Dr. Johnson C. Philip & Dr. Saneesh Cherian
My interest for a deeper study was kindled in early seventies when Dr. Purushottam Agrawal challenged me to study Vedanta. He did so in response to a tract titled SACRIFICE that I had given to him. He pointed out that this tract was a pious fraud, and challenged me to study the original Scriptures of the Hindus to realize that this tract was a fraud. Hindi being my first language, I found ample number of books published in this language. Having a background in Sanskrit came in handy to study the originals also.
Eventually I had the privilege of studying Hinduism, and specially Vedanta, under eminent Hindu and Christian teachers like Bharat Bhusan Tyagi, Dr. Kamal Vashistha, Acharya Swaroopananda, George David, and numerous others based in MP and UP. This led me to teach Hinduism in several Bible Schools. This also led me to oppose the Prajapati Heresy which was spread by many in North India, specially by D. P. Titus (now, Acharya Daya Prakash).
Unfortunately, the Prajapati Heresy grew by leaps in the nineties, mainly due to the efforts of Mr. Koshy Abraham and Dr. Joseph Padinjarekara. Others like Arvindaksha Menon and Premchit Lal also helped in the growth of this Super Cult.
People in the Prajapati Super Cult consider Hindus as fools. They claim that these Hindus need help from Prajapati Cultists to understand Hinduism. Nothing could be further from truth. Hindus have a very highly refined system of philosophies, and even a cursory look at Hinduism would immediately convince anyone that the Prajapati Cultists are nothing more than arrogant Christians who understand neither Christianity nor Hinduism.
This book is released to help Christians to understand Hinduism objectively. This would help them not only to understand their neighbours better, but would also save them from falling into the idiotic ways in which Prajapati Cultists misinterpret Hinduism.
Dr. Saneesh Cherian a researcher who has worked with me for several years helped me to complete this work with the aid of his research into various aspects of Hinduism, and thus joins me in endorsing the statements made in this book.
May God bless you. To God Alone Be Glory (Soli Deo Gloria).
Dr. Johnson C. Philip
Though the Christians and Hindus live side-by-side in great harmony in Kerala, and though there is an increased amount of social mingling these days among them, most Christians remain blissfully aware about Hinduism. Many of them even consider Hinduism as a subset of the Christian faith.
Because of the ignorance, two attitudes to Hinduism are widely seen among Kerala Christians. These can be called the Simpleton and the Romantic Approaches. Both of them pervert Hinduism, and thus both of them misrepresent it.
THE SIMPLETON APPROACH: This is perhaps the most common way of thinking about Hinduism. These people just have no idea about the origin, growth, philosophy, or dynamics of Hinduism. Thus they evaluate it only on the basis of certain outer manifestations like Hindu rituals, idolatry, and other such things. These people know that there are some books known as Vedas, and there is one known as Bhagvadgeeta, but have no inkling of the vast collection of books which the Hindus revere as their scriptures.
Since these people evaluate Hinduism on the basis of certain unconnected and superficial observations, their assessment of Hinduism is simplistic and even idiotic. Many of them are so naïve that they even consider Hinduism as a subset of the Christian faith. Such people are excited when they hear that Christ and the Christian doctrines are found in Vedas and Upanishads. This excitement leads to great loyalty to the Prajapati approach. They try to convince every Hindu that their ancient scriptures teach Christ and nothing else. Some Hindus are charmed, others are amused. However, the knowledgeable Hindu is repulsed by these childish antics of these Christians who understand neither Christian theology, nor Hindu philosophy.
THE ROMANTIC APPROACH: The romanticists are a smaller group. They are found mostly among radical theologians and theologically non-conservative churches. These people have a great romantic love for Hinduism, while at the same time they suffer from inferiority complex about the Christian faith. Of course their understanding of both the Christian theology as well as of Hindu philosophy is only very elementary. They have no idea of the radically opposing foundations and presuppositions upon which Christianity and the philosophical Hinduism stand.
Due to their ignorance, the Romanticists consider Hinduism as the source of all Christian doctrine. They are excited about the possibility that Christianity might be a derivative of Hinduism. They are much more excited if someone claims that Christianity is the most perfect form of Hinduism.
This group is also very much excited by the Prajapati type of doctrines. What is more, for the sake of developing these compromise doctrines they are willing to abandon any and every facet of Christian theology. While the Simpletons see Prajapati approach as a tool to share Christ with Hindus, the Romanticists see it as an approach to social harmony. They do succeed in attracting the friendship of plenty of Hindus. However, they do not impress the knowledgeable Hindu.
The Romanticists have done a lot to depict Christ seated upon a coiled serpent, placing a cross upon a shivalinga, and blending the cross and the Omkara with each other. However, the philosophically knowledgeable Hindus scorn at all these attempts at reconciling two systems which are opposed to each other at the foundational level.
The correct approach to Hinduism is
neither the Simplistic one nor the Romantic one. Rather, the correct
approach would be to study the origin, development, and present dynamics
of Hinduism and the Hindu philosophy. The differences and similarities
(if any) with the Christian faith should be understood in the light of
such a legitimate perception of Hinduism. Only such an approach would
help one to break from the mould of the Simplistic or the Romantic
It is a traditional belief that Hindu is derived from the word Sindhu. Historically it seems that the Sindh-Ganges region has been the chief center of Indian culture. In olden times the foreigners (specially the Persians) called the Indian people as Sindhu because they resided in the Sindhu delta.
In Persian language 'Sa' is pronounced as 'Ha'. Thus when the Persians referred to India, they called the Indians as Hindu instead of Sindhu. As a result of this Indians were known in other countries as the Hindu and the word Hindu became a universally known designation. Thus Hindu originally meant one who lived in Sindustan or Hindustan (which became India in the English language).
Going by the number of followers, Hinduism is one of the largest living religions. Yet it has no founder or an overall organization with any kind of supreme head. It is a movement based upon Principles (Tattvas) and not on administrative hierarchy or the leadership of individual persons.
Further, unlike other religions the beginnings of Hinduism cannot be traced to any definite period of time. Rather it is a broad way of life and an all-embracing philosophy which has developed over thousands of years of evolution in the general region of India.
The all-embracing nature of Hinduism has made it possible for monotheism, polytheism, animism, and even atheism to claim to be part of Hinduism. Though polytheism has always been the dominating philosophy, the advocates of other philosophies were never declared as non Hindus. Similarly, in matters of religious practice there is a whole spectrum of devotees beginning with the staunchest idolaters to the staunchest iconoclasts. All of them have a place in Hinduism, and none is considered an outsider or outcast.
Hinduism is like a massive Bunyan tree with many huge roots, massive stems, and innumerable branches and sub branches. All of them are alive, and all of them together form the tree though each part has an independent appearance. Thus a superficial look at Hinduism is not sufficient to reveal the force or factors that unifies it to a universal system.
In essence, the present-day Hinduism can be called to be a Federation of faiths, with common loyalty to the Supreme Reality. The way of expressing this loyalty, and the paths to reach this Reality can be considered to be as numerous as the sects in Hinduism. None of the sects considers the outside the fold of Hinduism. Because of this attitude, well-informed Hindus consider all religious movements of Indian origin as part of Hinduism. This includes Jainism, Buddhism, which arose in reaction to Brahmanism. It includes Sikkhism which often claims to be separate. It also includes the variety of reform and even eccentric movements that came up in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Thus any study of Hinduism must keep this complex development and make-up in mind. At the same time, it must be noticed that out of all the philosophies that are part of Hinduism, the dominant one has always been the Vedanta philosophy. It can even be said confidently that it is Vedanta that provides the unifying framework to the myriads of differing philosophies that are part of Hinduism.
HINDU DHARMA: The Hindu religion depends on Hindu Dharma. This concept is totally different from the way other religions look at life and things. It is necessary to begin with this idea which has helped such a diverse society to cohere into a complex but single entity.
The origin of Hindu Dharma, its founder and the origin of its literature are unknown. This is mainly because the concept of Dharma has evolved over a period of several millennia.
The meaning of the word DHARMA is
"that which bears all". Dharma includes all what is expected
of a person. There are some common expectations from every person, and
then there are some specific expectations from individuals. These
specific expectations depend upon the gender, caste, and position of a
A study of the sacred books of Hinduism is a excursion in itself. Though all the major religions revolve around one book like the Bible or the Quran, Hinduism does not do so. Rather, they have a vast collection of religious books divided into various clusters. Each cluster has a certain philosophical and relative value assigned to it. These clusters can be called the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, and all the auxiliary books that go with these.
Some groups pay special allegiance to certain of these cluster or even to individual books. However, in keeping with the all-inclusive character of Hinduism, all these books are generally revered by Hindus. Even those who pay special respect to one book do not usually depreciate the other books considered as sacred. Christians should keep this in mind particular when they attribute greater importance to Vedas or Upanishads compared to other material.
For the learned Hindu there is nothing like greater or lesser religious value. Rather, for them each one is equally sacred. The difference lies only in the immediate usefulness of the philosophical ideas contained in a particular book. For example, though many Christians consider Vedas as the "highest" Hindu literature, even they contain considerable amount of sorcery and witchcraft. At the same time, many of the sacred Hindu books (like Garuda Purana) which Christians consider as "lower" are considered a must in certain Hindu rituals.
For a Bible-believing Christian, all non-biblical literature falls only into two categories: those that are the product of human wisdom, and those that are demonically dictated. Groups like Theosophy claim that their religious books were demonically dictated (by a spirit named Dhwaj Khul).
The Hindu literature claim to be the product of the greatest human wisdom based upon Shruti, Yukti, and Svanubhuti. That which is heard in the inner mind (Shruti), is tested by reason (Yukti), and confirmed with the help of personal experience (Svanubhuti). This is then written down in the form of Scriptures.
Since the Hindu scriptures claim to be the product of human Shruti, Yukti, and Svanubhuti, all these books are placed by the Bible into one category: the products of human wisdom and insight. Consequently, Christians should desist from classifying the Hindu books into "high" and "low" categories. Rather, the classification should depend upon how the Hindus themselves view these books. Once this classification is understood, the Christians can begin to analyze the type and content of literature in these books.
Hindus classify their sacred literature into the following categories: The primary literature is the Vedas. Secondary literature is made up of the Upavedas, Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads, Itishasas, Puranas, Upapuranas, Tantras (Agamas), Shad-Darshanas, Stotras, and Subhashitas. In addition to these there are many subordinate commentaries also, many of which are considered by (at least certain sections of) Hindus as scriptures. The classification into "primary" and "secondary" indicates only the relative authority that they command. It has no adverse bearing upon their status as scriptures.
The total number of scriptures would thus fall between a few hundreds to a few thousands (15,000, according to some). Those who accept only the smaller number do not totally reject the rest of the books, and those who accept the larger number do not condemn those who are not so universal in their outlook. (Universalism is a speciality of Hinduism). The exact interrelationship of these scriptures would become clear as we move further in this study.
The number of books claiming to be scriptures is very large, and their acceptance by Hindus varies slightly from time to time. However, the present tally of "accepted" scriptures is as follows:
Vedas -- 4
The Primary and Secondary Hindu scriptures together try to cover the entire range of knowledge spanning from the spiritual and reaching to the secular. All of this information forms part of the scriptures because according to the underlying Hindu philosophy, the Ultimate Truth is one, though its manifestations are many.
The oldest and most authoritative (normative) sacred literature of Hinduism is called the 'Vedas'. The origin of the word Veda is from the root VID meaning knowledge. Two sources are generally mentioned about the origin and development of Vedas: (1) what is heard (Sruti) and (2) which is recorded (Smriti, memory).
Rishis or Maharshis heard from cosmic insight, and they then narrated this to their disciples. The disciples then chanted this to their devotees and so on. Smriti came from those Rishis who recorded all this for the posterity.
The word Veda is used in two senses. In the generic sense it refers to a wide collection closely related Vedic literature. In the specific sense it refers to the four massive collections known as Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda. The context of a statement would indicate whether the term is being used in the generic or the specific sense.
The time at which the Vedas originated is uncertain. Hindus claim it to be between 1000 to 8000 BC. Some Prajapati writers anxious to establish the priority of Vedas over the Bible have parroted these figures, without realizing that these dates have not been established so far. What can be said more definitely is that the orally known Vedas began to be written down as books somewhere between 1000 BC and the time of Christ.
Originally the Vedas were divided into three volumes, and were even known as Triveda. However, for convenience 3 three Vedas were divided into 4 by the maharshi called Krishna Dwaipayana. Hence he earned this name Veda Vyasa. The four vedas are Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva.
Each Veda is divided into three 'Kandas': 1) Karma Kanda (2) Upasana Kanda and (3) Jnana (Gyana) Kanda. The karmas or deeds required to please the Ultimate Reality for worldly blessings and the fulfillment of desires are included in Karma Kanda. The method of worship, meditation etc. are prescribed in Upasana Kanda. The secret concerning human soul, this world, the way for moksha (salvation), etc. are given in Jnana (Gyana) Kanda.
