I recently picked up The Ways of Religion, edited by Roger Eastman, at the library. In it, essays by religious experts and leaders are mixed with actual excerpts from sacred texts to do the explaining of each major world religion.
Interestingly, the introduction to the first chapter, Hinduism, mentioned that many Hindus believe Christianity to be a type of one of their own particular paths to enlightenment, bhakti yoga. I started reading through the sacred texts of Hinduism and came to very different conclusions. See for yourself.
Let's start with terminology. How do Hindus define God? From the Katha Upanishad:
This syllable is Brahman. This syllable is indeed supreme. He who knows it obtains his desire.
[T]he Self and the Brahman [are] one.
Subtler than the subtlest is this Self, and beyond all logic.
So Brahman, the Hindu's name for God, can be found by meditating on supreme syllables, and in being found fulfills the seeker's deepest spiritual desires. He also happens to be one with the Self (why are you capitalized? Because Hinduism teaches your Self is different from yourself; i. e., your infinite Self is the you that is one with God), and this Self is "beyond all logic."
How does the God of the Bible define Himself?
And Moses said unto God, "Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, 'The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you'; and they shall say to me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say unto them?" And God said unto Moses, 'I AM THAT I AM': and he said, 'Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.'"
- Exodus 3:13-14
God is self-sustaining. He has no need of us; we are to seek Him, know Him, worship Him. I AM THAT I AM. In New King James version, I AM WHO I AM. He is God, higher than and holier than anything we could offer.
Hear O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one!"
- Deuteronomy 6:4
The Oneness of God is of great importance; for the Bible presents God as a Trinity.
Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, "Show us the Father'?
- John 14:9
Jesus also told His disciples,
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
- Matthew 28:19
So while Hindu theology presents God as one with the Self, Christian theology presents God as one with Himself, One in Three. As for that notion of Brahman being "beyond all logic", consider Isaiah 1:18.
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Keep a note on the washing away of sins part; that will come up again as an important subject in a moment.
Much more can be found on the Self in the Katha Upanishad.
Smaller than the smallest, greater than the greatest, this Self forever dwells within the hearts of all.
So according to Hinduism, God lives in every person's heart. Compare to the Bible:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?
- Jeremiah 17:9
Read the book of Leviticus (or any of the books of the Law, for that matter). God is absolutely holy. Sinners cannot bear to be in His presence. How could this holy, perfect God dwell in a desperately wicked heart?
As it is written: There is none righteous, no not one: There is none who understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
- Romans 3:10-11
As the waters of the Ganges flow incessantly toward the ocean, so do the minds of the bhakti move constantly toward Me, the Supreme Person residing in every heart.
- Bhadavad Purana
The Bible and the Hindu texts, then, obviously present very different ideas about the natural state of the human heart. But wait! There's more, here from the Katha Upanishad.
As pure water poured into pure water remains pure, so does the Self remain pure, . . . uniting with Brahman.
Basically, you are as perfect and as pure as God is, in your very innermost Self. From the Chandogya Upanishad, we read this, in which Uddalaka speaks to his son Svetaketu:
All those beings have their self in him [Brahman] alone. He is the truth. He is the subtle essence of all. He is the Self. And that, Svetaketu, THAT ART THOU.
Could you imagine what heresy a Christian father would be accused of if he told his son, "Guess what, Junior? You are God!" Add that to the concept that your Self is just as perfect and holy as God Himself, and you've got one of the most un-Christian religions you could possibly consider. There is absolutely no way that the Hindu "look within your heart!" notion and the Christian "die to self!" notion are two reflections of the same religion worshipping the same God!
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
- Romans 7:24
We are not good by our own acts, but by Jesus'.
For as by one man's [Adam's] disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's [Jesus'] obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
- Romans 5:19-21
The state of our hearts, according to Christianity, sets us at odds with God. We can enter His presence not via looking within our hearts, but by believing in and appealing to the sacrifice for our sins, Jesus, who was raised from the dead so that we might live with Him.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
- Galatians 2:20
Does this then mean Christians are one with God? No. It means that we, being sinners, were rescued from that life of bondage to become perfect through the acceptable sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His perfectness makes us perfect, not by our works, not by our inherent goodness, but by His goodness entering into us through the Holy Spirit.
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Many more verses could be quoted on the subject. In short, Hinduism teaches the basic goodness of man, an irrational god, and the goal of spirituality being to connect a perfect Self with a perfect Brahman. Christianity teaches the basic sinfulness of man, a perfectly rational God (He is the very source of our ability to reason), and the goal of spirituality to be washed free of your sin through the blood of Jesus.
Follow your heart? I think not. A Hindu might think this wise, but a Christian would consider it dangerous.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
- Proverbs 14:12