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The Essentials of Judaism and Hinduism

The Essentials of Judaism and Hinduism

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The Essentials of Judaism and Hinduism

Introduction

The conflict among the religions of the world has been present for many centuries now. While each religion conveys concepts, philosophies, doctrines and other ways of showing that it is the only true religion, there are those people who feel that religions are a path leading to one destination; the destination being the an individual’s spiritual fulfillment (Bowker, 1997). Hinduism and Judaism convey both similar and diverse characteristics. They originated from two diverse groups (Judaism originating from the Jews while Hinduism originated from the Hindus) but they may convey more similarities than differences. When relating the ultimate fundamental features to these two religions, the similarities seem to be more than the differences. In other words, Hinduism and Judaism have more similarities than differences when relating them to the ultimate fundamental features.

Basic World View

One of the basic worldviews of the Hindu and the Jews religion is that the followers in each religion claim that their religion is the true religion. Each religion puts forth arguments and brings forth evidence showing that what they believe in is the true belief. Although there has a recent force brought about by modernity and the revelation of the spirit that tries to unite all the religions of the world, each of these religions still have their string beliefs and conservativeness, which is unwilling to accept change. Another common worldview is their worship in temples where the priests are in control of the activities taking place in these temples. Since these temples are considered holy and a place of worship, there are certain practices that are carried out to bring forth this characteristic. Both religions remove their shoes when entering the temple (Novak, 1994). This practice shows the holiness of the temples and the impurity found in the outside world.

Additionally, the followers tend to cover themselves during prayers or worship. This is more evident with the female worshippers. This shows a sign of humility and meekness when worshipping. Both religions are believed to have given rise to a number of religions. Hinduism is said to have given rise to Buddhism while Judaism is seen as the parent of Christianity and Islam. This is because most of the practices in these religions coincide with the latter religions. During worship, sacrifices, offerings and prayers are very significant. They are ways of communication to the supreme Beings, gods and other deities involved in the worship.

The Ultimate Power

The Hindus believe in the plurality of gods while the Jews believe in the one God. However, the Hindus also believe in one supreme God, who is called Parampita (Supreme Father), Parameshwar (Supreme Lord) and Paramatma (Supreme Self) (Smith, 1994). Similarly, the God of the Jews is known as YHWH. He is also known as Jehovah Nissi (the Lord is my banner), Jehovah Rapha (God your healer), Jehovah Jireh (my provider), El Shaddai (God Almighty), amongst other names. Although the Hindus believe in this one God, they also believe that he has manifested himself in other ways. There is Shiva (god of endings or destroyer), Vishnu (god of control and stability, preserver) and Brahma (who has four heads with each head representing a creative energy, creator) (Novak, 1994).

The area of concerning who has ultimate power, whether it is one god or diverse gods, is still very controversial to present day. The Hindus argue that God is a supernatural being and so he is capable of manifesting himself as one or as many. Most of the Hindus mainly worship two out of the ten mythical incarnations of Vishnu. These are Rama and Krishna. They also have almost three hundred and thirty million gods that they can worship. These include deities and other gods under the authority of the main gods. The Hindus believe Supreme God takes care of the people through the other gods.

As it is evident, there is significant evidence in the ultimate power of the two religions. However, if the major concentration is focused on the supreme being of the two religions, there are a number of similarities arising. Both religions believe in the omnipresence and the omnipotent of the Supreme Being. They believe that he is everywhere and he is all-powerful. This is one of the reasons why he is worshipped and prayed to by all the people, believing him that he is where they are (even though they are in different parts of the globe) and that he will hear their prayers/requests.

Secondly, both religions believe in both the complexity and the simplicity of the Supreme Being. The Hindus believe that all beings live in him and he lives in all beings. He is the unknown and the known. The Jews call him “Father” to show how close he is to them but they also show his supremacy by silencing the word YHWH (Bowker, 1997). In other words, most of the Jews, especially those of the olden days, did not pronounce this word every time they came across it in a text. In the Hindu religion especially, they believe that those who choose to worship the unknown, choose to worship him as one who is not manifested thus they follow a difficult path.

Thirdly, both religions believe that the Supreme God is the Creator of the Universe. The first book of Torah known as Genesis states that God is the creator of the heaven and the earth. On the other hand, the Hindus believe that he has manifested himself as Brahma (creator). On the doctrine of creation, both religions believe that God was the only existing form and everything else was an illusion (Smith, 2004). However, they differ in the beginning and the ending of the creation. According to the Hindus, the creations do not have a beginning or a conclusion. There are only cycles of destruction and creation. On the other hand, the Jews believe that God created the universe in a hierarchical manner. He first started with the heaven and the earth and then ended with the creation of man on the sixth day.

