Hinduism: origin, meaning, morality, destiny

I’ve been trying to understand why Christianity is the one true way. I grew up in a Christian home, but it never really made sense. I have this HUGE fear of picking the wrong faith! It has been plaguing me for weeks. So, I have set out essentially to “disprove” all the other religions so I can feel more confident about Christianity and Jesus. Many religions and theories I have not struggled with (for example, any religion claiming to be atheistic in nature has been an easy “check” off my list as I have never questioned if there is a God or not. I know there most certainly is one)

I find the religion I am struggling with the most is Hinduism. It’s so complex, I don’t even know where to begin with it. I’ve read that I should apply the four fundamental questions (origin, meaning, morality, and destiny) to it, but I don’t know what those answers are. Does anyone have ideas or answers as to how Hinduism fails these four core elemental necessities of why it is a less fulfilling religion than Christianity?

Thank you for any and all help

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I am new on here and was just browsing when I saw your post. I don’t have an answer to your question but I sometimes listen to a podcast called Undeceptions by John Dickson. There is an interview on there that he does with a Hindu Priest which you might find helpful. I added the link below and hopefully that will take you to it!
https://undeceptions.com/podcast/hindu-priest

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Hey @DeAnna_Collins. Great question. I found a good video that might help.

God Bless.

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Thank you for your answers. I have been reading around, and researching a lot! It looks like there is someone who is very knowledgable on this subject @Lakshmismehta. Hello! I know we have never conversed before, but I have read some of your posts, and I thought you may have some helpful insights. Do you have any thoughts or opinions on the given matter?

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Hi @DeAnna_Collins,

Thanks for inviting me into this discussion. I appreciate your honest desire to seek the truth with good reasons to back it up. As I read your post, I wondered about the specific reasons why Christianity did not make sense to you. I grew up in a Hindu household but was led to Christ as I was impressed upon by the Holy Spirit while reading Isaiah 44:19 to worship the Creator rather than creation. Immediately after that, I developed a desire for reading the Bible and the Lord provided several answers to prayers helping me know that it is possible to have a personal relationship with Him, a new concept to me as a Hindu. When I stood in front of the idols even as a little child to pray, I always wondered - Do these gods even know my heart? Why do they look so different from me? What’s the assurance for salvation after reincarnation? Its hard for me to believe like a Hindu that all gods are just different names of the same God, as the teachings of Abrahamic religions are incompatible with the Vedas of the Hindus. There is a lot to Hinduism and I have much to learn, but I am glad to share some thoughts that continue to prevent me from embracing Hinduism. I have these in the form of questions under each category.

Origins : All creation is an emanation of the impersonal God, ‘Brahman’. All living beings have a soul (atman) that is distinct from the temporary body and are eternal parts of the whole (God). Some sects believe that the desire to imitate God and to become the enjoyer apart from God caused the pre-existent souls to fall into the material world. This leads to ‘Maya /illusion’ or the concealment of spiritual reality brought about by the modes (gunas) of material nature. At death the soul passes to another body. The next body is determined by the state of mind at death, by the soul’s desires and its karma. Creation is basically eternal matter (namely air, water, earth, ether) assuming a temporary shape of bodies/things in time. With its cyclical notion of time, Hinduism teaches that material world is endlessly created, sustained and destroyed through the agency of the Trimurti. It rests in Brahman, from whom it is generated, by whom it is sustained, and into whom it merges upon annihilation. Focus on material desires is the root cause of all suffering and causes the soul to stay in the wheel of reincarnation or ‘Samsara’.

  • If souls always existed with God as separate entities, what makes God different?
  • If all is one reality, and plurality is an illusion born out of ignorance, then who is the source of ignorance but the One?
  • If all is one reality, then why must we make distinctions between the karma of individual souls and God?
  • When man is born into Maya, how can a pantheist distinguish between true perceptions and false conceptions?
  • If life is cyclical, where is the end of all evil? Reincarnation indefinitely allows evil to continue.
  • When our bodies are reduced to matter that is harmful to our spiritual growth, where do we find the foundational logic for valuing human life?
  • If all of life on earth is suffering of souls under illusion, how do we explain suffering of Jesus? How does one explain the suffering of one who sacrifices life to save another?

