Reflections on Hinduism
The problem with Hinduism, if it’s true, is that our environment is an illusion. It’s Maya. It’s not really there. So how can we get true information from something that doesn’t really exist?
One thing that surprised me in India was that I had so many Christians ask me, “How do you share Christ with Hindus?” I said, “I came here to learn how to do that from you. You’re the ones who live in this culture. You’re the persons, many of you, who were Hindus once. What was it that compelled you to become a Christian?” I began to question people and ask them what they believed as Hindus and what influence it has had on their lives.
I really began focusing on the uniqueness of Christ. There is some dispute about how unique Christ is from Hinduism. For example, in Hindu teaching there are incarnations, so the Christian teaching is not utterly unique. There are also suggestions of resurrections and a virgin birth, miracles, and those kinds of things. Although very few people in India believe the Vedas are historical, there are some who would look at the Vedas as historical documents. So it’s hard to weed out the things that would be absolutely unique.
I read the story about Paul Gupta’s life. Paul Gupta became a Christian from Hinduism in the late thirties. He was a high caste Hindu and was seeking enlightenment through Hinduism. When he realized that Hinduism didn’t give him forgiveness, that Krishna only came to save the righteous, he totally despaired because he could not attain to that. It was the message of forgiveness through Jesus Christ that caught his ear and eventually turned him. When he became a Christian he realized that this was the true source of salvation and turned to what was to them the religion of untouchables, the lowest caste. He sacrificed his high caste status and the wealth that came with it and served Christ. He founded the Hindustani Bible Institute where I stayed. Now he’s dead and his sons are following in his footsteps. This is what stood out for Paul Gupta and what has stood out for many in Hinduism, this issue of forgiveness.
I started out my time there speaking to a large group of people for three evenings, primarily Christians, some non-Christians who were invited to listen to my defense of Christianity. I was told that when you go there you have to be very sensitive to the culture by being low key, meek and mild, kind and gracious and generous, not too much of a know-it-all because people would think you’re arrogant and write you off. Then the first evening Mr. Shandra Shaker, the principal of HBI, introduced me as a man “clothed with humility.” That has never happened to me before and it put me at a decided disadvantage because then I had to live up to that description. So I went in kind of low key and mellow.
After the first evening I got some feedback from some people who were there. It turned out that I was too “clothed with humility” to have much impact. They said what I ought to do is try to be more direct, speak quicker, get to the point, be more sure of myself, cover more ground. In other words, I thought, just be myself. So on the second night I went after them.
The thing I went after was Hinduism. The reason that I was so sensitive the first night was that there is a strong emphasis on tolerance in that country because Hinduism is supposedly a very tolerant religion. This really isn’t true in practice because Christians are ostracized, especially Hindus who become Christians. They are often ostracized from their families. So much for the religion that accepts all other religions. In practice, as with many things, this is not true either. But at least philosophically they fancy themselves as tolerant and part of it is because the Hindu idea is that all roads lead to Rome and all rivers lead to the sea. This is why there is a tolerance after a fashion to embrace all of those religions. Therefore, it is a little bit impolite for someone to come in and say Christianity is the only religion that is true. We have to face the same thing in this so-called pluralistic society that we live in where it is bad manners to suggest that you might have the truth and someone else might possibly be wrong.
Just a case in point, by the way, for those who are given to using those kinds of illustration–all roads lead to Rome, all rivers lead to the sea, etc.–the metaphors are not very sound because all roads don’t, in fact, lead to Rome and all rivers don’t lead to the sea. Some lead to the Dead Sea. This is part of the point that I want to make. All roads can’t lead to Rome, it’s a rational impossibility and the example is just a confusing one.
I lit into Hinduism on that second night and we got quite a response from the audience as it turned out. There were a couple of main observations that I made. My first question was this: if Hinduism is true, how could we know it? Hinduism springs forth a great deal from the Vedas, though there are different strains of Hinduism. There are three main strains. One of the most popular, prolific strains is Hinduism that teaches monism. Monism is that there is only one reality and that reality is a unity. There’s only one thing that really exists in the universe and that’s Brahmin, and there is no differentiation in Brahmin. So everything that seems like differentiation, like the fact that you exist or anything exists, is really an illusion. The Hindu term for that is “Maya”. The world is simply an illusion.
