The task of teaching on Hinduism is akin to looking through a kaleidoscope (I know. I’m dating myself here!). What this means is that depending on each way you look and how you move the instrument, you will be seeing different forms with different shapes and ever expanding and seemingly endless contracting patterns every time. So the student can only be sure that he can never be sure. At one moment, he sees it, then it is gone, then he sees it again. The fast pace of the changing colors and shapes finally makes him question whether he might not simply be seeing an illusion.

Hinduism developed over a period of 3,000+ years when civilizations collided in the Indus Valley and different peoples came crashing through the scene, bringing their natural religions with a reverence to all things matter, which then mixed with notions of the local people who for thousands of years had already been idol worshippers. Over time Hinduism gave birth to a multi-faceted philosophy, embracing elements of paganism, atheism, polytheism and even monotheism. The sacred writings of Hinduism have no doubt inspired entire systems of knowledge and some of the brightest minds in our world have engaged the discussion throughout the ages. The reach of the literature is no doubt breathtaking.

Some common traits, however, keep emerging through the ages, for example, the belief in something ultimate, which we may call god, who is not indistinguishable from nature. Theologians call this “monism,” as opposed to “dualism,” where God is outside of nature. In classical Hinduism one is liberated from the cycle of suffering by finally understanding that he and the divine are one (“Thou art that”). By being united with the ultimate Supreme Being, one enters a state of superior consciousness.

Just like Buddhism and Jainism, which came later in time, Hinduism also relies on a system of accumulation of good and bad karma, which will only end when enough good karma has been accumulate through eons and the person finally achieves freedom. This presupposes reincarnation, of course.

Volumes after volumes have been produced to explain karma and reincarnation. Some argue that this system offers a better explanation for the problem of suffering in the world, but I still wonder about what moral force outside of a personal God, could give people rumors of morality in a materialistic world or even in a world where God and nature are one.

Also, I am not convinced that a system of justice based on the laws of karma and reincarnation meets the test of true justice. If the person is reincarnated in a totally different form (a slave for example) and thus ceases to exist in its previous form, how is justice served in the case of a truly evil person like Hitler, for example. Doesn’t the suffering of each subsequent reincarnation create more suffering to the point that it becomes virtually impossible to catch up with one’s badness? And is the suffering of the next reincarnation still technically Hitler’s suffering?

Hinduism also bears the stamps of the mythical gods of the Greeks and Romans, who were often given to debauchery, indolence, fits of rage, and indulgence in all sorts of behavior that would be abhorrent to many of their devotees. I can’t possibly understand the constant burdens of caring for and worshipping gods whose moral authority is undermined by their too human and often bizarre behavior.

Contrast that with the simplicity of the proposition that there is an all-powerful and just God who in spite of his total “otherness” makes it possible for us to approach Him personally through the person of His incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. His Son towered over everyone with His ethical standards and He was an indefatigable friend of all manners of rejected and despised human beings.

Instead of piling on demand upon demand on His potential worshippers, He offers them the possibility of peace with God and reconciliation with each other, not by following a set of rules but by renouncing a master plan for a life ruled by self. Instead of giving us a list of do’s and don’ts to achieve ultimate liberation, instead of demanding renunciation of everything, even that which could be called “good” in this life, He calls us to renounce sin by accepting His sacrifice on our behalf. “By His wounds we are healed.”

Instead of karma, He offers us grace (unmerited, undeserving gift). Instead of reincarnation, He offers us resurrection and demonstrates its plausibility by giving up His own life and then living again after three days. Instead of trying our hardest to run ahead of our mischief, He offers us the supernatural enabling of the Holy Spirit so we can live a life above the muck of humanity marred by sin. Instead of the eternal threat of a severe downgrade in the next life, He offers us the mother of all upgrades – a glorified body in a newly created paradise where there will be no more pain or death or suffering. “He will wipe away all tears from their eyes.”

Obviously, I am biased in my convictions. But if life is all illusory anyway, I would rather go with my version of illusory. Wouldn’t you?

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade