Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion, second in size only to Christianity and Islam. As of 2020, there are about one billion Hindus in the world [source]. To help put the enormity of that figure in perspective, consider this: There are about 8 million Jehovah Witnesses in the world [source]. There are about 16 million Mormons [source].
Who founded Hinduism?
Unlike Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, Hinduism does not look back to a human founder. Nor does Hinduism, like many religious movements, have a central religious organization, or holy place.
Where and When Did Hinduism Begin?
Hinduism came into being in the Indus River Valley in modern day Pakistan. The Indus River runs from the Himalayan Mountains in southwest China down through the north western corner of India and down through the center of Pakistan out to the Arabian Sea. That is where Hinduism evolved. The word Hindu is a Persian word that means “the people and culture of the Indus River region.” It would be impossible to recount to you a history of Hinduism or put together a timeline of important events in Hindu history that would allow us to put together any kind of a timeline of historic events. The people in the Hindu culture were not that concerned about chronology, or dating, so there is a real lack of reliable historical data.
The Influence of Hinduism in the West
Despite the fact that Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion, for many in the West, Hinduism is somewhat of a mysterious religion. As mysterious as Hinduism is in the West, Hinduism has greatly influenced our culture in all sorts of ways. How many of you here know of somebody that practices yoga or Eastern meditation? How many of you know of somebody who believes in reincarnation, that all paths lead to God, that man is basically good and full of unlimited potential, that contradicting truth claims can all be true for different individuals, that harming or killing all living creatures is wrong (perhaps it has led them to be a vegan or a vegetarian), that they are one with God? Well, most if not all of these beliefs and practices found their way into the West as a result of the spread of Hinduism. Of course this doesn’t mean that your friend who is a vegan or takes a yoga class is a Hindu but it may mean that she has (whether she realizes it or not) been influenced by Hinduism.
The Spread of Hinduism in the West
Hinduism was widely introduced to thousands of young people in the U.S.A., England and Europe in the 1960’s. It was then, during the sixties that the Beatles were influenced by a Hindu spiritual guru by the name of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918 -2008). The Beatles went on to become Hinduism’s most famous spokespersons. They appeared with Maharishi on the news, at conferences (Transcendental Meditation conferences), seminars and lectures. They even went to India to spend time with Maharishi in the late 60’s. From then on, there was a surge of interest in the West in: meditation, yoga, and eastern philosophy. That interest continues to this day.
I was just in Barnes & Noble a few days ago and was amazed to see a prominent display when I walked in the door, with dozens of different books on yoga, meditation and other Hinduistic themes–including books by Hinduism’s most popular spokesperson in America today, a man by the name of Deepak Chopra.
How many of you have heard of him? He is a doctor, counselor, spiritual counselor to movie stars, a number one selling author, and a huge hit here in America. Time Magazine heralded Deepak as one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the last century. Some of his books include: The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams and How to Know God. He’s very popular and leading multitudes into a Hinduistic/New Age view of God and reality.
Hindus do, like many religions, have sacred writings that they look to for guidance. Most authoritative among their scriptures are the…
1. The Vedas
The word veda literally means “knowledge” or “wisdom.” The Vedas were composed over a period of 1,000 years between c.1500 BC – 500 BC and are considered by Hindus to be divinely inspired. The author and dates of the Vedas are unknown. The Vedas are mostly a collection of ritualistic hymns to various Hindu gods. Another revered Hindu writing is…
2. The Mahabharata
Mahabharata literally means the “Great Epic of India.” The Mahabharata was written down over a period of 800 years (beginning about 400 BC), and is the longest poem ever written: approximately 100,000 verses! To get a grasp of its size, the entire Bible (Old and New Testaments) has 41,173 verses. So the Mahabharata is more than double the size of the Bible. Within this enormous work (the Mahabharata) is the most sacred and popular of all Hindu texts, and that is…
3. The Bhagavad-Gita
Bhagavad-Gita literally means: “The Lord’s Song.” The Bhagavad-Gita is another poem. It purports to be a dialogue between a warrior prince (Arjuna) and his friend Krishna an incarnation of the black god Vishnu. It was added to the Mahabharata sometime in the first century AD, and consists of just 700 verses divided into 18 chapters. The Bhagavad-Gita is so popular because it lays out instruction on how a Hindu can reach the Hinduism’s highest goal: Moksha (which we’ll talk about more in a minute).