The question that I asked that evening was if Hinduism is true how could we possibly know it because the only way we could know it was true was by measuring and sensing and testing our environment using some method to find out what is actually true. But the problem with Hinduism, if it’s true, is that our environment is an illusion. It’s Maya. It’s not really there. So how can we get true information from something that doesn’t really exist? This statement identifies what really amounts to epistemological chaos, a crisis of knowledge, as it were, that takes place if you are of the opinion that the world is an illusion.
I gave a talk that you heard aired last Sunday about faith and science. Are faith and science compatible? One of my points was that it first depends on what you mean by faith. Secondly, it depends on what faith you have in mind. If you have in mind a faith that teaches that the laws of cause and effect and rationality don’t apply, if you have a faith that teaches that the external world doesn’t even exist, then you’re going to be at odds with science that seeks to measure that external world. You will also be at odds with any kind of epistemology, any way of learning about anything since anything you learn must be tested against the external world, or at least it must be intuited individually. If the world is an illusion there is nothing to test and if the world is an illusion there is no being to have an intuition about reality. That’s what I mean by epistemological chaos.
You’ve heard Os Guinness on this program before. In the sixties he wrote a fine book called The Dust of Death , which is out of print unfortunately but it still has many good arguments about world views. There’s a chapter in the book called “The East: No Exit” and he had this to say about the epistemological chaos of Hinduism which believes that the world was Maya, illusion.
“Monism does not see man’s dilemma as moral, in terms of what he has done, but as metaphysical, in terms of who he is. Monism thus leads to the notion that a man cannot be helped as an individual because his individuality is the essential problem. He must be helped from his individuality. He must merge with the absolute. Myer Baba says, ‘A real merging of the limited in the ocean of universal life involves complete surrender of separate existence in all its forms.’ Now this cannot but lead to a radical negation of any positive aspiration toward individuality in this life.”
Then he quotes from Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass or Alice in Wonderland . Speaking of a dream Tweedle Dee says this, “If he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?” “Where I am now of course,” said Alice. “No, not you! Tweedle Dee retorted contemptuously. You’d be nowhere. Why you’re only a sort of thing in his dream. If that there king was to wake,” added Tweedle Dum, “you’d go out, Bang! Just like a candle.”
This is the kind of problem that you run into when you teach that the world is an illusion. Ultimately you don’t exist. Ultimately knowledge doesn’t exist. Ultimately nothing exists at all. This is why those who attend to Eastern mysticism or hold to some form of Eastern thought are very comfortable with contradictions, or at least they are philosophically. They say they are comfortable with contradiction.
I heard a lecture that was held at Hope Chapel last week by the fine apologist Dr. Greg Bahnsen. He suggested the next time you talk to someone from Eastern religion who believes that logic isn’t really a valid way of finding truth, the conversation could go something like this. “You’re thinking too hard. You’re using logic. Logic isn’t the way to find truth, experience is.” You respond, “So you believe logic isn’t the way to truth?” “Yes, that’s what I believe.” “Well then, you believe it is.” “No, I said it isn’t.” “But you believe it is.” “No, I said it isn’t the way to truth. Experience is.” “So you believe it is.” “How do you say it is?” “Because your way of thinking accepts the notion of contradictions, so if experience is the way to truth, not logic, then experience also is not the way to truth. Logic is the way to truth and it isn’t at the same time. The point being you can’t even talk about your own philosophy if it’s logically contradictory. It becomes nonsense to even discuss it.”
So a person who rejects rationality, a person who rejects logic, a person who rejects the world as a real thing and contends that it is merely an illusion can therefore have nothing to say about the real world because the real world is not real. And any commentary about it would be essentially acknowledging its reality. Any commentary trying to correct your view, such that you would now believe the world is an illusion, must be done by using rationality which ultimately doesn’t exist. That’s why if Hinduism were true we could never know it. I think that’s a valid point whenever you’re dealing with someone from Eastern religion.
