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Our readers asked:

How is Catholicism different from Hinduism?

Thomas Ryan, CSP Answers:

First of all, Hinduism is not a religion as we tend to think of a religion. It is a name given to a range of practices, attitudes, beliefs, schools of thought, and the social and political systems connected to these. There is in Hinduism the idea of an enduring divine reality that never changes: Brahman. And “God” is the personalized form or manifestation of that ultimate divinity and takes many forms.

Interestingly, the Deity in Hinduism has a triple-form, and thus a certain resonance with Christian belief in the Trinity. There is Brahma, the Ultimate Reality, associated most with the transcendence of the Divine, remaining somewhat in the theological background as the revered but disengaged Creator.

Then there is Shiva, who reflects more the immanence of the Divine and who exemplifies divine androgyny in Hinduism. All name-forms of deities have female counterparts or consorts. Shiva’s feminine aspect takes the names and forms of the lovely Parvati and the ferocious Durga. Devotees are known as Shaivites.

Finally, there is Vishnu, who appears as both helper and savior. Devotees (Vaishnavites) celebrate his ten most famous avatara or incarnations. Two of the principal avatars of Vishnu—Rama and Krishna—come to save humankind from immorality and to punish evildoers.

But since human is already essentially divine, they do not assume the human condition in order to divinize it, but to rescue it from the powers of evil. The Upanishads (writings that form the basis of much of Hindu philosophy) identify an animating principle, atman (similar to “soul” in Christian understanding), with the larger spiritual reality called Brahman. Whereas a Hindu might thus say, “I am God,” or “Thou art That”, a Christian would say, “I can share God’s life, but I am not God.”

Hindus also believe that the effects of actions (karma) become attached to one’s “self” (atman) and must be stripped away. The results of these actions are like a spiritual substance which entrap the self in the body. Liberation from the body is the only way out. The focus is upon the atman/soul, and there is no salvation accorded to the body as in Christian faith. Until the negative effects of karma have been neutralized by transcending selfishness in one’s actions, atman will go through a cycle of rebirth or reincarnation. In Christian understanding, Christ has in effect redeemed us/set us free from the effects of sinful behavior, and we have only one life.

Other differences:

There are two categories of scripture: Sruti (divinely inspired, e.g. the four Vedas) and Smrti (“remembered scriptures” which contain laws and stories like the Ramayana and Mahabharata).

There is no overarching institutional structure for safeguarding orthodoxy. As a result, people choose one name-form of the divine or one set of narratives about the deity over others, influenced by regional religious heritage.

There are many levels of heaven and hell, and they are all intermediate stops on the long journey to freedom from rebirth when at last the atman becomes one with Brahman.

 
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The Author : Thomas Ryan, CSP
Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP, directs the Paulist North American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations in Washington, D.C.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Dharmaksetra

    Thomas Ryan is Catholic! Have you no Hindu to tell the truth about this Sanatana Dharma “eternal religion”?

  • Dharmaksetra

    Another self made “Indologist” who is not Hindu speculating and misleading others about a religion he is not part of. Pray to the Lord Sri Krishna to give you knowledge and realization. Chant His holy name. If you look at Hinduism from the outside and have a false idea that there is only “one way” in complete defiance and disregard for a religion like this that was before all others you are not promoting facts.

  • Dharmaksetra

    The explanation above is false and insulting to Hindus. It is the oldest “religion and way of life”. God is the number one principle behind it and loving and serving God “Krishna” is the number one goal. Pure love and devotion “bhakti” to God “Krishna” is the perfection of life. It is all about God. God in his many unlimited features. No individual soul is “God”. All souls are eternally devotees of God and only God is God. The Supreme Lord Krisha doesn’t throw away souls He supposedly loves either. He gives more than one chance, more than one way, more than one life and saves all souls! He teaches. He corrects even in this life with the law of karma that gives us reward and punishment for us to evolve according to our actions. We are all His children! The Supreme Lord Sri Krishna is always there for you and will save you.

  • Anirudh Kumar Satsangi

    Catholics believe in Resurrection.

    Hindus believe in Rebirth, Reincarnation and Redemption.

    My most Revered Guru of my previous life His Holiness Maharaj Sahab, 3rd Spiritual Head of Radhasoami Faith had revealed this secret to me during trance like state.
    HE told me, “Tum Sarkar Sahab Ho” (You are Sarkar Sahab). Sarkar Sahab was one of the most beloved disciple of His Holiness Maharj Sahab. Sarkar Sahab later on became Fourth Spiritual Head of Radhasoami Faith.

    Since I don’t have any direct realization of it so I can not claim the extent of its correctness. But it seems to be correct. During my previous birth I wanted to sing the song of ‘Infinite’ but I could not do so then since I had to leave the mortal frame at a very early age. But through the unbounded Grace and Mercy of my most Revered Guru that desire of my past birth is being fulfilled now.

    My most Revered Guru of my previous life His Holiness Maharaj Sahab, 3rd Spiritual Head of Radhasoami Faith had revealed this secret to me during trance like state.
    HE told me, “Tum Sarkar Sahab Ho” (You are Sarkar Sahab). Sarkar Sahab was one of the most beloved disciple of His Holiness Maharj Sahab.

    Since I don’t have any direct realization of it so I can not claim the extent of its correctness. But it seems to be correct. During my previous birth I wanted to sing the song of ‘Infinite’ but I could not do so then since I had to leave the mortal frame at a very early age. But through the unbounded Grace and Mercy of my most Revered Guru that desire of my past birth is being fulfilled now.

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