Week 10 APO102 – Hinduism

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10 4/29 Hinduism Notes MP3 PPT Notes

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Chapter Summary

How to share the Gospel with Hindus

Class Outline

I. History of Hinduism

II. Doctrinal Differences

III. Sharing the Gospel with Hindus


Khan Acadamy on Hiduism Here[1]


A Hindu view on the difference between Christianity and Hinduism Here[2] by Paramhansa Yogananda


CARM.org on Hinduism Here[3]


I. History of Hinduism


“Hinduism is not really one religion, but many religions that interact and blend with one another.” (91)


“Hinduism is more of a philosophy than it is a theology” (96)


a. Early History:

  • “Hinduism” – comes from the Indus River

3000 BC

  • Dravidians – a dark skinned people who lived in the Indus Valley known as the Mohendo-jaro civilization
  • Religiously – polytheistic fertility gods, worship of the forces of nature and use of rituals, merging human sexuality with hope for abundant crops

2000 BC

  • Aryans – a light-skinned people came and conquered the Dravidians
  • Religiously – polytheistic themselves absorbed and renamed the main Dravidian gods

2000 – 700 BC

  • Vedic literature – Hymns, prayers, mythic stories and chants were written down into the Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads
  • These writings are considered to be sacred and supernaturally inspirited
  • Early writings in the Vedas
    • Blatantly polytheistic
    • Salvation through appeasement of these many gods
  • Later writings in the Vedas
    • Pantheistic
    • Salvation though union with Brahma, the impersonal absolute
    • Priest of Brahma known as Brahmins

500 BC

  • More writings were added to the Hindu scriptures; these laid the foundation of Varna (a rigid caste system)
  • Varna divided all people into four castes:
    • Brahmin (priests)
    • Kshatriyas (warriors and nobles)
    • Vaisyas (merchants and artisans
    • Sudras (slaves)
    • Untouchables (who were so low they were outside the caste system) they were denied property, education and dignity
  • 1947 AD when India became a nation the government officially outlawed discrimination against Untouchables (thought the social reality in many villages is that change comes slowly)


b. Hinduism in the West:

Mid 1800’s

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
    • Advocated for transcendentalism
    • Steeped himself in Hindu writings
    • His concept of self-reliance is “remarkably similar to the Hindu understanding of atman as Brahma.” (94)
  • Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
    • Advocated transcendentalism
    • Inspired by the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita
    • Wrote Waldon (1854) which captured many of these ideas


  • World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Illinois
  • Sawami Vivekananda (1863-1902) spoke to the young and impressionable leaders in America


  • Swami Prabhavananda, a young monk, was sent to California by Ramakrishna Order of India and established Vedanta Society of Southern California
  • Sri Ramakrishna (founder of the Order of India) “Many faiths are but different paths leading to the one reality, God.” (94)


  • The Beatles
    • Went to India and learned Transcendental Meditation from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
    • The brought these practices back to the US and popularized Hindu ideas and practices


  • Swami Prabhavananda – a Hindu, “would find it easy to accept Christ as a divine incarnate son of God… but he cannot accept Christ as the only son of God.” (95)
  • Mohandas K. Gandhi – “It was more than I could believe that Jesus was the only incarnate son of God. And that only he who believed in him would have everlasting life.” (95)


II. Doctrinal Differences

a. Primary: Pluralistic Polytheism

  • Pluralism – every idea is equally valid and equally true
  • Polytheism – there are may ‘gods’ all of whom are equally valid approaches to the divine
  • Pluralistic Polytheism – There are many paths to god, all of them are equally valid and ultimately true


  • Christianity is a true religion (not the only true religion)
  • Jesus was a Christ (but not the only Christ)
  • Jesus Christ is a way to God (but not the only way to God)
  • Mohandas K. Gandhi – “It was more than I could believe that Jesus was the only incarnate son of God. And that only he who believed in him would have everlasting life.” (95)