There’s another problem that arises out of this too. It’s not only epistemological confusion, it’s moral confusion as well. This is really much more to the heart of the problem that I saw in India. The epistemological confusion, you can’t really know anything ultimately, leads to the more serious applicational problem of the moral confusion. If you can’t know anything at all then you can’t know anything moral. You can’t know a moral thing. Consequently, if you can’t know a moral truth then there is ultimately no distinction between good and evil.
When you study Hinduism you find this is the case. Those distinctions have some value at the lower levels of development as you’re moving more and more towards oneness with the absolute. But when you’re getting to higher levels of self-realization the distinction between good and evil diminishes and ultimately it’s erased altogether. This is one reason you can see incredible debauchery and evil among the highest members of the Hindu castes. The priests are not holy people. Sometimes the priests are the least holy people. The high caste Hindus are known for being underhanded and double-minded and double-tongued and those who have gotten closer to some of the gurus and Brahmin who are teaching find that there’s a tremendous amount of immorality that goes on behind the scenes. Why is this possible? They do not have a sense of morality like we have. Ultimately their sense of morality is not connected to a higher moral law.
Christianity teaches that morality is reflected by the character of a holy God and we should do right because it is right to do. However, Hinduism teaches that on lower stages you do right because it erases your karma, so it’s egoistic in one sense. It’s basically self-serving. It’s not right to do right for its own sake, its right to do right because then you release yourself from karma and the cycle of samsara. But when you get up to the higher castes and become more enlightened you realize that since Brahmin is one, all is one. Everything is the same and evil and good lose their distinction. Then it becomes more understandable in this environment of ethical chaos where there is no difference between feeding a baby and killing a baby. It become more understandable how they can live with the kinds of moral excess or the inhumanity that you see on a day to day basis in a country like that.
Now when somebody asks me about Christianity I can answer that. I can say I have reason to believe this because the Bible isn’t just a book by men about God. It isn’t just somebody’s ideas. It’s not a book of poems, epic poems that talk about God. The Bible is a book that purports to be history. What I have as a Christian is a God who works through history, a God who changes lives, a God who raised Jesus from the dead. That’s what I can offer. This is very unique in Christianity. The Hindu gods were incarnated, but what do they offer you? Nothing. They offer illusion, karma. There is no God in Hinduism who becomes a man for the specific purpose of helping men survive, getting on with life, being better people and specifically becoming a man Himself so He would take on the sin of other men and then provide forgiveness.
I gave an address at a banquet primarily for business men and I was expressing the need for leadership in business to have high moral character. There’s a lot going on now in the business world about the Caisson method and Cubby has written a couple of books. These new books on leadership are emphasizing that leadership must begin at the top, and good leadership and management must begin with the character of the leader. There’s a character based ethic that’s being developed now. But it’s really an old thing. It’s been around for a long time.
The problem with trying to be a character based individual is that we find out that we always fall short in our goals as individuals to have good character. We can’t produce the kind of character that’s necessary, but the God of the Bible can. The God of the Bible offers help for everyone who asks and consistently delivers on it. This was how I segued into the Gospel message. Afterwards a Hindu came up to me, a very intelligent man, and he began to express to me how Hinduism offers everything that I’d just explained that Christianity offers. It offers a holy, personal God. There are strains of Hinduism that do teach that. He said it offers a personal God who is willing to help, that you can pray to, a God that’s holy. The God of Hinduism is no different than the God of the Bible.
My first thought was that if that’s true there are 800 million Hindus in India that need to know that, that don’t. But I didn’t take him to task on that. I asked him one question, “Does Hinduism provide forgiveness?” He said, “Yes, yes. Hinduism provides forgiveness.” I asked, “If Hinduism provides forgiveness why do you have karma?” He thought for a moment and he said, “You’re right, Hinduism doesn’t have forgiveness.”
