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Hinduism and Christianity

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Hinduism and Christianity

Introduction

Hindu is a majority religion in India and Nepal. It is the oldest religion in the world and has about 900 million followers from the two countries and all over the world. There is some close semblance in worship and practice between Hinduism and Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. There are several traditions that make up the Hindu religion including Srauta, Shaivism, and Vaishnavism. There is no single founder, set of teachings or scripture in the Hindu religion. Hinduism is, therefore, based on a vast array of teachings from different philosophers. Christianity, on the other hand, is the world’s largest religion. Christianity boasts around 2.1 billion followers all over the world (Robson 31). Christian belief is founded on Jesus Christ’s teachings. There are many denominations within Christianity with different practices and slight differences. The basis of Christianity, however, remains in the belief in Christ.

There are several similarities and differences between the Hindu religion and Christianity. The Hindu and Christian religions share a lot of similarities as well as differences in their practices and ways of worship. They both have a different belief in a supreme being and preach two quite different versions of the afterlife. Despite these differences, one can observe a number of similarities. The two religions share a close belief in the existence of supreme deities but differences exist in the number of deities and their roles and responsibilities. There are also evident differences in the Hindu and Christian belief of the afterlife. Hindus believe in a form of reincarnation while Christians believe in death and a future resurrection. The differences in their belief of deity and afterlife are numerous but there are also a number of similarities in these beliefs. Hindu and Christian beliefs in deities and the afterlife also possess slight differences.

Supreme Deity

Hindu belief in a deity is quite different from the Christian belief. Hindus believe in a supreme God who manifests himself in several deities each having a specific responsibility. Christianity, on the other hand, promotes the belief of one supreme all-powerful God who exists in the form of the Holy Trinity.

God’s Form.

Spiritual Form

There are several similarities and differences in the belief between Hinduism and Christianity on a spiritual God. Christianity believes in a God who exists in spiritual form and who is ever-present in the universe. The Hindu belief in the concept of God, on the other hand, is based on a supreme God who presents himself in the form of a multitude of diverse deities (BBC 2013). Hinduism believes in the existence of three major deities Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva among other personal deities. Accordingly, the Hindu belief is similar to the Christian concept of one supreme deity though slightly different. Another similarity between Hinduism and Christianity is the belief in three deities. This is logically similar to the Christian belief in the trinity. The Hindu belief in three deities though contextually different to the Trinitarian belief contains some similarities. The three deities each have a responsibility to perform in Hinduism similar to the three divine persons in Christianity. The Christian Trinitarian belief states that there are three persons in one God (BBC 2013). Christianity believes that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three persons exiting in one God. This is similar to the Hindu concept of three deities. These are the main similarities in the spiritual form of deities within the two religions.

It is, however, important to note that in Christianity the three divine persons are not actual gods but persons within one God. These distinct persons are considered one substance within Christianity. Hindu religion, on the other hand, professes a belief in three separate and distinct major deities each existing separately from the other. Worship of the Hindu deities is done separately, and each takes a different form from the other unlike Christianity that worships each of the persons as one God. The major difference between the two religions and their treatment of God lies in the ways of worship (Clooney 45). Christianity treats God as one substance and worships Him as one God. Christian religious scripture and teachings refer to God as one Supreme Being adored and worshiped as one. Hinduism, on the other hand, has various temples each dedicated to the worship of each of the three deities in the Hindu triumvirate. This difference in worship is what separates the Hindu belief in deities and the Christian belief.

There are also several differences in the nature and perceptions of God as held by the two religions. Hinduism, for example, perceives God as existing in multiple natures (Llewellyn 24). According to Hinduism, a devotee can relate to God in many different ways. A devoted Hindu can relate to God as a beautiful woman, a friend, a child or a king. Each person can have his or her own special ways of relating to God. Accordingly, Hindus are granted the freedom to relate with God in their own personal way. Hindus can choose which of the three deities they can relate to whether Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu or each of the other multiple deities. Christianity, on the other hand, is a rigid religion whose belief is solely based on God in his true invisible form and the trinity. Christianity does not allow one to think of God as a beautiful woman, a small child or any other form apart from the characteristics outlined by the Bible and popular religious text. Worship of the three persons is not separate, and one cannot focus their devotion on a single person of the trinity while ignoring the rest. This treatment of God, therefore, shows the differences that exist in personal treatment of God in the two religions.