Summing Up Major Differences Between Hinduism and Christians

Hinduism Evangelical Protestant
Brahma is a formless, abstract, eternal being without attributes, who was the beginning of all things. God is three in one (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) (see Matt. 3:13-17; 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14)
Jesus is just one of many incarnations, or avatars, of Vishnu. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God

Jesus is the Redeemer who died and rose again for sinful man (see John 1:13; 14; 1 Pet. 3:18)

Sin is “utter illusion” because all of material reality is illusory. All people are born sinners

Sinners can do nothing to overpower the sin that enslaves them

Deliverance from samsara (the endless cycle of death and rebirth) through union with Brahma. This process is achieved devotion, meditation, good works and self-control. Salvation is what God provides in Jesus’ death and resurrection to undeserving sinners (see Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 15:3,4)


b. Secondary:

Two Core Beliefs of Hinduism

“Hinduism is not really one religion, but many religions that interact and blend with one another.” (91)



  • Has no founder
  • No creedal statements of faith to sign
  • No agreed-upon authority

To be a good Hindu; you can believe in

  • One god
  • Many gods
  • No god at all


There are, however, two agreed upon foundational assumptions:

  1. Reincarnation
  2. Karma


  1. Reincarnation
  • The Belief – that atman (a person’s uncreated and eternal soul) must repeatedly be recycled into the world in different bodies. People may be reincarnated into animals, plants or even objects
  • The Process – that takes one through the great wheel of samsara (the thousands or millions of lives [all full of suffering] that each atman must endure) to reach moksha (liberation from suffering and union with the infinite)
  1. Karma
  • means “action”
  • A kind of law of cause and effect
  • Merit or demerit, which attaches to one’s atman according to how one lives
    • Present life is the result of a previous life’s karma
    • How you live your present life will affect your next life through karma
  • Hinduism teaches no matter how many lives it takes, eventually each and every atman will realize its divine nature


Paths to Moksha


  • Definition – liberation from samsara and union with Brahma

Three Paths to attain Mosha

  1. Dharma – the path of work
  2. Inana – the path of knowledge
  3. Bhakti – the path of passionate devotion


  1. Dharma
  • The path of work
  • To attain a better reincarnation
  • Specific social and religious obligations
  • Stay within the caste in occupation and marriage
  • Eating or not eating certain foods
  • Producing a son who can make a sacrifice to his ancestors and perform other ritual acts


  1. Inana
  • The path of knowledge
  • Aesthetic self-renunciation and meditation on the supreme pantheistic reality of Hinduism
  • Men only
  • Highest caste only
  • According to one of its main texts, the Upaninshad, the world as we experience it is mere illusion and Brahma is the only thing that really exists and has meaning
  • Yoga – “the attempt to control one’s consciousness through bodily posture, breath control and concentration, to the extent that one comes to understand experientially that one’s true self, one’s undying soul is identical with Brahma” (93)


  1. Bhakti
  • Path of passionate devotion
  • This is the most popular way to achieve moksha
  • Bypasses going through as many rebirths and lives as the other paths demand
  • Appeals to the lower castes
  • Described in the epic poems: Ramayana and Mahabharata
  • Choose 1 of the more than 330 million gods, goddesses or demigods
  • Passionately worship that particular god
  • Most choose Vishnu or Shiva
    • Vishnu
      • Has many names
      • Has appeared as avatars (saviors – incarnation of deity; like Gutama Buddha)
      • Has many ‘wives’
    • Shiva
      • A fertility god
      • Not unlike the worship of the Canaanites


III. Sharing the Gospel with Hindus


Advice from Ravi on share with Hindus Here[4]


  • Always go slowly
  • Show respect with what they believe
  • Do not assume that because you are different you can reach them
  • Always listen to their felt needs
  • Young people are most open
  • Focus on the person of Christ and personal relationship with Him
  • Allow for the supernatural work of the spirit
  • Don’t overwhelm new converts with too much too soon


From CARM.org

How to share the gospel to Hindus


by Ryan Turner


edited by Luke Wayne


This article is not meant to give some magic formula or to serve as a wooden script, but rather to offer a few guidelines on how to best share the good news of Jesus with our Hindu friends. Be genuine and have real conversations with the Hindu people you meet. As you do, here are some things to keep in mind


