Similarities between Christianity and Hinduism

I make-up one half of an interfaith marriage – with two religions, Christianity and Hinduism, both being practised in our home. I, therefore, have had the good fortune of drawing from Christianity and Hinduism simultaneously and have thus been able to compare the teachings of both religions in parallel. I have witnessed in awe, the splendour of God’s love and power many times, through the beautiful narratives of both religions. I am aware that on a superficial level, Christianity and Hinduism may appear to be polarised, but the more I learn about each religion the more I appreciate that they have many philosophical similarities. From the privileged position of being exposed to both religions, here are some of the reasons I find these two beautiful religions to be comparable.

 

– 1- Value Based

Indeed the most imperative similarity is the emphasis both religions place on morality and good character displayed in virtuous thoughts, words and actions. The scriptures of both religions abound with lessons on how to live a life free from sins such as envy, dishonesty, violence, egoism, sloth and lust; it provides us with ways to practise positive values, all springing from the core value of love. Indeed the topic of love is touched on prominently in both religions, with both love for God and love for our fellow human featuring almost continuously through the scriptures.

 

– 2- Both Religions are Monotheistic (Believe in the Existence of One God)

It is widely accepted that Christianity is a monotheistic religion, which means that Christians believe in one God. But did you know that Hinduism is also monotheistic? This may not seem like the case from a cursory glance at Hindu religious practices but study of the Hindu scriptures would reveal that Hindus practice belief in one ultimate Godhead who is ultimately nameless, formless and genderless. The numerous names and forms that one would observe a Hindu praying to are creations of the one Godhead in whom God manifests. Hindus believe that God has taken on many forms and therefore names, throughout human existence (and even well before that), but that ultimately He is one nameless and formless being; much like the one God who manifests as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the Christian Religion.

 

– 3- Belief in Consequences of One’s Actions and the Ability to Redeem Oneself Through Faith in God

“As you sow, so shall you reap.” may well be the most famous idiom that has its roots in the bible. Other examples from the Bible that refer to consequences of one’s actions are as follows:

Jeremiah 17:10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

James 3:17-18 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of  righteousness.

Galatians 6:7  Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

The law of Karma described in Hinduism also describes how actions (including words and thoughts) would evoke either negative or positive consequences depending on the action and the intention behind the action.

However, both religions offer opportunities for redemption or absolution of sin through faith in God. This should not be considered to be a deviation from the rules governing consequences. However, faith in God is in itself an action (in the form of thought) that has tremendously powerful positive consequences which can absolve sin when deemed appropriate by God.

 

-4- Belief in the Power of Faith to Achieve the Ultimate Goal

The ultimate goal of Hinduism is described as the complete awareness of one’s union with God, which also signals the end of the cycle of birth and death (reincarnation) for that particular soul. Hinduism maps out a few methods through which one could achieve the ultimate goal. One of them is Bhakthi Yoga which is the path of faith in God. This has been described as the most joyous way of reaching God.

Similarly, Christianity places great emphasis on achieving salvation by having faith in God through Jesus. Most Christians believe that this is the sole path to God.

Hindus are not limited in the form of God they show devotion to and are free to choose even Jesus as that form, or bypass all forms to show devotion to the formless God (although this is said to be a more difficult thing for the mind to achieve).

 

-5- Belief that God is Within Each of Us

Both Christianity and Hinduism subscribe to the belief that God (or a part of God) resides within each of us. Christianity describes the phenomenon as the Holy Spirit. The Hindus describe, arguably, the same phenomenon as the Atma. In both religions there is a spiritual link between the indwelling Holy Spirit or Atma and God. So much so that the Hindu’s often refer to God as Paramatma meaning supreme Atma, probably to elucidate the connection between God and ourselves. Both religions state that the Holy Spirit or Atma and God are in essence one.

 

-6- Belief in Spiritual Benefits Acquired by Submerging in Water

Both Hindus and Christians consider water to be holy. For Hindus, submerging in water at one of India’s holy rivers (with correct intention and regard) is believed to offer spiritual purification. Christians submerge themselves in water during a tradition that is particularly significant to Christians, known as Baptism which signifies purification of the soul and spiritual rebirth, when performed with correct intention.

 

I am certain that there are many more similarities between Christianity and Hinduism and indeed between all the major religions of the world. I hope that contemplating on these similarities would infuse people of different religions with the will to connect with more sincerity, love, sensitivity and respect so that we may exemplify Jesus’ teaching of “love your neighbour as yourself” (Mathew 19:19) and usher in an era of peace on this blessed blue and green planet.

By Natasha Subbiah

For more from me, listen to my podcast, Happiness Through Spirituality: https://happinessthroughspirituality.buzzsprout.com/

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The Message Behind the Royal Wedding

“God is love, and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them”, from the moment this powerful biblical quote was spoken to open the royal wedding ceremony of Prince Harry to Ms. Meghan Markle, I was struck by an undercurrent message acknowledging us all to be equals, brothers and sisters, regardless of race or nationality, with love being the only criteria earning us honour. This invitation to look beyond humanities historical social boundaries was unsaid, but to me, it was acknowledged, in the words marking the “power of love”, perhaps, the power of love to unite people across all social barriers. When mixed-race becomes the stuff of royal fairytales, this marriage may provide a spring of courage and a spark of renewal for interracial or multi-cultural couples across the world. This sentiment of love being the foremost consideration, was echoed by all the speakers of the historic wedding.

