There are many known religions of the world and all of them have their own uniqueness about them. Some people are born into their religious faith and some are converts to their perspective religion. I have chosen Hinduism to compare and contrast with my religion Christianity. I found Hinduism to be an interesting religion to research because of the myths about idol worship and the Hindu place of worship, the temple. Through my research of references, material, an interview, a face to face visit, and common knowledge I will convey the history, provide an overview, and clarify some of the myths of Hinduism and Christianity.
Both religions have some differences but they also have some commonalities among them. Hinduism and Christianity are distinctly different religions; however, they do posses some similarities between them such as, God the Holy Trinity, The Holy Book, and different denominations within the religion. [Well developed introduction] Hinduism is one of the oldest religions, originating over six thousand years ago in India, of the world and one of which that does not have no one founder. The root word of Hinduism, Hindu, derived from the name of River Indus.
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This river flows through the northern region of India and in early times the river was called Sindhu. The Persians that migrated to India called the river the Hindu, the land Hindustan, its inhabitants Hindus. The religion soon followed and came to be known as Hinduism. Hinduism is both monotheistic and henotheistic or having belief in only one God. “Hindus all believe in one Supreme God who created the universe. He is all-pervasive. He created many Gods, highly advanced spiritual beings, to be His helpers” (Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, 2007).
There is a misconception that Hindus are worshipers of idol Gods; this misconception comes from lack of knowledge and understanding. Hindus worship the Supreme Being, God, but through different names. This was done due to the people of earlier India having different languages and cultures. They came to understand the one God in their own distinct way. So there came to be three representations of God or Brahman and they are: Brahma-the Creator, Vishnu- the Sustainer, and Siva or Shiva- the Destroyer. These Gods can be referred to as 3-in-1 or the Trinity and they all have a multitude of spiritual beings which are a reflection of the one God.
From these Gods arose four denominations or sects of Hinduism and they are Saivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism, and Smartism. In Saivism the worshipers are called Saivites and God is Siva; in Vaishnavism they are called Vaishnavites and Lord Vishu is God; in Shaktism worshipers are called Shaktas and Goddess Shakti is Supreme; and Smartism they are called Smartas and all deities are seen and worshiped as the one God. In Hinduism it is believed that when God created the universe that he divinely set in place order and laws to preside over His creation. God’s divine law in Hinduism is called dharma.
Dharma is the inner spirit of man or God within the person. Dharma aides one to discern what is morally right and wrong, disciplines, instills good order, spiritual truth and growth, and salvation. Dharma is not only connected spiritually and religiously but it is also associated with man’s law as well. According to Paul Hacker, “…the entire realm of civil law, criminal law, and state craft-royal law form part of dharma” (Hacker, P. , 2006, p. 483). Now that we have divine law there must be something to support the law, so do Hindus have a Bible? Yes, they do have a Bible. “Our “Bible” is called the Veda.
The Veda, which means “wisdom,” is comprised of four ancient and holy scriptures which all Hindus revere as the revealed word of God” (Hacker, P. , 2006, p. 483). The Veda is the Hindu holy book and it is comprised of four books, Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva, which include over 100,000 verses (Hacker, P. , 2006, p. 483). Reincarnation is another belief of Hindus and the term carnate means in the flesh and reincarnate means to reenter the flesh. “Yes, we believe the soul is immortal and takes birth time and time again. Through this process, we have experiences, learn lessons, and evolve spiritually.
Finally we graduated from physical birth” (Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, 2007). The graduation from the physical birth is the result of maturing in love, wisdom, and knowledge of God through following dharma. Hindus also believe that everything in nature is reincarnated, nature’s life cycle, not just the human soul. The term Karma is used quite often in the American society and it has come to mean that you are receiving that which you deserve. In most cases the American society equate karma to be negative; meaning that you have done something bad or wrong and you are now receiving its results.
However Hindus take the whole spectrum of karma positive and negative; good and bad. The Hindus take the meaning and explanation of karma to be, “…the universal principle of cause and effect. Our actions, both good and bad, come back to us in the future, helping us to learn from life’s lessons and become better people” (Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, 2007). In Hinduism all living creatures are regarded as sacred with a special affection toward the cow. So the question arises, do Hindus worship the cow? “Hindus don’t worship cows. We respect, honor and adore the cow.
By honoring this gentle animal, who gives more than she takes, we honor all creatures” (Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, 2007). Cows are known for yielding milk, its meat and its hide and all of these things are used to produce a multitude of everyday products that we have become to love, need, and enjoy. Hindus believe in non-violence in regards to all forms of life, therefore, most Hindus are vegetarians. There aren’t laws that forbid the consumption of meat but through wisdom Hindus determine what they will put into their own body.
However, “Hindus teach vegetarianism as a way to live with a minimum of hurt to other beings. But in today’s world not all Hindus are vegetarians” (Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, 2007). It is common to see Hindus wearing a red dot on the middle of their forehead and most people will identify Indians, native of India, with wearing the dot. The meaning of the wearing of the dot, “…is a religious symbol. It represents divine sight and shows that one is a Hindu. For women, it is also a beauty mark” (Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, 2007).
This dot is called a bindi and many, many years ago both men and women wore a bindi but today it is most common for women to faithfully wear them. Finally the Hindus have a caste system which consists of different levels within the Indian society. “Caste is the hereditary divisions of Indian society based on occupation. The lowest class, deemed untouchables, suffer from discrimination and mistreatment. It is illegal in India to discriminate against, abuse or insult anyone on the basis of caste” (Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, 2007). The caste system is broken down into four categories or varnas.
