strive to detach ourselves from the desires and actions of our ego in order to attain true enlightenment." (www.equip.org/free/DH-122.htm)
Salvation (Moksha) 3 Paths to Moksha:
- Through Karma Yoga a system of works guided by the "Code of Manu" with strict rituals and duties throughout life.
- Through Jnana Yoga a way of knowledge. Through deep meditation (yoga) one realizes their oneness with the divine Brahman overcoming ignorance (Avidya).
- Through Bhakti Yoga that is devotion to one of the many gods and goddesses of Hinduism. This is self-surrender, worship (Puja), participation in the many religious festivals, and pilgrimages to one of the numerous holy sites in India.
III). A Biblical Response to Hinduism.
- There is but ONE God!
"For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) 6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him."
(1 Corinthians 8:5-6 KJV)
- For man to be God is Satan's original lie!
"And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:4-5 KJV)
- Man CANNOT earn or "realize" salvation through any works, meditation, or worship of created images.
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;"
(Titus 3:5 KJV)
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