Thursday, June 21, 2012

Overview of Hinduism

Our final world religion is the 3rd largest in the world with around 900 million followers.  You probably haven’t encountered too many of them in the United States because there are only about 1.5 million here.

Though you haven’t encountered a Hindu person, you are probably very familiar with some of their practices.  Reincarnation, yoga, and a pagan form of meditation.

All concepts that have influenced our culture.  In the 1960’s, the Beatles helped spread the acceptance of Hinduism in America when they endorsed a man named Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  Yogi was a spiritual guru. 

Later on the Beatles distances themselves from Yogi after allegations that he had made inappropriate advances towards some of their wives.  However, they did not abandon their belief in the practices of Hinduism.    Jon Lennon once said “while we no longer count Maharishi Yogi a friend, we DO believe in yoga and meditation.

They have a song entitled “My Sweet Lord”.  That song is not singing about Jesus Christ, it is a Hindu prayer set to praise the Hindu deity Krishna.

(I)    History –

It is hard to trace its origin to one specific person.  There really isn’t a particular founder or anything.  We do know that it originated in the Hindus Valley which is located in modern day Pakistan more than 3,000 years ago.  Next to Christianity, Hinduism is the 2nd oldest religion in the world.

Hinduism encompasses a wide view of varied beliefs.  This is one of the reasons why its history is difficult to piece together.  It is thought that it is a blend of a nomadic “Aryan” Indo-European tribes that invaded Northern India from Russia and Central Asia.

(II)     How It Works –

The Hindu society operates on a “caste” system, which ranks people according to their occupational class.

-    Brahmins – priests
-    Kshatriyas – soldiers, king-warrior class
-    Vaishyas – merchants, farmers, laborers, craftspeople
-    Harijahns – the “untouchables”

The higher your caste level, the more blessed you are with the benefits and luxuries of life.  The caste system was outlawed in India in 1948, however, it is still employed in India and used by many unofficially.

(III)    Beliefs –

Chiefly, they believe that all paths lead to God.  I would agree with that statement.  All paths DO in fact lead to God.  BUT, one of those paths leads to God as Savior, that is through Christ alone (John 14:6), all the rest lead to Him as JUDGE. 

Karma – Karma is a guiding principle.  It is known as the law of cause and effect in which each individual creates his own destiny through his thoughts words and deeds.

Where it differs from Buddhism is that Buddhism teaches Karma has no impact on this life, only the reincarnated life.  In other words your sins don’t affect you no, just later in Buddhism. Hinduism teaches that it affects your life now and the reincarnated life.

Good actions lead to good consequences and bad actions will have the opposite effect.  Sometimes a life ends before all the Karmaic consequences are felt and so it carries over.

Those who have lots of negative Karma when they die the will be born into a lower caste system or even as an animal or worse, our insect.

Depending on the Karma you may have to endure several lifetimes of suffering to absolve all of your negative Karma and are again born as humans.

Selfless acts and thoughts and devotion to god help you to be reborn at a higher level.  One question, how does an animal or an insect do that?  This vicious circle of birth, death, and rebirth is known as Samsara.

(IV)     Scriptures –

The Hindu would appeal to a number of sacred texts as Scripture, but they don’t have any one single authority to go to.

Among them;

The Vedas – These 4 “books of knowledge” are considered the most authoritative. Compiled over a 1,000 year period with no known author.  They are really a collection of hymns to various Hindu gods.

Upanishads – Discusses the idea that behind all gods is the one ultimate reality known as Brahman (the ultimate), but Brahman is not an authoritative deity.

Ramayana & Mahabharata – Two Hindu literature epics.  One tells of the Hindu god Vishnu and the other is a 100,000 verse poem, the most popular part you are likely familiar with is the Bhagavad Gita.  It explains how to reach Nirvana.

Puranas – Myths, lore, and legends of other Hindu gods.

(V)    God –

Hinduism does teach that all paths lead to God, however, god to them is not a deity, god is Brahman the ultimate reality.  Brahman is the universe and all it contains.  In other words, God is everything and everything is God.

This wrong view of God is known as pantheism.  That “everything” includes you and me.  As a part of Brahman you are also god.  In Hinduism there is no personal knowable God who is sovereign over but separate from His creation.

Because there is no ultimate god, Hinduism is full of the worship of many deities and idols.   All of them are manifestations of the ultimate reality.

Brahma – The Creator
Vishnu – The Preserver
Shiva – The Destroyer

Most Hindus worship Krishna and Rama, two of Vishnu’s ten incarnations.  Additionally, forces of nature, animals, and humans can all be deified giving Hindus a selection of about 330 million known gods and goddesses to worship.

(VI)     Jesus –

Jesus is simply one of many avatars, incarnations, of the impersonal Brahman.  But they reject Him as being the only incarnation of God.  In no way is He the unique Son of God, part of the Triune Godhead of Scripture.

(VII)    Heaven and Hell -

In Hinduism there is no literal Heaven or Hell.  The closest belief they have to that is the suffering endured through numerous lifetimes on earth.  The closest thing to Heaven is not to cease to exist like the Buddhist but rather to lose their self-identity and be absorbed into universal oneness.

(VIII)    Sin and Salvation –

Hinduism has no concept of sin against a Holy God; instead it teaches that man’s greatest problem is his ignorance that he is god.  Since Brahman is all that exists all else in an illusion.  Your physical body, the physical world, your existence, even the chair you are sitting in is an illusion.

So you goal is to admit that and then work to erase Karmaic debt.  There are 3 paths to this liberation.

1.)    The Way of Works – Liberation can be obtained through social and religious obligations.

2.)    The Way of Devotion – This is the most popular way and includes acts of worship to the numerous gods of Hinduism.

3.)    The Way of Knowledge – This way attempts to reach a higher consciousness until one finally realizes his identity with Brahman.  This is achieved through study of philosophical writings, yoga, and deep meditation.

(IX)    Reaching the Hindu –

Well, as in all religions Hinduism is based on works.  They must be warned of the Judgment Day that is coming (Hebrews 9:27).  Further, we are not God.  We do not become God, and everything is not God.  Thus saith the Lord (Isaiah 45:5). 

Christ has come to pay the debt we owe.  It is a sin debt from this life time.  That we have accumulated by our intentional disobedience against a Holy God.  Judgment looms for our sin, BUT Christ has died and been raised to pay the debt for all who will repent and believe on Him (Mark 1:15; John 3:16, Romans 10:13).

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