Meaning: Only in the human form can the soul’s innate search for spirituality bear fruit for eternal existence. Ultimate meaning lies not in the temporal but in the eternal and the highest goal in life for most Hindus is to attain moksha (release from Samsara). Moksha is achieved through union of identity with God or unity of purpose. So, meaning comes from an enlightened life that moves from a mode of ignorance of soul’s misidentification to the body to a mode of goodness of being detached.

  • Love by definition is between two or more personal beings, if the ultimate reality is merging into one impersonal being, where is the possibility for love in the impersonal being? Isn’t it better to be able to experience some love on earth rather than go into non-existence?
  • When we could be the living temples of God in this world with faculties to image His love in this world, why seek God’s presence in immovable idols or seek a path that essentially obliterates individual uniqueness to image God?
  • If all of religious pursuit is an individual pursuit and self-realization of God within, where is the foundation to endeavor for unity where everyone is self-sufficient and autonomous?

Morality: Bhagavad gita 7.28 states that one’s sins need to end first through pious activities before bhakti (love of God) can begin. Meditation (dhyana-yoga), speculation (jñana-yoga), detached action (karma-yoga), and devotional service (bhakti-yoga) are means by which a soul can advance on the path back to god. Sometimes evil is allowed so good may result but all evil is attributed to karma.

  • When love is the foundation of morality, how can morality precede the love of God?
  • When we think of morality, we don’t think of external behavior but a change in the heart. Religious teachings can alter the external behavior but how can they transform the heart when the God within is not awakened?
  • If all reality is one, where can we draw the distinctions between good and evil?
  • If life is an illusion and all evil experienced is due to past life, does evil have any meaning in this context?
  • When we forget our past lives, how can we compensate for our moral failures in the next life?
  • If God accepted offerings from unholy beings, how can God be considered holy? A holy God must not lower His standards but raise people up toward His standard of holiness, as is possible through Christ.

Destiny: The destiny of the soul is a reincarnated life if the soul is not purified at death. If the soul is able to attain purity, the destiny is either merger with God or eternal service of him.

  • How can we be assured of attaining purity in this earthly life when we are born under Maya?
  • If salvation is about non-existence through merger with Brahman, why must it be preferred over existence?
  • How is justice accomplished if sins are forgiven on the basis of religious activities? A good action doesn’t cancel out the bad action.

Finally, what makes Christianity unique for me is God’s grace. In Christianity alone, we come to God not based on our qualifications that can be a cause for boasting but through Christ in whom the law, mercy and justice are all fulfilled. Some books from where I have pulled together these thoughts are: ‘ Jesus Among other Gods’ by Ravi Zacharias and ‘That’s just your interpretation’ by Paul Copan. You may also be interested in some of the previous discussions on Connect on Maya and karma. I would encourage you to be prayerful and seek God with both your heart and mind as you investigate other faiths. I am praying for you!

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Thank you for such a detailed and well organized response. This has helped tremendously. I wouldn’t say I was ever totally drawn to Hinduism, but it did have some notions and concepts that I had never considered before. Concepts that I needed help working through, and concepts that I wanted to either refute or give in to (because I want to follow a life style that is bullet proof. A life style that has an adequate answer for all the important stuff without logical fallacies). I have listened to Ravi Zacharias’s book “New Birth or Re-Birth” and it was really helpful, I intend to buy a hard copy! I have read many articles on this website as well trying to organize my mental thoughts.

Some other thoughts, would you say that Hinduism and Jainism are pantheist religions while Buddhism is more atheistic? Where do you think Bahai’ism and Sikhism fall in all of this? I’ve been categorizing religions as I try to discover what makes the most logical sense, and when I can organize the main core doctrines of religions that’s where I find I make the most head way. I love charts that have world religions at the top and concepts down the side then a grid showing all their differences! It’s so helpful for a genuine comparison. Maybe I’ll make one myself.