There are a wide range of diverse beliefs in Hinduism, and even different sects, but typically most Hindus do hold to five main beliefs.
1. Belief in Brahman
Brahman is the name of God or the supreme deity talked about in the Vedas. Hindus believe that the entire universe and all that is in it, is one divine entity, called Brahman. According to Hinduism, Brahman alone is all that exists. Everything else is ultimately an illusion, or what the Hindus call maya. Hinduism is, what we call, a pantheistic religion.
Most religions can be categorized into one of three religions.
A. Monotheism (belief in one God): Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’i.
B. Polytheism (belief in many gods): Mormonism, The Masonic Lodge, Many of the world’s primitive religions.
C. Pantheism: The word pantheism comes from the word pan meaning “everything” and theos meaning “God.”
Pantheistic religions believe that all is God and God is all. According to pantheism, God did not create the world; God is the world, along with everything in it. Other pantheistic religions include: the New Age Movement, Christian Science, Scientology, Wicca.
What is Brahman, the God of Hinduism, Like?
That’s hard to answer. Hinduism teaches that Brahman is totally impersonal, indefinable and indescribable. To the Hindu, Brahman is beyond all distinctions. A Hindu cannot describe Brahman as loving, or merciful, or just, or caring, or mighty, because Brahman is beyond all personal and moral description. Nothing can be truly said or thought of Brahman.
Although Hinduism adheres to the view that there is only one supreme God, called Brahman, Hinduism is a religion that acknowledges and permits the worship of one of some 330 million lesser gods called avatars. Hindus believe that avatars (a Hindu word meaning “descent”) are manifestations or incarnations of Brahman. Two deities have risen to the top of the pile in popularity: Siva and Vishnu (aka: Visnu). Most Hindus worship one of these two deities.
Pantheism and Polytheism Rejected by Bible
Of course, the pantheism and polytheism of Hinduism is absolutely contradicted by the Bible.
Regarding pantheism, the Bible declares that all is not God. Rather than God being all that there is, the Bible says that God created all that there is (Genesis 1:1ff; Hebrews 11:3). God is at work in His creation but He is not to be confused with with creation itself. In fact, the Bible issues strong warnings to those who confuse God with His creation (e.g., Romans 1:22–23).
Regarding polytheism, God says in Isaiah 43:10-11: “Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and there is no savior besides Me.” If God, who is omniscient, knows of no other god, well, then that rules out polytheism. There are no other gods. This is reiterated in New Testament passages like 1 Timothy 2:5 where it says, “For there is one God…”
And unlike the impersonal deity of Hinduism (Brahman), the true and the living God of the Bible (who actually exists) is personal. The Bible regularly describes God as having personal attributes. The God of the Bible:
• Talks (Genesis 1:3)
• Sees (Genesis 1:4)
• Hears (John 16:13)
• Rejoices (Deuteronomy 30:9)
• Rebukes (Genesis 3:17)
• Guides (Psalm 48:14)
• Can Be Grieved (Ephesians 4:30)
• Becomes Angry (Exodus 4:14)
• Laughs (Psalm 2:4)
• Loves (Deuteronomy 7:13)
Unlike the unknowable Brahman, the God of the Bible is knowable. God says in Jeremiah 9:24: “But let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things.”
These are some of the differences between the God of the Bible and the god put forth in Hindu literature
The second belief common to Hinduism is…
2. Man is One with God
Hindus believe that we are extensions of Brahman and that we are one with Brahman. In other words, Hinduism teaches that we are God. And this logically follows from its pantheistic teachings. If all is God (Brahman), then mankind is God.
Deepak Chopra said this in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success:
“We remain unfulfilled unless we nurture the seeds of divinity inside us. In reality we are divinity in disguise, and the gods and goddesses in embryo that are contained within us seek to be fully materialized” (p. 3, emphasis mine).
