To westerners, like us, Hinduism, Buddhism, and all the ideas/philosophies associated with them can seem difficult to understand if not downright nonsensical. It is also a little humbling to remember that these religions are very old; much older than Christianity. Buddhism’s origins go back more that 500 years before the birth of Christ, and Hinduism’s origins are so far back that its difficult to tell exactly when the religion as its know today began. Parts of Hinduism are undoubtedly over 3000 years old.
As strange as these two religions may seem and as difficult as they might be for Christians to grasp they are worthwhile trying to understand; if for no other reason than to enable us to follow Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbor. Its hard to love your neighbor if you might accidentally offend or insult their religion by not knowing anything about it. And you never know, there might be something that we western Christians can learn from other religions.
C. S. Lewis who wrote the Chronicles of Narnia, The Space Trilogy, and many other books about Christian belief was, in his early life, an atheist (did not believe in God or gods). He wrote this about finding truth in other religions.
I have been asked to tell you what Christians believe, and I am going to begin by telling you one thing that Christians do not need to believe. If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole word is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest one, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view. But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic – there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong: but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others.
(Mere Christianity, 102)
With all that in mind I want you to choose one of the following websites to examine in detail. The links will take you to sites run by Buddhist and Hindu groups and places of worship. Come at them with an open mind and see if there is anything you can learn. Then answer the questions at the bottom of the page.
Hare Krishna Cultural Center – Especially check out their ‘About Us’ link
Buddhist Gateway – Lots of info here. ‘Quick Facts’ is a good place to start.
Hindu Jain Temple of Pittsburgh – Just a few miles away
Answer these questions as completely as possible and keeping in mind the material presented on each of the above sites. Use examples and references to the assigned material or other sources to answer the questions. Feel free to look up terms, definitions, or events via Google or Wikipedia if you need to. Each of these questions is worthy of a good sized paragraph for an answer.
You may post your answers as a reply to this blog or write it out and give me a hard copy. Either way, make sure to include your name.
If you are going to post a reply write it in MSWord first so you can save a copy. After you’re done paste the text into a comment for the blog.
- What is the most interesting thing you found out while browsing this site?
- Did you learn anything about how this group understands life, religion, or God?
- In what ways do the teachings of this group that seem similar to Christianity? How so?
- What are some of the dissimilarities between Christianity and the faith of the group you researched?
- What would it mean to ‘love your neighbor’ if your neighbors are of this other faith?