One more question, I know in Hinduism there are the Vedas, the Puranas, and the Bhagavad Gita. Are these books considered to be authoritative? Are they considered to be divinely inspired? Are certain books more authoritative than others? I know just from videos and research that they are very contradictory to one another (in particular to the nature of their gods and whether it is polytheistic, or monotheistic, or pantheistic etc.) If they are considered to be divinely inspired has there been any proof to this at all? I’ve tried researching this, but it seems like Hinduism is more ideology and theory rather than discernible and provable facts.

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@DeAnna_Collins,

Glad to hear that the previous response was helpful. You are asking some great questions! Clearly you have been doing some serious study. I have looked into certain branches of Hinduism because of my background but I haven’t explored other eastern religions to the same extent. I think its best that I give you just a brief reply and direct you to some resources.

I would say that all of them Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism can all be considered pantheistic, because all of them allow for the idea of non-personal cosmic consciousness in everyone and everything. Jainism and Buddhism however do not believe in a transcendent personal creator God. Common aspects to all the three are karma, reincarnation and the goal of escaping suffering in this world (moksha or nirvana). The idea of nirvana can be different in Buddhism as compared to Jainism depending on the type of Buddhism (Mahayana, Hinayana, Vajrayana). The soul can either merge into the ultimate or it can attain a state of bliss free of karmic bondage in this life or after death. In Jainism, the soul is said to reach a state of bliss once set free from karmic cycle. What’s unique to Jainism is the non-violence toward all living beings as the means to attain moksha.

You also asked about Sikhism. Sikhism has similar underlying philosophy as Hinduism in terms of belief in pantheism, maya, karma, reincarnation, but where it differs from Hinduism is in being monotheistic and in its rejection of idolatry. God in Sikhism is personal and forgives sin. Sikhism also has a huge emphasis on good deeds.

Finally coming to Bahaism, I remember visiting a Bahai temple in India where people of all religions are welcome to pray together. The basic principle behind Bahai faith is that God is one and the foundation of all religions is one, as they all hold similar moral values. However, the Bahai faith does not recognize the specific beliefs of the different religions. For example: Trinity, Atonement and resurrection of Jesus are all rejected by Bahai. They believe that the previous manifestations of God are not final and that for the current age the teachings of Baha’ u’ llah and his son Abdu’l Baha are the final authority. Baha’ u’ llah in 1863 declared himself as a prophet of ‘Bab’, the founder of Bahai who believed he was a divine manifestation. The plan of salvation is faith in their teachings and good works.

You asked if Hindu sacred texts are considered authoritative? Hindus do believe that all of the sacred texts are divinely inspired and were given directly from God to the sages. The sage Vyas is credited for the writing of the Vedas, Mahabharata and the Puranas. The interpretation of these texts is quite varied and there is no single authoritative interpretation. You can learn a little more about the Hindu texts here. I don’t think it can be proven that the texts are divinely inspired. There is some archaeological evidence for the existence of these beliefs a long time ago. You might also find some evidence from the Hindu epics but to prove that the characters were divine may be difficult. Of all the Hindu texts, Bhagavad Gita is the most widely read. You are right, hinduism is more concerned with experience and moral living rather than historical facts. I found an article by Robert Collins on Eastern religions as a helpful critique of Hinduism. A preliminary copy of the article is available for free online and is attached.Eastern Religions-Robin Collins.pdf (252.6 KB)

I am going to stop here. I hope this answers some of your questions. God bless!

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You are a wealth of knowledge and so well-stated. Thank you for this conversation we are having. I have begun reading the article written by Robert Collins, and it is so helpful. It’s breaking down all of the contradictory statements and logical fallacies that I don’t think I’d have been able to see or understand otherwise.

A thought that I had, which I think is valid because we must be fair, is that we cannot blame those of the Hindu faith for reinterpreting or finding new understanding to their scriptures. After all, it took Christians a while to formulate what exactly the trinity is. I’m not arguing that the trinity is made up or that it can’t be seen in the Old and New Testaments because I certainly believe it can be. All I’m saying is, as more is divinely revealed, it would then follow that there is a more thorough (and potentially “new”) understanding. With this being said, the growth/fluidity of a religion is not a fair critique. Instead, what we must critique are internal inconsistencies of the religion itself. I only say all this because I find (so far) that this is exactly what the article is all about.

