Sunday, July 31, 2011

Book Review-Sharing Your Faith with a Hindu by Mdasamy Thirumalai

I ordered the book, Sharing your faith with a Hindu by Madasamy Thirumalai from Voice of the Martyrs several years ago. But I finally decided it was time to read this book because I have had a burden to get to know our neighbors and well most of them are Indian, some are Hindu. I studied Hinduism in college, but honestly don't remember much.
First, an interesting aside about their names. The author, like my neighbors, has multiple Indian names, which I find interesting but can hardly pronounce. Since I have no idea how to spell their names, I keep a list on my fridge with the syllables/pronunciation written out. So let's start here.  The names of men is usually three-fold starting with their grandfather, their father and then their name. But most of them have adopt an english nickname like my neighbor Sindhu, who goes by Cindy.
Okay, here are some similarites among Hindus.
1) Hindus are primarily from India
2) Hindus worship idols, images, pictures, relics and other objects
3) Hindus believe in rebirth and karma
4) Hindus are pantheistic, polytheistic, and animist practicers of religion
5) Hindus are usually governed by the caste system
6) Hindus are known for their tolerance and acceptance of a wide variety of theological beliefs from within their religion
7) continuity, not change, dominates the concerns of Hindus
8) there is a vast gulf between the elitist and folk religious forms and practices of Hinduism
What does that all mean? I'll try to explain using quotes.
First of all, Hinduism is hard to explain not only for outsiders, but also for Hindus since there is so much variety in how they practice. But mostly they are tolerant of all faiths, believe that their is some truth in every idea, and pick their god to follow. For example, they have three main gods, as opposed to the Trinity. The gods are: Brahma, the creator god, Vishnu, the preserver god, and Shiva, the destroyer god. And depending on how or where you grew up and what god your family worshipped then you will pick one over the others. Because they have three gods, they are often confused with the Trinity as being 3-in-1 as opposed to three separate gods. And since a Hindu has the ability to become a god in a future life, it is important to stress the fact that Jesus IS God.
There is a lot of Hindu sacred literature, but there is no one book that they turn to for answers, like the Bible. And if there are differences in opinion, tradition wins over written documents!
Another strange thought is that they are encouraged to adopt a worldview based on their social position (caste) as opposed to "love your neighbor as yourself." Dharma (caste duty) is more important than doctrine and it is stressed that Hindus develop a worldview based on this. It is also never correct to ask a Hindu what caste they belong.
Sadly, the way I understand the concept of karma is a twisted way to keep the caste system in place. The word karma means words, or actions.  "It is a principle of moral reaction based on both good and evil deeds." The caste system is a way to categorize/pre-judge people and is NOT what we are to be a part of according to 1 Cor 12. It glorifies self-help/reliance and has been used to oppress and exploit people. It is a picture of hope to Hindus because they all get another chance to improve their "lot" in the next life. This disagrees with Hebrews 9:27 because they do not need to seek forgiveness for their present life.
Two things that are big in the life of a Hindu are idol worship and superstition. Often Hindus perform rituals and present offerings to images or statues. Some are appeasement, but most are a form of worship. And now why they place such a priority of supersition: "One of the reasons for belief in and practice of superstition among Hundus is the firm belief that fate cannot be overcome. Fatalism encourages superstition, and people develop superstitious acts to reduce the severity of the consequence of fater or event to escape from it." The best thing we can do is listen and pray for wisdom. 
Here is a concern that I have when I hear Christians participating in yoga classes. The definition is as such: intense concentration of the mind on one subject, till at last the great end of freedom from all thought, perfect calm, and absorption in the Deity are obtained. Yes, it has physical benefits, but the reality is that it is solely based on Hindu theology (belief about god) and I feel is counter to Christianity.
Here are some conversation starters:
1) Ask where they come from
2) ask what language they speak
3) ask about their family
4) ask about their siblings
5) ask about education
6) ask who their friends are
7) ask what holy days their family celebrates
8) what do they do during holy days
9) what is their daily religious routine
10) what is the significance of their name
11) do they dress differently when performing rituals
12) does their family (back in India) have their own temple
13) how frequently do they visit their temple
14) does their family perform rituals to the dead
15) do they believe in the efficacy of the various rituals performed
Remember we don't need to argue or try to change their practices until AFTER conversion. the whole goal is to be winsome in our attitude. (1 Cor 10)
Just hear them out and get to know them with genuinely friendly conversations!
Hope this is enlightening! Please let me know if you have had much contact with Hindus, so I can learn from you!