Hinduism differs from Christianity and other Western religions in that it does not have a single founder, a specific theological system, a single system of morality, or a central religious organization. It consists of "thousands of different religious groups that have evolved in India since 1500 BCE." Hinduism has grown to become the world's third largest religion, after Christianity & Islam. It claims about 837 million followers - 13% of the world's population.It is the dominant religion in India, Nepal, and among the Tamils in Sri Lanka. According to the "Yearbook of American &Canadian Churches," there are about 1.1 million Hindus in the U.S. The "American Religious Identification Survey" is believed to be more accurate. They estimated smaller number: 766,000 Hindus in 2001.Still, this is a very significant increase from 227,000 in 1990. Statistics Canada estimates that there are about 157,015 Hindus in Canada. Hinduism is generally regarded as the world's oldest organized religion. Most forms of Hinduism are henotheistic religions. They recognize a single deity, and view other Gods and Goddesses as manifestations or aspects of that supreme God. Henotheistic and polytheistic religions have traditionally been among the world's most religiously tolerant faiths.However, until recently, a Hindu nationalistic political party controlled the government of India. The linkage of religion, the national government, and nationalism led to a degeneration of the separation of church and state in India. This, in turn, has decreased the level of religious tolerance in that country. The escalation of anti-Christian violence was one manifestation of this linkage. With the recent change in government, the level of violence will diminish. In the days of Melchizedek, India was a cosmopolitan country which had recently come under the political and religious dominance of the Aryan-Andite invaders from the north and west. At this time only the northern and western portions of the peninsula had been extensively permeated by the Aryans. These Vedic newcomers had brought along with them their many tribal deities. Their religious forms of worship followed closely the ceremonial practices of their earlier Andite forebears in that the father still functioned as a priest and the mother as a priestess, and the family hearth was still utilized as an altar.
The Vedic cult was then in process of growth and metamorphosis under the direction of the Brahman caste of teacher-priests, who were gradually assuming control over the expanding ritual of worship. The amalgamation of the onetime thirty-three Aryan deities was well under way when the Salem missionaries penetrated the north of India.
The polytheism of these Aryans represented a degeneration of their earlier monotheism occasioned by their separation into tribal units, each tribe having its venerated god. This devolution of the original monotheism and trinitarianism of Andite Mesopotamia was in process of resynthesis in the early centuries of the second millennium before Christ. The many gods were organized into a pantheon under the triune leadership of Dyaus pitar, the lord of heaven; Indra, the tempestuous lord of the atmosphere; and Agni, the three-headed fire god, lord of the earth and the vestigial symbol of an earlier Trinity concept.
Definite henotheistic developments were paving the way for an evolved monotheism. Agni, the most ancient deity, was often exalted as the father-head of the entire pantheon. The deity-father principle, sometimes called Prajapati, sometimes termed Brahma, was submerged in the theologic battle which the Brahman priests later fought with the Salem teachers. The Brahman was conceived as the energy-divinity principle activating the entire Vedic pantheon.
The Salem missionaries preached the one God of Melchizedek, the Most High of heaven. This portrayal was not altogether disharmonious with the emerging concept of the Father-Brahma as the source of all gods, but the Salem doctrine was nonritualistic and hence ran directly counter to the dogmas, traditions, and teachings of the Brahman priesthood. Never would the Brahman priests accept the Salem teaching of salvation through faith, favor with God apart from ritualistic observances and sacrificial ceremonials.
The rejection of the Melchizedek gospel of trust in God and salvation through faith marked a vital turning point for India. The Salem missionaries had contributed much to the loss of faith in all the ancient Vedic gods, but the leaders, the priests of Vedism, refused to accept the Melchizedek teaching of one God and one simple faith.
The Brahmans culled the sacred writings of their day in an effort to combat the Salem teachers, and this compilation, as later revised, has come on down to modern times as the Rig-Veda, one of the most ancient of sacred books. The second, third, and fourth Vedas followed as the Brahmans sought to crystallize, formalize, and fix their rituals of worship and sacrifice upon the peoples of those days. Taken at their best, these writings are the equal of any other body of similar character in beauty of concept and truth of discernment. But as this superior religion became contaminated with the thousands upon thousands of superstitions, cults, and rituals of southern India, it progressively metamorphosed into the most variegated system of theology ever developed by mortal man. An examination of the Vedas will disclose some of the highest and some of the most debased concepts of Deity ever to be conceived.