Each Veda has 4 divisions known as Samhita, Brahman, Arnyak and Upanishad. Samhitas contain praises and hymns to gods and goddess. Brahmanas explain the mystery meanings of the Mantras. Aranyakas contain philosophical thoughts which the Maharshis framed out of their meditations. Upanishads deal with the spiritual science. These are somewhat similar to Systematic Theology. The basis of the upanishads are the Aranayakas.
The study of Vedas is facilitated by six Vedangas (organs of the Vedas). These are Shiksha, Kalpa, Vyakarana, Nirukta, Jyothisha and Chandas. Of these, Shiksha prescribes the tune of Mantras. Kalpa gives directions on how to use the Mantrik rituals. Vyakarana deals with the correctness of the tune and voice. Nirukta can be called directions for the play of the tunes. Jyothisha gives the knowledge on heavenly bodies and the predictions on the future of man. Chandas deals with the science of music.
THE RIGVEDA: Rig sound means Praise or 'Stuti'. In this Veda there are 10 mandalas (divisions) which are made up of 1028 suktas. Rigveda contains mantras or hymns dedicated to 79 gods and goddesses such as Agni Vayu, Varuna, Surya, Indra, Rudra, Vasista, Saraswathi,etc.
Rigveda was presumably composed by about 300 Rishis in about 60 Chandas. The last portions composed came almost after the completion of the Old Testament. This is the time when the Prajapati idea was introduced into the Rigveda.
The Upaveda of Rig Veda is Ayurveda. The means by which the physical as well as mental health is maintained is dealt with in Ayurveda. It is believed that in the beginning the Ayurveda had 100,000 slokas divided into 1000 chapters. These were said to have been given to Prajapati. From Prajapati the Rishis named Aswinikumars learnt it. Then Indra learnt it from them. Dhanvanthari learnt it from Indra and finally the Maharshi Sushruta learnt it from Dhanvanthari. Sushruta wrote it down in the form of a book.
The book on Ayurveda written by Sushruta has 8 Angas (divisions). The oldest Anga, Agnidrwasuraja granth consists of 56,000 slokas. In Karnaka Prabha there are 12,000 slokas. In Dhathuvada Grantha there are 60,000 slokas. In Dhanvantari Sutra there are 10,000 slokas and in Mana Sutra there are 12,000 slokas.
YAJURVEDA: Yajurveda deals with yajnas (yagyas) or sacrifices. The sacrificial formulae are given in prose. This veda is related mostly to what is called karma (deed). There are two main divisions to this Veda which are called Krishna Yajurveda and Shukla Yajurveda.
There are 86 branches to Krishna Yajurveda. In it there are 8000 Mantras. Ashwameda, Agnishtoma, Rajasuya, etc. are some of the yajnas (yagyas) described in Krishna Yajurveda. In Shukla Yajurveda there are 19,000 mantras. The Maharshi who framed this veda is Yajnavalkya.
SAMAVEDA: This veda is full of hymns praising the gods. The hymns are sung by Rishi Narada. Some Rig Veda Mantras are also included in this as devotional songs.
The Upaveda of Samaveda is Gandharva Veda. Out of the 1000 branches attributed samaveda 13 are available at present.
ATHARVAVEDA: It is made up of praise giving-hymns to gods. In addition there are plenty of Mantras given in information on how to destroy the wicked and the enemies. The methods of resisting demons and evil spirit using sorcery are also described in this Veda. There are 760 suktas and 6000 Mantras in this Veda.
In addition to the two subjects above, administrative and political matters are described in this Veda. The Arthashastra of Kautilya given in the Veda is well-known independently also.
A notable family of Vedic successors are the Brahmanas. These are detailed commentaries on the Vedas. These commentaries were written by some of the greatest Hindu sages. Thus these are serious books, and Hindus respect them greatly. The following are some of the Brahmanas available today:
The meaning of the term Upanishad is to sit together to learn (Upa = with, Nishad = sit down/together). Upanishads are the philosophical portions of the Vedas. They deal with highly philosophical and rational thinking and understanding of the Supreme Cause.
It is claimed that there are more 2000
Upanishads altogether. Out of this only 108 are available today. These
are easily available along with their commentaries.
Out of the 108 available, 10 Upanishads are considered most important. These are the Upanishads introduced by the greatest Hindu Acharyas in their famous literary works. These Upanishads are:
1-ISAVASOPANISHAD: This is the briefest out of the 10 important Upanishads. In spite of its brevity, it is more important than many others. In it there are 18 Mantras. The importance of God, the Almighty, Vidya and Avidya (wisdom and ignorance) are explained here. In addition to this, discussions related to material and immaterial matters are also given.
2-KENOPANISHAD: It is made up of 4 chapters which contain 34 Mantras. Beginning with an Ohm Mantra, it goes on to ask the following questions: By whose persuasion does the mind fall in the pit of lust, who controls the mind, by whose desire does the utterance occur etc. The final answer is: All things happen because of the power of the Ultimate Reality.
3-KATHOPANISHAD: This Upanishad is made up of 2 chapters. The famous Nachiketa Upakhyana is included in it. The important theme of this Upanishad is the spirited education given by God 'Yama' to Nachiketa. God is regarded as being in all things. He is the bodiless among bodies. He is the stable among the unstables. He is the constant among the variables. He is the inner soul of the things.
4-PRASHNOPANISHAD: This Upanishad has 6 divisions and 64 Mantras. In this Upanishad, six Rishis named Bhradwajan Sathyakaman Gargian, Aswalayan, Bhargava, Kathyana are reported as asking questions to Maharshi Pipalada. In response to these questions (prashnas) the Maharshi teaches them the Brahmavidya.
5-MUNDAKOPANISHAD: In this Brahma teaches Brahmavidya to his son Atharva. This vidya is afterwards passed on by Atharva to Angiras who in turn passes it on this to Shounaka.
6-MANDOOKYOPANISHAD: This Upanishad has four branches. They are Agama, Vaidadhya, Advaita, and Athalasanthi. The conditions of mind such as jagrati, sushupti etc. are mentioned in it.
7-TAITEROPANISHAD: This Upanishad contains doctrines concerning Adiloka, Adijyothisha, Adipragyaa, Adividya and Adhyatma.
8-EITEROPANISHAD: There are 3 chapters in this Upanishad. The development of spiritual powers, the working of indrias on spiritual awakening, the birth and rebirth of men etc. are discussed in it.
9-BRIHADARANYAKAOPANISHAD:Brihadaranyakopanishad is the largest Upanishad of all. That is why it is called Brihad. There are six chapters in it on various subjects and persons such as Sandhya, Ushus, Karma, Vichara, Brahma, Saguna, Nirguna, Prajapati, Devas, Asuras, Jiva, Jnana (Gyana), etc. Prajapati proponents love to quote from this Upanishad. Though the concepts here are steeped in Vedanta, these people are able to get Christian meanings because most of their explanations detach the slokas from their background.
Though Sankara (Shankaracharya) fully developed Advaita only in the 8th century AD, the doctrine which teaches that there is only one reality (Para Brahma) and that all else is unreal is seen clearly in this Upanishad.
10-SWETASWATAROPANISHAD: This Upanishad was probability written in about 250-200 BC by an unknown author. It is the last of the classical upanishads. It can be studied as a human document describing the struggles, longings, failures, and achievements of an earnest soul. The author says by knowing God, one is released from all fetters.
Puranas are the illustrations of many teachings and stories narrated in the Vedas. Obviously, many statements in the Vedas need elaborations and illustrations for the common man, and this is one reason why the Puranas were produced. It is believed that these were written by many Rishis.
The word Purana mans "old stories" and this is exactly what we see in these scriptures. It is believed that some Puranas are almost as old as vedas. The divine stories connected with devas, holy men, and histories of many wise men are given in detail in them. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are the main characters in these Puranas.
There are 18 recognized Puranas, and a brief introduction is given to them below:
1-BRAHMAPURANA: This is presumably the oldest Purana. There are 245 chapters and 13000 stanzas in it. These describe the greatness of Brahma. The stories of Ramayana and Shreekrishna are also narrated in it.
2-PADMAPURANA: In this there are 55,000 stanzas in 5 kandas. The origin of earth, sky, stars, etc. are narrated in it.
3-VISHNU PURANA: There are 23000 stanzas in 6 chapters in this. This Purana speaks about Vishnu and matters connected with him. Shreekrishna's story also is given in this.
4-SHIVAPURANA: This contains the life history of Shiva. There are 24,000 stanzas explaining this history and related matters.
5-BHAGVATA PURANA: The story of Vishnu and Sreekrishna are narrated here. There are 18000 slokas. Theological and spiritual topics such as Bhakti, Jnana (Gyana), Vairagya etc. are also explained in it.
6-NARADAPURANA: There are 25000 slokas in it. The main thrust is to explain and illustrate the greatness of Shreekrishna.
7-MARKANDEYA PURANA: This Purana contains discussion on social justice, yogavidya, etc. Also Tulasicharitra, Dwarakacharitra, the early stories of Krishna etc. are given in some detail. There are 9000 slokas in it
8-AGNIPURANA: In this there are 15000 slokas divided into 383 chapters. The synopsis of Epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata are given in it, in addition to information on Dhanurveda, Gandharveda, Ayurveda etc.
9-BHAVISHYA PURANA: There are 14000 slokas divided into 129 chapters. The name indicates things that are in "future". However, Bhavishya Purana does not deal with Bhavishya (Future) alone, but rather it is a fairly large collection of assorted subjects which are of interest to Hindus.
Proponents of the Prajapati doctrine take very special interest in this Purana. This is because several pages in it seem to correspond with Biblical history. However, all this excitement is premature and not based upon sold evidence.
Actually there is no direct connection of the book as a whole with Bible or with the Christian faith. The portion related to the Bible occurs only as a segment of a larger Hindu history. At the same time this portion cannot be separated from the Hindu matrix of the book. This is because the portion related to the Bible is totally and inseparably intertwined with Hindu philosophy, Hindu history, and Hindu way of thinking. A closer look at the historical narratives would make the point more clear. This is given in another place in this book where this Purana is analyzed in detail.
10-BRAHMAVIVARTA PURANA: There are 18,000 slokas in it. Detailed information is given about the birth of Krishna. Details about Brahma, Procreate, Ganapathi etc. are also included.
11- LINGA PURANA: This Purana contains 11000 slokas. Details including Aghoramanthra Mahatmya, Mrityunjayamanthra Vidhana, Panchakshar Mahatmya, Saraswati Stotra, etc.
12-VARAHA PURANA: This Purana contains 218 chapters and 24000 slokas. Bhagavat Gita Mahatmya is explained in detail.
13-SKANDHA PURANA: This Purana is related to Shri. Subramanya. It is the longest of the Puranas. There are 81,000 slokas. In addition to the stories of Shri. Subramanya the geographical descriptions on ancient Bharata are included in it. There is also mention about the mountain Sahyadri and the temple in Kanyakumari.
14-VAMANA PURANA: There are 95 chapters and 10000 slokas in this Purana. Stories connected with Lord Vamana are given in detail.
15-KURMA PURANA: The main occupation of this Purana is the story of Kurma Avatara. This is supposed to be one of the ten avataras of Vishnu in which Hindus believe.
16-MATSYA PURANA: In this Purana there are 14,000 slokas in 290 chapters. The main purpose is to explain the story of Matsya Avatar. Like Kurma, Matsya is one of the ten avataras.
17- GARUDA PURANA: There are 279 chapters and 18000 slokas in this Purana. Details regarding Pretaloka, Yamaloka, Naraka, etc. are given in it. People hesitate to keep this Purana in their houses because of the fearful subject matter. At the same time, portions of this Purana are recited in many Hindu homes during rituals connected with the death of a person.
18-BRAHMANDA PURANA: In this Purana there are 12,000 slokas. Ananthasayana, Ashtanetrastana, Kamakshivilasa etc. are explained in it. Sreelalithopakhyana which is published separately also is included in this Purana. It is believed that Adhyatma Ramayana which is now an independent volume was original part of this Purana.
Itihasas are the historical books in which many important stories from Vedas are narrated with certain specific purposes. The necessity for the upkeep and preserving of 'dharma' was at times the ultimate purpose of Itihasas.
At the same time, these can also be called Political and Historical books because important discussions about the then political situation is described and even analyzed. There are several Itihasas, but the most widely known ones are Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Since Ramayana and Mahabharatha are the two great Itihasas they are also called as Epics. These two epics have played a very significant role in moulding the present-day Hindu society.
RAMAYANA: The original Ramayana was written by the Rishi Valmiki. In this the story of Shri Rama (said to be an avatara of Vishnu) is recorded in great poetic detail. The travails of Sita as a model woman of Bharatha is also narrated.
