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Christianity and Hinduism

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Hinduism and Christianity are two religions that have been around for thousands of years. These religions have developed philosophies on certain subjects that can be compared in order to show their similarities and differences. Some of the main subjects that can be reflected upon after learning of the history and fundamentals of these religions are the paths to enlightenment/salvation, the religions' treatment of women, and the afterlife. This paper will give an analytic comparison of these religions through the discussion of these topics.

One of the most important elements of these religions is their history. The Hindu religion disputably began around 2500 years before the Common Era (B.C.E.) in India. It was geographically based along the Indus River, which was called "Hindu" by the Persians who had migrated there. They also called the land Hindustan and it's inhabitants, Hindus. After that, the religion that followed was called Hinduism. Today, almost 800 million people practice the Hindu religion (Worlds, 261)

More than a religion, Hinduism is a way of life and a philosophy that is most concerned with spirituality and enlightenment. The idealism of the Hindu religion comes from the Vedas, which are the Hindu religion's oldest scriptures and are considered to be a direct revelation of God. The Upanishads are writings that take their themes from the Vedas. The Upanishads, however, seem to be more along the lines of allegories that give a fleshy quality to the religion rather than a very dry and out of touch feel that can be found in other religious texts. Lastly, the Bhagavad-Gita is a collection of teachings that are based on the conversation between Arjuna, a soldier for one of two warring families, and Lord Krishna, who appears as Arjuna's charioteer. In these conversations the two discuss everything from the purpose of life to the basis of reality. Much like Christian proverbs, the teachings of Lord Krishna give advice and general good sense and insight on many subjects (Ways, 14)

The main deities of the Hindu religion are Brahma and his two lieutenants named Shiva and Vishnu. The god Vishnu is the creator, and Shiva is the destroyer. One is not looked upon as better than the other. This shows the ultimate realism that the Hindu culture possesses. These are not the only gods in Hindu culture. There are many others and all have special skills and talents. The gods themselves also give birth to the idea of avatars, or the form of god when he or she comes to earth.

Perhaps the most important part of the philosophy of a religion lay in its path to enlightenment. The main ideas of enlightenment come through the Four Ends of Life. The first of these ends is Moksa. Moksa could be considered the realization of separation between the spiritual self and the physical self. It is only through this realization that one can be released from the mortal coil and allowed to spiritual liberty. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan says it is "To inquire into his true self, to live in and from it, to determine by its own energy what it shall be inwardly and what it shall make of the outward circumstances, to (find) the whole life on the power and truth of the spirit..." It is through Moska that the Hindu follower becomes familiar with the existence of the spiritual world. The second of the Four Ends of life is Kama. This end says that we must pass through life in an ethical manner that brings about the most from life. This includes learning its great values as well as experiencing its enjoyments. This protects the Hindu follower from shutting out the physical world entirely. This comes from the premise that there is indeed knowledge that is to be gained from this world and that only participating in the world of spirits cannot complete ones life. Artha is the third end and it deals with wealth and material well-being. It explains that material wealth is important but only under the premise that it should satisfy the needs of the spirit. Radhakrishnan explains, "Lives that are strained and starved cannot be religious except in a rudimentary way. Economic insecurity and individual freedom do not go together." This is an important point because while Hinduism does not encourage the accruement of material wealth, it understands that it is still important to sustain the vessel of the soul. The forth and final end is that of Dharma, which is essentially the virtue of restraint. Hinduism explains that even though the fulfillment of physical desires is an important part spiritual life, they cannot be acted upon in an unrestrained manner. Only through discipline and the application of moral principle can a person appreciate physical pleasure for what it is (Ways, 20)

Although they are great rules to live by, the Four Ends can only be taken as a guideline of life. It is indeed the individual's own path that determines his own ascension to enlightenment. Every person is solely responsible for his own life. This idea is spelled out in the doctrine of Karma. This doctrine can be considered a two-way street in that the quality or ethicality of every deed, good or bad, has some rating of Karma. As Kipling said to Beelzebub, "The sins ye do by two and two, ye shall pay for one by one." The main idea is that good deeds or favors will eventually be repaid at some point in eternity. However, bad deeds or favors will eventually be repaid as well. Therefore, one could say that the accruement of Karma is the basis of enlightenment. Under this foundation, the current life could actually be a product of the Karma of the previous one (Ways, 22)

The Hindu religion has been criticized of having an inequality between the sexes that gives women the short end of the stick. However, Hinduism has a long-standing and respected tradition with women. The best example of this that the first president of India after it gained independence from Britain was Indira Gandhi. In fact, it is a culture whose only word for strength and power, Shakti, is feminine. In Vedic times women and men were equal as far as education and religion was concerned. Women participated in the public sacrifices alongside men. Another interesting fact is that the sun is female and the moon is male. Therefore, he is born of her, dies into her, and is born of her again every month. Also, In Hinduism the deities for knowledge, learning and material wealth are female and not male. With all this it is clear that the Hindu religion embraces women and hold them of high esteem and honor (Women, 1)

The idea of reincarnation is one of the most fundamental aspects of the Hindu religion. In the religion, a soul reincarnates again and again on Earth until it becomes perfect and reunites with the Self. During this process the soul enters into many bodies and assumes many forms and passes

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