“We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way.”

Rev. Michael Curry

Besides Britain’s elite giving a royal nod to a beautiful mixed race couple, it was touching to see the throngs of British citizens celebrating the event with as much fervour and zeal as they would have any historically typical royal wedding.

All weddings leave a tear in my eye and love in my heart, but this union left me with hope, hope for the entire world, hope that the power of love is set to break cultural barriers that society has long placed upon us, hope that love will triumph and humanity will hold hands in trust someday soon.

By Natasha Subbiah

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Changing the World Through Relationships Between People of Different Races, Ethnicities, Cultures, Religions and Nationalities

I recently had the pleasure of chatting to two dear friends who are in a loving and happy relationship despite the fact that they are from two different cultural backgrounds albeit within the same religion. This fortunate encounter reminded me that it is not just inter-religious relationships that cross boundaries, test limits and set new standards for this world, but that there are all types of people building bridges of love across all our social boundaries all around the world. It was also a reminder to me of how these kinds of relationships can teach people that associate with these pioneering couples, be it friends, family or colleagues, how love can and does transcend social and cultural groupings and that destroying these “mind-made” boundaries can and does bring more love and joy into our lives.

There may be trepidation over differences and stress over social acceptance; but it is clear to recognise the opportunity these relationships present to the couple and to those who are in contact with the couple, to learn how to love more openly, to practice reducing your ego, to experience and enjoy the diversity that God has created in this glorious planet and hopefully, to discover that different is not that different at all.

If you have found yourself in a committed relationship with somebody who is not from the same country, culture, language, race, religion or ethnicity as you, and you are worried about upsetting the “normal” in your family or friend circle, remind yourself of the opportunity you are presenting to the people you love, for spiritual growth through learning to love more expansively. Think further to the children that the two of you may produce that will not learn these boundaries from the start and will get to experience love without the fear society impresses on us. Understand the value of your position as an example to others of how the world should operate, that is, loving all without the obsession over differences in nationality, race, culture, religion or differences in sexual orientation.

Let us value each other for the souls within each of us and let us live with the hope that others will have the courage to do the same through our loving example.

By Natasha Subbiah

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Thoughts for Success in an Interfaith Relationship

Most relationships come with challenges, no different is the relationship between people of different religions or different cultures. If we see these challenges as opportunities for self reflection and personal growth then we can greatly and ceaselessly benefit from an interfaith relationship. Through the years I have noted many characteristics that I can change within myself to better serve myself, my interfaith relationship and my interfaith family. I admit that it has taken a long time for me to go through this process of refinement and I must acknowledge that I do have a long way more to go. Here are some thoughts that I keep in mind when facing the added complexities of an interfaith or inter-religious marriage, based on my personal experience.

Do not be competitive, especially on the topics of religion, race or culture. There is no room for competitiveness in love. This is an extremely damaging pastime and will win you no love or respect. Value the role of your partners religion in this world and in your partners life and accord it respect and eventually even love. It may take you some time to come to this place, but after 12 years I have feelings of peace and love for my husband’s chosen form of God and it is indeed a beautiful and natural feeling once you open your heart. This in no way takes away from my love of my own religion since my religion encourages love of all.

Not being competitive includes not speaking down on your partners religion or culture especially when you are not directly asked for a view. If you do have to disagree on a certain philosophy, do so in a respectful manner whilst acknowledging if there are aspects of that philosophy that you do agree with. I admit that I am guilty of being negative about certain aspects of my partners religion. I always abandon such a topic and I always regret it.

You should rather choose to be understanding. Understand that your partner has a different history, different experiences, different affiliations, and different fears stemming from his/her different background. Acknowledge that you may have been very different had you had the same upbringing. Try to understand why things are done the way they are in your partners religion. Try and understand your partners emotions and fears and your partners families emotions and fears based on their belief system, even though at times their fears are unfounded.

Focus on common ground instead of the sometimes superficial differences between your religions. The most important thing is that you both are likely to share common values which you have each inherited from your respective, religions, cultures and families. As I learn more about my husband’s religion, which at face value seems quite different, I find more and more in common with my own religion. Do not be tempted to constantly bring up those things that are different between your religions, these are the things which usually have no tangible impact on your physical lives.

Be supportive in your partners practice of his/her religion. Remember that there are many damaging pastimes in the alluring material world and praying to God (regardless of which name or form or lack thereof, you may choose to worship) is usually not one of them. Indeed focusing on spiritual practices and charity activities can add deep and lasting joy, peace and mental fortitude to your partners life; and can help ward off mental agitations and diseases such as depression. Be sure that, in a loving relationship, you can never be truly happy if your partner is not happy and fulfilled. Never underestimate the value of peace as a prerequisite for happiness. Spiritual practices are a significant tool for acquiring peace. Allow your partner to dip in to this inexhaustible stream of joy without him/her having to contend with your hesitancy or negativity first.

