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Introduction

Hinduism is considered the third largest religion and the oldest known religion and

was established in India. According to Religious Tolerance Organization “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” (Overview, ¶ 4). Also,

Hinduism does not have a human founder, unlike many major religions. Further,

according to Robinson (2004), “Hinduism is so rich and varied that some scholars have

suggested that we ought to think of it as a family of religions rather than as a single

religious system” (p. 3). In short, for Hindus there is a belief in one Supreme Being

which controls how Hindus practice their religion and those beliefs and practices have

some commonalities and differences from Christianity.

Hinduism

Central Beliefs

Although there are different types of beliefs in Hinduism, there are nine central beliefs

that all Hindus share. All Hindus believe in the Devas, that there is one “Supreme Being”,

there are “endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution,” karma, reincarnation,

there are “divine beings” that exist in the unknown worlds, “spiritually awakened

master…is essential to know the Transcendent Absolute,” life is “sacred” and is to be

cherished, and there is no “particular religion” that is the only way. (Subramuniyaswami,

1993, p. xxi). These beliefs are summed up by Subramuniyaswami (1993) as the

“Rishis proclaim that we are not our body, mind or emotions. We are divine souls

on a wondrous journey. We came from God, lived in God and are evolving into

oneness with God. We are, in truth, the Truth we seek” (p. 5).
For Hindus, according to Fisher (2005), “[w]hen one discovers the inner self…and

thus also its source…the self merges into its transcendent source, and experiences

unspeakable peace and bliss” (p. 75). In addition to this belief, Hindus believe in

reincarnation, karma, somsara and moksha.

Robinson (2004) states that with “the doctrine of karma and reincarnation, an

individual is shaped by a process of moral cause and effect which extends over many

lives” (Robinson, 2004, p. 39). Furthermore, if a Hindu does good deeds in this life, the

next life will be good whereas if a Hindu is selfish and does evil deeds, the next life will

be marked with hardship. Reincarnation is the Hindus way of explaining what happens to

them after they die. In short, reincarnation is the belief “that the soul leaves the dead body

and enters a new one” (Robinson, 2004, p. 75). Karma, an important belief to Hindus,

which means “action, and also consequences of action” (Robinson, 2004, p. 75). Finally,

for Hindus, “the ultimate goal…[is] a clean escape from the karma-run wheel of birth,

death, and rebirth, or samsara” (Robinson, 2004, p. 75). Moksha is how the Hindus

escape samsara which is through “liberation from the limitations of space, time and

matter through realization of the immortal Absolute” (Fisher, 2005, p. 75).

Sacred Texts

“Hindu sacred texts are perhaps the most ancient religious texts still surviving today”

(Religious Tolerance Organization, Sacred Texts, ¶ 1). These texts include the Vedas,

Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas. All of these texts define the religious life and

beliefs of Hindus.
The Vedas

The Vedas include four collections of texts call the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda

and the Atharva Veda. According to Renard (1999) the word “Veda [is] related to our

wisdom and vision via the Latin videre, ‘to see’” (p. 8). Renard (1999) also states that

these texts where right by “rishis (sages or seers)” and where written by “sacred

authors…believed to be inspired in the sense that they heard sounds of the Sankrit hums

communicating an eternal message that pervaded the cosmos” (p. 8). The Vedas include

over 100,000 verses and is “highly mystical or superconscious rather than intellectual” (p.

Each Veda has four sections: “Samhitas (hymn collections), Brahamanas (priestly

manuals), Aranyakas (forest treatises) and Upinshads (enlightened discourses)” (Renard,

1999, p. 852).

The Epics and the Puranas

Epics for the Hindus are “histories of rishis, Gods, heroes and demons”

(Subramuniyaswami, 1993, p. 391). For the Hindus, there are two great Epics called the

Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The Ramayana deals “with the eternal play of good and

evil, symbolized by battles involving the human incarnations of Vishnu”

(Subramuniyaswami, 1993, p. 89). Religious Tolerance Organization website also states

that the Ramayana is “an important text…concerning the exploits of the hero Rama who

is viewed as an avatar of Vishnu” (Sacred Texts, ¶ 2). The Mahabharata is “a Sanskrit

poem of more than 100,000 verses…[that] concerns the struggle between the sons of a

royal family for control of a kingdom near what is now Delhi” (Fisher, 2005, p. 91).

Religious Tolerance Organization website also states that the Mahabharata group of

books is “attributed to the sage Vyasa” (Sacred Texts, ¶ 6). Within the Mahabharata is a
popular book called the Bhagavad-Gita which is the “Song of the Supreme Being”

(Fisher 2005, p. 91-92). According to Fisher (2005), these Epics “present the Supreme

usually Vishnu, who intervenes on earth during critical periods” (p. 88). To the Hindus,

the Puranas “are popular folk narratives, teaching faith, belief and ethics in mythology,

allegory, legend and symbolism” (Subramuniyaswami, 1993, p. 391). Therefore, the

Epics and Puranas are stories that teach Hindus morals and ethics.

Religious Practices, Festivals, Pilgrimages

For Hindus, there are five spiritual practices that include “mediation and piety,”

“fasting,” “charity,” “pilgrimages,” and “physical and mental purity” (Renard, 1999, p.

53). Yoga is another important ritual for Hindus. Subramuniyaswami (1993) defines yoga

as “the philosophy, process, disciplines and practices whose purpose is the yoking of the

individual consciousness with transcendent or divine consciousness” (p. 863). Festivals

are also important to Hindus as they are “special times of communion with God and

Gods, of family and community sharing…[which occur] in temples and the home”

(Subramuniyaswami, 1993, p. 283). Finally, “pilgrimages…remains a major practice for

many millions of Hindus, though most consider it a work of special devotion” (Renard,

1999, p. 50). Accordingly, the sacred sites that Hindus make their pilgrimages to include

mountains, lakes, rivers and temples.

Temple Visit

On June 11, 2006, I made a visit to the Santana Dharma Temple and Cultural Center

located at 19826 SE 232nd, Maple Valley, Washington. My observation as I drove it that

this complex is very small and the temple sat in a grove of shade trees. According to

Robinson (2004), for Hindus “a temple is designed to reflect the entire universe” (p. 72).
Also, Robinson (2004) states that “its floor plan is a grid of squares and equilateral

triangles. The square is a mystical form in Hinduism” (p. 72). I found as I walked into the

temple, pictures of Gods and Goddesses on every wall along with a shrine in the front of

the temple, I could not recognize all of the Gods and Goddesses but I noticed Shiva and

Ganesha in one of the four pictures in the shrine. I also noticed when I visited the temple,

there was a gathering (men on the left and women on the right) and what looked like their

guru in front speaking to them in Indian. I did not understand the language but I could tell

that these Hindus were enrapt by his message. As I sat, looking around and listening to

the guru, several women came in and offered gifts to their Deities and prostrated

themselves in front of their shrine. Unlike a Christian church, there are no pews for

people to sit on, they sit on the floor. For me coming from a Christian background, I

found the whole experience fascinating because of the ornate quality of the small temple.

Although small in stature, the temple was adorned with gold and bright colors.

A Hindu’s View

To understand an individual Hindu’s point of view, I conducted an interview with

Catherine Cruikshank on June 10, 2006. C. Cruikshank is an American who converted to

Hinduism in 1989. C. Cruikshank reports that the day she became a Hindu she felt

“finally at home.” When asked what being a Hindu means to her, C. Cruikshank stated

“being a devotee to Siddha Yoga Meditation…practicing a faith that is all inclusive, no

one and nothing is left out.” She also recognizes the authority of the Vedas. C.

Cruikshank regards her guru an important part of her life. When speaking of her guru, C.

