Hi Lakhmi Mehta,
Thanks for your questions. These are deep philosophical questions and I need more time to think on these questions. In the meantime, I would suggest that you read books by E.Stanley Jones and Leslie Newbegin. They worked as missionaries in India for many years and what is unique about them is that during their time in India they both interacted with the Indian intellectuals. In fact E…Stanley Jones met Mahatma Gandhi a few times and he started a Christian Ashram in North India to
facilitate interaction with friends from other faiths.
Coming to your questions -
Firstly, in Hinduism, there are many forms and traditions being practiced and adhered to and when we talk of the concept of God in Hinduism, it becomes a bit of a problem because there is no one fixed idea that all the different traditions will agree upon. In his article, Challenges from Eastern Religions, L.T. Jeyachandran opines that unlike Islam and Christianity, Hinduism is not a creedal religion; it is always in a state of flux and is able to absorb aspects of other religions and philosophies without much trouble. Hinduism can be comprised of several contradictory beliefs in the purely analytical sense. At an existential level, the hindu could be quite comfortable in moving from one position to another that would seem to be mutually exclusive. A Hindu would insist that we are all one with the divine but yet would at the same time go to temple to worship a deity.
Secondly, I can understand your point about why the Hindu idea of the divine would seem more appealing. In his article, How does Christianity relate to Hinduism ? Ravi Zacharias writes – “The Christian should also understand the attraction of Pantheism, the Hindu view of seeing the divine in everything. It superficially appears more compatible with scientific theorizing because it presents no definitive theory of origins. Life is cyclical, without a first cause. Pantheism also gives one a moral reasoning, through Karmic fatalism, that one is trapped in the cycle until one escapes, without the need to invoke God. But in the final analysis, it is without answers when one needs to talk about the deepest struggles of the soul. Hindu scholars even admit this in their creation of a path of bhakti (love, devotion) to satisfy the inescapable human hunger for worship”.
Thirdly, all three – Gyana (Knowledge), Bhakti (Devotion) and Karma (Good works) are found in Christianity:
- J.P.Moreland’s book, The Kingdom Triangle, deals on the importance of ‘knowledge’ in Christian tradition. I would refer you to this book.
- When it comes to the question of ‘devotion’, the Bible, especially the Book of Psalms talks inexhaustibly about it. Jesus’ call to people is always towards a personal relationship with, and devotion to him.
- The Apostle James talks about the importance of ‘good works’ when he asserts that “faith without work is dead”. The difference is, that in Christianity, good works is a result of salvation whereas in Hinduism, good works is to earn salvation.
On a personal note, in my interaction with friends from the hindu background, I realized that more than the spiritual aspect, it is the familial and societal aspect that is involved here. In the Indian tradition, religion is an inextricable part of one’s family and community. It is not just a personal spiritual experience but one that involves family and even society. Just to illustrate the point, two years back, I spoke at a seekers meet in the eastern part of India. Many of the participants, mainly college and university students, come from the Hindu worldview and were extremely interactive and responsive to the message about Christ. On the last day when the call to commitment was given, though some responded, yet, many didn’t. I was surprised because I thought I had convincingly answered their questions. In further personal interactions, what they shared was that though they have clearly understood the gospel and the person of Jesus Christ is appealing to them, yet, following Christ would amount to a betrayal of their family, culture and the tradition of their forefathers and community. It seems that this is their biggest hurdle.