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
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