A Comparison Of World Religions:
Hinduism

And ye shall know the truth, and the
truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)



Hinduism , also referred to by itís practitioners as Sanatana Dharma, a Sanscrit word meaning "the eternal law", is the third largest religion in the world today, after Christianity and Islam. It has an estimated one billion believers, 905 million of whom live in India.

The Hindu religion is comprised of many varying beliefs: panentheism, pantheism, monotheism, polytheism, and atheism. A Hindu may believe in one god, many gods, or no god at all, and still be a good Hindu. They do not see this as contradictory, because like other Eastern religions, they believe that a personís perceptions of the world are mostly misleading and illusional. However, most forms of Hinduism are henotheistic: they recognize a single deity, and view other gods and goddesses as manifestations or aspects of that supreme god.

However, there are two fundamental beliefs that are the core of the Hindu religion: reincarnation and karma.

Karma can be described as cause and effect, and can be either the activities of the body or the mind. Every person is responsible for his or her acts and thoughts, so each person's karma is entirely his or her own. Every thought and action one takes results in good karma or bad karma. Karma from past lives determines the status of the present life, and karma from this life will determine a personís position in the next one. If the karma of an individual is good enough, the next birth will be rewarding; if not, the person may return in a lower life form.

In order to achieve good karma it is important to live life according to dharma. Dharma is the path of righteousness and living one's life according to the codes of conduct as described by the Hindu scriptures. There are 10 essential rules for the observance of dharma: Patience, forgiveness, self control, honesty, sanctity, control of senses, reason, knowledge or learning, truthfulness, and absence of anger.

Reincarnation is the belief that a person has not one life, but literally thousands of lives. A personís eternal soul must repeatedly be recycled in different forms. This recycled life may take the form of another person, an animal, a plant, or even inanimate objects, depending on how they live their current life. Each life, if they do good things, and so create good karma, brings them closer to Moksha, or "Ultimate Reality", which is the reunion with the infinite god, Brahman. Hindus believe that reincarnation takes them through the great wheel of Samsara, which is the thousands or millions of lives, each full of suffering, that each person must endure before reaching Moksha. The belief in reincarnation is directly opposed to the Biblical teaching that "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." (Heb. 9:27)

Hindus believe there are basically three paths to Moksha: the path of works, called dharma; the path of knowledge, called inana; and the path of passionate devotion to a god of your choice, called bhakti. Each path has separate requirements that must be met through many thousands of reincarnations to achieve the ultimate goal of moksha.

When following dharma, the path of works, a person must follow his caste occupation, marry within his caste, eat or not eat certain foods, and most of all, raise a son who can make sacrifices to his ancestors, as well as perform other sacrificial and ritual acts. By fulfilling these obligations, a person may hope to attain a better reincarnation, and perhaps after thousands or tens of thousands of reincarnations achieve Moksha.

The path of knowledge, or inana, is a more difficult way to achieve Moksha, and is available only to men of the highest castes. This path includes self renunciation, meditation, and yoga, a practice that attempts to control one's consciousness through bodily posture, breath control, and concentration, so that one comes to understand that one's true self is identical with Brahma, or god. The practice of yoga is currently experiencing renewed popularity in America as an exercise, with a supreme lack of understanding of the underlying purpose of the art, which is to attain a state of one-ness with Brahma.

These teachings are directly opposite that of the Christian Bible, which teaches that "a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 2:16) and that "by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." (Eph†2:8)

The path of passionate devotion to a god, or Bhakti, is the most popular way to achieve Moksha. This path appeals to the lower classes which comprise the vast majority of the inhabitants of India. It offers a much easier path for their souls to progress through various reincarnations to eventually reach Moksha. The believer may choose any of the 330 million gods, goddesses, or demigods in the Hindu pantheon and passionately worship that particular god. The five major Hindu deities include Shiva, Vishnu, Devi, Surya and Ganesha, with Vishnu and Shiva being the most popular. According to Bhakti tradition, one of these deities is kept in the center as the devotee's preferred God, and the other four surround it. Worship is offered to all the deities.

Of course, this is also the opposite of what the Bible teaches: "The LORD our God is one LORD:And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deut. 6:4-5) and "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." (Ex†20:3)

Who started this religion, and when?

