This paper compares Hinduism and Christianity. Hinduism also known as sanatana Dharma (Ellwood & McGraw, 59) is a distinct religion. This religion teaches belief in one God called Brahman who exists under different names and forms. Brahman can thus be pictured in various forms depending on ones devotion. The Hindus believe that there are many ways that one can reach God. Some of the key features of Hinduism are Bhakti, Jnana, karma, reincarnation and worship of idols (Ellwood & McGraw, 60).
Bhakti refers to personal surrender and devotion expected of every believer (Ellwood & McGraw, 60). The devotees (Bhakti) find peace and satisfaction through contemplating the beauty of Gods creation in the universe and also by His incarnations. Jnana as another key feature of Hinduism refers to the way of pure knowledge (Ellwood & McGraw, 61). Hindus also believe in Karma: Karma calls for selfless action because for every action, a reaction is to be expected (Ellwood & McGraw, 59). If the action is good, reward is received while punishment goes hand in hand with every bad act. Hindus belief in reincarnation i.e. that when one dies, he or she is reborn in a form that supports his or her Karma (Ellwood & McGraw, 61). Brahman is merciful and always offers individuals an opportunity for cleansing of sins thus becoming purer. Hinduism also practices idol worship i.e. Hindus make idols to represent different gods (Ellwood & McGraw, 62). These different gods are believed to be forms of the Supreme Being on earth. Hindus believe that a person called Krishna is a true manifestation or reincarnation of god Vishnu.
Christianity is one of the most divided religions in the world. There are very many denominations under the Christianity umbrella. Despite the splits and differences, all Christians believe in one God i.e. creator of heaven and earth. They also believe in Jesus the son of God who is the savior of the world. They also believe in the holly spirit who flows from God and works as a helper to believers.
Christians believe that there is only one supreme God who created heaven and earth. According to the creation story, which Christians share with Muslims and Jews, God after creating everything else created human beings in his own image and likeness (Ellwood & McGraw, 304). The universe and all in it are sustained by God who is a creator, provider, sustainer and protector. This God is a personal God who so loves mankind that he send them an only son for their salvation. Jesus the only begotten son of God is the truth and the way (Ellwood & McGraw, 306). Jesus is believed to have pre-existed before creation. It is also believed that Jesus died on the cross but rose (resurrected) on the third day. He went back to God where he is preparing eternal resting abodes for the righteous. Christians believe that at an appointed time, Jesus will come back to judge the world. Those who are righteous will follow him into the kingdom of his father while those who have sinned will burn in hell for eternity.
Christians believe in a presence in the person of Satan. The role of Satan is to tempt the children of God. Through prayer and other devotional activities, Christians are able to defeat Satan and his ways. In the fight against Satan and his ways, Christians have the Holly spirit who is to help them on the journey to the Father in heaven.
From what has been discussed some similarities and distinctions between Christianity and Hinduism have surfaced. Christianity is similar to Hinduism because both posit a powerful God who is omnipresent. Both Hinduism and Christianity are Trinitarian religions. While Christianity talks of Jesus as having been God reincarnate, Hinduism talks of Krishna who was god Vishnu reincarnate.
Just like Christianity, Hinduism also stipulates that an individual redeems himself or herself through good character. Good character is exhibited in works of compassion, honesty, reliability, mercy, self respect and being peace makers. Both religions are tolerant and allow for a personal interpretation and experience of divine or theological matters. This is why there are many shades of the same religion. Even in a religion like the Roman Catholic, there are movements that subscribe to different kinds of spirituality.
In both religions there is emphasis on the respect for other people. The golden rule is applied in both religions. Individual believers are expected to treat people in the same way they would wish they are treated. Hindus and Christians treat people with a lot of respect because of the family aspect that both religions believe in. In the Christian realm, they consider everyone on earth as a child of God thus we are brothers and sisters living together in harmony. The Hindus believe that the whole human race is just a family.
There are also other similarities between Krishna and Jesus Christ in that both of them were born out of virgin conception, both were called savior and were also the second person in the trinity of either religion. Krishna and Jesus adoptive (earthly) fathers were carpenters, their ancestors were royalty, and they were visited by wise men that were guided by a star. There was a declaration by the governors of their countries that boys born at that time were to be killed, both made a declaration that they were the resurrection, their life was sinless, they had mercy and were meek, they associated with sinners thus were criticized by the public. They healed all diseases, both had disciples/followers to spread the word, they had powers to cast out demons, both were seen as human (who had supernatural powers), Krishna and Jesus descended into hell and they resurrected, and were seen ascending to heaven. Both religions also believe that the world will be eventually destroyed.
There are also some distinct differences that exist between Christianity and Hinduism. The Hinduism religion is dynamic, it keeps on changing with time, and it is not found or based on a prophet or person. Christianity is static in that it is based on the life, the works and the word (gospel) of Jesus Christ as described by His witnesses.
The Hindu temples do not have a particular hierarchy i.e. people go to the temple to worship together thus the temple is just a place to bring a sense of oneness and belongingness (Knott, 79). Each temple is also independent of the other, but in most Christian churches, they are centralized for example for the Catholics their head quarters is at Vatican (Ellwood & McGraw, 341).
Another difference is that Hindus do not believe in the day of atonement/judgment. They believe that man is a victim of his own karma and the action and reaction laws judge him continuously. Christians believe that there is the final day where every one will be judged according to his actions on earth.
The Hindus worship idols that represent many gods and goddesses (Smith, 49). Idol worship in Christianity is forbidden. Hindus also believe in the incarnation of God (i.e. Krishna is the incarnation of Brahman); Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God.
Another distinction is that Hindus believe in karma. Karma dictates that your actions will either make you be rewarded or punished by God. Christians believe in redemption through repentance in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that there is heaven and also hell exists, Hindus do not. In Hinduism, Brahman is manifested through all living things. Actually all people are considered to be a form through which Brahman kind of exists (Knott, 156). As such, people do not see themselves as being worthy any form of pride especially those in the lower castes. Christians believe that God made mankind, and gave us free will. People are free beings who share in the work of creation as co-creators.
In Hinduism, sin is said to be against oneself. When one sins he or she disturbs or defiles his or her own Karma; Sin is not against God (Knott, 177). Christians believe that they were given rules and free will by God because He cares about them. Thus they have the freedom to either obey or disobey as they live on earth and wait for the final day of judgment/atonement. The Hindus believe that salvation is the release from the wheel of life, reincarnations, through which we must work to better ourselves, in order to realize our oneness with Brahman (Ellwood & McGraw, 95). Therefore, for each life one reincarnates into, he has to better himself character wise. In Christianity, salvation is largely attributed to God’s love and mercy. By grace God redeems His people (Smith, 45). His love is unconditional and the only thing that a Christian can do is accept it.
Learning of the above religions aspects, their similarities and differences, and also their way of worship has enlightened me. I now appreciate Christianity in relation to Hinduism some more. It is great to know the diversity and bases for beliefs held by people of different faiths. This is informative towards personal spiritual or religious formation.
Ellwood, Robert S. & Barbara, McGraw A., Many Peoples, Many Faiths: Women and Men in the World Religions. 9th Ed. USA: Prentice Hall, 2008.
Knott Kim. Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction. London: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Smith Huston. The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions. San Francisco: Harper, 1991.