The Three Most Shocking Beliefs of Hinduism

Title: The Three Most Shocking Beliefs of Hinduism

Text: Exodus 3:14-15, Isaiah 5:20, Hebrews 9:27

Time: July 27th, 2012

 

So far I’ve talked about two different religions – Islam and Judaism – how they differ from Christianity. I pointed out some of their more shocking beliefs, such as with Islam, how Muslims put Mohammed above Jesus in honor and esteem. From a Christian perspective this is unthinkable. Or how, in Judaism, Jews reject Jesus as Savior, Lord or Messiah – even though he was one of their own, as were his disciples, as was the entire early Christian church. Again, from a Christian perspective, to reject Jesus is just plain spiritual blindness. Today, I’d like to turn to a completely different direction from the Middle Easter – the home of Judaism and Islam – and turn to the Far East – home of Hinduism and Buddhism, two other major religions of the world. With these two eastern religions we encounter not only different doctrines and practices, we run into an entirely different outlook on reality. In other words, the differences between the religions of the Middle East, like Judaism, Islam, even Christianity, are differences of particular beliefs and practices, but they all share a common worldview, a common view of reality, only provide different answers to the questions this reality raises. For example, in Islam, Judaism and Christianity there is a common assumption of monotheism, that is, belief in One God. Each different Middle Eastern religion answers the question how man is to approach the One God differently, for instance. But in the religions of the Far East, there is a radically different view of what constitutes reality. There is no assumption of monotheism in the Far East; to the contrary, the assumption is that all is God or what is called, Pantheism.  In eastern religions, many or even most of the basic assumptions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are missing. In their place are totally different assumptions about what is ultimate reality, who is man, where man came from or where man is going. Also, in Hinduism and Buddhism, the diagnosis of what is wrong with the world or what is wrong with man is totally different from that of the three major monotheism religions. So consequently, the solution or answer given by eastern religions will be radically different from that given by Judaism, Christianity or Islam. Therefore, the fundamental beliefs and practices of Hinduism, for example, are almost incomprehensible to anyone familiar to the Judeo-Christian culture, or even Islamic culture as well. So then with Hinduism and Buddhism, the basic question isn’t so much about specific beliefs and practices, but more importantly – is the eastern assumption about fundamental reality correct? I’d like to demonstrate by reviewing three shocking Hindu beliefs that the fundamental eastern worldview is flawed, not in order to pick a fight, but in order to get closer to the truth.

 

First Shocking Belief of Hinduism – Hindus Believe Ultimate Reality is Impersonal. Exodus 3:14-15, “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I am has sent me to you.’ God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, The Lord, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you. This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.’” From beginning to end, the Bible describes God as personal, who can think, who can feel, who can speak and who can act. In this passage we see God personally interacting with Moses, speaking to Moses, listening to Moses, and carrying on a dialogue with Moses. This is an assumed characteristic of God in monotheism. But the above scenario could never occur in Hinduism, at least ultimate reality, couldn’t so dialogue with a human being, simply because in eastern religions God or ultimate reality isn’t personal. This is shocking to most Christians, as we simply assume that whenever someone speaks of God they are talking about the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God of theism, the Creator and Sustainer of all life, who thinks, wills and speaks. But in Hinduism this is not so. Ultimate reality for a Hindu is an impersonal force or power. Now this radical difference in thinking about God changes almost everything in respect to religious belief. For example, in Christianity, we pray to God for help. But in Hinduism, there is nobody to pray to for help; there is no Person who is God to whom we would direct our prayers. Therefore, in Hinduism, the practice is not to pray, as much as to meditate or fix one’s mind upon the proper object of reflection. The implications of the Hindu belief in an impersonal ultimate reality continue. For example, in Christianity, the main problem we humans face is the problem of sin – we are out of relationship with God due to our rebellion and disobedience in respect to his law. In order to relate to God we must repair the breach between man and God through faith in Jesus Christ who died on the cross to forgive our sins and restore us to fellowship with God. But in Hinduism, there is nobody personally offended by our sin. To begin with, there is no divine personality who gives his laws to mankind. So then there can be no disobedience or rebellion against God in the Hindu viewpoint. Thus, no atonement for sin is needed, no fellowship with God needs to be reestablished, since God is impersonal, personal fellowship with him is impossible anyway. In Hinduism, getting one’s life aligned with the cosmic forces of the universe, with ultimate reality, is considered salvation. But the first and most shocking thing about Hinduism is that it holds that ultimate reality is impersonal. Everything flows from this.

 

Second Shocking Belief of Hinduism – Hindus Do Not Believe in Any Ultimate Right or Wrong, True or False. Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.” In biblical religion there is a definite, clear-cut difference between right and wrong, true and false. That’s because God is the God of truth, and from him all truth flows. The prophet Isaiah expresses the Judeo-Christian belief in absolute right and wrong, and the clear-cut distinction between true and false. But in Hinduism – and really all Far Eastern religions, such as Buddhism, for example, there is no clear line between right and wrong, true and false. There cannot be in these systems because the categories simply don’t exist. If “God” is ultimate reality, and that reality is impersonal, and consists of simply the cosmic force that runs all of reality, then if everything is God and God is everything, then there is ultimately no distinction between good and bad, or true and false – what is, just is. This is what Hinduism boils down to. According to Hinduism reality works according to what is called “Karma.” For every thought or action Karma is generated by everything. Karma works its way out at all times in all places in all of reality. Humans are part of Karma, as are animals, plants and all material objects. When something is working in harmony with Ultimate Reality, then it is generating good Karma; but if something is moving out of alignment with the Ultimate, then it is generating bad Karma. Now as humans, we attach values such as good or bad, true or false to particular actions, but as far as Karma is concerned, nothing is good or bad, true or false – what is, is – and it simply works its way out in either a direction that brings it closer to harmony with the One or Ultimate Reality, or it moves further away from the One. But there is no “master plan” or “divine will” that desires everything to harmonize – what happens, happens; what is, is. So while Hindus can feel something is right or wrong, true or false, ultimately, at the center of Ultimate Reality, “God” is indifferent to human hopes and aspirations, to morality or even truth. We might even view the Hindu understanding of God as a cosmic, impersonal machine. Karma works at all times in all places whether something is true or false, good or bad. This particularly explains why misery and suffering in Hindu nations, such as India, are so easily tolerated and even accepted – because it’s the Law of Karma working itself out in human society on earth. There’s no immediate urgency to relieve pain and suffering because, after all, Ultimate Reality or God is indifferent to it, so why shouldn’t we be also? To Christians, this is shocking, but to the Hindu it makes perfect sense, based on the Hindu understanding of God.