Hinduism teaches that just as the air inside an open jar is identical to the air surrounding that jar, so to our essence is identical to that of the essence of Brahman. Hindus say that just like a drop in the ocean is exactly like that which makes the up the whole ocean, so we are a part of Brahman.
Christians disagree with this assessment of man. If there is one thing that the Bible is clear on, it is this: MAN IS NOT GOD.
The Bible condemns the belief that humans are divine. Far from being God, the Bible says quite the opposite. The Bible teaches…
A. Man is ungodly.
Romans 5:6 says, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
In Matthew 19:17, Jesus said, “No one is good but One, that is, God.” We’re not even good, let alone God!
B. The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”
Jesus said in Mark 7:21-23, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these things come from within and defile a man.”
So, for these reasons and others, we reject this Hindu teaching that man is one with God.
SIDE NOTE (NOT IN LECTURE): The Hindu view that “Man is God” is self-defeating. According to Hinduism Brahman is absolutely changeless. Then Hinduism asserts that we are one with Brahman. Then Hinduism teaches (as we’ll see in a minute) that man must become enlightened to this reality. In other words, Hinduism says that we must go through a process of change. A troubling question for Hindus is: “If humanity must go through a process of change in order to become aware of the fact that we are God, how can we be God when God does not change?”
3. Humanity’s primary problem is ignorance.
Hinduism teaches that humanity’s main problem is the mistaken belief that we are individuals and not one with the ultimate divine reality, Brahman. Ignorance regarding this oneness, Hindus say, gives rise to our bad actions, which results in bad karma, which in turn traps us in a supposed cycle of life, death and rebirth (which we’ll talk more about in a second).
What we need Hinduism says, is “enlightenment” or “self-realization.” What must we be enlightened to? What must we have a realization of? That we are one with Brahman.
Christians disagree that that man’s biggest problem is ignorance of divinity. What is man’s biggest problem according to the Bible?
Sin. Mankind’s rebellion against God.
Is God’s solution for us to just realize that we are God? Not at all. In fact, the idea that we could even be like God is what got us in trouble in the first place…
Genesis 3:4-5 says: “And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You shall not surely die: For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…'”
So, God’s solution to mankind’s problem is surely not that we become enlightened to the fact that we are God. What is God’s remedy for man’s sin?
Self realization? No. Savior incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection. That’s God’s solution for mankind’s sins. And now, if you’ll confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9-10, Acts 16:31).
The fourth belief common to Hinduism is…
4. We are reaping in this lifetime the consequences of the actions we committed in previous lifetimes.
Hinduism teaches that all of humanity is on a ever-revolving wheel (or cycle) of life, death, and reincarnation or rebirth. This cycle of life, death and rebirth is called samsara.
Why is man stuck in this wheel, this cycle? Well, according to Hinduism, the ignorance of our divinity leads us to bad actions that lead to bad karma.
What is karma?
According to Hinduism, karma refers to the unalterable consequences that are attached to every thought and action. Hinduism teaches that everything a person does results in certain unalterable consequences. If you do good deeds, the law of karma will ensure you reap good. If you do bad deeds, the law of karma will ensure you reap bad.
Well, it is a person’s bad karma that keeps him or her stuck in the cycle of life, death and rebirth (samsara). Why? He needs to finish working off (i.e., suffering) the consequences (the bad karma) he earned because of his bad deeds. And since it is impossible that all of one’s karma or consequences be experienced in one lifetime, the Hindu scriptures teach that after death individual souls will be “reborn” or reincarnated into another body – human or otherwise.
For the Hindu, a person’s actions in this life, determine the kind of body into which he or she will be reincarnated in the next lifetime. It could be an insect, animal or a human. According to Hinduism, every person is wholly responsible for his or her present condition and will have exactly the future he or she is now creating.
This worldview (that says that a person’s present suffering is because of bad karma accumulated in past lives) has led to horrible living conditions in many parts of India (where Hinduism is so prevalent)! Have you ever seen pictures of India? Are you aware of what life is like there? There are thousands of poor, crippled, maimed, homeless and starving people lining the streets. And no one seems to notice them. Why is it that way? It has to do largely with their belief in karma. Hindus believe that everything that comes one’s way is exactly what a person deserves.
Hindus believe that if they were to help the suffering with a blanket or a meal and thereby ease their suffering, they would only be prolonging the suffering that the person must endure to work off their karma (that put them in that place to begin with). Hindus believe that they would be doing something cruel by helping the suffering! And for being cruel, they would increase their own bad karma.
False religions built around the “doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1) have tragic and very real consequences in the lives of real people. This belief system is an abominable deception. We need to pray for the Hindu people that they might experience the joy and freedom we enjoy in Christ.
So, according to Hinduism, it is karma that keeps a person on the cycle of life death and reincarnation. Well…
The Bible knows nothing of reincarnation.
Resurrection? Yes. Reincarnation (coming back as another living creature)? No. Jesus said in John 5:28-29, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who have done good, to a [Notice that. Just once!] resurrection [a resurrection, not a reincarnation] of life, those who have done evil, to a resurrection of judgment.”
The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27: “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” The person who has turned their back on God’s revelation and His offer of forgiveness in Christ will go to Hades (Luke 16) to await the resurrection (John 5:29) and the judgment of the wicked at the end of the 1,000 year reign of Christ spoken about in Revelation 20:5-15.
The person who has accepted God’s provision of forgiveness provided in Christ, and who dies today goes immediately into the presence of God. Second Corinthians 5:8 says, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present [where?] with the Lord.” Philippians 1:21-23 says, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart [where to?] and be with Christ, which is far better.” Jesus said to the repentant thief on the cross in Luke 23:43, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
There is no need to keep coming back when Christ takes away your sins! This is good news we need to share with our Hindu friends!
The fifth belief common to the Hindu is this:
5. The goal of existence is escaping the cycle of life, death and rebirth.
The supreme goal in Hinduism is not to know God, or to commune with Him in Heaven throughout eternity. No. The highest goal in Hinduism is to break free from the cycle of life, death and rebirth (samsara). This breaking free is something Hindus call “moksha.” Moksha is a Hindu word that means “liberation.”
To achieve moksha is to finally experience liberation from the karma that has kept one in the cycle of samsara. The person who breaks free from this cycle becomes free from his earthly existence and free from pain and suffering.
According to Hinduism the person who is liberated finally achieves the highest state of existence:
Absorption in to Brahman.
(I thought we were already part of Brahman??)
In Hinduism there is no Heaven. A Hindu’s goal is to lose their identity and be absorbed in the universal oneness (Brahman).
How Does a Hindu Achieve Moksha (Liberation)?
The Bhagavad-Gita tells us that there are 3 ways.
A. The Way of Works
This is a very popular way of achieving moksha (liberation). This way lays emphasis on the idea that moksha may be obtained by fulfilling specific social and religious obligations. Once that happens, the Hindu reaches moksha and will be liberated from samsara upon death.
B. The Way of Devotion
This is the most popular way to achieve moksha amongst Hindus. It satisfies the longing for a more emotional and personal approach to religion. In the way of devotion the Hindu surrenders to one of the many personal gods or goddesses (avatars) of Hinduism. Such devotion is expressed through acts of worship at: the temple, in the home, through participation in the many festivals in honor of such gods, and through pilgrimages to one of the numerous holy sites in India. In the way of devotion, the focus is on obtaining the mercy and help of a god in finding release from samsara.
C. The Way of Knowledge
This way of liberation is open to men only. In this way, the Hindu achieves moksha (liberation) through attaining a state of consciousness in which he finally realizes his identity with Brahman. How is this state of consciousness achieved? Through deep meditation, often as a part of the discipline of yoga.
So, that is the goal of life according to Hinduism: MOKSHA, escaping the cycle of life.
What a pitiful goal, especially in light of the fact, that it is all a phantom! A farce. A cleverly devised Satanic deception that is leading millions of people down a road to destruction.
