Summary: A study of Hinduism’s origins, belief system, and difference to Christianity.
“We are All Divine”
To the typical Western way of thinking, Hinduism and other Asian views of life appear strange. That’s because we who live in the Western world have a religious and cultural heritage much different from that of the people of the East.
Things developed much differently in the East. Typically, Eastern religions emphasize that everything in the world is temporary, changing, and unreal and that out perceptions of the world are most often misleading and illusory.
In the East, Ultimate Reality is thought of as attainable within each individual by realizing intuitively that the “self” is Divine, or at least part of the Divine. God is, for the most part, seen as an impersonal, unifying force who takes no personal interest in individuals. The idea of a creator having authority over the universe and making universal moral demands is, by and large, rejected. So where does it all begin.
I. The origins of Hinduism
a. The word “Hinduism” comes from the Indus River, which flows through what is now Pakistan.
b. The beginnings of Hinduism started with the a mixture of two different people groups.
i. The Dravidians, a dark skinned polytheistic fertility religion, which focused on the worship of the force of nature and use of rituals, marging human sexuality with the hope for abundant crops.
ii. The Aryans, a light skinned warlike people that conquered the Dravidians and were a polytheistic religion and also took on all the gods of the Dravidians..
c. The Aryans wrote down their hymns, prayers, mythic stories and chants into the Veda, Brahamanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads, and are known as the Vedic literature
i. These writings are considered by Hindus to be supernaturally inspired and are as sacred to them as the Bible is to Christians.
ii. The earliest followers were blatantly polytheistic and devoted to rituals and sacrifices, but the later followers showed a movement toward pantheism
1. Pantheism is from the word “pan,” meaning “everything,” and “Theos,” meaning “God.”
2. According the pantheism, God did not create the world; God is the world, along with everything in it.
iii. Although the earlier Hindu scriptures had mentioned many gods, the highest goal, according to the later Vedic literature, was union with Brahma, the impersonal absolute.
d. One thing about the inspired Vedic literature was that is was constantly added to.
i. In 500 B.C., it was added once again for the purpose of establishing Varna, a rigid caste system, or social hierarchy.
ii. One of the hymns tells how four castes of people came from the head, arms, thighs, and feet of the creator god, Brahma.
1. Priest (Brahmins)
2. Warriors and Nobles (Kshatriyas)
3. Merchants and Artisans (Vaisyas)
4. Slaves (Shudras).
• Each of these caste were then subdivided into hundreds of sub castes, arranged in order of rank. Only the top three were able to take full advantage of all that the Hindu religion has to offer, and the slaves (Shudras) were not allowed to hear the Vedas or to use them to try to find salvation.
iii. There is still another class of people, known as the untouchables, who are outside of the caste system and treated as subhuman.
1. In 1947 when India became a nation, the government officially outlawed the discrimination of untouchables.
2. But it is still seen today in the smaller Indian villages.
II. Two Core Beliefs
a. Hinduism is not really one religion, but many religions that interact and blend with one another.
b. There is no known founder of Hinduism, no creedal statements of faith t sign and no agreed upon authority.
c. You can be a good Hindu and believe in one god, many gods or no god at all.
d. There are two foundational assumptions that almost all Hindus believe without question: Reincarnation and karma.
1. Is the belief that the atman, a person’s uncreated and eternal soul, must repeatedly be recycled into the world in different bodies.
a. Some may be reincarnated into animals, plants or even inanimate objects.
b. Every Hindu’s soul must be reincarnated over and over again through the great wheel of samsara, all full of suffering that each atman must endure before reaching moksha, which is the liberation from suffering and union with the infinite.
ii. Karma “action”
1. This has to do with the law of cause and effect.
2. For the Hindu, karma means merit or demerit, which attacks to one’s atman (soul) according to how one lives one’s life.
3. Karma from a past life affect the person’s present life.
4. The Bible flatly contradicts Hindu ideas of reincarnation and karma.
a. The Bible teaches that each person is created by God, will die once and then be resurrected once at the judgment (John 5:17-30; 1 Cor. 15;1-58; Hebrew 9:27)