In the Valmiki Ramayana which is available at present there are 24,000 slokas in 7 Kandas viz. Bala Kanda, Ayodhya Kanda, Aranya Kanda, Kishkinda Kanda and Utharakanda.
In addition to Valmiki Ramayana there are many other Ramayanas also. Some of them are in Sanskrit, while others are written in North Indian dialects. Tulasi Ramayana and Adhyatma Ramayana are well known. The poet Ezhuthachan has written Adhyatma Ramayana in Malayalam in the form known as Kilipaattu (song of a bird).
There is no way to deny the deep impact of Ramayana on the Indian psyche. Since this is intimately connected with what is recorded in more ancient Hindu scriptures, Christians should not try to fragment any of them to present them as proclaiming a Christian message.
MAHABHARATA: Mahabharatha was written by Veda Vyasa is divided into 18 parvas, and has 1,25,000 slokas. The main theme is the battle between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Spiritual interpreters claim that this Epic is supposed to depict the battle between the evil and good. In the end the evil or adharma is defeated and the good or dharma triumphs. Bhagvat Gita is part of Mahabharata and there it comes under the portion known as Bhishma Parva.
Though both of the Epics contain
plenty of poetic embellishment, they can still be used for a historical
investigation of ancient India. Through them we can learn a lot about
the old Bharatha, its people, their social life, manner of behaviour and
values of life, etc.
Though Christians and Hindus interact frequently in the society today, both sides are ignorant about the philosophies and theologies of the other side. This is the cause of much misrepresentation of the other side. The Simpleton Christians totally ignore the vast collection of Hindu scriptures, while the Romantic Christians see Christianity only as a derivative of Hinduism. Both approaches are wrong. Both approaches misrepresent Hinduism.
One such misrepresentation and twisted
interpretation is the Prajapati Movement. They see Christ everywhere in
Vedas, and specially in the Purusha Sukta. They also see Christ in Kath
and Brihadaranyak Upanishads, and in Shathpath Brahmana. This is
misrepresentation of Hinduism, and distortion of Christian theology.
This has to stop immediately.
As seen earlier, both the Simplistic as well as the Romantic approaches misrepresent Hinduism. It is such approaches that have encouraged the spread of the Prajapati Movement in India. Actually this approach of interpretation is not fair either to Christianity or to Hinduism.
As seen in the previous chapter, the complex development of the Hindu society, and the philosophical background of their sacred literature should never be overlooked when interpreting those books. However, this balance is missing in Prajapati literature which (by employing a number of tricks) projects Hindu literature as though they speak the Christian message. This distortion has to go.
A better understanding of the distortions can be obtained when we study the way in which Hindus interpret their own sacred literature. Since they do this in keeping with their own hermeneutics, anything differing from their interpretation is obviously a misinterpretation and totally false.
According to Indian thinking, Philosophy is that branch of learning that deals with the foundational truths. Hence "Hindu Philosophy" is now the collection of information developed in Hinduism about the Ultimate Reality.
According to Indian tradition there is only one Ultimate Reality, but there are six fundamental interpretations or six insights. The six Philosophies (Darshanas) constitute the classic philosophical system of India. They are Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta, often called Shat Darshanas. They have many characteristics in common. For example, they all grew out of the Upanishads, the philosophical portion of the Veda which in turn are accepted as the supreme authority in all matters of Hindu Philosophy.
They are delivered in Sanskrit Sutras. A Sutra is an aphorism and as such they are extremely concise, avoiding all unnecessary repetition employing a rigid economy of words. This makes it difficult to understand them correctly in their original form. Common man can understand them only with the help of commentaries. Fortunately, Hinduism has given rise to numerous outstanding commentators, and many of their works are now easily available. The renewed interest in Hinduism has produced many new commentators like Nitya Chaitanya Yati in the twentieth century. Many of the Ramakrishna Mission Acharyas have also written several lucid commentaries in common man's language.
The generally accepted principles among all schools of Hindu philosophy are as follows:
1. All accept the eternal cycle of nature which is without beginning and end. This cycle consists of vast periods of creation, maintenance and desolation.
2. All accept the principle of reincarnation or the soul that maintains life and death. They are but two phases of a single cycle to which the soul is bound and to which it clings because of the ignorance of the true nature of things.
3. All accept dharma as the moral law of the Universe that accounts for the eternal cycle of nature as well as the destiny the human soul
4. All agree that knowledge is the
path to freedom and that Yoga is the method to attain final liberation.
Hindu philosophers have developed six approaches to investigation of philosophical truths, and collectively these are called Shatdarshanas (Shat=six, Darshana=philosophy). These are Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa, Uttara Mimamsa. A good understanding of these six systems would help us to know the ways in which the learned Hindu thinks. Further, with the revival of Hinduism in India, the days of ignorance are beginning to pass. Even the lay Hindu is beginning to learn and understand at least some of the basics of their philosophy.
For the purpose of study the six Darshanas can be classified into three groups as follows :
I. Nyaya, Vaisheshika
The systems in the first group lay down methodology of science to explain how the manifestation of various phenomena come into being. The second division gives an account of cosmic evolution on purely logical principles. The third division critically analyses the basic principles developing them in greater detail.
The six systems of philosophies are discussed below:
1-NYAYA PHILOSOPHY: Nyaya was founded by Gautama who lived around 400 BC. There is some uncertainty about his date, and some of the authorities place him around 550 BC. If this second date is a correct estimate, then it is possible that this Goutama was a contemporary of Gautam Budha.
Nyaya is a system of logic concerned with the means of acquiring right knowledge which it classifies into various categories. Nyaya is a Sanskrit word which signifies "joining" into a subject. It does this through an analytical investigation of a given subject through the process of logical reasoning. Vatsyayana the classic commentator on the Nyaya Sutra defines it as a critical examination of the objects of knowledge by means of the canons of logical proof. Nyaya is also called "Tarka Vidya" which is a name close to that of logic. It is also labelled as source of reasoning, Veda Vidya, or science of discussion.
The ultimate purpose of Nyaya is obtaining Moksha, the Hindu version of salvation. Moksha according to them is release, release from the cycles of transmigration and absorption back into ParaBrahma. The four subjects discussed in the Nyaya Sutra are :
(1) The thing to be avoided in human
The above four steps are considered to be the most important prerequisites for attaining moksha, which is the reward that one can ever hope to receive.
2-VAISESHIKA PHILOSOPHY: The founder of the Vaisheshika philosophy is Kanada who established it in 300 BC. The name 'Kanada' is derived from 'kana' and 'ad'. Kana means atom and 'ad' means to eat. So literally the term means atom-eater. He is so named because he resolved reality to its smallest possible division, which is called 'anu' (a term commonly translated as atom).
The term Vaiseshika is derived from the Sanskrit word "vishesha" which means that characteristics that distinguish a given thing from all other things. As a system of philosophy Vaiseshika teaches that knowledge of the nature of reality is obtained by knowing the special properties or essential differences which distinguish nine external realities (Dravyas). These dravyas are:
1. Earth (Prithvi)
The importance of the teachings of Vaisheshika as contrasted with other teachings is best illustrated by the classic example of the post and thief. If we see a tall object in front of us when walking in the twilights, a doubt arises in our mind, as to whether the tall object is a post or a thief and because of the uncertainty we suffer from fear.
According to Vaiseshika, this confusion is due to the fact that we see only the common property of tallness which belongs to both post and thief. If we had better knowledge of the properties which distinguish a post from a thief, there would e no such doubt and consequently there would be no suffering due to fear.
According to this philosophy, the same is the situation with human understanding in regard to all objects in the world around us. When we have knowledge of the distinguishing characteristics of the reality, the object of perception will no longer awaken within us the feeling of attraction or aversion -- which are actually the source of human misery.
The liberating knowledge of this sort are called "Vaiseshika Sutra". The writing of Kanada known as Vaiseshika Sutra is frequently called a Moksha Shastra because it teaches the doctrine of liberation and also because it also teaches that Self Knowledge and self Realization lead to Moksha. This writing is sometimes called an "Adhyatma Shastra", which means "a treatise about the Spiritual Matters".
3-SANKHYA PHILOSOPHY:Sankhya is perhaps the oldest form of Hindu Philosophy. The founder of this philosophy is Kapila. It is believed that he lived in the 6th century BC.
The title Sankya is derived from the word sankhya which means number. This name is used for a religious philosophy because the Sankhya philosophy handles the principles of cosmic evolution through rational analysis. In the philosophical sense the title Sankhya is used because this system advocates a discriminative knowledge which enabled one to distinguish between spirit and matter.
The purpose of Sankhya philosophy is to provide the knowledge that will forever remove the cause of misery and thereby release the soul from its bondage. According to their system misery is three-fold: (1) Adhyatmik, or misery that arises from intrinsic causes such as the disorder of the body and mind; (2) Adhibhoutik, or misery that arises from extrinsic causes such as other people, beasts, birds or inanimate objects; (3) Atidavik, which arise from supernatural causes such as the influence of the atmosphere or planets.
In this system it is accepted as an undisputed fact that human misery causes the real torment of the soul. Thus the problem in this system is how to overcome or eliminate the misery. If known means are sufficient, there would be no need to seek further, but all known means fail to offer absolute solution. For example, medicine cannot banish hunger for all time. Therefore it is necessary to reach for that knowledge which will forever terminate misery.
The Sankhya system argues that if misery is an attribute of the soul, there is no need to seek further. But it is almost universally agreed in Hinduism that the soul is free and devoid of all suffering. Therefore the automatic deduction is that misery must originate in the body. Whatever misery is felt in the soul is said to be caused by its intimate association with the body. When the free nature of the soul is understood, bondage will no longer exist and the soul will be forever free from all sufferings. Bondage is claimed to be purely an illusion caused by incurred knowledge of the free nature of thins. The release and the bondage of the soul depend solely upon knowledge and ignorance. Therefore it is believed that discriminate knowledge will forever release the soul from all misery.
Sankhya philosophy teaches everything in the Universe has evolved out of an Uncaused Cause. It leaves the "Uncaused Cause" undefined by claiming it as something impossible to be conceived by the intellect. This absolute is beyond time, beyond space, and beyond thought. It is without differences, without attribute and without form.
Sankhya is said to be the philosophical foundation of all Oriental Cultures. It is said to be the measure of the entire mass of Hindu culture, the basis for all knowledge of the ancient sages (Rishis) and the key to all oriental symbolism.
For the purpose of its study the Sankhya postulates two realities called spirit (purusha) and matter (prakruti) to explain all experience. These two are said to exist as logical principles and they are said to serve as the sources out of which all things evolve.
For the sake analysis, the Sankhya divides the process of cosmic evolution into 25 categories which are classified under the following headings :
1. That which is neither generated nor generates.
2. That which is not generated and but which generates.
3. Those which are generated and which do generate.
4. Those which are generated and do not generate.
The first is called Purusha (Cosmic Spirit). It is the unevolved principle, which is not the cause of any new mode of being.
The second is called Prakruti (Cosmic Substance). It is the unevolved principle which does evolve the measured cause of phenomenal existence.
The third group consists of 7 categories called evolvements which are caused and which serve as causes for new modes of being. They are Mahat (Cosmic Intelligence), Ahamkara (Individualizing principle) and 5 tanmanthras (subtle elements).
The fourth group consists of 16 categories called evolutes which are caused but do not serve as causes for new modes of being. Jnanendriyas (Gyanendriyas or senses of perception), five Karmendriyas (Abstract working senses) and five Mahabhutas.
Based upon the above assumptions, the Sankhya Philosophy goes into much detailed and technical discussion of God and man. We will not go into further detail, but the above discussion is enough to show the radically different ways in which the Christian faith and the Hindu religion think.
4-YOGA PHILOSOPHY: The word "Yoga" comes from the root of YUJ to yoke or join. Here it is used to mean the union of the Individual Spirit (Jivatman) with the Universal Spirit (Paramatma).
The art of Yoga is defined as a system of for perfecting human efficiency. It aims to destroy the defects and the diseases of the body and mind to establish health and bestow happiness to develop intelligence and reveal free knowledge of self and to extract the nectar of all things.
The founder of Yoga Philosophy is Patanjali. It is said that he lived in the third or fourth century BC. The exact year is not known. His doctrine of Yoga is given in his famous treatise known as Yogasutra.
The ultimate aim of Yoga can be said to be to free man forever from the three types of pain.
1. Those that arise from his outer infirmities and wrong conduct or contact, like diseases.
2. Those that arise from his relations with other living things such as the dangers from wild animals, robbers, etc.
3. Those that arise from his relations with external nature such as getting exposed to sun, rain, or other abstract and subtle powers.
Freedom from these three types of pains accomplished first by achieving non-attachment to the world but not necessarily isolation from it. Secondly by gaining restraint over the mind and its creations, thereby purifying the thought pattern. Third, by attaining positive and absolute union of the Individual Soul and the Universal Soul. This third condition is known as Samadhi and is the ultimate purpose of practical Yoga.