That’s one thing that they can’t match because there is no means of forgiveness in Hinduism or, in fact, virtually any other religion that I know. No true forgiveness. You can work your way to Heaven if you have a mind to and if you’re capable of that, but there is no forgiveness in Hinduism. This fact that there is not forgiveness in Hinduism, that the world is an illusion and that people are locked into this illusion through a karmic cycle of reincarnation to work this karma off before being released from the illusory existence has had a terrible impact on the people. I want to share with you how Hinduism has destroyed this country, how it has destroyed precious human beings and set up a living situation that you will not believe is true.
I want to leave you with what I saw about Hinduism in practice. There were three particular things that touched me about the outworking of this particular philosophy. The first one is that because of the cycle of samsara and karma there is a tremendous hopelessness in the people.
I’ll give you one illustration of this. There is a very popular guru in India right now, his name is Sibaba. This man is so powerful and I have this on fairly good authority he can actually materialize things from nowhere. This man has incredible occultic powers. As a matter of fact, the man who wrote the book When the World Will Be As One , Tal Brooks, he’s a Christian writing about the New Age, has also written a book about Sibaba. Tal Brooks is on the inside circle and wrote all about this man in this other book. Sibaba claims to be a reincarnation of Jesus Christ. It strikes me as a little unusual that there are a number of living gurus that claim to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. I wonder how that can be, but there’s another problem with this claim.
Let’s presume it’s true. What does that tell us about the possibility of getting out of the cycle of reincarnation? The goal is to get through with the cycles, work our way out, remove our karmic debt and get on with Nirvana and Moksha. Two thousand years ago Jesus walked this earth and lived a sinless life and even by the reckoning of the gurus he was a Brahmin. He was ready to step into Nirvana. That was twenty centuries ago and Jesus is still being reincarnated. If Jesus can’t get out of the cycle and after twenty centuries of living a perfect life He is still in the cycle of samsara, what hope does that give the average person? It gives absolutely no hope whatsoever. That’s why there’s a tremendous amount of hopelessness and resignation in people in India.
Not only that but because the world is viewed as Maya, as an illusion, and that everybody is working off their own karma, there is a sense of detachment from communal obligations. Why should anybody care? I acknowledge freely that there are people who do care. But I think that that caring springs not from their Hinduism but from the fact that they’re made in the image of God and it is quite contrary to their Hinduism. Instead, Hinduism encourages a detachment from communal obligations.
As I mentioned earlier, Hinduism is not truly moral. It is a type of morality, but the goal of morality is not to keep the high morality of a moral God. The goal of morality is to do the right things to get out of the cycle. It is self-centered, not other-centered. So when people say these religions are very moral I just have to say it ain’t necessarily so understanding the notion of morals that they’re using when they give moral teaching. This is why in that country people can starve, like little Marina that I mentioned yesterday, while animals roam free. I even saw with my own eyes children pushed away from the garbage cans by cows. Children who were digging in a trash bin trying to get food were pushed away from the bin by animals.
So not only is there a hopelessness to it, not only is there a detachment from communal obligations, but the third thing is that ultimately this road that supposedly leads to Rome is a filthy road and a dehumanizing road. The question I asked myself many times was why is there so much filth in this country? There are other third world countries that are not Hindu that have a lot of filth. I have personally not seen any as bad as this one. But I was told by others a number of times who lived there why it is that there is so much filth and why people put up with it. The reason they put up with it is that they are resigned to it. They believe that this is their fate, this is their karma. They were born into this situation because of sins from past lives, it has caught up with them and they are only getting what they deserve. This is part of life. Add to that that this dirt, filth and degradation that they’re experiencing is really an illusion anyway, and there isn’t much motivation for people to want to change their circumstances.
There is a tremendous contrast to that with Christianity because as I walked through these villages that were so filthy I would go to a Christian church and I was stunned by the cleanliness of the Christian churches. There is such a radical difference. The churches there are clean. The Christian homes are clean. The Christian environment is clean. And I don’t think it’s any accident that the Old Testament says that the guidelines are to burn the refuse outside of the camp. Eat clean food and those kinds of things because God is concerned with physical cleanliness because there is, if nothing more, a metaphoric parallel between physical cleanliness and the spiritual cleanliness of the people of God. And I saw that in this country.
