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Summary: Our “rebirth” is spiritual. We are born-again, not of flesh, but by the Holy Spirit. We don’t need another chance. This life isn’t a dress rehearsal for another life!

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“Hinduism & 2nd Chances” Scripture> I Cor 8:4-6 -Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts

Hinduism is one of the oldest and most complex of all religions, and it takes many forms. It did not have a precise beginning or single founder but evolved over a period of 5,000 years, assimilating various religious and cultural views of India. It claims to have 750 million followers worldwide. Hinduism first caught the attention of the West through Mahatma Gandhi and later by the Beatles when they briefly followed the guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; and through the popularity of yoga and Transcendental Meditation. Hinduism appeals to people who’ve become disillusioned with the secular pursuit of happiness by way of material prosperity.

Hindus are known for polytheism, for worshipping many gods; in fact they have a collection of 330 million gods! Their principle Deities are: Brahma the Creator and personification of the Absolute; Vishnu (aka Rama), the Preserver and force of love; Shiva, the Destroyer; and finally, Krishna, hero and lover. Why so many gods? When people reject the truth (of monotheism) they become insatiable for answers and are prone to embrace anything and everything but the Truth. Hinduism practices idolatry--many Hindus believe the object of worship isn’t merely a symbol but the god itself.

Our Ten Commandments opens with God’s view of substitutes, Deut 5:7ff: “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.”

Hindus hold a resigned submission to the impartial powers of fate, figuring that there’s not much anyone can do about the future. Jews and Christians believe that our very personal God is in control of history, and that our lives are in His capable, compassionate hands. The difference between faith and fatalism is in the nature of God--we trust in a personal, sovereign God who knows us, loves us, and watches over us individually; He’s involved.

The sacred writings of Hinduism are the Vedas and the Upanishads, which contain hymns, prayers, stories, wisdom and moral teachings; and The Bhagavad Gita, the best known and most read of all Indian writing in the entire world, despite the fact it was added late to the collection of Hindu scriptures, sometime in the first century A.D. This is the book you’ll see sold at airports by Hare Krishnas.

Hinduism contains many similarities to Buddhism, which came after, and served as a primary source of Buddhist teaching, though Gautama (Buddhism’s founder) rejected many Hindu teachings.

Hindus practice meditation on a daily basis, which often takes the form of repeatedly chanting a one-syllable word called a mantra. Many recite the word “aum”, called the “syllable of supreme reality”. Hinduism is a mystic path seeking harmony. Christian meditation means focusing on the content of Scripture and contemplating the nature of God. Psalm one tells of the man who meditates on God’s word day and night. By meditating on Scripture we achieve spiritual prosperity.

Reincarnation is a significant aspect of Hindu belief, claiming that all living things are reborn to a higher or lower state. The reason Hindus practice cremation is that they believe a new body cannot be given to the deceased until the old one has been thoroughly consumed. “Salvation” comes by ending the cycle of rebirth and being absorbed into the godhead, achieving union with the divine. This liberation comes through devotion to the Hindu gods and goddesses, through meditation, practicing good actions (karma), and through religious rituals and pilgrimages; in other words, self-effort. A Hindu remarked, “I’m not so much worried about this life as I am the next.” In Hinduism there is no provision for forgiveness. You either get it right or you don’t. Reincarnation appeals to people who can’t see a better way, the Way of Jesus, the Way of grace. I spoke with someone who was hoping reincarnation was true, because he needed some means of paying for his sins. He wanted another chance. I explained that the punishment for sin has already been paid, on the Cross. Our “rebirth” is spiritual. We are born-again, not of flesh, but by the Holy Spirit. We don’t need another chance.

All life is sacred and must be revered, according to Hindu teaching. This includes animals as well as people. We’ve all heard of “holy cows”, which are regarded as a kind of “mother goddess” and are especially sacred and may not be killed under any circumstances. Crocodiles and elephants are also highly revered. Hindus practice strict non-violence, which means most are vegetarians.

Even though Hindus believe that all living things are all part of the divine, they divide people into a rigid, complex class structure. Their “caste system” is a social hierarchy: At the top are the Brahmins, who are the priests, scholars and philosophers. Next are the warriors and rulers. Third are the traders, merchants and farmers. Then come the servants of the higher castes. At the very bottom are the despised Untouchables, who have no social status whatsoever, and who perform the most menial of tasks (within each caste are numerous sub-castes). If higher castes come in contact with an untouchable they become contaminated. Caste is determined by birth and nothing can change one’s superior standing, although some actions can cause one to be cut off from a caste. This system dictates one’s occupation, spouse and social standing. The only hope of lower caste people is to be reborn into a higher caste in the next life.

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