The yogi strives to become entirely and completely free from the external cycle of life and death. He views nature as a single force working in two directions. From the outside it struggles to separate, from the inside it struggles to reunite. The inner force is called life and the outer force is called death. The purpose of Yoga is to unite these two.
The Yoga system assumes he same cosmological doctrines as set forth in the Sankhya System. The only difference between the two is that Sankhya system is interested in the Universal Principles of nature while the Yoga system is interested in the Individual and his nature. In Sankhya the Universal Spirit (Purusha) is postulated to account for the subjective aspect of nature. In Yoga the Individual Spirit called Jiva in Sanskrit is supposed to account for the subjective aspect of the individual (the word Jiva is from the root JIV which means to live).
5-MIMAMSA PHILOSOPHY:The term Mimamsa is derived from the sanskrit root "man" which means to think, consider, examine or investigate. Mimamsa systems deal with the philosophical speculations of Hindu sages.
Mimamsa is divided into 2 systems called Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa. Purva means "earlier" and Uttara means "later". Purva Mimamsa deals with the earlier part of the Vedas and Uttara Mimamsa deals with the later part of the Vedas. Purva Mimamsa interprets the ACTIONS enjoined in the Vedas leading to the freedom of the soul. Uttara Mimamsa interprets the KNOWLEDGE revealed in the vedas leading to the freedom of the soul. When the two systems are referred to in the way mentioned above, they are rightly called Karma Mimamsa and Jnana (Gyana) Mimamsa. In normal conversations they are simply called Mimamsa and Vedanta.
The founder of Mimamsa was Jaimini. Very little is known of his life. Tradition says that he was a pupil of Badarayana, the fonder of the Vedanta system. Jaimini's actual date is quite uncertain but the style of his writings seem to place him somewhere between 600 BC to 100 AD.
The purpose of Mimamsa is to inquire into the nature of right action (Dharma). The basic premise of Mimamsa is that action is the very essence of human existence. Without action knowledge is fruitless, without action happiness is impossible. Without action human destiny cannot be fulfilled. Therefore right action (dharma) is the prerequisite of spiritual life. The ultimate concern of Mimamsa is salvation. It argues that salvation cannot be achieved by knowledge alone because the soul must first fulfill its potential through actions as a seed fulfills its potential through growth.
6-VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY: The word Vedanta means the end of the Vedas. The founder of the philosophy was sage Badrayana whose actual date is unknown. The dates assigned to him fall between 600 BC to 200 AD. The Vedanta philosophy is enunciated in the treatise called Vedanta Sutra. The central theme of the Vedanta Sutra is the philosophical teachings of the upanishads concerning the nature and relationship of the three fundamental principles termed as God, the World and the Soul. This also includes the relation between the Universal Soul and the Individual Soul.
The Vedanta philosophy endeavours to sum up all human knowledge, presenting as Truth all that is universal and reconciling all that is different. It accepts every proposed religious and philosophical thought, idea and concept as a step forward in inquiry of truth. It evades nothing and encompasses everything. It discards nothing and collects everything that is within the realm of human experience. However, it does not accept anything as final, dogmatic or as the last word on that subject. Instead it investigates, analyses and criticizes every idea and proposal. It forces every proposition to verify and substantiate itself according to the rules of logical inquiry. Vedanta can therefore be considered as the accumulated wealth of pure human inquiry.
Vedanta is also an inquiry into the nature of the ultimate principle (Para Brahma). It does not discard the findings of Sankhya, but it endeavours to show that there can be only one ultimate reality which makes its appearance to the human senses as an illusion (Maya). Its analysis of the process of cosmic evolution is almost the same as that of the Sankhya Philosophy with only those differences which must logically follow from its original starting assumptions. It shows how this world with its infinite variety is only an "appearance" of diversity and that all things are one and the same -- only appearing differently.
PARA BAHAMA AS SEEN IN VEDANTA:Para Brahma is defined in the Vedanta Sutra as follows: He from whom proceeds the creation preservation and the reconstruction of the Universe is Para Brahma. The word Brahma is derived from the sanskrit root BRH means to grow, to increase, to expand or to swell, that is, that which has reached its ultimate evolution, development, expansion or growth.
The Ultimate Principle (Para Brahma) is seen as the creator, maintainer and destroyer of everything in the universe from the smallest microscopic germ to the largest celestial body. As such it is the instrument and material cause of all manifest phenomena. In its transcendental aspect, it has two conditions, one in which it is at rest and in the other in which it is alive, but at no time, it is ever non-existent. In one condition it is called in sanskrit as ASAT meaning NONBEING.
ASAT is the subtle condition of nature when the infinite variety of forms have become submerged into the eternal source from which they came. This is not a state of non-existence, but a state in which the diversity of forms have been destroyed. The condition leading to it is called PRALAYA the occasion of universal dissolution. Pralaya is followed by reabsorption, destruction or annihilation of all manifest phenomena. Pralaya takes place at the end of each world cycle.
The alive or dynamic condition of Para Brahma is called SAT which means BEING as opposed to nonbeing. During this period, it has three attribute: universal being, consciousness, and bliss. These three attributes are called SAT, CHIT, ANANDA. SACCHIDANANDA is the uncaused cause in Vedanta. (The word "it" is used instead of "he" for Para Brahma because unlike Christianity, Hinduism does not believe in a personal God.)
If the infinite Para Brahma and the finite creation are one and the same, a question arises as to how this ultimate principle which is unlimited and undifferentiated able to become limited as seen in creation ? According to Vedanta, this is much the same as is witnessed in the phenomenon of electricity which is unlimited yet manifests in the limited forms of light, heat, magnetic power and even in mechanical action, without ever becoming exhausted.
The immanent aspect of the ultimate principle has two inseparable forms, one without qualities (attributes), existing as pure spirit called NIRGUNA BRAHMA. The other with qualities existing as pure matter is called SAGUNA. These gunas or qualities are the same as explained in Sankhya spirit and matter, name and form. It is also called ATMA and PRAKRUTI in Vedanta.
ATMA IN VEDANTA: The term Atma frequently used in Vedanta means the Universal Soul. Sometimes the word Paramatma is used to specify the Soul of the Universe, the Greatest Principle, the Supreme Spirit.
When a part of the Universal Spirit or Universal Breath becomes encased in the protoplasmic environments and animates it is called JIVA. The term JIVA means "life" and it refers to the individual and personal soul as distinguished from the Universal Soul (which animates the inanimate). Therefore the only difference between man and God is only of degree, for ultimately they are one in the same in essence in the way in which the space inside a cup is the same as the space outside. There is only a difference of extent. Man is therefore only a spark of the infinite.
MAYA: The term MAYA used frequently in the Vedanta means DELUSION. The Vedanti regards this world as MAYA because it is not reality, but rather a way in which fleeting forms appears. The real is never affected by the unreal just as the sand is not rendered wet by a mirage.
The way a MAYA-influenced person thinks is called AVIDYA or ignorance -- especially in the spiritual sense. AVIDYA it is the subjective aspect while MAYA is the objective aspect. AVIDYA is an impersonal force in this consciousness of all individuals producing the phenomena of illusion as demonstrated for instance when we look at a rope and thinks it is a snake. It is called AVIDYA (without knowledge) because knowledge will dissipate all the illusions of human perception as the sun dissipates the morning mist.
PURUSHA AND PRAKRUTI (SPIRIT AND MATTER): The word PURUSHA is used to in Vedanta to denote the Universal Soul, the animating principle of the universe, or the Universal Spirit. It is that principle that breaths life into matter. It is the source of consciousness.
PRAKRUTI is a Sanskrit word composed of PRA and KR. PRA means before or first. KR means to make or produce. Hence PRAKRUTI means "that which existed before anything was produced", the primary source of all things, the original substance out which all things have come and into which all things will eventually return.
All changes seen is cosmos take place
when PURUSHA interacts with PRAKRUTI.
With its continuous fascination with philosophy, and the acceptance and toleration of numerous schools of thought, Hinduism has produced numerous outstanding philosophers. However, some of them stand out because of their impact that continues even today. Some of these philosophers representing important schools of thought are mentioned below:
SHANKARACHARYA: The name Shankaracharya has become almost synonymous with Vedanta because his commentary on the Vedanta Sutra is the foundation for the largest and most popular school of thought in modern Hinduism is called Vedanta.
Sankara (Shankaracharya) lived between 788-820 AD. His greatest achievement was in the constructing his system of Monism called Advaita in Sanskrit which means "non-dualism". The central position of Advaita is that "all reality is one". Only the Ultimate Principle has any actual existence. Every thing else is an illusion (MAYA).
Sankara (Shankaracharya) is believed to have been born in Kaladi, Kerala. At the age of 8 he is said to have revealed his genius. In his youth he renounced worldly pursuits to become a sanyasi. He wandered throughout India teaching and discussing his beliefs. He founded four Muths: at Sringeri (Mysore), Puri (Orissa), Dwaraka, and at Badarinath in the Himalayas. He is believed to have died in the Himalayan village of Kedarnath. In the course of his life he wrote many texts, the most important being his commentary on the Presthana Trayas which is made up of the Upanishads, Bhagavat Gita and Vedanta Sutra.
RAMANUJACHARYA: He was born in 1027 AD in Sriperumbudur in Madras. Sankara (Shankaracharya) was a great logician while Ramanujacharya was a great intutionalist. He stressed the theistic aspects of the Upanishads while Sankara (Shankaracharya)charya held strictly to the intellectual aspects.
The system founded by Ramanujacharya is called VISHISTADVAITA or qualified non-dualism. He maintained that the Ultimate Principle is real and exists. He then qualified the above assertion by arguing that souls are also real, with their reality being dependent upon the Ultimate Principle. He maintained that the Ultimate Principle is the basis of the world -- but that is not an illusion unlike as argued by Sankara (Shankaracharya).
Ramanujacharya insisted on that the individual soul continued to exist even after its release from the cycles of birth and death. He held that the Ultimate Principle, the World, and the Soul form a single unity. Out of this, the World and the Soul exist only as the body of the Ultimate Principle. He maintained that in the end there is nothing but the Ultimate Principle, but claimed that during the period of manifestation, the World and Souls are separate in order to save the Ultimate Principle.
MAHDHAVACHARYA: Madhavacharya was born in 1199 at Udipi in Kanara District. At an early age itself he became proficient in Vedic philosophy and soon became a sanyasi. after spending several years in prayer and meditation, study, and discussion he began to implement and teach his system of philosophy.
Madhavacharya's system of philosophy is known as the DVAITA or dualistic system. He claimed that the Ultimate Principle is not the essence of the world. He claimed that the Soul is a separate principle having an independent existence of its own and that it is only associated with the Ultimate Principle. In this way he stands for unqualified dualism, whereas Shankaracharya upheld a pure monism.
The influence of these leaders has
been far reaching. In addition to these three, there are many other
outstanding commentators who have contributed valuable material to Hindu
philosophy for further thinking and development. A few of them are
Bhaskaracharya (10th century), Nimbarka (11th century), Nilakanta (14th
century), Yadava Prakasa (11 th century), Kesava (13th century),
Chaitanya (15th century), Vallabha (15th century), and Baladeva (18th
There are many schools of thought and practices within the large Hindu family. Some of the notable ones are mentioned below:
KASHMIR SHAIVISM: It is a system of ideal monism founded by Vasugupta in the 9 th century. Its central position is that there is only one Ultimate Principle, but that this principle has two aspects one transcendental and the other immanent. It is a philosophical system based on the Sivasutra which is one of the texts of that vast body of Indian literature called TANTRAS.
THE TANTRAS: The word tantra is derived from the root "tan" means to spread and the suffix "tra" to save. Hence Tantra means that knowledge which is spread for saving.
Tantra is the body of the religious scriptures which is stated to have been revealed by Shiva as a specific scripture for the fourth (the present) age which is called the KALIYUGA. According to Indian tradition there are four ages collectively called Mahayugas. These are the Satyuga or Kritayuga the age of righteousness, Treta yuga in which righteousness (dharma) decreases by one fourth, the Dwaparayuga in which righteousness decreases by one half, and the present Kaliyuga in which righteousness decreases by three fourth. This age is considered to be the most evil of all ages. According to their doctrine, each age has its appropriate scripture (Sastra) designed to meet the requirement and needs of men of each age in their effort to attain liberation.
SHAIVISM: Shaivism worships Shiva as the supreme being regarding him as the source and essence of the Universe. The temples dedicated to him are characterized by the Linga which is symbolic of the attributes of Shiva. This sect as it is known today is said to date form the tine between the 5th and 6th centuries.
Shaivism is divided into two principal schools, the Northern school known as Kashmir Shaivism and the southern school known as Lingayat sects. The Lingayats generally wear a linga around their necks.
VAISHNAVISM:The chief characteristics of Vishnavism is the intense devotion to the personal god Vishnu. This group accepts him not only as a preserver, but also as the creator and destroyer of the Universe. As such Vaisnavism is a form of monotheism for it sets aside the original tri-personal equality of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in favour of the one god Vishnu often called Hari. His two manifestations in human form are said to be Rama and Krishna.
