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Hindu beliefs include a god who is ultimate but unknowable

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Hinduism is the world’s oldest active organized religion. It is a complex family of sects whose copious scriptures, written over a period of almost 2,000 years (1500 B.C.-A.D. 250), allow a diverse belief system. Hinduism has no single creed and recognizes no final truth.
At its core, Hinduism has a pagan background in which the forces of nature and human heroes are personified as gods and goddesses. They are worshiped with prayers and offerings. Hindus can be divided into Popular Hinduism, characterized by the worship of gods through offerings, rituals and prayers, and Philosophical Hinduism, the complex belief system understood by those who can study ancient texts, meditate and practice yoga.
Other key areas of beliefs include:
— God: God (Brahman) is the one impersonal, ultimate, but unknowable, spiritual reality. Sectarian Hinduism personalizes Brahman as Brahma (creator), Vishnu (preserver), and Shiva (destroyer). Most Hindus worship two of Vishnu’s 10 mythical incarnations: Krishna and Rama. On special occasions, Hindus may worship other gods, as well as family and individual deities. Hindus claim there are 330 million gods. In Hinduism, belief in astrology, evil spirits and curses also prevails.
— Creation: Hindus accept various forms of pantheism and reject the Christian doctrine of creation. According to Hinduism, Brahman alone exists; everything is ultimately an illusion. God emanated itself to cause the illusion of creation. There is no beginning or conclusion to creation, only endless repetitions or cycles of creation and destruction. History has little value since it is based on an illusion.
— Man: The eternal soul of man is a manifestation or “spark” of Brahman mysteriously trapped in the physical body. Repeated lives, or reincarnations, are required before the soul can be liberated from the body. An individual’s present life is determined by the law of karma (actions, words and thoughts in previous lifetimes). The physical body is ultimately an illusion with little inherent or permanent worth. Bodies generally are cremated, and the eternal soul goes to an intermediate state of punishment or reward before rebirth in another body. Rebirths are experienced until karma has been removed to allow the soul’s reabsorption into Brahman.
— Sin: Hindus have no concept of rebellion against a holy God. Ignorance of unity with Brahman, desire, and violation of one’s social duty are humanity’s problems.
— Salvation: There is no clear concept of salvation in Hinduism. Moksha (freedom from infinite being and selfhood and final self-realization of the truth) is the goal of existence. Yoga and meditation taught by a guru is one way to attain moksha. The other valid paths for moksha are the way of works, the way of knowledge or the way of love and devotion. Hindus hope to eventually get off the cycle of reincarnation. They believe the illusions of personal existence will end and they will become one with the impersonal God.
Witnessing to Hindus:
— Pray and trust the Holy Spirit to use the gospel message to reach the hearts and minds of your Hindu friend.
— Share your personal faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Keep your testimony short.
— Stress the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as God’s revelation of himself.
— Stress the necessity of following Jesus to the exclusion of all other deities. Keep the gospel presentation Christ-centered.
— Share the assurance of salvation that God’s grace gives you and about your hope in the resurrection. Make sure you communicate that your assurance is derived from God’s grace and not from your good works or your ability to be spiritual (1 John 5:13).
— Give a copy of the New Testament. If a Hindu desires to study the Bible, begin with the Gospel of John. Point out passages that explain salvation.
Condensed from the North American Mission Board’s Interfaith Evangelism Belief Bulletin on Hinduism by N.S.R.K. Ravi, revised this year. It is available through the www.namb.net/interfaith Internet site or by calling 1-800-448-8032.

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