Introducing World Religions

A Christian Engagement

Materials available for professors by request only


2. Hinduism

Discussion Questions

  1. Hindu scriptures, such as the Bhagavad Gita, employ beautiful language to describe God (e.g., Brahman, Vishnu). How would you compare the description of God in the Hindu scriptures and in the Bible? Are they referring to the same God?
  2. Are there ways that you or others continue to perceive Near Eastern and Asian societies in Orientalist terms? For instance, what films, novels, or other elements within your cultural or social environment reflect a sense of ongoing Orientalism?
  3. Hindu tradition affirms the existence of classes (e.g., Brahmin, Kshatriya). Are there ways that Christians in the past or today have created “classes” that separate Christians from one another or Christians from non-Christians?
  4. The emergence of the Upanishads represents an inward turn within the Hindu tradition. The Upanishads encourage believers to look within for truth and reality itself (e.g., atman, Brahman). How might this “inward turn” be similar or dissimilar to Christian experience?
  5. Hindu tradition presents the ineffability of Brahman—that is, the indescribable nature of Brahman. Can you think of Bible passages that may reflect a similar view of the biblical God? From Hindu and Christian viewpoints, what seems similar and dissimilar in each tradition’s presentation of the Divine? Is “Brahman” just another name for God as revealed in the Bible?
  6. The sadhu (e.g., Sannyasi) tradition challenges the perspective that joins material wealth and power, since power for the sadhu does not imply having wealth. Power, for the sadhus, is of a social and spiritual kind. How does Christianity today and as understood in the Bible relate the two concepts of “wealth” and “power”?
  7. What role do the concepts of purity and pollution play in Hindu tradition? How are the notions of purity and pollution reconfigured in the light of the Christian revelation? Or, how does Christianity redraw the boundaries between what is thought of as pure and impure?
  8. One of the teachings in the Bhagavad Gita is that a believer (e.g., Arjuna) can seek liberation by offering the fruit of one’s actions to God (e.g., Vishnu), thus not having to bear the results of karma in one’s life. Considering biblical passages (e.g., James 2), how might Christians understand the relationship between “works” and salvation?
  9. The practice of yoga as a form of exercise and meditation has become increasingly popular in the West. What aspects of Hindu tradition and practice might be genuinely incorporated into Christian insight and practice without compromising Christian commitment? Put another way, can one adopt the form of another religious practice (e.g., sitting in a yoga position) and fill that form with Christian meaning, or is the form necessarily tied to a particular essence or content?
  10. The insights of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, particularly their belief that behind all religions stands the one God, challenges the idea that Christianity contains exclusive truth in Jesus Christ. Do all religions lead to the same Ultimate Reality, are they each limited in their own way, or does Christianity maintain some sense of exclusive truth? What reasons and resources would you give to support your thoughts?