  1. Treat Hindus with respect by asking questions and patiently listening as they explain their religion.

The first thing about sharing the gospel with anyone is to remember that you are talking to a person, not an object.  Always ask questions when talking to a Hindu.  Do not tell a Hindu what he or she believes since Hinduism is an extremely diverse religion with each individual having a different expression of Hindu belief and practice.  Instead, let him or her tell you what they believe. As a result of listening, do not witness out of a sense of duty or anxiety, but of loving compassion for the Hindu people.


  1. Care for them.

Always be willing to reach out in love to your Hindu friends. Invite them to your home. Go to their homes, if invited, and learn about their beliefs and culture. Out of this sense of mutual respect, begin to share the good news of Christ with them.


  1. Have a humble spirit.

When talking to Hindus about Christ, always have a humble, respectful attitude. First, you can pray for and with them. Second, be respectful about their beliefs. Third, always do your best not to argue with them, but politely emphasize the positive good news of Christ.


  1. Use stories to explain Jesus’ forgiveness.

Hindus are accustomed to learning through stories in their culture and religion (for example, see the Bhagavad-Gita). As a result, it is helpful to explain the gospel message using stories to which they can relate. For example, the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).


  1. Keep the personhood of God in mind.

Explain that God is not an impersonal entity, but is a loving, perfect, and just God who cares for His people. You could even use the story of the progical son to illustrate God’s love for His children (Luke 15:11-32). Even when we rebel against God, he comes running to us with mercy and forgiveness as the father runs to forgive his son (Luke 15:20).


  1. Carefully emphasize the exclusivity of Jesus

Help the Hindu understand that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to attain salvation (John 14:6; cf. Acts 4:12).  A Hindu might put Jesus up there with the other gods that they worship.  So one must be patient and help them understand that Christians can only worship Jesus (Mt. 2:2, 11; 14:33).  They might not understand that worshipping many gods is set against worshipping the one true God of the Bible.  This might take a long time for them to understand, but it is well worth the effort as you patiently explain it to them.


  1. Be patient.

When sharing the gospel with Hindus, you have to be very careful to realize that Hinduism for many people is more than a set of abstract beliefs and principles, but is a reality of their daily culture and family life. For them to consider accepting the exclusive claims of Jesus would often require them to pay a great personal price, including rejection by family and friends.  Emphasize to them that following Jesus does not mean that they are rejecting their family and culture, even if their family or culture rejects them.



“Dos and Don’ts in Sharing (the Gospel) with Hindus,” available: http://www.intervarsity.org/ism/article/3721, accessed 04-01-09.

Halverson, Dean, The Compact Guide to World Religions, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996, pp. 92-95.


The Gospel for Hindus


Do you have any certainty that you will reach moksha? Are you going to be in the endless cycle of reincarnations/transmigrations forever? Are your meditations and rituals actually going to help you escape suffering and death or attain eternal peace?

Jesus Christ came to give us hope. He said:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

He also said:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life,” (John 5:24).

Jesus Christ offers you salvation from God’s judgment by faith. It is not by your works, but by faith that you can possess everlasting life (Eph. 2:8-9Rom. 4:55:1). You can have this salvation immediately and with certainty due to the completed work of Jesus.

Since Jesus paid for our sins, we must receive His free gift of salvation by faith. We must place our trust in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation before God. Our good works cannot save us. We live our lives doing good out of gratitude to God and love for our neighbor, not out of a desire to earn something that cannot be earned and that God has already freely given. Ironically, in freeing us from the motives of self-attainment, God’s gift of salvation in Jesus Christ frees us to do what is truly good without any ulterior motive of selfish intention. Our hope doesn’t rest in our works being good enough, but rather in our trust that Christ was good enough.

You can know for sure you are going to heaven!

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhTpJxlJi2I

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95LJW_eww2g

[3] https://carm.org/hinduism

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6yqfMFSLME

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