Vivek Ramaswamy, US Preisdential candidate in the upcoming US elections has stirred a hornet’s nest by saying that Hinduism and Christanity are not dissimilar faith
Vivek Ramaswamy, in the fray in America’s Presidential contest, is making more news than almost any other candidate except perhaps Donald Trump. To draw the conservative white vote, particularly of the US Midwest, Ramaswamy has said that Hinduism and Christianity are not dissimilar faiths, and he is somewhat right.
Judaism and Islam are two religions utterly faithful to what their first Prophet Abraham wanted. Christianity defers from these two religions and is a little similar to Hinduism. God, more so his son, walked the earth for 33 years until he presumably ascended to heaven. Jesus Christ performed many miracles, most notably, transforming water into wine, saving the honour of a host. Also, many were cured of their illnesses by his miracles.
Secondly, there is no bar on wishing to have a glimpse of the Almighty, whereas the other two Abrahamic religions forbid such spirituality. The second of Moses’ Ten Commandments spoken on Mount Sinai, explicitly says: “Thee shall not make any gravel image of thy Lord the God”. But every Christian church houses a crucifix. Every Catholic church also has a statue of the Virgin Mary. Every Hindu temple has a murti (idol) of a deity. Every traditional Hindu considers his marriage sacred while Christianity believes marriage to be divine and indivisible.
When Ramaswamy talks about God, for Christians, Jesus is the son of God. The Hindu on the other hand has the choice to be an agnostic and another Hindu at the other end can be a whole-time bhakta (devotee). The compulsory requirement for a Hindu is to have a dharma and a purpose in his life. Karma is the performance to fulfil his chosen dharma, the measure of which would spontaneously determine his 'bhagya' or fate. Beyond this minimum commitment, the Hindu is free to choose his path, including treating Jesus as a divine avatar. This is what perhaps Ramaswamy meant when he said, “My faith is what gives me my freedom”.
Further, he says, “Religion is that God resides in all of us”. In Hinduism, all living beings are meteors of the Paramatma (the Supreme One). When Ramaswamy says “Patriotism is cool again in the US”, he implies that unlike Judaism and Islam, which are supranational, Christianity believes in nationhood which in fact, was born and bred in Christian Europe.
The Indian experience has been that Hindus and Muslims have clashed often, frequently erupting in riots. But there is no known record of a Hindu-Christian riot. It is when some Hindus are converted to Christianity that friction is visibly felt. A lot of converts do not necessarily change their names, whereas it is compulsory for anyone converting to Islam to replace his or her name with an Islamic one. Neither Hindus nor Christians have circumcision as a religious obligation, whereas, for the Jews and the Muslims, it is an integral part of their faith. Prophet Mohammad was born a Jew, and therefore, Muslims adhere to the practice as a part of the Sunnah (the life of the Prophet).
Christianity does believe that there is only one God, who is the father of Jesus. Hinduism, as we have seen, permits the worship of many deities, whether human-like or animals and even certain vegetations like the peepal tree.
In contrast, Christianity has limited itself to religion and hasn’t opened the scope for spirituality or the attempt by worshippers to obtain a glimpse of the divine, if not try to see the divine oneself. Being familiar with the miracles of Jesus Christ and the psalms and perhaps a pilgrimage to Calvary Hill and also the Vatican, one can say these are virtually the horizons in addition to Church-going and worship.
With education and inquiry, much thinking and learning happened after Christ’s advent and the enormous contribution of St. Peter and St. Paul. However, by incidentally being deductive in its logic, Christianity hasn’t opened avenues of spirituality. A thinking person reaches a stage when his mind seeks spiritual avenues. Any person seeking an elevation finds deductive logic a limiting factor and an obstacle. The postulate of deductive logic is always a given premise from which its corollaries flow. The reasoning appears immaculately logical; the only weakness is that the premise may be imaginary, such as there is only one god and that may god is the only one. Hinduism does not employ the deductive approach. It does not begin with any given premise. Rather, it begins on the ground and works upwards; not top-down, as in deductive logic.
Dharma and its achievement, namely karma are the bedrock of this process of thought.
This resembles the law of physics, wherein every action has an opposite reaction. The conclusion that is arrived at is left to the worshipper or scholar. This is a method that would appeal to an intellectual. Therefore, once it is known and understood by those who seek spirituality, it may well appeal to any intelligent American in search of the first steps of spirituality. The latest development i.e., the grand opening of the large Akshardham Temple in New Jersey is a case in point. The function was attended in great numbers by Americans of all walks of life, including those looking for an alternative pathway in life.
(The writer is a well-known columnist, an author and a former member of the Rajya Sabha. The views expressed are personal)