With this being said, I wonder to myself - how can an impersonal cosmic consciousness have incarnations such as avatars? The very point of an avatar is for a personal connection/worldly interference. So which is it, personal or impersonal?

But secondly, how can all the gods be one when they are against each other? I know one god cut another god’s head off, and another god lied. There also seemed to be some type of competition in some story I heard about the gods arguing who was the “best” How can there be a “best” if they are all one in unity?

Do you have any thoughts or opinions on these things?

I’m so grateful for the resources you shared as well as your messages. It excites me to totally boil down what’s going on in the world’s religions so that I can hopefully finally trust Jesus.

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@DeAnna_Collins, I am glad to be a part of this conversation too! Its encouraging to hear that you feel you are finding some answers. I agree with you that a text must be critiqued based on internal inconsistencies rather than on the basis of the fine tuning of a philosophy from the text. In the Bible, God is progressively revealed but there is continuity from old to the new testament in the core doctrines and the overall story confirming divine inspiration. The differences in christian denominations are mainly due to interpretive difficulties on secondary matters. Those that are way off in core doctrines and unbiblical are recognized as such in Christianity. In contrast, the Upanishads add spiritual ideas over time that are based on rational argumentation or mystical experiences with no clear overall narrative or doctrine, yet they are all part of Hinduism. According to Radhakrishnan, the Upanishads are respected not because they are revealed, but because they present spiritual ideas that are inspiring. The latter Upanishads differ in many ways from the Vedas. For example: names of gods and rituals. Gods who are popular now such as Krishna is not even mentioned in the rig vedas. All the vedic gods such as Agni, Aditya, Indra, Rudra, Visnu, Brahma got reinterpreted as manifestations of the Supreme Brahman in the Upanishads who also inhabits all living beings. Animal sacrifices in the vedas were later either rejected or reinterpreted. Far too often, most hindus in current age adhere to the interpretation of the priests they have chosen to follow and work on their karma without worrying much about a unifying metanarrative.

How can God be both impersonal and personal at the same time? That does seem like a logical contradiction. I agree! One explanation I have heard from a guru is that when someone begins to recognize God in nature, one may perceive Him to be as impersonal. But as one continues to progress in spiritual maturity, that God who was perceived as impersonal is perceived later as He really is, as personal. What’s important is that one is faithful to the understanding held. For a Hindu, it doesnt matter whether he/she conceptualizes God as impersonal or personal because it is believed that God is so gracious that He will respond to whatever effort is made toward any idea of God. If the same Brahman is in all gods, it doesn’t really matter whom they choose to worship. A thought I want to explore further is if the idea that Brahman is impersonal came about due to yogic mystical experiences when individual consciousness is suppressed. Brahman may not be impersonal per se if the yogic experiences led to the writing of so many hindu scriptures.

Next you ask, how are all gods considered one despite the differences? Its believed that God descends as different avatars according to time, place circumstances and that leads to different messages that are most suitable spiritually for the specific population then. My problem with this assertion is that there are no specific reasons usually given to support the view to account for the specific forms of gods. An alternative explanation is that God comes in different forms to suit individual tastes based on which guna is most influential in the individual. Different forms are considered attractive to different individuals. For me this second explanation also poses a problem because it makes God conform to man’s desires rather than man conforming to God’s. Finally, when I have asked why the same author gives the Supreme position to different gods in the different Puranas, I have been told that it’s to take advantage of the devotion to a particular form and to attract more people toward the Ultimate One. I too have been surprised to see that the things that humans dont follow as ideals are somehow permitted with some forms of gods in the stories we hear about them. They are usually reinterpreted to mean devotion, presented as an allegory or as a means for enticing man to God.

So, all in all… I think you have some great points that raise questions on internal consistency.