CASTE SYSTEM: The caste system in Hinduism originally developed on the basis of the profession which the people practice. In the beginning there were only 3 great classes. They were the Brahmanas, Kshatrias and Vaishyas. The Brahmanas were priests who performed sacrifices to gods. The Kshatrias were the warriors among whom were included the Kings or tribal chieftains. Vaishyas, the mass of the common people were peasants, artisans and business men. To these three original classes were later added a fourth class called Shudras, who were servants or slaves. These people eventually became the untouchables of India.
The Brahmanas were the custodians of the Vedas and Vedic knowledge. Only they were supposed instruct the other two castes in the Vedic knowledge. On no accord was this instruction to be given to a Shudra. The Shudras were regarded as being so impure that they were denied all access to the Vedas. They were not supposed to offer sacrifices or even to have sacrifice offered on their behalf. Nor were they supposed associate in any way with the Dwija (twice-born) Brahmanas, or Kshatrias and Vaishyas. Of the four classes, Shudras alone were not twice-born. In other words, they were not admitted to the initiatory rites through which the other classes received the "sacred thread" to advance to the next stage of their lives.
The Kshatrias were the warrior class and the king was the most prominent among them. They were the secular power responsible for the enforcement of the Dharma laid down by Brahmanas. The king's solemn duty was to protect his subjects. The Viasyas were agriculturists. They engaged in various trades also. The hierarchy of caste was said to reflect the tree strands or Gunas which pervades the whole Prakruti or Nature. The Brahmanas cause reflect the strand of Sattva or goodness. The Kshatriyas represented Rajas or Energy. The Sudras represented Tamas or Dullness while the Vaishyas were a mixture of Energy and Dullness.
The Hindu system divides human life into four stages, called various Ashrams. A normal person was supposed to pass through all four of them at the appropriate time. These are:
BRAHMACHARYA ASHRAM: This stage lasts upto 16th or even the 24th year of a person. This stage of life is supposed to be a period of celibacy and learning. During the period a student must treat his Guru as his own father and as (visible) god and give him high respect. Absolute and willing obedience to the Guru is a must during this stage.
GRIHASTHA ASHRAM: At the end of the Brahmacharya state the young man may return to his father's house, get married, and begin a family by raising up children (especially sons) so that his line may continue and there will be someone to perform his funeral rites when he passes away.
VANPRASTHA ASHRAM: Men enter into the stage when about half their expected earthly life is over. After a man is able to see his grand-son/sons it is expected that he would enter this stage. Contrary to what the name implies, he need not necessary go to the forest and spend his remaining time there but he should devote most of his time now in worship, charitable activities, and in extending help to others.
SANYASA ASHRAM: Though this is expected to the last stage of life, anybody can actually enter the life of sanyasa directly. Either from Brahmacharya or Grihasthashrama or from Vanaprastha, he can enter this stage. The meaning of the name Sanyasa is to renounce. Renunciation of the world and then entering a life of meditation and spending time with the Ultimate Reality is the ultimate aim of the stage of life.
The Pancha Yagyas (Yajnas) are the five karmas (deeds) that one may perform during the stage of Grihasthashrama. They are :
1. Brahma Yagya (Yajna): Here the devote systematically and regularly learns the Vedas, Upnishads and other spiritual subjects. This helps him to build up a healthy spiritual life.
2. Deva Yagya (Yajna): Here the devotee offers sacrifices every morning and evening to the Devas (gods). He recites appropriate mantras while offering these sacrifices.
3. Pithru Yagya (Yajna): The devotee offers various sacrifices for the benefit of the souls of his departed parents and forefathers.
4. Nru Yagya (Yajna): Here the devotee gives alms to the poor and need that may come to his house or who are found in other needy places. Hospitality is the essence of the Yagya (Yajna).
5. Bhoothi Yagya (Yajna): The devotee has to show kindness to all creatures. This is supposed to be a part of his divine duty.
The process by which a blissful state is attained in the life of a devotee through knowledge and experience is involved in Purusharthas. they are 4 in number.
1. Dharma: Every person has been assigned some obligations depending upon his Caste and other states. Fulfilling these responsibilities is called his dharma. A devotee has to do dharma in his life. The life done on their earth on the basis of dharma gives heavenly pleasure.
2 Artha: Artha means wealth. Wealth has to be utilized in the most profitable way. Wealth is given by God. Men are not the owners or possessors of wealth, but only mere keepers. Hence they should use wealth only for the glory of the giver.
3. Kama: Kama means desire . The desire of man should be to reach and join the Ultimate Reality. Worldly desires are to be controlled so that they may not divert man from the presence of God.
The ultimate aim of every
mortal must be Moksha which in Hinduism means to getting absorbed into
the Ultimate Reality or Para Brahma.
Hinduism is such a vast system than no amount of discussion can exhaust it. However, for the sake of brevity we have to conclude this discussion. What has been presented in this chapter and in the previous one (though not exhaustive) are sufficient to give a fair and objective overview of Hinduism (as against the distorted picture presented by the Prajapati Proponents). The following are some more essential things to know"
THE DOCTRINE OF REBIRTH/REINCARNATION:Hinduism teaches the non-cessation of soul. They believe that all living creatures have souls. The soul of a creature enters another one and takes birth after the previous body dies. This way a person might have to pass through 8,400,000 births before he can attain salvation.
TEMPLES: Temples are the specially constructed buildings in which idols are placed for worship. The layout of most Hindu temples follow certain carefully laid out principles, and are constructed according to the instructions given in the Agamashastra. The layout of some of the ancient temples teach an entire set of philosophy in itself.
IDOL WORSHIP: Today Idol Worship is an inseparable part of Hinduism, except for one or two reform movement. Even these movements now find themselves drifting back into the worship of some representation like the picture of the founder of their movement.
However, not all groups are equally committed to idol worship. Some groups like the Sanatanis of North India are totally devoted to it, while the more philosophically oriented Vedantis consider is non-essential, but permissible. The sum total of all these undercurrents is to make idol worship inseparable form day-to-day Hinduism.
Many Hindus do not find anything wrong in worshiping idols and even humans because according to their philosophy all is one. Thus even the idol is part of God, and there is nothing wrong in worshiping it. Other consider idols as helpful to focus one's attention, or the attention of those who cannot focus their attention upon an unseen and abstract god. The Christian way of looking at idol worship is totally alien to the Hindus.
TIRTHATANAS:Hindus attach great importance to numerous
religious places in India. Each place has its own history and
significance. While some offer solution to problems, the others are
renowned for offering salvation to the devotee. Visiting these religious
places is considered highly desirable, and the trend is now on the
increase after an extended period of dormancy. Some places can be
visited any time of the year, while others are considered more
auspicious during certain seasons. Still other religious places or
festivals attract people only once in a decade or so.
Hinduism is a very highly developed, all-inclusive, Universal philosophical system. It starts with presuppositions that are totally at variance with the Christian faith, and arrives at conclusions that are equally at variance with the Christian faith.At the same time, Hindus are willing to welcome Christianity as one school of thought which is welcome to become a part of the Universal philosophy of Hinduism. However, no Hindu would ever accept the naive claim that the essence of Hinduism is the Christian faith.
Hinduism-A Christian PerspectiveA Christian Perspective
Most of us have had at least some exposure to what has become known as the New Age movement. If so, we have probably realized that Hinduism is the wellspring of a good deal of New Age thinking. Most of us are probably also aware than an increasing number of Asian Indians are residing in the U.S. We may be surprised, in fact, to learn that there are approximately 200 Hindu temples or Hindu centers in the U.S. Many believe that due to its eclectic nature, Hinduism has the potential to serve as a major vehicle for uniting much of the non-Christian religious world.
The appeal of Hinduism to Western culture is not difficult to comprehend. For one, Hinduism is comfortable with evolutionary thinking. As modern science emphasizes our physical evolution, so Hinduism emphasizes our spiritual evolution. As much of modern psychology emphasizes the basic goodness and unlimited potential of human nature, so Hinduism emphasizes man's essential divinity. As modern philosophy emphasizes the relativity of all truth claims, so Hinduism tolerates many seemingly contradictory religious beliefs. As a religion that also emphasizes the primacy of the spiritual over material reality, Hinduism appeals to many who are disillusioned with strictly material pursuits.
The word "Hindu" is of Persian origin, and simply means "Indian." The word was probably first used in its modern sense by the Muslim invaders of India about A.D. 1200 to distinguish the religion of the Indians from their own. Though there are some core beliefs common to virtually all Hindus, there really is no "Hindu orthodoxy" -- no hard and fast dogma that all Hindus must believe. It's actually a family of gradually developing beliefs and practices.
Hinduism has its roots in the interrelationship of two basic religious systems: that of the ancient civilization residing in the Indus River Valley from the third millennium B.C., and the religious beliefs brought to India by the Aryan people (possibly from the Baltic region) who began infiltrating the Indus Valley sometime after 2000 B.C.
The religion of the Aryans is
described in the writings of "holy men" contained in the Vedas
(meaning "knowledge" or "wisdom"). The Vedas are
four collections of writings composed between about 1500 and 500 B.C.,
which form the basis for Hindu beliefs, and which reveal a gradual
development of religious ideas. The later sections of the Vedas are
known as the Upanishads. These Vedic writings are considered inspired.
Later Hindu writings, including the renowned Bhagavad Gita, are of
lesser authority, but widely popular.
Hindu Beliefs About God And the World
The early portions of the Hindu scriptures known as the Vedas describe a number of deities who for the most part are personifications of natural phenomena, such as storms and fire. Prayers and sacrifices were offered to these gods. An extensive system of priestly rituals and sacrifices was eventually developed which served as means of obtaining the blessing of these gods.
The later portions of the Vedas, called the Upanishads, reflect a significant development in Hinduism's concept of the divine. Many of the Upanishads, instead of speaking of a multitude of gods, refer to an ultimate reality beyond our comprehension called Brahmam. Though Brahmam is impersonal in nature, it is sometimes referred to in personal terms by the name Isvara.
Along with this idea of a single divine reality, the Upanishads also teach that at the core of our being (referred to as "Atman") we are identical with this ultimate reality.
A popular saying in Hinduism is "Atman is Brahmam!" In fact, all living things are Brahmam at their innermost core! In addition, instead of ritual sacrifice, intuitive knowledge of the oneness of all things came to be endorsed as the way of contact with divine reality. Also found in the Upanishads is the teaching that the material world (including our conscious personalities) is less than fully real. The word "maya" is used to designate the power by which God, or ultimate reality, brought this less than real world into existence.
Though this monistic or pantheistic philosophy provided a comprehensive intellectual understanding of the divine reality for Hindus, it lacked a strong appeal to the heart. As a result, just before the dawn of the Christian era, a great transformation occurred in Hinduism, spurred particularly by the writing of the Bhagavad Gita, the "New Testament" of Hinduism. The Gita recounts the exploits of the god Krishna and emphasizes the importance of personal devotion to a god as the essence of true religion, rather than intuitive knowledge of the oneness of all things.
From this time forward, these two major streams of Hindu thought and practice grew and developed--the more intellectual and philosophical stream that emphasized the oneness of all things, and the stream that emphasized personal devotion to a god. The latter stream has predominated among the common people of India to this present day. Chief among the gods so venerated are Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer). In India there are many temples devoted to Shiva (or to one of his "wives," such as Kali), or to Vishnu (or to one of his ten incarnations known as avatars). All in all, it is often stated that Hinduism claims 330 million gods and goddesses!
One might wonder how such a multitude
of beliefs about the divine could possibly co-exist in one religion. But
they do. There is, however, a widespread recognition that none of the
personal gods of Hinduism is in any way exclusive or unique. They are
all simply different ways of conceiving of the one reality behind all
Foundational Hindu Beliefs
The first of these core beliefs is the doctrine of karma. The word karma means "action." But the religious concept has more to do with the results or consequences of actions. The doctrine of karma states that every thought and action results in certain consequences born by the actor or thinker. If a person lies or steals, he will be wronged in some way in the future. Hindus believe that all suffering is due to one's own past actions, in this or in a previous life. Some believe that karma implies strict determinism or fatalism (that one must simply resign himself to living out his karma). Most, however, believe that though our present is determined by our past, nonetheless we can influence our future by conducting ourselves in a proper manner in the present.
Some have equated the doctrine of karma with the statement in Galatians 6:7 that "whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." It is certainly a biblical teaching that our actions have consequences -- for good or ill. But this is not the same as believing that every experience in life is a consequence of one's own past actions. This is definitely not a biblical idea.
The second core belief of Hinduism is the doctrine of reincarnation, or transmigration of souls, called samsara. Since it is impossible that all of one's karma be experienced in one lifetime, the Hindu scriptures state that after death individual souls are "reborn" in this world, in another body -- human or otherwise. The nature of one's rebirth is determined by the karma resulting from past actions.
