World Religions: Hinduism

Posted: May 2, 2017 by keystoneyouth in World Religions
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 Attention Funnel: J.P. Sears Video

 Series Introduction:

  • Why do a series on where we explore other religions (Hinduism, Islam, Atheism)?
    • Sidenote: I include Atheism as a “religion” despite the fact that many atheists would not like being called religious.
  • I want you to be knowledgeable about what other religions believe.
    • I don’t want you to believe the lie that says, “All religions really believe the same things.”
    • But I also don’t want you to make blanket statements about other religions that may actually be false and harmful.
  • Ultimately, I want you to be humble and bold as you engage with those of different faiths.
  • I want you to be humble in respecting and understanding other people’s beliefs, but I also want you to be bold in sharing the gospel and knowing how to go about that with someone who believes something different then you.

Lesson Introduction:

  • It’s actually quite hard to explain or understand Hinduism… so I’m going to explain it in the next 30-35 minutes and you all are going to be experts at the end of that timeJ
  • Honestly, this is a lesson that will probably leave you with more questions than answers.
    • But that’s a good thing, because the best way to better understand Hinduism would be to befriend a Hindu and ask questions.
  • Why is Hinduism hard to explain and understand?
    • Because it is so diverse!
    • There is no specific founder… no Buddha, no Jesus, No Mohammed, No Joseph Smith.
    • There is not a single holy book, rather there are multitudes of scriptures, some of which are 4 times the size of the Bible (The Bhagavad Gita is the most influential Hindu Scripture today which is a little over 200 pages long, but is just one part of a much longer Hindu Holy Book).
    • There is one God and yet millions of gods.
    • There are thousands of creation stories… and none of them contradict one another.
    • There are different paths to salvation, but one may combine and mix these paths, or use different paths at different times in their life.
    • What “salvation” means may be different form one person to another.
  • You feel overwhelmed yet?
    • If you meet someone who is a Hindu, they may be deeply religious or they may be an atheist who simply identifies culturally and socially with the customs of Hinduism.
    • Perhaps the only guarantee there is, is that each Hind you may meet will tell you their way is the right way, but all other ways are not wrong.

 Big Idea: Hinduism is a diverse religion that claims there are many ways to God.

 Main Points

  • There are 3 questions that I want to ask and answer tonight to help us both better understand Hinduism and make some comparisons to Christianity. The answers that Hinduism gives to these three questions will be our 3 main points.
  • The 3 questions are, Who is God? What is salvation? And How do you achieve salvation?
  • We’ll close with some advice for how to engage with Hindus.

1) Who is God?

God is one and there are many gods.

  • Brahman is the one true god, also known as the supreme being. He is involved in most, if not all creation accounts of the world.
    • The reason there are multiple creation accounts is because Hindus have a cyclical view of history.
    • For us, we view history in terms of a started point, and an ending point – a straight line.
    • For Hindus, history is more like a wheel that cycles around. And so with each cycle the world/universe may be destroyed and then recreated in the next cycle.
  • Brahman is viewed as spirit or soul and everything is either directly or indirectly connected to him.
  • This is why Hindus may espouse the view that God is everything and everything is God (not all Hindus believe this specifically, so it would be foolish to give a blanket statement like, “All Hindus believe that the trees are god.”
  • Although Brahman is the one true god, there are also many gods.
    • These gods are manifestations of Brahman.
    • When Brahman manifests himself in a form, that form is then considered a god.
    • And so Hindus may devote themselves to one or several of these gods.
  • Quote from a Hindu – “We believe in One Supreme Being, but we choose the form that we worship. I value that freedom and I believe that is the main difference between us and Christians.”
  • Because there are many gods, who are just manifestations of The Supreme Being, Hindus may choose the form in which they worship this greater god.
    • This is an incomplete analogy, But let’s say you love baseball. How do you express your love for baseball? By choosing a baseball team to cheer for and follow. And if that team is lousy for year after year after year, then perhaps you switch which baseball team you cheer for. Like in 2008, I was a Phillies Fan, then soon after I became a Yankees Fan, and then I became a Red Sox Fan, and this year I became a Cubs fan.
    • That’s a crass analogy, and I wouldn’t use it with someone who is a Hindu, because it diminishes the significance and importance they place on their gods.
    • But I use it just to illustrate how you express your love for something by choosing a specific manifestation to “worship.”
  • How do people choose which god they are going to worship?
    • It may be based off their family, or the community they grew up in, or their personal wants or needs.
    • If you grew up in a family or community that worships Krishna, then you also worship Krishna. If you grew up in a family that worships Vishnu, then you also worship Vishnu.
    • Or you may worship Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) because you want/need money.
    • Or you may worship Ganesha (the god of venture and journey) if you are about to travel someplace new or start a new business.
    • Or you may combine and worship several of these gods at once.
    • Again, if you will allow me the Baseball illustration, most likely you cheer for a team that your family cheers for and belongs to the city closest to you.
    • But you may also cheer for a team based on a player that they have that you like, or simply because they are good and win more often.
  • How do people worship these gods?
    • Most often it is within the home, where there is usually a shrine set up with a sculpted image of the god(s) or picture.
    • Worship will look different from family to family, but may include prayers, meditation, reading from a holy book, hymns, or feeding and bathing the gods.
    • Some simply view these images as a visual aid to worship, while others believe the images contain the very powers and presence of the god they are worshipping.
    • One might also go to a local temple to worship (Closest local ones are actually in Harrisburg and Downingtown). But there is usually not a weekly service like in church.
  • How is the Hindu conception of God different then the Trinity?
    • Often people may hear the belief of Hinduism that God is One and yet also many and they say, “See, Christianity and Hinduism believe pretty much the same thing.”
      • Deut 6:4 – God is one; Matthew 28:19 – God is triune
    • However, there is a massive difference, along with many smaller differences…
    • 1) Hinduism believes each god is not actually Brahman, but rather just one part of Brahman.
      • Each God is a manifestation of the true God.
    • Christianity believes that God is one, and God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not manifestations of the true God, they are each equally God.
      • Being at Disney World vs. having a picture of Disney world. No one would say these are the same things. The idea of many gods in Hinduism is that each god is a picture of the one True God. The Idea in Christianity is that the Father, Son, and Spirit are all the True God. They are not pictures of Disney Land, they are each the full experience of Disney Land.
    • 2) Christianity disagrees that any of these can be contained and worshipped in an image. To do so, is to create God in our own image and likeness.
    • There is no Christian category for only worshipping Jesus… because Jesus is God, not a god. There is no category for only worshipping the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is God, not a god.
  • By the way, this is why you need to be clear and careful when talking to a Hindu about Jesus.
    • Because they may either say, “I already believe in Jesus.” Or they may appear to accept the gospel and place their faith in Jesus. But they very well may simply see Jesus as one more god to add to the other gods they worship.
    • You should be clear how Jesus is different then the Hindu conception of gods.
    • John 1:1-2, 14; Col. 1:15, 19; Heb. 1:3

 

2) What is salvation?

Finding peace and freedom by becoming one with God and leaving the material world.

  • The goal is the escape the cycle of the world, and the cycle of life and become one with God.
  • Remember earlier I said how Hinduism views history as a wheel.
  • Well life is also viewed in a similar way. You live, you die, and then you live again, and then you die again, and you live again.
  • This is the belief in reincarnation. You continue to cycle through this life in different places and forms. The hope is to experience a better life in the next cycle and to eventually escape the cycle completely – this is called moshka.
  • The belief is that eventually every single soul will experience moshka.
  • Like a hamster stuck on a wheel. You continue running hoping eventually that you will be freed from the wheel and able to find complete rest and peace.
  • But you are only freed from this wheel of life, once all karmas have been resolved.
  • For many Hindus, the idea of Moshka seems so far off that the main goal simply become to have peace in this life and experience better in the next reincarnation.
  • Again, the way this happens is connected with karma.
  • Karma is the belief that, “Whatever good or bad that you do, you will receive the consequences.”
    • In other word’s if good things happen to you, it’s because you are a good person and have done good things – If I wake up tomorrow to find a check for $1,000 in the mail… it is because I have done something good either in this life or a previous life.
    • If a tractor trailer smacks into me on the way home, it is because I have done something bad in this life or a previous life.
    • People might say, this is exactly what the Bible teaches in Proverbs and in Galatians 6:7 – “God is not mocked, whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”
    • But the Bible also tells us this is not an absolute rule… good people suffer (Job), while evil people often seem to prosper and receive good (Psalm 73).
    • It ends up being too simplistic to resolve the issue of good and bad in this world by saying you get what you deserve.
    • Hindus understand that karma ultimately works its way out through thousands of lives, both past and future.
  • Once your karma is completely worked out, you leave the endless cycle and become one spirit with Brahman
  • How is this different then the Christian belief of eternal life and heaven?
    • 1) Hinduism downplays the material side of the world.
      • The whole idea is to escape the material world and become one with the spiritual world.
      • Like water in a bottle that is trying to escape and join the ocean.
    • For Christian, salvation does not mean escape from the material world, but rather renewal of the material world.
    • We get new bodies, the heavens and earth are renewed, and we live in a material world where there is no more evil, sin and suffering.
    • Revelation 21:1-5.
    • Everything good we experience here on earth is not to be seen as something to escape from, rather it is a taste of what life will be like in the New Heavens and new earth.
      • The goal is not water getting out of its bottle, but rather about water being changed into something new… water turning into wine.
    • 2) Christianity teaches that we will dwell with God, but we will not be God. God will still be different then us.

 

3) How do you achieve salvation?

By action, devotion, and knowledge.

  • There are three main paths that you may take to achieve salvation.
    • The word we would translate as paths is actually Yoga.
      • We immediately think of the exercise version of Yoga. But this type of Yoga is not common in Hinduism.
      • Just because someone is a Hindu doesn’t mean they have mastered the ins and outs of downward dog and warrior 1,2, and 3Jl
    • This word means to yoke yourself to something. Like a horse yoked to a carriage.
    • The way to achieve salvation is to yoke yourself to Brahman, and there are 3 main ways to go about this, or three main paths to get where you want to go.
  • 1) The Path of Action – (Karma Yoga)
    • In this path, your primary goal is to be a good person. And the way to being a good person is by fulfilling your role in this life – which is called your
    • Dharma refers to the duty you have been given in this life.
      • The Dharma of the Sun is to give warmth and light.
      • The Dharma of a teacher is to teach students.
      • The Dharma of a student is to learn well.
    • You perform your duty well for the sake of others and for the gods according to the place you have been given in life.
    • By doing this you are storing up good karma for yourself.
      • Sidenote – This is why the caste system is not seen as an injustice by many Hindus. The people are born into a case to perform their specific duty and you would bring harm to them and to cycle of the world if you tried to help them out of that caste and give them duties not in line with their caste.
      • It would be a little bit like breaking a guilty person out of jail. You don’t do it, they are serving their time and need to serve their time well in order that they can get out eventually.
    • 2) The Path of Devotion (Bhakti Yoga)
      • This is the most common/important path or practice found among Hindus today.
      • This path is choosing and devoting oneself to a particular god.
        • Remember earlier how we said people settle on a particular god or goddess and then how they worship that god.
      • Hymns, prayers, saying the gods name, feeding the god, bathing the god all are forms of worship and devotion, but there may be other forms as well and they may vary from person to person.
      • By devoting oneself to one or several gods, the Hindu is also worshipping the Supreme God of Brahman. They simply choose which manifestation of Brahman they want to worship.
      • Again, the hope of devotion and worship to the Gods it to eventually free oneself from this world, or simply find peace and move up in the next reincarnation.
    • 3) The Path of Knowledge (Jnana Yoga)
      • In this Path, people seek to discriminate between what is real and unreal.
      • By study, reflection, and meditation, one seeks to become more free of this material world and more connected with Brahman.
      • The goal is to unleash the god that is within you by freeing by separating from everything that holds you back.
        • This is also popular in New Age thinking because it lines up with the idea that there is something great within you and you just need to figure out how to get it out.
        • You need to discover your true self and live that out to be a peace and happy – sounds a little familiar to some popular advice of our culture.
      • Someone may follow one of these paths at one time, only to switch to another path at a different point in life. Just as they may worship one god at one time and then switch later.
      • Or they might mix these paths together and practice them all or bits and pieces of each one… just as you may worship several gods at one time.
      • How is this different then Christianity?
        • John 14:6 – Jesus is the way, the truth, the
        • In our culture, we tend to push back against saying there is only one way, one truth, and one life. It sounds better to say that there are many ways, many truths, and they are eventually lead to the same place.
        • Narrow-mindedness is the ultimate sin, and Open-Mindedness is the ultimate virtue.
        • However, while saying there are many ways to God may sound good and feel good… I would argue it is actually crushing.
        • Picture yourself lost in the middle of dark, damp, dense woods. Your goal and your desire is to find your way out of the woods into the open fields.
        • Hinduism is a bit like having a map, but not ultimately knowing if and or when that map will lead you out of the woods. You must simply follow the map and hope that at some point it takes you out. and slowly finding your way to where you are supposed to go. If the map never gets you out, and you die in the woods, you simply wake up somewhere else in the woods and try again with a new map. Hoping time after time that eventually you will find your way to Brahman.
          • And Hinduism says that eventually, everyone finds their way out no matter what paths they took.
        • Christianity says you are lost in the middle of the woods and the map you are using has bad directions. You will never find your way out. You will never see the open field. You will never find your way to God. Not only that but you just stepped into quicksand and your sinking fast.
        • This is why Chrisitanity is offensive, because it says you are helpless to save yourself and find your way to God. Christianity says NOBODY FINDS that way out on their own no matter how many paths they have taken. No matter how good you are, no matter how devoted you are, no matter how much knowledge you have, you are drowning in quicksand with no hope of getting out of the forest.
        • But, this is why the gospel is such GOOD NEWS. Because it says that God comes into the woods after you. Jesus enters into the dark woods, finds you, and doesn’t just show the way out, he puts you on his back and carries you out. You find God, receive, peace, and hope in a new heavens and new earth, not because you found your way along a myriad of paths, but because someone came to rescue you.
        • Luke 15:1-10; 19:10 – Jesus Came to seek and to save the Lost
        • There is one way, one truth, one life… because we never find these things on our own… we need Jesus to come and give them to us.