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These are great points, and it is coming in much clearer to me how the belief system of Hinduism (while it has some nice attributes) it still lacks perfection. I don’t have a ton to say in regards to all of this, but I do have some brief thoughts about each paragraph.

To begin with, in the first paragraph, if the Upanishads are not divinely revealed (but they pertain to your eternal soul) I don’t think they should be really considered. While humans are more than capable of writing self help books and incredible literature that can help make the present worldly life a little easier (such as books about organization methods or body image or coping with ocd), we should probably leave our eternal souls in the hands of God. We should only refer to books that are claimed to be divinely inspired for something that is so serious as our eternal beings. I know this may sound harsh, but we should not play with this stuff. Secondly, I think your concept of the metanarrative is so important! That over arching flow doesn’t seem very strong in Hinduism unless they reject/reinterpret certain scriptures which should be a red flag.

In your second paragraph, the concept of “perception” of God doesn’t seem like a strong one from this particular guru you mentioned. I don’t mean to slander Hinduism, but perception does not change the nature of something. For example, if a man sees a dollop of whipped cream on his chin then he goes to eat it, but the moment it touches his tongue he realizes, “Oh no! It was actually shaving cream, yuck!” It’s not as though that dollop miraculously changed, it was always shaving cream from the very beginning. Furthermore, Brahman must not care much for self identity. I would personally be infuriated if someone identified me as a goat or a robot or even as celebrity. I would say, that is NOT ME. Which is something I think is good about Christianity. A truly divine being would not share that holiness with anything else, and would not allow their name to be slandered for something of a lesser being.

Finally, in your last paragraph I love what you said about God not conforming to us. When God revealed himself in the OT people were terrified because he was so powerful. It can be argued that Jesus coming as a human was somewhat conformity because we likely wouldn’t have gotten the message if God didn’t send a human. But all the same, Jesus was was not what the jews wanted originally. They wanted world peace immediately and a mighty king. God is doing God’s plan, not people’s plan. The Hindu avatars seem to be like a “pleading god.” It makes me think of a teacher with poor classroom management skills. The teacher tries to appeal to the class by being what the students want thus forfeiting her authority and giving the class control rather than saying, “Nope, I’m the boss.” And finally, only appealing to one manifestation of God - such as what you mentioned in regards to “attracting people the Ultimate One” sounds very dangerous. God gave us intelligence, we should not worship intelligence. God gave us bodies, freewill, entertainment, prosperity, peace. We should not worship these things. We are to be thankful for them, but never devote ourselves to them to the extent we devote ourselves to God. That’s the very definition of an idol.

Well, I said I didn’t have much to say, but that was an understatement! I’ll leave it at this for now. Continued thanks for this helpful conversation :slight_smile:

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Hi @DeAnna_Collins,

This has been a very helpful exercise for me too. Many thanks to you as well! :slightly_smiling_face: I love the examples you have shared. You have explained the arguments so clearly! I couldn’t do any better. I wanted to highlight the three points you made as they are concise and very helpful.

  • We should only refer to books that are claimed to be divinely inspired for something that is so serious as our eternal beings.
  • A truly divine being would not share that holiness with anything else, and would not allow their name to be slandered for something of a lesser being.
  • The Hindu avatars seem to be like a “pleading god". Only appealing to one manifestation of God - in regards to “attracting people the Ultimate One” sounds very dangerous. God gave us intelligence, we should not worship intelligence. God gave us bodies, freewill, entertainment, prosperity, peace. We should not worship these things. We are to be thankful for them, but never devote ourselves to them to the extent we devote ourselves to God. That’s the very definition of an idol.

I wanted to add one more thought on the importance of holiness in a divine being. I was thinking today that even in Hinduism people seek grace through faith in the avataars for the forgiveness of sins. So how is Christian grace any different? Perception of the gravity of our sin starts with understanding the holiness of God. When we understand our sin, we understand grace. Where the holiness of God is downplayed, the cost for forgiveness is also little. Christianity sets itself apart as forgiveness has been shown to be costly and is rooted in history giving us a sure hope.

Thanks again for the great conversation!

Likewise to you! This has been a very helpful and enlightening conversation

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