There is no known founder of Hinduism, no statement of faith, and no agreed-upon authority. Hinduism has itís roots in the ancient Vedic religion, which ended in approximately 500 BC. They worshiped the elements like fire and rivers, heroic gods like Indra , chanted hymns and performed sacrifices. People prayed for abundance of children, rain, cattle (wealth), long life and an afterlife in the heavenly world of the ancestors. Even today in Hinduism, this tradition is followed, with priests chanting recitations from the Vedas for prosperity, wealth, and general well-being.

What do they say about God?

Within the Hindu religion are some 330 million gods, goddesses, or demigods. The most fundamental of Hindu deities is the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva - creator, preserver and destroyer respectively. Brahma is the Hindu god of creation, but is not to be confused with the Supreme Cosmic Spirit known as Brahman.Hindus also worship spirits, trees, animals and even planets. They do not believe in a personal, loving God, but in Brahma, an impersonal, abstract, eternal being, who was the beginning of all things and is part of all things, but takes no personal interest in individuals. The idea of a divine creator having authority over the universe and making universal moral demands is a Western tenet, and is largely rejected by the Hindu religion. The universe itself is not seen as an ordered creation revealing God's glory, but rather as a hindrance to experiencing the "Ultimate Reality", Moksha, which is the eternal reunion with Brahma.

Who is Jesus Christ, and what did He do?

Hindus believe that Jesus is not God or the son of God, but just one of the many incarnations or avatars of Vishnu. Some believe Jesus and Krishna are both the same avatar of Vishnu, while others believe Krishna is a separate god.

What do they base their teachings on? The Holy Bible, or something else?

Hinduism's vast body of scriptures are divided into two parts: Sruti (revealed) and Smriti (remembered). These scriptures cover theology, philosophy and mythology, and provide information on the practice of dharma (personal duty to live righteously). These ancient texts,dating as far back as 2000 BC, include the Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharta, Bhagavad Gita, Puranas, and Dharmasastra. Among these texts, the Vedas and the Upanishads are the foremost in authority, importance and antiquity. The Bhagavad Gita, spoken by Krishna, is a summary of the spiritual teachings of the Vedas.

Around 500 B.C., still more writings were added to the Hindu scriptures. Their sole purpose was to establish a rigid social hierarchy, called Varna. These writings states how four castes, or classes, of people came from the head, arms, thighs, and feet of Brahma, the Creator God. These four classes were the Brahmins, or learned ones, comprised of priests and academics; the Kshatriyas, or ruling class, which included rulers, military warriors, and nobles; the Vaisyas, or upper working class, which included farmers, landlords, artisans, and merchants; and Shudras, the lower class, consisting of peasants, servants, and slaves, or workers in non-polluting jobs. Each class was then subdivided into hundreds of sub-classes, arranged in order of rank. Servants and slaves were not allowed to hear the Vedas or use them to try to find salvation.

Even lower than slaves on the social totem pole were the Untouchables, a class so low as to be considered subhuman. They were given the filthiest jobs, and only carrion meat and polluted water to live on. They wore clothing indicating their disgrace, and were denied property, education, and every basic human dignity. This practice of discrimination against untouchables was outlawed shortly after India became a nation in 1947, but the reality is that the practice still continues today in many areas of India.

What is sin, and how do they get forgiveness for it?

Hindus call sin utter illusion, because they believe all material reality is illusory. They seek deliverance from Samsara, the endless cycle of death and rebirth, through reunion with Brahman, which is achieved through devotion, meditation, good works, and self-control. Any wrong or evil they do in this life results in bad karma during their next life. Likewise any good works they do results in good karma during their next life.

What happens when they die?

Hindus believe that a personís eternal soul is reincarnated repeatedly. This reincarnation may take the form of another person, an animal, a plant, or even inanimate objects, depending on how they lived their previous life. Hindus believe that reincarnation takes them through the great wheel of Samsara, the thousands or even millions of lives, each full of suffering, that each person must endure before reaching Moksha, which is the reunion with the infinite god, Brahman.

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References:
Holy Bible, King James Version and New International Version
"So What's The Difference?", Fritz Ridenour,Regal Books, © 1067, 1979, 2001
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism
http://www.religioustolerance.org/hinduism.htm
http://hinduism.about.com/od/basics/u/beliefs_practices.htm#s1

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