So What??

Connecting with Hindus

  • Posture to Take:
    • Love – you are not in it to prove them wrong. You are not in it simply to convert them or else bail out.
      • Hindus may be very hesitant to convert to Christianity, because often religion is a way of life for Hindus… it is not just one part of life. To covert means to a Hindu that you are turning your back on your family, your social network, and even your culture. There is a great cost to converting.
        • As one person said, “Religious conversion is the greatest sin on earth… it’s like changing your mother.”
      • Hindus also tend to look at conversion with suspicion because they view Christians, especially in India as poor people who were exploited by missionaries and only converted in order to benefit socially or financially.
    • Here’s why this matters, because if you meet a Hindu and share the gospel with them, it’s likely they will not immediately respond. And if you view them just as a project, and immediately bail out on the relationship seeing them as a lost cause, you will only confirm their suspicion that Christians just try to exploit other people to conversion.
      • To them they will hear, “Christians don’t really care about me, they just want to convert me, and if they can’t, then they disappear and move onto the next target.”
    • Think about how you feel when someone tries to sell you something and when you refuse, they just move on.
    • As a Christian, you are not selling essential oils or tubberware, so don’t act in that way! Love the person and remain friends with them even if they reject the gospel.
  • Questions to Ask a Hindu Person…
    • Why do they consider themselves to be Hindu? What does that mean for them?
    • How does Hinduism effect their daily life?
    • What god(s) do they worship? Why do they worship those particular god(s)?
    • Which path(s) do they follow?
    • How do they understand dharma?
    • What is the goal of life for them?
    • What scriptures do they read, listen to, watch? Do they follow a specific guru?
    • What do they believe happens after they die?

  

Questions:

  • Why does the idea that there are many ways to God often sound appealing?
  • Why does the idea that there are many ways to God actually crush us?
  • How would you respond to someone who says, “Religions are all pretty much the same thing. They may disagree on some small things, but they all agree on the big things”?
  • What are some of the big differences between Hinduism and Christianity?

 

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