Closely associated with the doctrine of reincarnation is that of ahimsa or non-injury to living things. This is the core moral value of Hinduism, the protection of all life (which is ultimately divine), and is the main reason why some Hindus are vegetarian.
Also associated with reincarnation is the caste system. According to Hindu teaching, there are four basic castes or social classes (and thousands of sub-groups within the castes). Each has its own rules and obligations pertaining to nearly every facet of life. At the top are the Brahmins or priests. Second in rank are the Kshatriyas or warriors and rulers. Third are the Vaisyas or merchants and farmers. Below these are the Shudras or laboring class. Salvation is possible only for the top three castes, who are called the "twice born." Outside the caste system are the untouchables or outcastes. Though outlawed in India in the late 1940s, many in the countryside are still considered outcastes.
One's caste is determined at birth by his or her own personal karma. Attempts, therefore, to bring about social change or to improve one's social position would appear to run contrary to the law of karma and the caste system.
It's little wonder that the chief aim
of the Hindu is to experience release or liberation from this cycle of
death and rebirth caused by karma. Hindus call this liberation moksha.
Hindu Ways Of Salvation
We noted earlier that the chief aim in Hinduism is to gain release from the cycle of reincarnation caused by karma -- the consequences of past actions, in this or in previous lives! Now we want to look at the primary ways in which followers of Hinduism seek to achieve this salvation -- liberation from earthly existence.
Before discussing the three primary ways of salvation in Hinduism, we must mention the four goals of life permissible to Hindus. Hinduism recognizes that in the course of many lifetimes people may legitimately give themselves to any of these goals. The first is the goal of pleasure or enjoyment, particularly through love and sexual desire. This is called kama. The second legitimate aim in life is for wealth and success. This is called artha. The third aim in life is moral duty or dharma. One who gives himself to dharma renounces personal pleasure and power, to seek the common good. The final aim in life, however, is moksha-- liberation from the cycle of lives in this material world, and entrance into Nirvana.
Hindus recognize three possible paths to moksha, or salvation. The first is the way of works or karma yoga. This is a very popular way of salvation and lays emphasis on the idea that liberation may be obtained by fulfilling one's familial and social duties thereby overcoming the weight of bad karma one has accrued. The Code of Manu lists many of these rules. Most important among them are certain rituals conducted at various stages of life.
The second way of salvation is the way of knowledge or jnana yoga. The basic premise of the way of knowledge is that the cause of our bondage to the cycle of rebirths in this world is ignorance or avidya. According to the predominant view among those committed to this way, our ignorance consists of the mistaken belief that we are individual selves and not one with the ultimate divine reality called Brahmam. It is this ignorance that gives rise to 1000 our bad actions which result in bad karma. Salvation is achieved through attaining a state of consciousness in which we realize our identity with Brahmam. This is achieved through deep meditation, often as a part of the discipline of yoga.
The third and final way of salvation
is the way of devotion or bhakti yoga. This is the way most
favoured by the common people of India; it satisfies the longing for a
more emotional and personal approach to religion. It is self-surrender
to one of the many personal gods and goddesses of Hinduism. Such
devotion is expressed through acts of worship, puja, at the
temple, in the home, through participation in the many festivals in
honour of such gods, and through pilgrimages to one of the numerous holy
sites in India. In the way of devotion, the focus is one obtaining the
mercy and help of a god in finding release from the cycle of
reincarnation. Some Hindus conceive of ultimate salvation as absorption
into the one divine reality, with all loss of individual existence.
Others conceive of it as heavenly existence in adoration of the personal
A Christian Response to Hinduism
What should be the appropriate Christian perspective on this religion of the East that is making such an impact in the West? At the outset we must say that as Christians we concur with Hindus on a couple of points. Hindus are correct in their recognition that all is not right with the world and with human existence in it. They are correct as well in suggesting that the ultimate remedy to the human dilemma is spiritual in nature. Beyond these two points, however, there's little common ground between Hinduism and Christianity. Let's note just a few of the more important areas of divergence.
First, Hinduism lacks any understanding that God created this world for a good purpose. It is common for Hindus to speak of God bringing the universe into existence simply as a "playful" exercise of His power. Also lacking is a conception of God as infinitely holy and righteous and as the One to whom we as His creatures are accountable for the way we conduct our lives.
The second major area of contrast between Hinduism and Christianity is the conception of human nature and of the source of our estrangement from God. According to Hindu teaching, man is divine at the core of his being. He is one with God! The problem is that man is ignorant of this fact. He is deceived by his focus on this temporal and material world, and this ignorance gives rise to acts that result in bad karma and traps us in the cycle of reincarnation.
According to the biblical teaching, however, the source of our alienation from God (and ultimately of all that is imperfect in this world), is not ignorance of our divinity, but our sinful rebellion against God and His purpose for our lives.
This leads to the third and final point of contrast -- the way of salvation. According to most Hindu teaching, salvation from the cycle of reincarnation is achieved by our own efforts -- whether through good works, meditation, or devotion to a deity. According to the Bible, however, our spiritual need is for deliverance from God's judgement on our sin and for restoration to a life under His direction and care. This salvation can be provided only by God's gracious and undeserved action in our behalf.
It is true that in certain Hindu groups there is a similar emphasis on God's grace (probably as a result of past Christian influence). But even here, there is a major distinction. The Hindu teaching about grace sees no need for an atonement for sin, but simply offers forgiveness without any satisfaction of the judgement on sin required by a holy God.
In contrast, the Christian gospel is this: God the Son became a man, died a sacrificial death on the cross, making real forgiveness of real sins against the real God possible to those who place complete trust in Christ. All who do so can experience true forgiveness, know God and His purpose for their lives, and have the certainty of eternal life with Him!
For a list of resources on Hinduism, and on sharing the gospel with our Hindu friends, contact us here at Probe!
© 1994 Probe Ministries, Used By Permission
Rick Rood is the former director of publications at Probe Ministries, and now serves as a hospital chaplain. He is a graduate of Seattle Pacific University (B.A., History) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.). He has pursued Ph.D. studies in theology at D.T.S. and has served as pastor, been a seminary instructor, and has worked for a number of years in ministry to international students. Rick and his wife Polly are the parents of two young adults.
Probe Ministries is a
non-profit corporation whose mission is to reclaim the primacy of
Christian thought and values in Western culture through media,
education, and literature. In seeking to accomplish this mission, Probe
provides perspective on the integration of the academic disciplines and
historic Christianity. In addition, Probe acts as a clearing house,
communicating the results of its research to the church and society at
large. Further information about Probe's materials and ministry may be
obtained by writing to:
Right from the beginning of creation man has desired to know about God. The more religiously inclined thinkers actively sought this knowledge through meditation, contemplation, and even through mystical experiences. However, human methods are inadequate to reach God, or to discover detailed information about Him. Thus human attempts in this matter have always failed.
At the same time, the Creator-God did not keep himself aloof from mankind. Rather, He made Himself known to man right from the beginning of human existence. He gave General Revelation in nature, and Special Revelation through the Bible.
All of the above can put together into three categories: Knowledge Of God Through Human Speculation, Through General Revelation, and Through Special Revelation.
I-Human Speculation: A large amount of information available about God is the result of mere human speculation. Since man's wisdom has totally been corrupted by sin, the result of human speculation about God is also corrupted by his sinful mind and method of thinking. Thus NO definite conclusion about God and His actions can be obtained through mere human speculation or contemplation.
A survey of various man-made religions would immediately reveal that there is a great diversity of opinion in them about God, often contradicting each other. What's more, even within individual man-made religions and philosophies, their viewpoints about God are often inconsistent and contradictory. Further, when man speaks about God from his human wisdom, the result is often a devaluated God. Such Gods are nothing more than highly elevated humans. Consequently one can note that in many non-Christian religions their gods are as sinful (or more) than their human creators are.
Since the human wisdom is totally corrupted by sin, not only is the consequent human speculation about God totally erroneous, but also all the religious books written by human wisdom are similarly corrupted. While an occasional statement here and there in them might correspond with what is said in the Bible, this similarity of accident does not elevate these books or these statements to the level of Bible (divine revelation).
2-General Revelation: God being love, He has not left mankind in darkness. He loves every human being in spite of human sin. He thus provides them enough information for them to realize that there is a God. This information also helps them to realize that this God is to be feared and obeyed.
General Revelation comes through the mighty creation of God seen all around. It also comes from man's observation of God's sustaining power. All of this is enough to make man aware of the existence of God, and to create in him a desire to know God. Further, when any person desires to know the real God, the omniscient and righteous God would surely make information available about Himself to this seeker.
While the General Revelation is available to every person of every generation and religion, in itself it is not sufficient to lead a person to salvation through Christ. In fact the General Revelation does not contain any information about the gospel or about Lord Jesus Christ. Thus it is not possible for any person to receive salvation merely on the basis of general revelation.
The purpose of General Revelation is to create God-consciousness in humans. While this God-consciousness fills certain people with a sense of their own inadequacy, they still need to be introduced to the gospel before they can be saved. This gospel of salvation comes to the unsaved people only from those people to whom God has entrusted the information through Specific (Special) Revelation.
3-Specific (Special) Revelation: Specific Revelation always comes directly from God. Man's human understanding or wisdom is not the source for this type of revelation. Nor can this type of revelation be obtained by the use of mere human wisdom -- howsoever great this wisdom might be.
It is a doctrinal FALLACY to believe that people outside God's chosen ones received spiritual light or revelations through their meditation or human insight. It is a false doctrine and heresy to claim that sages, rishis, or ascetics of the ancient world received "insights" into spiritual matters through their own efforts. Apart from the chosen people in the Old and the New Testament, Special Divine Revelation has NOT been given to anyone else.
In the Bible we notice that God chose people from the line of Seth up to Methuselah for passing on Divine Revelation. Once Abraham was chosen by God, all revelations came through people of the chosen race. Subsequently this information was written down by Moses and others in the Canon of the Old Testament. This Canon came to completion with the writing of Malachi. After four hundred years came the New Testament Canon which was written and completed in less than one century.
Whether during the Old Testament period or during the New Testament times, only God's chosen people were entrusted with divine revelation. NO other people, family, or religious seekers were entrusted with divine revelation. Of course, God in His mercy gave his message to many seekers belonging to various cultural groups (like the Ethiopian Eunuch), but such message was always sent through a messenger belonging to the chosen groups. The chosen people were the godly descendants of Seth to Methuselah, the descendants of Noah, and finally the descendants of Abraham. In the New Testament period the messengers were all Born-again Christian believers.
Since many people moved into pagan
religions after having their origin among God's people, they might have
carried some knowledge of Biblical truth with them. These truths might
have found a place in their religious books. But this mutilated human
version (if such version exists anywhere) is NOT to be equated with
divine revelation. Further, what people of other religions discovered
through their efforts is also NOT to be equated with divine revelation.
No amount of human speculation can discover doctrinal truths, and thus
the occasional similarity between statements in the bible and statements
in other books does not make those non-Christian books divinely
The human mind is TOTALLY blinded by sin. It knows nothing except rebellion against God. Thus anything that comes out of pure human speculation about God and His nature is bound to be wrong. Thus whatever people of other religions write about God on the basis of purely human intuition or (human wisdom) is bound to be totally erroneous. Any similarity with the Christian scripture is only a COINCIDENCE, and such similarities are not to be overemphasized.
On the other hand, God has provided enough indications in nature to show that He exists and controls it all. Anyone with reasonable intelligence can thus come to a realization that God exists. However, after reaching this point of God-consciousness, that person needs to come in touch with Specific Revelation (the Bible) so as to know truths about the divine way of salvation. General Revelation does NOT lead anyone to salvation (or even to information about salvation).
Specific Revelation is contained in the Bible, and Bible alone. NO other religious book in the world was inspired by God. None of them contain inspired information about salvation or Jesus Christ. There might be some accidental similarities between the statements in the Bible and books of other religions. This might be accidental, ore even the corrupt form of truth found in the Bible. Alternately it might be pure human speculation that somehow look somewhat similar to some statements of the Bible. However, such statements are a mere human imitation of divine truth, and they are NOT inspired by the Holy Spirit.
There is NO specific revelation from
God outside the Bible. Information about salvation or Lord Jesus Christ
are NOT available in any book other than the Bible. Claiming that books
of other religions (or even parts of such books) are inspired like the
Bible is an ERROR and a HERESY. Whether such teachings are spread
directly or indirectly, believers should reject and even SUPPRESS such
teachings. Specific Revelation from God is found only in the Bible, and
nowhere outside it !!
No sooner a Christian begins to compare the Christian faith with the non-Christian faith he begins to see many striking similarities. For example almost all faiths talk about God, sin, punishment, salvation, afterlife, and good deeds. Many statements on these subjects, and more, are very similar to what the Bible says. Even in those cases where there is some divergence, the similarity has puzzled many believers. They not only wonder about the origin of these similarities, but also come to the deduction that it can be explained only by assuming that both have come from the same divine source.