Now I had to visit a church once that was about two miles from the HBI complex. I walked on the road and it took me a couple of lefts around so I ended up coming around behind the complex and I think yesterday I mentioned to you that there was a village of untouchables, the lowest caste people in the country. They are very poor people, incredibly poor. As I walked around this village and down this road with village huts on either side I have to tell you that it was one of the most harrowing experiences that I’ve had in my entire life. As I walked down I saw the shacks and shanties where the lowest class of people live, people with the least amount of hope, people that are so rejected by society that it is not permitted to even touch them or eat their food.
As I walked I saw their shacks and shanties and I saw the children playing on the street that was strewn with dirt and with mud and with animal dung. And life there was a mixture of men and women and children and donkeys and goats and mules and excrement everywhere. It’s not just animal excrement. And this is the part that you’ll find hard to believe, but there’s human excrement as well. Row upon row of it where people just stopped along the road, squatted down and defecated. Baking in the sun. All around the area where they’re living. There were hundreds of piles just a few feet apart. It was like a whole battalion of people had stood in formation and squatted and went right there. The odor was overwhelming.
But worse than that, if it’s possible, was that people had washed their clothing outside and they’d lay their clean clothes out to dry. They’d put their sheets and saris all over everything, sometimes on the roof, sometimes on bushes. But frequently they laid their clean laundry on the road to dry and in many cases I saw they simply cast their garments over these drying clumps of human feces. Their clean clothing lying on human dung drying in the sun.
Friends, listen to me carefully. What stuck me about this was that this was the final victory. This was the last laugh Satan gets on the human beings he holds captive because my observation here was not a commentary on their sanitation, it’s a commentary on their spiritual condition. These are precious human beings, people that are so valuable to God that He became a man and He died for them, but to Satan these precious people are just crap. I can’t be more precise, though I’d like to, because this is Christian radio. That’s what these precious human beings are to Satan. And he has so enslaved them and they are so deeply immersed in spiritual filth, in spiritual feces as it were, they are so debauched spiritually, so completely lost, that they can settle in physical filth and human feces and be so at home in it that it’s a fitting companion for their clean laundry. This is how captured these people are. This is how enslaved and lost they are. And it’s hard to imagine how anybody can live like this with kids playing in the street, lying on the side of the road sleeping, washing clothes right among this stuff.
I have to ask myself, why in God’s earth are people in the west stampeding to embrace this philosophy, this dehumanizing philosophy, this philosophy that reduces morality to egoism, this philosophy that is fundamentally incoherent and makes knowledge impossible? One of the answers is that this is a philosophy that is presented in the United States as very high on individual freedom and low on personal responsibility, and that’s the way Americans like it. As a matter of fact, it’s not just Americans who like it that way, every man likes it that way. To put it simply, you don’t have to bend the knee to the God who made it all. What ridiculous lengths people will go to run from the true God, and what Satan will do to human beings who accept his reckoning of them instead of accepting God’s reckoning of them.
It reminds of Romans 1:21-24, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”
Just one final thought, friends. The theme song for Hindustani Bible Institute is called “Shine, Jesus, Shine.” In light of all of these things that I saw, in light of the incredible darkness, in light of the captivity of the people to this Satanic way of thinking, this utterly dehumanizing way of pursuing religion, this viewpoint that is completely contrary to everything that human beings are, a religion that makes human beings be satisfied with living like animals. In light of all of that I would sing this song from the bottom of my heart and we sang it almost everyday at HBI. The chorus reads like this. “Shine, Jesus, shine, fill this land with the Father’s glory. Blaze, Spirit, blaze, set our hearts on fire. Flow, river, flow, flood the nations with grace and mercy. Send forth you word, Lord, and let there be light.”
It is very hard for a regenerate person of any stripe to look upon the terrible circumstances that these people want to face and not want to cry out to God and cry, “Father, fill this land with your glory. Flood the nations with grace and mercy because they desperately need it.”
At least that’s the way I see it.