Religion 101

Religion 101

On Teaching About Hinduism (Part Three)

When encountering Hinduism for the first time, Westerners (including many of the students in my community college Eastern religions classes) find themselves faced with a major world faith which in many ways differs drastically from the major Western faiths with which most of them are familiar.

For one thing, unlike Judaism or Christianity or Islam (and as discussed in my previous blog entry), Hinduism has not just one holy book, but many.

For another thing, Hinduism also believes that individuals spend not just one lifetime upon this earth, but many.


For yet another thing, Hinduism believes that there is not just one path to salvation, but many.

Of course, in a Hindu context, “salvation” (if the word can be properly used at all here) means something quite different from what it means in a Western religious context.

In Christianity, for instance, the primary religious problem is sin, and so “salvation” relates to receiving forgiveness or absolution of sin, so that upon death one may enter heaven. In Eastern religions like Hinduism, however, the primary religious problem tends to be less about sin and more about spiritual blindness, ignorance, or “unconsciousness,” and so “salvation” here often relates to overcoming that blindness or dissolving that ignorance by “awakening” or experiencing spiritual illumination or enlightenment.


By thus “waking up” to the Truth, one may then experience profound spiritual insights or directly perceive metaphysical realities for what they really are. Such spiritual enlightenment is inherently profoundly liberating — so much so that it results in actual and permanent liberation (moksha, “freedom,” “release”) from the otherwise unending cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (samsara, the “wheel of rebirth”). This is the ultimate Hindu religious goal.

And according to Hinduism, there’s more than one way of getting there.

This stands again in stark contrast to Christianity, which in its mainstream orthodox forms has traditionally insisted that there is only one way to salvation: through Christ alone. While Christians can and do vary in their views regarding the details (e.g., Protestants hold that faith in Christ alone is sufficient for salvation, whereas for Catholics the sacraments of the Church are also necessary for salvation), they have long agreed that however it might work out in practice, it is always nevertheless Christ who saves.


(It is also true that, in some contemporary Christian circles, troubling questions regarding the afterlife destiny of non-Christians is currently eliciting some additional theological reflection and re-thinking on this matter of salvation being available exclusively through Christ alone. But that’s a topic for another blog entry.)

In any case, whereas the general, standard, traditional Christian view has long been that there is but one single, unique path to salvation (via Christ alone), the Hindu view has long been that there are actually a multiplicity of equally and perfectly valid spiritual paths which can ultimately lead one to “salvation” (or, in the Hindu context, to “liberation,” or final release from rebirth and eternal blissful union or communion with God).

Hinduism in fact explicitly recognizes a number of margas (“paths”) or yogas (“disciplines”), each of which leads one Godward.

(To be continued, in Part Four.)



Comments Post the First Comment »
post a comment

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

On Teaching About Judaism (Part Six)
Specifically Christian newcomers to the study of Judaism frequently puzzle over  why -- as they themselves often put it -- Jews "don't believe in Jesus." The reality is simply that the entire Jewish concept of who and what a Messiah actually ...

posted 4:45:00pm Jun. 29, 2013 | read full post »

On Teaching About Judaism (Part Five)
Aside from the several other frequent areas of confusion which sometimes puzzle newcomers to the study of Judaism (areas which I've been discussing in my last several blog entries), there is yet another hazy area that is often uniquely puzzling ...

posted 10:01:32pm Jun. 27, 2013 | read full post »

On Teaching About Judaism (Part Four)
As discussed in previous blog entries, a fairly sizable percentage of the American public seems to know surprisingly little about many of the basics of Judaism. In my own world religions courses, some students begin the semester with no real ...

posted 9:16:07pm Jun. 25, 2013 | read full post »

On Teaching About Judaism (Part Three)
As discussed in previous blog entries, a fairly sizable percentage of the American public seems to know surprisingly little about the basics of Judaism. In my own world religions courses, some students begin the semester with no real knowledge ...

posted 6:27:16pm Jun. 22, 2013 | read full post »

Midsummer (Litha)/Yule 2013
Tomorrow (Friday, June 21, 2013) is the date of the summer solstice within the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, by contrast, tomorrow will be the date of the winter solstice. Solstices have long been observed as important ...

posted 5:05:38pm Jun. 20, 2013 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.