Origins and Destiny of Human

Like other religions, both religions believe in the birth and the afterlife of humanity. While the Hindus believe that life is in the hands of Shakti, the female manifestation of god and the divine universal mother (Novak, 1994), the Jews believe that man/human was created by God from soil and the woman was created by God from the man’s rib. In the origin of man, this is where the main difference lies. However, there are more differences when it comes to the afterlife of humanity. Both religions believe in the manifestation of the humans after death. However, both have different believes in the afterlife.

Jews believe in going to heaven and hell while the Hindus believe in the reincarnation of the spirit. According to the Hindus, the souls are imperishable and immortal. As part of a jiva (limited being), the soul is subjected to the laws of karma, delusion and other impurities. Death acts as a resting and transition period before the soul resumes its journey of existence. However, the soul’s reincarnation depends on a person’s deeds when he was on earth. A soul may be reincarnated as something good or something bad depending on his deeds. Similarly, Jews believe that one may go to hell (sheol) or to heaven (paradise) after he is dead. Death is only a transition period.

Sacred Text/Stories

Both religions, like other religions, follow a guide full of the doctrines and philosophies that guide the followers. While the Hindus follow the scriptures in the Bhagavad Gita, the Epics, Puranas, the Vedas and the Upanishads, the Jews follow the Torah. Different Hindus follow some scriptures more than they follow others while Jews follow the whole of the Torah. However, these guides are revealed facts rather than written books by some particular individuals in both cases. For example, the facts revealed by the Rishis are found in the Vedas. This does not make the Rishis the authors of the Vedas (Smith, 1994). In other words, the seers of the mantras are the Rishis but they are not its authors. Similarly, the Torah did not originate from Moses but rather the Holy books were revealed to him.

The Jews are required to follow everything that is in the Torah. These include very many laws that were given by God through Moses. There are stories of the ways of the olden days, which aid the people to live righteously today. On the other hand, different Hindus follow different scriptures. There are Hindus who follow some scriptures more than they follow other scriptures. Additionally, the relationship between the Hindus and their gods is based more on a personal level more than it is based on rules and laws. Despite this, the Hindus, like the Jews are still required to follow these doctrines and laws set in the respective texts.

Revelation and Mediation

The revelation and the mediation area is one of the areas where the two religions depict many similarities. Both religions have mediators. The priests are the main mediators between the people and the gods. In both religions, the priests come from specific families. The Jews’ priests come form the tribe of Levi as they are known as the Levites while the Hindu priests come from the Brahmin family. However, there are times where the priests are retrieved from the Lingayats communities, which are in Karnataka (Bowker, 1997). In both religions, the priests are mostly found in the temples where their main responsibilities, include offering guidance to the spiritual followers, making sacrifices and offerings, and conducting other religious rituals on behalf of the people.

Both religions believe in the personal relationship with the Supreme Being. They engage in fasting and other spiritual festivities so that they can be closer to God. The Hindus incorporate practices like Yoga, which bring the mind and the spirit in unison. Although most of the revelations are done through the priests, they also take place in individuals when they are going through some of these personal practices. For example, revelation can take place in the Jews while they are in the fasting period.

Conclusion

Both religions convey many differences. However, the similarities are more evident. As earlier identified, they both believe in the Supreme Being but both religions view the Supreme Being in diverse ways. While the Jews view the Supreme Being as the ‘Alpha’ and the ‘Omega’ (beginning and the end), the Hindu view him as the unknown and the known. The Hindus also believe that if he can be manifested as one, he can also be manifested in other way and that is one of the reasons why there is Shakti the, the female manifestation of the supreme Being. Both religions believe in the birth and the afterlife of the human being. They believe that death is the transition in the continuing process of existence. They believe in the reward and punishment of the afterlife. Additionally, they believe in the worship and the personal interaction of the supreme Being even though they mostly use the priests in most of their ritual practices.

References

Bowker, J. (1997). World religions. New York: DK Pub.

Novak, P. (1994). The world’s wisdom: Sacred texts of the world’s religions. San Francisco, Calif.: HarperSanFrancisco.

Smith, H. (1994). The illustrated world’s religions: A guide to our wisdom traditions. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

Smith, H., Moyers, B. D., Wagner, P. M., Moyers, J. D., O’Neill, J. D., Marritz, E., Parroni, J., … Public Broadcasting Service (U.S.). (2004). The wisdom of faith: With Huston Smith. Princeton, N.J: Films for the Humanities & Sciences.

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