The goal of life according to the Bible (stated briefly) is to be reconciled to God, to know God, and glorify God as He makes us more like Jesus on our journey to Heaven.
SUGGESTIONS ON SHARING THE TRUTH WITH HINDUS
A. Be Loving.
1 Corinthians 13:1 says, “If I speak with tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
Show him your Savior in the way that you treat him and love him. Of course you will want to be praying for him, and asking God to give you ideas on how you might do this.
B. Find out what he believes and why—ask questions.
His beliefs may be slightly different than what I’ve presented here. Find out if he is longing to one day reach moksha. Ask him why he wants to be liberated. What path are you on? The Way of Devotion? The Way of Works? The Way of knowledge? What will becoming one with Brahman be like? What about all your karma? How sure are you that you will achieve moksha?
Help him to feel the weight of guilt and the conviction of his conscience and the Holy Spirit. This may help him to appreciate the good news of the gospel. Ask him why he believes the things he’s shared with you are true. And then as your relationship with him grows, look for opportunities to…
C. Share with him what you believe and why.
Biblical Christianity is totally foreign to most Hindus. Break down your beliefs for him and don’t assume he knows what you’re talking about.
A convert from Hinduism and Indian evangelist, once said, “I have never yet failed to get a hearing if I talk to [Hindus] about forgiveness of sins and peace and rest in your heart.”
Most Hindu people have never heard a clear presentation of the gospel, let alone a brief overview of what Christians believe.
D. Tell him how God has changed your life.
What God has done in your life is tangible evidence that what you’ve told him about Jesus is true!
E. Point out to him some of the differences that make following Jesus a superior choice.
You might point out to him that the God of Christianity offers…
1. A Better Future: HEAVEN
Tell him about the glorious future you are looking forward to in the presence of Jesus and millions of others whom He has redeemed, the angels, etc. No more pain or death (Rev. 21), fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11).
But Christianity does not only offer a better future, it offers…
2. A Better Path: JESUS
Rather than going down one of the paths of works, devotion, knowledge, God has provided a much easier path: Jesus! Jesus said that He was the Path (“the Way”). (Jn. 14:6).
Make it clear that through simple trust in Him, God says that we can have all of our sins forgiven and that we can be with Him in Heaven forever.
Point out to him that Jesus is not only a better path. He is the only path.
Peter said in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Why is He the only path to salvation? Well, because He is God, the only God. To have a right relationship with God, we must return to the very one we have sinned against: Jesus. Not Allah, or Vishnu (a Hindu avatar), etc.
Point out that salvation is not something we have to earn by finally living a sinless life (something that is impossible and unobtainable) but it is a “free gift” (Rom. 6:23). Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
The Bible makes it clear that man cannot “realize” salvation through any works, meditation, or worship of created images.
3. A Better Relationship: Personal
Unlike Brahman, the God of the Bible can be personally known and experienced. He hears prayer. He answers prayer. He knows you. He loves you.
Do you know this God, Jesus? If not, and you want to, click here.
CHARLIE H. CAMPBELL
is the founder of the ABR Apologetics Ministry, a popular guest teacher at churches and conferences in the United States and internationally, and the author of several books and DVDs, some of which include:
• The Bible’s Scientific Accuracy and Foresight
• Archaeological Evidence for the Bible
• One Minute Answers to Skeptics
• Scrolls & Stones: Compelling Evidence the Bible Can Be Trusted
• Evidence for God
• The Case for Christianity
• Answering Atheists
• The Case for the Resurrection
• If God is Loving, Why is there Evil and Suffering?
• Homosexuality and the Bible: Answering Objections to the Biblical View
• Teaching and Preaching God’s Word
• Apologetics Quotes
WOULD YOU LIKE CHARLIE TO SPEAK AT YOUR CHURCH?
Charlie frequently speaks, free of charge, at churches, conferences, retreats, etc. If you are a pastor and would like to inquire about him speaking at your church or event, please contact ABR here and let us know the date(s) you'd be interested in, and someone will email you back shortly.