Interfaith Dialogue in Hinduism
Hinduism, originating over five thousand years ago, predates all other major world religions. Its sacred writings, such as the Vedas, were composed earlier than even the Hebrew Bible. It is the world's third largest religion. after Christianity and Islam.
Our terminology, however. can be misleading. “Hindu” and “Hinduism,. which are Persian in origin. were used simply to refer to the natives of India. Also, “religion” is a western concept, whose only usefulness may be to illustrate what the adherents of Hinduism do not do, which is to adhere to western-style religious beliefs and practices.
Hinduism. unlike what we recognize as religion, embraces secular pursuits, such as art. medicine. music. science and engineering. Some describe it as a culture. but it may be more apt to say that it provides the structure for a culture.
Unlike the other great world religions, Hinduism claims no founder or creed. Also unlike other religions. Hinduism embraces a multiplicity of gods. It would be an error. however, to think of this religion as professing polytheism. A better term might be henotheism. which is the worship of one god without denying the exist ennce of others. Some scholars think that the early Hebrews were actually henothei stss rather than monotheists. But even this term can be misleading. For many Hindus there is one God. Brahman—the impersonal but ultimate reality, something like a world soul. The countless goddesses and gods (or devas) all represent the vari ouu? aspects of Brahmnan. the Supreme God. Each individual can thereftre choose a form of Brahman to satisfy one's spiritual needs. We find here the belief that in all things. even in the transient, the unchanging reality is present. Brahman, or God. is a trinity in which there are Brahma,
the creator of the universe: Vishnu, the preserver: and Shiva, the destroyer.
Hindu beliefs and practices attract many Christians. In recent times many Westerners have sought enlightenment from religious teachers or gurus in India. Western Christians have tumned more and more to the East to leamn how to medi itate. to pray and to grow spiritually. Mainline Christian churchgoers may be devoted practitioners of yoga.
Throughout the world. the most accepted notion of the afterl iife is not heaven and hell, but some version of the Eastemn belier in reincarnation, which many Christians are beginning to accept (but probably without telling their pastors).
Christianity may be indebted to Hinduism. but not in the same way as it is to Islam. Whereas Islam contributed much to science, math and medicine. some scholars claim that Hinduism was actually a source of Christian beliefs. If so, it would explain a long-standing problem in Christian doctrine that pagan philosophers pointed out. Early Christian apolog iitt? had to explain the objection by pagan philosophers that the followers of Jesus offered nothing new. but instead copicd other religions, such as Hinduism and Mithraism.
Revered as a savior. Krishna proclaimed. “I am the resurr rcction.? He cured many of their illnesses, cast out demons and raised the dead. He was merciful, and he was criticized for his association with sinners. He encountered a woman at a well. He chose disciples to pass on his teachings, celebrate dd a last supper and forgave his enemies. He descended into hell. was raised and ascended to heaven in the presence of many witnesses.
The most frequent Christian response scems to have been that the similarities between Christianity and earlier relig iion? were due to a trick of Satan, who created saviors like Jesus in order to discredit Christianity. In other words, Satan, knowing in advance about the birth and death of Jesus, cleverly created other religions with a similar history and message, all in order to trick those who heard the Christian message into thinking it was false. Needless to say. the pagan philosophers were not persuaded.
Since the “trick of Satan” response has hardly withstood the test of time, we need to revisit the question: How do we explain the similarities between Jesus and Krishna, who lived somewhere from 14 centuries to five thousand years before Christ? Hindus esteem Krishna as the second person of the Hindu trinity, a manifestation of Vishnu. both a God and the Son of God: his actual father was a spirit; his adop-tive father was a carpenter. He was visited at his birth by wise men and shepherds, guided by a star.
I have no explanation for these similarities. I can only encourage you to join me in trying to learn more about this ancient culture and religion. Toward this end, we can learn from this culture and its adherents by considering the words of the Indian Sri Sathya Sal Baba. who has for many years been revered by multitudes as a prophet. teacher. healer and miracle worker. (I should also note that he has his share of debunkers.) These are some of the more notable sayings attributed to him:
I have come to light the lamp of love in your hearts, to see that it shines day by day with added luster.
I have come not to disturb or destroy any faith. but to confirm each in his own faith — so that the Christian becomes a better Christian. the Muslim a better Muslim. and the Hindu a better Hindu. There is only one religion. the religion of Love.
There is only one language, the language of the Heart. There is only one caste. the caste of Humanity. There is only one law, the law of Karma. There is only one God. He is Omnipresent.
‘Honor all religions. Each is a pathway to God".......!!!!