Do not speak or act in anger. When angry, take some time out to try and understand your partners words or actions better and then respond from a calmer footing. In anger we often say things that we don’t fully mean and this can cause untold and often irreparable damage. If we do act or speak in a hurtful way, apologise sincerely.

Do not be egotistical. Often we prevent ourselves from loving fully, we prevent ourselves from compromising on superficial things and we prevent ourselves from choosing to live in full joy because of our pride. For example, we stalled our wedding for over a year because we couldn’t agree on how to do it. My ego was definitely in the way. Eventually I gave in on most accounts, having a very small religious ceremony of my husband’s faith and then a larger “universal” or non-faith-specific reception. It ended up being a very loving affair but we hardly think back on that one day because we are so busy enjoying our marriage and our family. The wedding was not that important after all. I am sure I would have so much less love now had I chosen my ego over my love. However, this does not mean that we must not each insist on respect.

All of life’s relationships challenge us to be better, challenge us to drop our boundaries and expand our horizons, challenge us to live fully in love in thought word and deed. Use your interfaith relationship to find your truly wonderful True Self.

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Sending universal love to my interfaith family.

Lessons From an Interfaith Home – How to Hold A Peaceful Conversation About Religion

Religions won’t always agree; so how do we make a relationship with a partner of a different religion work knowing this? First, we have to be at peace with not agreeing on certain things. Much of the beauty, drama and vibrancy of this world, is that which is different from what we are and what we are used to. Being exposed to new and contrasting opinions is one of the adventures of life, embrace that. Sometimes though, those differing opinions may harm your ego and cause you hurt and pain. It is difficult to tell you how to handle such situations because each one will be unique. Don’t let your ego (or a reflection of your own ego onto God)1 get in your way of peace. Who knows what the truth is besides those that have directly witnessed it. The rest of us are at the mercy of what we have been told, passed on from person to person. The religious, rightly or wrongly, rely on faith to guide our hearts. Each religious person does this, therefore we should respect the religion of the next and be at peace with your partner not accepting the same ideas as you. Focus instead on those many things that most religions do agree on.

It has been my experience that some views maintained by some religious groups are particularly hurtful to those that do not belong to that group. If your partner expresses one of those hurtful opinions, then let him or her know how that makes you feel openly, calmly and honestly. Do not do this in a “waging war” kind of way, because war begets war. Speak always in a calm but feeling manner. Always be honest, but always be composed and compassionate in your approach. Encourage logical dialogue to seek out common ground on a topic. Do not believe that there is no home for logic in religion. Without logic, we are little better than animals. Logic and faith can live together and both should be employed in this aspect of our lives.

An activity my husband use to engage each other on religious philosophies is to use made-up “case studies” and apply the philosophies or laws of our religions to these case studies. We then discuss the justness of these laws in our opinions. What is important is that our philosophy on basic moral values (such as truth, love, non-violence, peace, right conduct) are aligned. When we use these values like a Litmus Test in any case study or real life challenge, we will then almost always come to the same conclusion, and this is where it matters.

Remember, it takes maturity to have a peaceful conversation about religion and it takes composure and humility not to become inflamed in the face of disagreement.

1Often we reflect our own personality traits onto God, expecting Him/Her to be much like us – power hungry, egotistical, competitive. But to me, God is beyond these human traits and we need to move beyond them too. After-all, who is there for God to compete with? Whether you call God Him or Her, Higher Consciousness or Higher Self or Light or Love, we can probably all agree that there is no equal.

My Story

I started my interfaith journey 11 years ago when I fell in love with my husband before realising that he belonged to a different religion than me. Having been brought up in a home which encouraged respect for all religions and belonging to a spiritual organisation that teaches that “all religions are one”; I felt obligated not to see religion as an obstacle for us. My husband (boyfriend at the time) was brought up in a more conventional setting, and often felt conflicted over many aspects of our future and thus began our journey of growth. Five years into our marriage and with 2 kids in our arms, we can proudly say that we have peace, love and happiness in our lives together. We still maintain our respective religions and we don’t agree on everything in each other’s philosophy books and sermons; but (and it’s a big but), we do agree on most things, especially the values that we ascribe to in our personal, professional and parenting lives.

 

In my life of 30 years I have seen many people give up on love because of the complexity of an interfaith relationship. I hope to provide the world with an example that interfaith marriages can work, and that not only can it work but it can work well. You can be your happiest self in an interfaith relationship. Like all relationships, interfaith relationships too take love, understanding, empathy, sensitivity, respect, amongst other values; to make it flourish. Although our interfaith family project is still a work in progress, I am here to give you a window into my life so that maybe you can benefit from it in some way. It is a very personal story to share with the world, but I am going to try to be completely honest whilst being sensitive to the people around me.

 

I have also included  help for those on a compassionate eating journey as I am. I believe that the topic of compassionate eating, alongside that of propagating love between religions, races, cultures and nations, can usher in a new era of peace and love and create a healthy environment for us all.

Please feel free to drop me comments and questions.