Having said the above, eventually many of these Christians take another leap of thought and claim that both the Bible as well as the non-Christian scriptures are equally inspired, so that valid spiritual information can be obtained from both. This then leads many to take another leap and declare that information about salvation is available in every religion, so that people of any and every religion can be saved provided they understand their scriptures correctly. This kind of a blasphemous thinking has already begun at least among some Christians in India, and because of their ignorance of Bible, many people are attracted to this error.
The above teaching ultimately results in the stand that evangelism is unnecessary and even sinful. They feel that evangelism forcefully plucks out a person from his family and places him in a totally alien society, doing gross violence to families and societies. Thus they encourage Christians to pray for these people and also to advise them to discover the path of salvation as recorded by God in their own religions. The error in this view is obvious because then all the commands in the Bible for preaching the gospel to non-Christians are neutralized.
In Mark 16:15 Jesus said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." In I Corinthians 1:23 Paul says," But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;" It is obvious that not only have Christians got to preach the gospel, but also that they have to keep doing it in spite of this being a stumblingblock to people of non-Christian faiths. Nowhere does the Bible indicate that people would be saved through the methods of salvation found in their own faiths. Further, the Bible is very clear in that there is salvation in none outside Christ. According to Acts 4:12, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
Obviously, there is a serious flaw with all the attempts to find ways of salvation in non-Christian religions. This error has resulted from the wrong assumption that God has given His inspired revelation outside the Bible also. In turn this erroneous view has developed because of human philosophy and carnal wisdom. Instead of deriving a doctrine from the Bible, many Christians have been developing doctrines based upon their philosophical speculations. This is a gross error. If the human mind were capable of autonomously discovering spiritual truth, there would be no need for the Bible.
Right doctrinal and spiritual understanding comes only when doctrinal deduction firmly is based upon the Bible. It is a lengthy process, and requires that we control our egos and meekly accept all what the Bible says. This also requires that instead of promoting our wishful thinking, we should teach only what the Bible says. It is here that many have gone wrong.
Instead of deducing doctrines from our
human wisdom, we will look to the Bible for the answers. Let us see what
the Bible says about non-Christian scriptures and divine revelation:
Bible gives much attention to the subject of divine revelation, and repeatedly affirms where this revelation has been recorded. The Israelites at the time of Moses were passing through a situation similar to ours at the dawn of the twenty-first century. In Egypt and then in Canaan there was much mingling between God's people and the pagans. These societies were undergoing fast changes, which happens to be a time when there is little time to reflect upon spiritual realities. In such times as this, there is great attraction to pagan religions and philosophies.
A believer instinctively knows that such attraction is wrong and also contrary to the commands of the scripture which forbids God's people from intermarriage, inter-religious activities, and the embracing of pagan faiths. These commands in the Old Testament are so blunt that many of them feel the need to soften this sharpness by pointing out to the many similarities between the Jewish faith and the surrounding religions.
The attraction was so strong that in more than 400 places God warned them not to be ensnared by pagan gods. For example, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me", Exodus 20:3. "And in all [things] that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth", Exodus 23:13. "Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and [one] call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice", Exodus 34:15.
Since an attraction and appreciation for the pagan gods is the first stage in their eventual worship, Jehovah emphatically declared in the Old Testament that only He is the true God. There are several hundred places where this statement is repeated. Similarly, the Old Testament reminded people not to be attracted and influenced by the Oracles of the pagan gods, which were available in plenty. Since these utterances came with plenty of fearsome religious shows in their temples, there was a possibility for the Jews to be attracted to them as though they are God's word. There are many examples of Jews who went at times of crisis to sources other than the true God for hearing a supernatural voice. Saul and the witch at Endore is one such example.
Because the temptation to label all of it as God's word was overwhelming, God emphatically told the Israelites that only the message coming from Him through His chosen Jewish prophets and spokesmen was revelation. Thus the Pentateuch alone there are 420 references to the fact that only what God revealed to His chosen prophets was true revelation. The same idea is found in throughout the Old Testament, and no less than 3800 times it says that only the specific revelation recorded through the Jewish prophets was to be considered the Scripture. Considering anything outside of this to be the revealed word of God was blasphemy.
Further, the Old Testament repeatedly affirmed that the word of God was given only to (and through) the Jewish people. In Ezra 9:4 we read, "Then were assembled unto me every one hat trembled at the words of the God of Israel." The same idea is affirmed in the New Testament by Lord Jesus and the apostles who identify ONLY the law and the prophets as the word of God. (Matt. 7:12, 22:40; Luke 16:16, 29, 31, 24:27, John 1:45; Acts 13:15; Rom. 3:21, etc.).
As we progress further in the New Testament, the apostles speak about the progressive nature of revelation, but do not recognize anything outside the Bible as revelation (Hebrews 1:1). Interestingly, this was the period when the Greek philosophy was at its peak. Many things in this philosophy bore close resemblance with biblical statements. These resemblances were so deceptive that many of the third and fourth century Church Fathers made a lot of compromise between Greek philosophy and biblical theology. However, none of the inspired apostles fell into this error. They never endorsed the seeming Christian elements in the Greek philosophy, and nor did they accept that there is revelation outside the Old and New Testaments.
When the time the book of Revelation was written, a strict warning was issued that none should add anything to the Canon. "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book", Rev. 22:18-19. In the light of these verses, trying to find the revealed words of God outside the Bible is definitely an attempt to add to the word of God.
The seriousness with which the above
verses warn against this should caution believers not to propagate the
false doctrine that God's revealed word is found outside the Bible also.
Further, when this kind of an erroneous doctrine finds acceptance at
least among some of us, and when this kind of doctrine becomes popular,
it is time for each one of us to take notice of our own failures. If
each one of us was faithful to the Bible, and if each one of us were
teaching the correct doctrine of divine revelation to our younger ones,
such doctrines would not have taken root among us.
Bible speaks very clearly about which books are to be identified as inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is also very clear about the people through whom the inspired word was written down. Initially they were Jews, God's chosen people, and finally they were Church Age believers. No book (or portions of books) outside this range is to be elevated to the status of inspired word of God.
Every religious book outside of this range is ultimately the result of only human wisdom. Some of the books which came through "dictation" might even be the work of demons because the writers of such books accept that these were not their personal work. There are dozens of religious books about which their writers acknowledge direct supernatural help or dictation. Obviously, any quotation from these books would be equivalent to the doctrine of demons.
For example, the Theosophical society has many books produced through the dictation of a demon by the name of Dhwaj Khul. Interestingly, the Theosophists give great lip service to the Bible, and many statements in their religious books are similar to statements found in the Bible. Yet quoting from them is quoting from the devil because they came from the source of evil spirits. About quoting from sources that are demonic, the Bible has the following to say: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils", I Tim. 4:1
The religious systems and gods and goddesses created by human wisdom were to be rejected by God's children. Believers were forbidden from even mentioning the names of these alien gods. "And in all [things] that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth", Exodus 23:13. In the light of this, the liberal way in which many present-day Christian writers quote from non-Christian scriptures, and the frequency with which they mention one or more of pagan gods as bearing the likeness of Christ are activities strictly forbidden by the Bible.
Further, in the light of what the scripture say comparing similar religious practices for the purpose of establishing relationship is also wrong. Though the outer practices might be similar, yet they are totally contrary to each others in essence. Thus in the matter of comparing biblical sacrifices with pagan one the following should be noticed: "But I [say], that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils", I Cor. 10:20.
Similarly, in the matter of comparing
pagan gods and incarnations with Jesus Christ, the following statement
of the Bible should be noticed: For though there be that are called
gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords
many), But to us [there is but] one God, the Father, of whom [are] all
things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom [are] all
things, and we by him", I Cor. 8:5-6. This is a reminder that
believers should not hastily compare the God of the Bible (Father, Son,
or the Holy Spirit) with the gods of non-Christian religions.
Having said the above, several questions still remain. For example, someone might feel that though there is no inspired revelation outside the Bible, yet there might be some highly valuable or prifitable religious books ! Some Christians might feel that non-Christian religions have produced some of the greatest sages and acetics the world has ever seen.
Many of these sages or Maharshis have produced vast volumes of philosophical and theological discourses. Often the work of a single sage might be more voluminous than the entire Bible. Many of the statements in these books might be very similar or even identical to what is found in the Bible. Thus is it not possible that they were able to discover, through personal investigation, the same spiritual truths that are recorded in the Bible. Further, should we not give them the status of revelation seeing that they have discovered the same truths that are found in the Bible. As to whether the truths recorded outside the Bible are the same in essence with what is found in the Bible, we would discuss in another sections. Here we will concentrate upon the discovery of human truth by great thinkers and ascetic through insight, meditation, and reflection.
Bible emphasizes in several places that spiritual things are foolish for the natural man. According to I Corinthians 2:14, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned". In other words, of his own wisdom natural man does not receive divine information. On the other hand, divine message look foolish to him and therefore he would not appreciate, record, or propagate them. Whatever he propagates has to look wise to him. But anything that looks wise to a human heart is contrary to the Scripture.
Further, in several places the scripture reminds that things having their origin in human mind is totally corrupt and contrary to God. "And GOD saw that the wickedness of man [was] great in the earth, and [that] every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [was] only evil continually", Gen. 6:5.
Even if a man seems like searching God, here is what the Bible has to say, "The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, [and] seek God. They are all gone aside, they are [all] together become filthy: [there is] none that doeth good, no, not one", Ps. 14:2-3. "There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God", Rom. 3:11. If anyone thinks that it is possible for human mind to understand doctrines or obtain revelation which is the "mind of Christ", here is what the scripture says, "For my thoughts [are] not your thoughts, neither [are] your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts", Is. 55:8-9
All this attempt to elevate the works of even the greatest sages and ascetics to the level of the Bible is futile. No human can perceive divine information through his own efforts, insights, or meditation. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable [are] his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor ? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again", Rom. 11:33-35
The human mind is so corrupt and the
human wisdom is so marred by sin that no human howsoever great can
discover or perceive spiritual truths through any human process of
meditation. Thus once again it is erroneous and even heretical to
suggest that spiritual truths identical with that of the Bible have been
recorded in books produced by non-Christian sages and ascetics.
It is very tempting to tell the non-Christian that their sages have written things that are found in the Bible also. In fact some Bengali Protestant Christians started this approach about fifty years ago, but most evangelical theologians and teachers opposed this approach. They pointed out not only the error in this approach, but also the grave deviations that would eventually result through this approach.
Fifty years from that beginning, today we stand at a time in history when the doctrinal knowledge of people has become minimum, and the dangers pointed out by our forefathers have come out to be true. People who were in the habit of referring to religious books of others have now totally abandoned the Bible. They show more loyalty to the religious books of Hindus rather than to the Bible. They even distort biblical truths so as to bring them in conformity with Hindus.
This is exactly the danger when we
fail to distinguish between divine revelation and human speculation.
With the increasing availability of non-Christian religious books in the market, more and more Christians have begun to study them. This practice was hastened by the influence of two groups of people, the theological radicals and the universalist Hindus.
The theological radicals all over the world are the illegitimate children, born out of the unfortunate church-state marriage in Germany. Because of historical coincidences, all major theological institutions in that country were government-run institutions. Consequently, Bible colleges were run more like government institutions, and less like the house of God. This resulted in many deviations.
Like the Tower of Babel conceived by Nimrod the ruler, Government institutions can never be the custodians of divine truth. Human mind is enmity against God, the ultimate output would always be a rebellion against divine truth. The same thing happened in Germany. Gradually the theological colleges became staffed with highly learned professors who were not even born again ! A lavish amount of research money was available to them, so they set out to publish books with a revenge. These books flooded the whole theological world and influenced entire generations of theological students worldwide. This is how the cancer of infidelity spread even among evangelical theological students.
One contention of the radical movement was that there is nothing original or divine in the Bible. According to them, all world religions including the Christian faith had their origin and development through a lengthy process of evolution. In this process, the Christian faith borrowed almost all its theological ideas from other religions, having nothing unique to itself. This idea then motivated them to study other religions with a reverence that should have been reserved for the Christian faith.
Consequently, theologically radical colleges give great emphasis to studying religious books of other religions placing them on par with the Bible, and even above it. This group has done a lot to devaluate the Bible and also to elevate the non-Christian books in the minds of Christians. The influence of these groups have resulted in Christian placing Shivalinga, the sign of Oum, and other symbols in churches and Bible seminaries. It is the same influence which cause a theological college in Bangalore to install a statue of Lord Jesus sitting in lotus position upon a coiled snake, reminiscent of the Hindu gods.
The influence of these theological mercenaries have been quite pervasive, and that is the first factor which has brought non-Christian religious books into Christian churches. The second group which attracted Christians are the Universalists Hindus.