 

Third Shocking Belief of Hinduism – Hindus Believe in Reincarnation or Transmigration of the Soul. Hebrews 9:27, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Or as the old King James Version puts it, “And it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.” Christianity firmly teaches in resurrection, not reincarnation. But Hindus, as well as Buddhists, believe in reincarnation. What is reincarnation? It’s just as the name implies – the “re-incarnation” or “return to flesh” of the soul. It means that when a living thing dies its essence or soul departs from its physical form and reanimates in another physical form. Now Hindus believe this process applies to all living things at all levels. For example, in Hinduism, after death the soul of a man might be reincarnated into a more noble person, but it might also be reanimated into a lower form of an animal. Depending on a person’s Karma, upon death that person might rise up or descend lower on the ladder of life. Buddhism teaches something different about reincarnation. It believes that humans can only be reborn as humans, not animals or lower forms of life. But Hinduism teaches, and Hindus believe, that how one is born, what status or class one is born into, is a result of how that person lived in a previous life. That explains why the Hindu nation of India has come to grasp human rights and eradicate rigid class distinctions so difficultly – the Hindu religion teaches that one’s lot in life is predetermined by one’s past life and the Karma that was earned. This also explains why the sacred or holy cow is esteemed in India – the cow is presumably a soul trying to ascend upwards toward humanity. It also explains why Hindus have a strange reverence towards all living things – not wanting to harm anything because of the belief that the soul of the creature is trying to work its way upward towards a higher life form. This explains why many Hindus refuse to remove mice from food supplies or kill animals the way we do in the Christian West. Because we as Christians don’t attach special or spiritual significance to animals, because we don’t see them in any way as “lost” souls, we don’t treat them with the reverence Hindus do. But the doctrine of reincarnation in Hinduism is depressing and discouraging compared with Christian resurrection. Imagine putting hope in the prospect of some day, after countless births, lives, deaths and rebirths, of escaping the cycle of reincarnation. How far away is one from the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth? But since the soul doesn’t remember its past lives, how is one to know whether one is coming or going, or ascending or descending the cosmic ladder? The system provides an explanation but offers little hope. Contrast this with the shining hope of resurrection found in Christianity. “It is appointed unto man once to die, then comes judgment.” But the gospel teaches that even the judgment need not be bad, because through Jesus Christ, his life, death and resurrection, we are forgiven our sins, and we are saved from all judgment. We have a sure hope of heaven.

 

Hinduism is a very ancient religion that developed as a result of man’s quest for the ultimate answers of life. Unfortunately, the solutions that gradually came to form the basis for the religion of Hinduism fail to answer life’s most complex question – or they provide false or inadequate answers. Hinduism is a very complex and diverse religion, and it would be impossible, even unnecessary, to explain it all. It’s sufficient to point out the basic Hindu view of things, it’s basic view of reality, is flawed. It’s wrong about ultimate reality. God is personal, not impersonal. Hinduism is wrong about how one finds salvation. It isn’t through countless rebirths until eventually one reaches Ultimate Reality and the cycle stops. Salvation is found in union with the personal God of the Bible, who cares about each of us and has an eternal plan for us as well. I failed to mention that Hinduism also has an almost infinite number of “gods” that its members worship, but even here, these aren’t really “gods” in the Judeo-Christian understanding of things. These are expressions of the One, which is ultimately impersonal. So with the many idols and gods in Hinduism, there is an attempt to personalize what is essentially impersonal. Hinduism is a religious system, but it’s also very confusing and contradictory. But unfortunately it’s becoming popular in certain parts of Europe and North America, probably because it’s so strange and exotic, but also because its beliefs appear to line up with some of the things modern scientists and physicists are saying. Modern science is now teaching that the universe as a whole is the product of impersonal forces of nature, that man is merely the product of blind evolution, that reason itself is simply a by-product of impersonal natural forces working in highly evolved creatures. Modern physics today is exploring the possibilities of explaining the universe, our planet and life without reference to a personal creator God. This is very much in line with what Hinduism teaches. Couple that with the modern movement towards moral and ethical relativism, and the post-modern move against truth in favor of relativism, and you get a modern world that seems to be moving closer to the flawed Hindu worldview. The trend today by modern people is to view all religions as relative, that all faiths and beliefs are merely human reactions to the great unknown, albeit in different ways. Put all of these together and it appears that Hinduism could very well be the next big world religious movement. That would be a shame, however, because it would take us away from the truth and back to ancient error. As Christians we must proclaim and promote the gospel truths of the Bible to everyone, including Hindus, and show them and everyone that the Christian God is the solution to man’s greatest need. I’m confident when Christianity is put point by point against Hinduism there will be no question that the truth is on the side of the Christian.

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