The varnas are comprised of the worker, businessman, general, and priest. The beliefs and teachings of Hinduism are the belief in one God with different names; there is only one Supreme God or Brahman but He has many reflections. Hindus believe the divine law or dharma and the holy books of Veda are used to support the law. They also believe the soul is immortal and birth takes place many times otherwise known as reincarnation. Hindus are firm believers in karma and that your past words, deeds, or actions will return to you in the future.
They regard all living creatures as sacred but they revere the cow as a symbol for all living creatures. Hindus are taught to be non-harming toward any living being. The teaching of vegetarianism is taught to minimize harm toward other beings. Although it is taught vegetarianism is not practiced by all Hindus. There is one distinct religious symbol that is worn on the forehead by some Hindus called a bindi, a red dot, and it is commonly worn by the Hindu women. There are four classes of people which are known as the caste system in the Indian Society.
Hinduism is a very unique religion and it is very similar to other religions, however, without a clear understanding of Hinduism one might misinterpret and relay incorrect information about the religion. Knowing the beliefs and teachings with the reasoning behind them provides a clear understanding of Hinduism. The Hindu temple I chose to visit is in Riverdale, Georgia which is located approximately 15 miles south of downtown Atlanta. The temple is sculptured in design with a majestic appearance; it is white in color and it situated atop of a hill. The temple permits entrance to anyone as long as you abide by the rules.
One of the rules is to remove your shoes prior to entering the temple. This is not a religious practice but cultural, Indians do this because it is dirty outside and it is clean inside, therefore shoes should be removed before entering a temple or home. Another rule is there are to be no loud noises because this is a time of worship. Inside the temple there are sanctums situated around the temple with the various deities inside them. The priest stands at the entrance of the sanctum of the main God Lord Vishnu and the worshipers walk around to the different deities submitting their prayers.
There is no set order for mass worship but it is up to the individual as to what prayers they will submit and to what deity. After touring and witnessing the worship taking place I am glad to say that I was able to experience Hindu worship and to clear up any myths I may have had prior to my visit. While at the temple I was given the opportunity to interview the President of the Temple, Mr. Ravi Sarma. He was very welcoming and pleased that I wanted to know more about his religion. Mr. Sarma grew up as a liberal Hindu not having any strict rules enforced.
As an adult he transitioned to the orthodox side of Hinduism, which is very traditional and strict. It was from Mr. Sarma that I received a better understanding of the Gods in Hinduism; after he explained that Hindus belief in one God but with different symbols or expressions. Mr. Sarma went in to detail about the Trinity of Hinduism and how it works as a cycle or reincarnation. The Cycle of Hinduism begins life with Brahma the Creator, life is sustained through Vishnu the Sustainer, and Siva the Destroyer into whom everything goes; the cycle then repeats itself.
Even though most of the deities are in the feminine aspect referred to as Durgar; God is neutral being neither male nor female. Mr. Sarma went over the following holidays: Diwali-a festival of lights, Pongal / Sankranti- a harvest festival, Holi- a spring festival, Ugadi-New Years (comes in spring), and Navratri (Dasara)- a nine day fall festival. Speaking one-on-one with Mr. Sarma I gained a valid knowledge about Hinduism and it also brought a clearer understanding of the course text, references, and materials.
My religious faith is that of Christianity, which began some two thousand years ago. The faith of Christianity is predicated upon the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Fisher, 2005, p. 284). In Hinduism the term The Trinity is used but is most commonly used in Christianity. Some Christians refer to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as the Trinity. All of these names are known as God the one and only. God the Father is the creator of all things. God the Son is Jesus, the son of God and savior to all. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of God and the comforter to all.
There are two branches or denominations of Christianity and they are Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. The Roman Catholic Church is the first church of Christianity and the largest Christian denomination. Protestantism is the second major branch of Christianity, which, broke off from The Roman Catholic Church. My denomination Baptist falls within Protestantism. The term Baptist describes individuals belonging to a Baptist church. The name comes from the conviction that followers of Jesus Christ are commanded to be baptized or immersed in water as a public display of their faith.
To live eternally is believed that through baptism and according to scripture, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. " (Romans 10:9). It does not stop here; we must also be led by the Holy Spirit to do what is right. Therefore we have the Golden rule as it relates to karma is to treat others as you would want to be treated. The holy book that is used in Christianity is called the Holy Bible. The Holy Bible is comprised of the Old and New Testament.
The Old Testament consists of 39 books and the New Testament consists of 27 books. As with most religions there are different levels of leadership within Christianity to provide purpose, direction, and teachings such as a Bishop, Pastor, ministers, and deacons. Christianity is based upon the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Fisher, 2005, p. 284). The belief in the Holy Trinity, eternal life through baptism, treating all beings as you want to be treated, and the Holy Bible are beliefs of Christianity.
There are also two major branches of Christianity, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, with Baptist being one within Protestantism. Within the various denominations there are different levels of leadership. In comparing Hinduism with Christianity I realized that there are some similar terms used but they mean something different for each religion. Both religions are monotheistic and they both have their own representation of the Holy Trinity. As Hindus believe in reincarnation Christians believe in eternal life of the soul. In Hinduism there are only four denominations where as in Christianity there are many.
Lastly they both have a sacred book; in Hinduism the Veda is used and in Christianity the Holy Bible is used. I found Hinduism to be a very interesting religion and I was surprised to find out there were some commonalities between Christianity and Hinduism. By Hinduism having some of the same similarities as Christianity and with the reinforcement from my interview helped me to better understand Hinduism. Hinduism and Christianity are distinctly different religions; however, they do posses some similarities between them such as, God the Holy Trinity, The Holy Book, and different denominations within the religion.
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