Physical Form

There are major differences in God’s form as believed by the two religions. Hinduism promotes the belief in visible gods while Christianity teaches the belief in a God who does not exist in physical form. All the Hindu deities have physical forms. Brahma, for instance, has four heads, four arms, and a beard. This concept of God according to the Hindu religion is different from the Christian perception of deity. According to Hinduism, the form of the deities is known while in Christianity God exists in an unfathomable form. Christianity does not have a clear description of God’s physical form and He exists in their faith, in a spiritual and unknown form. Any Christian doctrine has not attempted to describe the physicality of God and prohibits Christians from creating or sculpting anything in God’s image (Robson 34). In Hinduism, however, there are many sculptures of the various deities being worshiped in temples. It is also crucial to note that in Christianity God manifests himself in many different forms without representing his unique form. The depiction of the Holy Spirit, for example, is in the form of a dove and flames of fire in Christian doctrine. Christianity does not have a clear picture of God’s form as contained in Hinduism.

Incarnation

Hinduism also believes in a certain form of divine incarnation of the deities. Incarnation is the religious concept that God can take human form and coexist with human beings in such a form. Hindu and Christian teach that God is capable of existing as a human being or any other creature different from his divine nature. In Christianity, religious doctrine attests to the fact that God took the form of a human being when through Jesus he incarnated and came to the world. According to Christian doctrine, Christ the second person of the trinity in His divine nature took the form of man and in his divinity existed as both man and God (Valea par. 3). In Hinduism, on the other hand, there are avatars of different deities that take the form of living creatures and relate with human beings in such form. According to the Hindu religion, Lord Vishnu descends into the world ten times during every cosmic cycle to balance good and evil. In these incarnations, Lord Vishnu sometimes took the form of a boar, tortoise, fish, and dwarf among others (Valea par. 4). Accordingly, the Hindu concept of incarnation contains a striking similarity with the Christian concept. Both Indian and Christian religions, therefore, possess similarities in their belief in a God who takes the form of living creatures and appears in the universe to change the state of things.

Responsibilities of the Deities/Persons. According to Hinduism, the deities have different roles to perform in the advancement of human welfare. The supreme God uses the various deities to perform numerous duties (BBC 2013). Brahma, the first of the three gods, is the deity given the responsibility of creating the world and all living things. Vishnu, the second of the three gods, is responsible for the protection and preservation of the universe. It is Vishnu’s responsibility to come back to the earth and restore order when everything is chaotic. He does this by incarnating. The third god Shiva is responsible for destroying the world in order to reconstruct it from its evil. Accordingly, all the Hindu gods and goddesses have special responsibilities to perform in the universe. In the Christian religion, God in the three persons performs several distinct functions. For instance, unlike in Hinduism, God created the world with the help of the other two persons. While according to Hindu doctrine, this was the work of Brahma. Like Hinduism, the persons in the trinity also have some responsibilities specifically assigned to them. Jesus Christ, for instance, received the responsibility just like Vishnu to incarnate and bring salvation to the world. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is also a helper according to Christian doctrine. Similarities between the two religions concerning responsibility allocation are numerous, and each deity has a responsibility to perform.

The After-Life

Both Christianity and Hinduism believe in a form of after-life. There are slight similarities between the concept of the after-life in Hinduism and Christianity. There are also some differences between the two religions’ belief in the after-life. The Christian views of heaven and hell and the Indian belief of reincarnations are of particular significance in this comparison. Accordingly, the Christian and Hindu beliefs of the after-life are very different.