Cruikshank has a devote love for the teachings and guidance of her guru.
When asked of the differences between Christian and Hinduism, C. Cruikshank

responded “for the Hindu everything is connected and for the Christian everything is

separate, fragmented.” C. Cruikshank believes that the Hindu’s way of life is the correct

path to be on for her because “there is an understanding of reincarnation and the

unfolding of a life over many thousands of lives, for the Christian there is just one chance

to get everything right.”

In regards to her rituals and practices, C. Cruikshank states that she “meditates every

day, she has an altar that is dedicated to her meditation practice, and lights candles and

incense.” Throughout the day, C. Cruikshank practices what she calls “JAPA which is

repeating a mantra over and over along with other mantras, for example the mantra that

uses the many names of the Lord.” For Hindus, it is important to be charitable and C.

Cruikshank states that she also “practices the act of giving along with selfless acts of

service to her guru and to others.”

Hindus have many festivals and when asked, C. Cruikshank stated that “the most

important festivals to her are those that are associated with Ganesha” who she explains is

the son of Shiva and the most popular God in India. According to C. Cruikshank, “these

festivals follow a lunar calendar so there are no set dates.” An important date to C.

Cruikshank is “the mahasamadi of Baba Muktananda as a date that is marked by her

particular denomination and [she] also celebrates the birth of her guru.”

For C. Cruikshank, “being a Hindu as shaped her life in countless ways. She has

learned that joy requires constant effort and how to calm her mind. She feels that

Hinduism has been her connection with God and that happiness is a matter of how much

we engage in the really important considerations in life.”


When I asked her what her challenges were to being a Hindu, C. Cruickshank felt “it

is challenging to be a Hindu because [her] guru demands honesty and discipline.” In

other words, Cruikshank is forced to face her shortcomings and learn how to embrace the

world and its shortcomings.

Hinduism and Christianity

There are very few similarities between Hinduism and Christianity. According to

Halverson (1996), the similarities of Christian and Hindu faiths both “involve moral

issues…[and] affirm the existence of a cause-and-effect relationship between our actions

and the results they produce in our present lives” (p. 90). That is where the similarities

end.

The most important differences is between how Hindus and Christians perceive their

God. Halverson (1996) explains that for Hindus their relationship with God is affected

by their good living and good deeds whereas for Christians their relationship is not

affected by their bad deeds because they can be forgiven by their God. (p. 90). For

Hindus, God is part of everything thereby they are part of God. As for Christians, God is

seen as one entity who created everything that exists but is separate from his creation.

(Halverson, 1996, p. 92).

Even the goals and paths for Hindus and Christians differ. According to

Subramuniyaswami, 1993, Hindus believe that "man is free to choose his form of

worship, for all paths lead ultimately to God…[for Christians] only one path leads to

God, others are false and futile” (p. 594).

Even their practice of worship differ in that “Hindus observe no set day of the week as

holy, for each day has its sacred possibilities” (Renard, 1999, p. 50). Christians have a
holy day, the Sabbath, one day a week for their worship. According to

Subramuniyaswami (1993), for Hindus “worship is individual and highly ritualistic and

meditative...[and for Christians] worship is congregational, simple in its rituals” (p. 596).

Some other differences include the difference between Hindu having no founder

whereas Christianity was founded by Jesus of Nazareth.

Conclusion

To be a Hindu means to live a life that is based on goodness and love for God with the

ultimate prize of breaking free from the cycle of death and rebirth to become connected

to the universe, in other words, enlightenment. To this end, enlightenment is attained by

many religious practices such as rituals, pilgrimages, festivals, Gods and Goddesses, and

their religious text. How Hindus believe in their God is what shapes their religion. For,

Hindus God is everything and for Christians, God is one entity. In summary, Hindus and

Christians believe in one Supreme Deity but how they view their God has shaped their

religious beliefs and practices and that makes them very different.