Universalism is the idea that all religions lead to the same destination, and that all religions should be respected equally. With this mindset, many learned Hindu scholars and sanyasis have been quoting liberally from the Bible. A notable example is the widely available book, The Autobiography Of A Yogi. Also, almost all the major Hindu reformist group leaders quote liberally from the Bible. This has come as a pleasant surprise to many Christians, who have never paused to examine the way in which these people are using the Bible to justify their own brand of philosophy and theology.
With the very visible work of the two groups above, a lot of Christians have become interested in non-Christian religious books, especially that of the Hindus. Numerous quotations taken from the Hindu scriptures have even become well-known among Christians. For example, almost every educated Christian today knows the Hindu prayer, ASATO MA SADGAMAYA, TAMASO MA JYOTIRGAMAYA, MRUTYORMAM AMRUTMAGAMAYA (Lead me from falsehood to truth, from darkness to light, and from mortality to immortality). Even the casual Christian notices some similarities between at least some of these statements and the Bible. Thus arises the question of their status.
If a passage in the non-Christian religious book is similar with passages found in the Bible, are they proclaiming the same truth. Further, if the biblical passage is inspired by the Holy Spirit, can we deny the same status to the identical passages in the non-Christian scriptures ? The questions is reasonable, and a proper answer is indeed needed.
Accidental And Superficial Similarities: Though similarities are found between statements in the Bible and almost all other religions, the most explored area is the Christianity/Hinduism relationship. Thus we will concentrate mainly upon this subject in this chapter. However, it should be kept in mind that what is said here about Christianity/Hinduism applies equally to Christianity and all other religions.
First of all, some of the similarities are only mere coincidences. When two people speak voluminously on any given subject, they are bound to make some similar statements even if they are speaking from totally opposing viewpoints. Anyone who has heard a lengthy debate knows this fact. In such cases, the similarities are mere accidents, and they should not be used to conclude that the speakers agree with each other in essential matters. Rather, those accidental similarities should be examined in the light of the total position of the speakers before one can come to any conclusions.
The same is the case with many Christian/Hindu similarities. The religious books of both groups speak on a large number of common subjects. The Hindus have produced literally of thousands of philosophical books, all having the status of holy books. Thus some accidental similarity is inevitable, but that is not the mark of Holy Spirit's inspiration of these Hindu books. When those quotations are taken in the light of the entire thesis of the Hindu writers, it would become clear that that there is no actual agreement between them and the Bible.
For example, the Hindu scriptures talk about God, salvation, condemnation, heaven, earth, sin, justification, afterlife, incarnation, and many other subjects of interest to Christians also. But just because they happen to use these words does not mean that both of them are talking in substance about the same subject. For the Christian, God is a person while for the Hindu his god is impersonal. The Christian talks of salvation in the sense of escaping from condemnation, hell, and a new life. His personality and individuality are not obliterated. For a Hindu, salvation means being merged back into the Ultimate Reality (Para-Brahma), who himself is an impersonal cosmic force and not a person. So while the Christian idea of salvation is speaking about an individual rising to the most blessed personal state, the Hindu salvation is talking about going out of personal existence. Both of them are not one and the same.
The same divide is seen on whatever theological subject that we talk. Thus the first category of similarity seen between the Bible and Hindu scriptures is mere accidental coincidence. Further, most often this is only a coincidence in words, not of ideas. Thus attributing to Holy Spirit's inspiration to such passages is not only a theological heresy, but also an intellectual stupidity. Even the Hindus know that. For example, some of the books published by Geeta Press Gorakhpur and the Ramakrishna Mission in Madras have analyzed and pointed out these differences beneath the seeming outward similarities. If they are able to see the difference, we who have available to us the illumination of the Holy Spirit ought to see these things far more clearly and insightfully.
Similarities When Context Is Ignored: we have an atheist acquaintance who keeps intimidating young and undiscerning Christians by claiming that the Bible itself says that there is no God. On being challenged, he promptly produces a Bible proudly and shows two underlined passages that say THERE IS NO GOD. This silences plenty of our people, mostly those who are not acquainted with the Bible. What is worse is that many of these defeated Christian young people do not even try to check the whole passage, to the delight of the atheist.
The context in which a statement is made has significant effect upon its final meaning. The full passage here says that "The fool hath said in his heart that there is no God." Had the young person taken a few moments more to examine the complete verse, he would not have been so dejected! The same is the case with many quotations from the Hindu scriptures that are attributed a Bible-like status.
As we write this chapter, we have in front of us an English tract titled SACRIFICE, published by GLS, Bombay. This publishing house and many other Christian publishing houses and even individual Christians have published this tract in Hindi, Telegu, Malayalam, and numerous other languages. (This little pamphlet is the initiator of the Heretical thinking among Christians, today known as the Prajapati Movement. It is already on the way to become what can rightly be called the Prajapati Cult).
The first page of this pamphlet contains nine quotations from Hindu scriptures, all about sacrifices. This seems quite interesting and exciting to the naive Christian who all the while thought that only the Bible speaks about sacrifice. This tract says that the Hindu scriptures also speak about sacrifices for salvation, and the Christian swallows this proposal hook, sinker, and the pole.
What the Christians overlook is the fact that the context is not given, nor are the source references cited. If the location were given (Book, chapter, verses), then it would be easy for anyone to check the context. Though the author has successfully prevented investigators from checking the context, a close look at the quotations themselves reveal that their context is missing. Of the nine quotations, most of them contain only THREE words or less. Any intelligent person knows that there are no sentences with so few words, specially of theological significance. For these words to express meaning, the remaining words from the FULL sentence have to become known, which the author successfully hides. This is exactly similar to what our atheist acquaintance has been doing.
In essence, many of the alleged similarities are not similarities at all. They are just one to three Sanskrit words forcefully detached out of their context and presented to a mostly Christian audience that does not know the original language. Then the biased Christian interpreter interprets these fragments and gives them a Biblical slant, and a lot of people are trapped into believing that the Hindu scriptures speak exactly what the Bible speaks !! This trick becomes obvious when one notices that the three-word Sanskrit quotations are explained using full-length sentences of our language !
This is jugglery, not Bible
exposition. Using this approach anyone can prove anything, so it is
dishonest and unethical.
1. Similarity Because Of Blindness: Modern man is very intelligent, and he is able to detect even minute things. Yet in the field of establishing a link between the Bible and the non-Christian scriptures most people close their eyes. Consequently, differences are overlooked and only similarities are mentioned.
Some people go a step further, just overlook the difference, and announce that two passages are similar. For an example, we quote from the well-known tract known as SACRIFICE. According to this tract, the nine features of the sacrifice mentioned in the Rig Veda are fulfilled totally and completely in Lord Jesus. What this tract fails to mention is that the Rig Veda mentions HUNDREDS of characteristics of sacrifices, and that all of these are contrary to what was found in Christ.
If a hand full of features are selected from hundreds, anyone can prove anything by a doing a careful selection. This is not honesty, but pure deception. This is what everyone calls a white lie. On the other hand if the Rig Veda had mentioned only a total of nine characteristics (and no more), and if all of them were fulfilled in Christ, we could says that Rig Veda points to Christ.
The same selective argument can be used to prove that Rig Veda has been talking about Muhammad Sahib of Moslems, Buddha, or even Mahatma Gandhi. This is exactly the same false method used by Joseph Edamaruku to allegedly prove that Christ was not a historical person. Selective description and proof has been a well-tried weapon in the hands of infidels, atheists, antisocial elements, and all kinds of wrongdoers. While this is alright for their ethics, this practice is not appropriate for a Christian.
2. Similarity Because Of Imposed Christian Hermeneutics: Every statement has a context, and a proper understanding of it is essential for correct interpretation. If the context is ignored, any kind of meaning can be imposed upon what is said. That is why Biblical Hermeneutics is taught in all good Bible schools.
Muslims very zealously quote from the Bible and interpret according to their outlook. Christians do not accept this approach. Similarly, there are hundreds of Hindu gurus in India who quote from the Bible and try to establish Hindu doctrines. Then there are palmists who quote Job 37:7, "He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work", and claim that this proves that Palmistry is a God-made science.
No sensible Christian would every accept this kind of distortion. He would insist that every statement of the Bible should be interpreted only in the light of the Bible. It is only commonsense that Bible should be interpreted under biblical hermeneutics, while the Hindu scriptures should be interpreted under the Hindu hermeneutics. Further, since there are several competing philosophies and theologies in Hinduism, each religious book should be interpreted only according to the schools of philosophy to which it belongs.
What Christian often do is to take a fragmentary statement from the non-Christian scriptures, give it a Christian colour, and then interpret it according to Christian hermeneutics. This is as unethical as the Hindus who try to interpret the Bible for justifying their religion.
Let us take the well-known quotation: ASATO MA SADGAMAYA, TAMASO MA JYOTIGRGAMAYA, MRUTYORMAM AMRUTAMGAMAYA, which being interpreted means, lead me from falshood to truth, from darkness to light, and from mortality to immortality. These sentences look very attractive, and they express a yearning in the hearts of our Hindu neighbours. This quote can even be used as a starting point to demonstrate that only Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. However, some people go much beyond that approach.
There are many Christians who quote this passage and claim that it is identical in meaning and in spirit with what the Bible says. That is false because they have assumed that the actual meaning and intention of this slouch is what is obtained by applying a Christian outlook or hermeneutics to it. That is totally wrong. The person who originally spoke it, and the scripture in which it is recorded have already assigned a definite meaning to this sloka. Every statement has to be interpreted in its context, and therefore Christians have no right to detach this sloka from its context and then claim that this statement has meaning identical to what is seen in the Bible.
When the Hindu scripture says ASATO MA SADGAMAYA, it is not saying that God should lead the devotee from all falsehoods into truth. Rather, it is saying that he wants to leave the false perception of creation and move to a true perception. The falsehood, according to him, is the idea that man and God are different from each other. The truth, according to him, is the idea that man, the universe, and God are all one. By TRUTH the Hindu here means the Advaita truth that says AHAM BRAHMASMI, TAT TWAM ASI: I am God, and likewise you are also God.
Similarly, each sloka or quotation that many Christian friends produce from the Hindu scriptures to show similarity with the Bible actually have meaning totally different from what the Christian friends tell us. The Christian friends are applying Biblical hermeneutics to Hindu scriptures to derive meanings that are totally alien to what those books say. This is a totally deceptive method for interpreting something, and using this a clever person can prove almost anything.
When we do not allow Hindus, Muslims, and Bahais to interpret the Bible according to their hermeneutics, in the like manner we should also be honest enough not to interpret their books according to principles of Christian hermeneutics.
In an era when there is a great burden in the hearts of Christians to lead others to Christ, it is tempting to quote from non-Christian religious books. This tendency started around 1930, and today it has degenerated into a serious heresy. According the present heretical view, just as the Bible is the inspired word of God, in the same way inspired word of God is found in the religious books of others. Close to a hundred books, tracts, and articles have already appeared in the Malayalam language which promote this heretical viewpoint.
According to the Bible, divine revelation, inspired by the Holy Spirit is recorded in Bible and Bible alone. There is no inspired revelation of God outside the Bible. Though God makes Himself known to people through Nature, this knowledge is not sufficient to lead people to Christ. People come to Christ only through the message found in Bible.
Similarity between statements in the Bible and non-Christian books is either accidental or the result of deliberate deception on the part of Christians. There are no actual similarities in essence. Attributing divine inspiration (similar to that of Bible) to any non-Christian scriptures, or even to parts of them, is a serious heresy.
It is dangerous to add to the Bible by claiming that there are divinely inspired or Holy Spirit inspired messages outside the Bible. But since this message has been forgotten by many people in our generation, let this book serve as a warning to every believer who is careless about Bible study. Ignoring you Bible, and remaining ignorant about important doctrines, is a sure way to invite spiritual slavery and curse. May God help each one of us to remain away from the trap and bondage of ignorance.
Dr. Johnson C. Philip is a Christian Apologist based in Ernakulam. He received the degree of Th.D. in Apologetics in 1984 and Ph.D. in Physics (Quantum Chromodynamics) in 1991. He also holds a D.Sc. in Alternative Medicines (2003). So far he has authored more than 2000 popular articles and research papers and more than 50 books in the fields of physics, communication, apologetics, and theology. This includes many Indian "firsts" like a Systematic Theology, Christian Apologetics, and a 4-volume Bible Encyclopedia, both in the Malayalam language.
He is a voting member of numerous professional societies including: Creation Research Society, American Scientific Affiliation, The Society Of Christian Philosophers, Indian Physics Association, etc. He is a founder and life member of the Indian Association Of Physics Teachers.Saneesh Cherian is a Christian Journalist and Researcher in Various branches of Theology including Apologetics. He is the author of well reputed books such as Systematic Theology, Christian Apologetics and an Introduction to Hinduism and Christianity(all in Malayalam). He is an MDiv and DMin, and is working for his Th.D.