Reincarnation. Reincarnation is a concept that elicits major differences between the two religions. Hinduism teaches a belief in reincarnation while Christianity does not contain any such belief. Hinduism teaches the existence of a reincarnation of the human body after death. The Gita states that reincarnation can be compared to the discarding of old clothes and the picking of new ones (Clooney 63). Reincarnation in Hinduism is, therefore, some sort of renewal that gives individuals the chance to come back to life in a different form. According to Hinduism, the deeds of Karma are the foundation of this incarnation. Karma refers to the deeds performed by an individual during their former life. The reincarnation concept as taught in Hinduism states that the body is corruptible, but the soul is eternal and once the body dies the soul can take up other forms. A person who performed good deeds is reborn in the form of a human being in a good and rich family. Those who perform bad deeds are reborn in the form of animals and other creatures. This concept does not, however, feature anywhere in Christianity. Christianity, however, believes in a resurrection in future after everyone has died, unlike the Hindu reincarnation.

Heaven and Hell. Christian belief on the after-life is based on the two concepts of heaven and hell and is shared although to an insignificant extent by Hindus. Christians believe that when someone dies they only have two options; face eternal fire in hell or eternal bliss in heaven with God. The former occurs when one has died in the state of sin and has not repented. In a similar way, one’s good deeds take a person to heaven. Eternal damnation is for sinners and everlasting life for the righteous. According to Christian belief, therefore, one can only enjoy eternal life when they perform good deeds on earth. Hindu religion possesses a certain view of hell slightly different from the Christian view. According to the Hindu perception of hell, individuals who were exceptional sinners in their former life receive punishment in hell (Llewellyn 15). While there, they receive torment from demons among other punishments. This possesses a striking similarity to the Christian view of hell. However, according to Hindu beliefs and contrary to Christian teachings, hell is not a place where people receive punishment for eternity. It is a place for temporary punishment of evil people (Kinnard par. 5). They receive freedom after the punishment to participate in reincarnation. There are some similarities and differences between the Christian and Hindu understandings of the concept of hell.

Moksha. Like the concept of heaven, the Hindu concept of Moksha is a concept that symbolizes ultimate release from the world and joining the supreme God in his godliness. Although the concept is different, the notion of Moksha is slightly similar to the Christian understanding of heaven. How one attains Moksha, also shows a certain similarity to the Christian concept of righteousness leading people to heaven. Attainment of Moksha occurs when one performs various rituals or several forms of disciplined yoga. When one achieves Moksha, a person merges with Brahma and gains freedom from the endless cycle of reincarnations. The person, therefore, becomes one with the Brahma (Kinnard par. 6). This concept has some similarity with the concept of heaven as taught in Christianity. In Christianity, one attains the graces for heaven when a person makes an exceptional performance in this world. Heaven is God’s dwelling place and those who attain this righteousness live and relate with him in his dwelling place forever. It is, however, different in that the Hindu version talks about a merger with the deity while the Christian version of heaven is another life separate from God. Christianity and Hinduism have slightly similar aspects in their views of the after-life with many differences that distinguish the two religions’ views.

Conclusion

Hinduism and Christianity have several divergent and convergent views on the existence of a supreme deity and the belief of the after-life. There are several similarities in aspects of belief especially the belief on the trinity, incarnation, God’s supremacy, and the roles of deity. There are also differences in the concepts of the physical form of God among other differences. The Christian concept of the after-life is also different from that of the Hindu religion. Hinduism teaches a reincarnation while Christianity teaches death and judgment. There are slight similarities, but they are insignificant. There are similarities in the views of both religions, but these similarities do not make the beliefs similar. The similarities in the beliefs of deities and the after-life remain as different as the two religions are in terms of other worship practices. In fact, the differences existing in these beliefs are so significant that they make the two religions dissimilar.

Works Cited

BBC. “Religions”. 2013. Web. May 06, 2013.

Clooney, Francis X. Hindu God, Christian God: How Reason Helps Break Down the Boundaries between Religions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.

Kinnard, Jacob N. “Afterlife and Salvation”. n.d. Web. May 06, 2013.

Llewellyn, J E. Defining Hinduism: A Reader. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.

Robson, John. Hinduism and Christianity. BiblioLife, 2010. Internet resource.

Valea, Ernest. “The Divine Incarnation in Hinduism and Christianity”. Jan 15, 2011. Web. May 06, 2013.

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