Do Hindus believe in Jesus?

Q:  Do Hindus believe in Jesus? A friend told me that they believe in all gods.

Hinduism is an umbrella term for the indigenous religious traditions of South Asia, a vast subcontinent which is home to a wide diversity of belief and practice. However, certain principles are common among Hindus. Among these is the belief that there are many gods and goddesses, all of which are manifestations of one abstract supreme being. Unlike the Christian Trinity, one God in three persons, there is greater distinction among these deities, which have different mythologies and personalities. An individual person or a local community will have a particular devotion to one or a few of the deities, expressed in that person or community’s primary rituals and practices, while also recognizing the value of other deities to other worshippers in other places. Thus on some level it can be said that many Hindus believe generally in all gods, even those from other cultures that do not have a traditional place in the Hindu pantheon.

Where does Jesus fit into this system? Some Hindus regard Jesus as an incarnation of the god Vishnu. According to Hindu mythology, Vishnu is periodically incarnated in the world – in forms as varied as a fish, a dwarf, and a human being – in order to preserve or sustain life and restore order on earth. Christian doctrine maintains that there is only one incarnation of God, Jesus Christ, the ultimate and definitive revelation of God, who came to make our salvation possible once and for all. But Hindus who believe in Jesus understand him as another expression, among many, of the continuing intervention of the divine in the world.

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.