The greatest problem for Hinduism is its lack of a moral foundation. Recall that in a Hindu universe, good and evil are equal opposites, created both by the mind of Brahma. In such a worldview, it cannot be said that there is anything wrong with evil.
“[A Hindu saint] howled with pain when he saw two boatmen quarrelling angrily He came to identify himself with the sorrows of the whole world, however impure and murderous they might be, until his heart was scored with scars. But he knew that he must love God in all sorts and conditions of men, however antagonistic and hostile…” (Mukerji, as quoted by Smith)
The world in its entirety must be embraced for what it is. The Hindus believe that all is one; thus, there is no real difference between good and evil. Despite this inadequacy, Hindus are encouraged to be morally good: “Selfish acts coagulate the finite self” (Smith, 29) and in doing so separate you from God. But if God is the founder of good and evil, why does he require you to be good and not evil?
The Hindu religious writings are based on men who claim to have reached Samadhi or have become one with their Atman. But these are nothing more than an experience that escapes description. If I were to attain it and conclude that God wants us to live another path of life, who is to say I am wrong?
But the greatest moral difficulty of Hinduism is the moral law itself. If all is really determined by Karma, what I do to others is not right or wrong; they had those actions coming to them anyway. If I decide I’d like to slap someone, they cannot blame me for doing wrong, but only their own bad Karma for inciting such circumstances. Indeed, Smith writes that no one can be blamed for your circumstances but yourself.
The Hindu might argue, though, that in doing another person wrong I create my own bad Karma. But again, there is no real difference between right and wrong; why should good deeds always lead to good consequences and bad deeds to bad ones? Furthermore, this world is illusion; why should I care about bad consequences if I am detached from my finite self and care naught what happens to it? Or perhaps I prefer the bhakti approach to life. If I choose a form of God such as Kali or Shiva, who “destroy the finite… [to] make way for the infinite” (72), can I mimic them in my worship?
Clearly, the ambiguity of the Hindu beliefs and its attachment to contradictory doctrines and views of God do not make for a moral foundation. And in Smith’s own words, “Religion is always more than morality, but if it lacks a moral base it will not stand” (28-29).
I am not arguing that Hindus are bad people. I argue instead that because of their lack of solid moral foundations, there is no reason to be good. In this way Hinduism, though it tries to be so religiously inclusive, philanthropic and loving to all, is actually founded on nothing more than an amoral worldview.
I would like to conclude by commenting on a quote from Hindu Saint Sri Ramakrishna (as compiled by Swami Abhedanada in “The Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna”):
“People partition off their lands by means of boundaries, but no one can partition off the sky overhead. The indivisible sky surrounds all and includes all. So people in ignorance say, ‘My religion is the only one, my religion is the best.’ But when a heart is illumined by true knowledge, it knows that above all these wars of sects and sectarians presides the one indivisible, eternal, all-knowing bliss.”
Once again we have the idea presented that all religions are basically the same. Differences in tradition or worship or on the nature of God do not really matter. All that is important is that your “heart is illumined by true knowledge.”
But what is true? What is knowledge? Is it what the sannyasin say? This world is illusion – how do you know that these teachers ever existed or that your illusory mind is able to interpret the illusory teachings properly? A world with maya reality is a world where truth and knowledge are impossible.
Hinduism as a truth is impossible, and Hinduism as a religion is nothing like Christianity. The Hindu God is too heartless and vague, its spiritual methods too man-centered, its goal to focused on the individual. But there is one thing Sri Ramakrishna says in this quote that I would actually agree with. It is not the wise man who says, “My religion is the only way.”
Christians, how are we presenting the Gospel today? Are we allowing too many extra-biblical influences to affect it? Ideas that people are basically good or that there are many ways to God are Hindu, not Christian, beliefs. Are we presenting the Bible as ‘my way’ to be saved? Or is it the ultimate Word of God?
For Christianity – real, God-centered, Biblical Christianity – is not ‘my’ religion. His Word is not ‘my’ opinion. It is the truth, the light and the way. It is God’s way. We must unashamedly present it, with gentleness and respect, the way He intended.
And let us do it with knowledge about what those around us believe. For a Hindu will agree with you that we must meditate on God’s Word or that Jesus lives in your heart. We must know the differences so that we can clarify ourselves, or else be tempted by the lie that Jesus and His Word are the same as any other people’s man-made religion.
Resources: (for entire series of Hinduism essays)
Smith, Huston. The World’s Religions. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 1991.
Guarneri, Mimi. The Science of Natural Healing. Virginia: The Teaching Company, 2012.