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Comparing and Contrasting Islam and Hinduism to Christianity

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Comparing and Contrasting Islam and Hinduism to Christianity

Just as the apostle Paul witnessed to the Greeks, Christians are called to witness to their culture in the same way. The Greeks had an unknown god that they worshipped and Paul taught that Jesus was this unknown god (Acts 17:23). In today's culture, in order for Christians to witness successfully they must understand the two religions that are rapidly growing in popularity; Hinduism and Islam. Christians must understand what god(s)

these religions worship and be able to witness to them without destroying their faith entirely. It is not necessary to destroy their faith entirely because Hinduism and Islam have truths that are similar to Christianity. Being able to point out these similarities between their religions and explaining it is all it takes to witness successfully.

The origins of Hinduism make it the oldest religion in the world. It has two founding civilizations. The earliest civilization dates back to 3000 B.C. and was called the Indus civilization. They were a sophisticated culture and an agricultural society. Since the economy of the Indus relied on the land they would pray to goddesses of fertility to bless the land with good harvest. Bale-stamping and clay art forms showed that the Indus were a religious civilization. One bale-stamping seal previewed the god Shiva (Younger and Younger 14). The second civilization that founded Hinduism was the Rig Vedic civilization dating back to 1500 B.C. The Rig Vedic's composed a hymn book called the Rig Veda, and its language is still recited today by Hindu's even though most do not understand it. Texts written by the Rig Vedic civilization are called "The Veda," and are considered sacred by Hindu society. Both the Indus and Rig Vedic civilizations founded the early Hindu religion by providing art forms which predated gods, and through writing texts that are now sacred.

There are hundreds of gods in Hinduism, but it is widely accepted that there is a Hindu Triad; one supreme being in the form of three gods. Brahman is believed to be the supreme being, a three-in-one god (McDowell and Stewart 283). Brahma is the first god of the triad and is the creator. Vishnu is second in the triad and is the preserver. Shiva is the final god in the triad and is the destroyer. Many of the other gods that Hindu's believe in tend to be consorts, or gods in the triad in other forms that come to assist the earth in times of crisis.

Brahman is not viewed as a god by Hindu's but a "hidden essence underlying the cosmic forces"(Younger and Younger 38). Hindu teachers argue that Brahman exists in and is the very deepest consciousness a person can reach. However the mind cannot reach it alone, but with atman. Atman is the soul or true self. Only by unerstanding ones atman can they enter this deep consciousness.

In the Hindu triad or trinity, the first god is Brahma and is known as the creator. Brahma himself was first born when Brahman, "wishing to create the universe, created water in which he placed his seed. This seed transformed into a golden egg, from which Brahma appeared" (Cristescu 1). With the help of Brahma's wife, Saraswati, the earth was created because she is the "embodiment of nature" (Cristescu 2). Brahma also created the inner creativeness of human nature. He is not as commonly worshiped as the other two gods, Vishnu and Shiva; however statues of him are in Hindu

temples.

Vishnu is the second god in the Hindu Triad and known as the preserver or sustainer. Whenever a crisis arises in the universe, Vishnu aids in solving the problem in the form of a consort or avatar. An avatar is a creature or form that is best suited to solve a problem. For example, Vishnu came to earth as Christ to show the earth brotherly love. Vishnu has also been a fish, a tortoise, boar, or man/lion, a dwarf and even Buddha. Many Hindu's worship different consorts of Vishnu and there are temples that only

worship Vishnu.

Shiva is the final god in the Hindu triad and is known as the destroyer. However, the destruction is necessary for re-birth or reincarnation. Shiva can either bring wealth or

poverty upon someone, depending on how Shiva feels towards the person. The purpose of Shiva in the triad is to continue the cycle of samsara, where one dies only to be reincarnated and again attempt to achieve nirvana through moksha (McDowell and

Stewart 288). There are sects of Hindu's that worship only Shiva.

The religion of Hinduism believes in that the soul of a person is eternal. However the soul is trapped in Samsara. Samsara, also known as reincarnation, is a chain of continual rebirths from one life to another. The deciding factor in what form a person takes in their next life is by their previous karma. Actions that a person performs, whether good or evil, are known as karma. A way of having good karma is by performing dharma. Dharma is the duty of a Hindu believer. It involves showing respect for authority, speaking the truth, not committing murder, performing noble acts, and worshiping the gods (Collier's Encyclopedia 129). Since the soul is trapped by samsara, the goal of the Hindu is to be released from it.

Moksha is the term used by Hindu's of being releasing from samsara. It can be achieved by 3 paths: the path of action, devotion, or knowledge (Colliers Encyclopedia 129). The path of action is the easiest path and relates to dharma. It involves living a life of religious duty by performing ceremonies and living according to dharma. However, this path must be done with having any expression of personal benefit. The

second path to moksha is by the path of devotion. This path involves following one god both publicly and privately. This way, one can become closer to Brahman.

The final path is the most difficult and is the path of knowledge. This path is difficult because it requires meditating on the ultimate truth, and by denying oneself as an independent being but as part of Brahman. All of these paths allow one to achieve moksha and ultimately Nirvana, or salvation, which is release from samsara.

God in both Hinduism and Christianity is the supreme ruler of all the heavens and the earth. God is omnipotent because He created the universe and everything in it is preserved by Him. God is omnipresent because He is everywhere all the time, and no one can escape His presence. God is omniscient because He knows everything and there

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