As the Salem missionaries penetrated southward into the Dravidian Deccan, they encountered an increasing caste system, the scheme of the Aryans to prevent loss of racial identity in the face of a rising tide of the secondary Sangik peoples. Since the Brahman priest caste was the very essence of this system, this social order greatly retarded the progress of the Salem teachers. This caste system failed to save the Aryan race, but it did succeed in perpetuating the Brahmans, who, in turn, have maintained their religious hegemony in India to the present time.
And now, with the weakening of Vedism through the rejection of higher truth, the cult of the Aryans became subject to increasing inroads from the Deccan. In a desperate effort to stem the tide of racial extinction and religious obliteration, the Brahman caste sought to exalt themselves above all else. They taught that the sacrifice to deity in itself was all-efficacious, that it was all-compelling in its potency. They proclaimed that, of the two essential divine principles of the universe, one was Brahman the deity, and the other was the Brahman priesthood. Among no other Urantia peoples did the priests presume to exalt themselves above even their gods, to relegate to themselves the honors due their gods. But they went so absurdly far with these presumptuous claims that the whole precarious system collapsed before the debasing cults which poured in from the surrounding and less advanced civilizations. The vast Vedic priesthood itself floundered and sank beneath the black flood of inertia and pessimism which their own selfish and unwise presumption had brought upon all India.
The undue concentration on self led certainly to a fear of the nonevolutionary perpetuation of self in an endless round of successive incarnations as man, beast, or weeds. And of all the contaminating beliefs which could have become fastened upon what may have been an emerging monotheism, none was so stultifying as this belief in transmigration--the doctrine of the reincarnation of souls--which came from the Dravidian Deccan. This belief in the weary and monotonous round of repeated transmigrations robbed struggling mortals of their long-cherished hope of finding that deliverance and spiritual advancement in death which had been a part of the earlier Vedic faith.
This philosophically debilitating teaching was soon followed by the invention of the doctrine of the eternal escape from self by submergence in the universal rest and peace of absolute union with Brahman, the oversoul of all creation. Mortal desire and human ambition were effectually ravished and virtually destroyed. For more than two thousand years the better minds of India have sought to escape from all desire, and thus was opened wide the door for the entrance of those later cults and teachings which have virtually shackled the souls of many Hindu peoples in the chains of spiritual hopelessness. Of all civilizations, the Vedic-Aryan paid the most terrible price for its rejection of the Salem gospel.
Caste alone could not perpetuate the Aryan religio-cultural system, and as the inferior religions of the Deccan permeated the north, there developed an age of despair and hopelessness. It was during these dark days that the cult of taking no life arose, and it has ever since persisted. Many of the new cults were frankly atheistic, claiming that such salvation as was attainable could come only by man's own unaided efforts. But throughout a great deal of all this unfortunate philosophy, distorted remnants of the Melchizedek and even the Adamic teachings can be traced.
These were the times of the compilation of the later scriptures of the Hindu faith, the Brahmanas and the Upanishads. Having rejected the teachings of personal religion through the personal faith experience with the one God, and having become contaminated with the flood of debasing and debilitating cults and creeds from the Deccan, with their anthropomorphisms and reincarnations, the Brahmanic priesthood experienced a violent reaction against these vitiating beliefs; there was a definite effort to seek and to find true reality. The Brahmans set out to deanthropomorphize the Indian concept of deity, but in so doing they stumbled into the grievous error of depersonalizing the concept of God, and they emerged, not with a lofty and spiritual ideal of the Paradise Father, but with a distant and metaphysical idea of an all-encompassing Absolute.
In their efforts at self-preservation the Brahmans had rejected the one God of Melchizedek, and now they found themselves with the hypothesis of Brahman, that indefinite and illusive philosophic self, that impersonal and impotent it which has left the spiritual life of India helpless and prostrate from that unfortunate day to the twentieth century.
It was during the times of the writing of the Upanishads that Buddhism arose in India. But despite its successes of a thousand years, it could not compete with later Hinduism; despite a higher morality, its early portrayal of God was even less well-defined than was that of Hinduism, which provided for lesser and personal deities. Buddhism finally gave way in northern India before the onslaught of a militant Islam with its clear-cut concept of Allah as the supreme God of the universe.
3. BRAHMANIC PHILOSOPHY
While the highest phase of Brahmanism was hardly a religion, it was truly one of the most noble reaches of the mortal mind into the domains of philosophy and metaphysics. Having started out to discover final reality, the Indian mind did not stop until it had speculated about almost every phase of theology excepting the essential dual concept of religion: the existence of the Universal Father of all universe creatures and the fact of the ascending experience in the universe of these very creatures as they seek to attain the eternal Father, who has commanded them to be perfect, even as he is perfect.
In the concept of Brahman the minds of those days truly grasped at the idea of some all-pervading Absolute, for this postulate was at one and the same time identified as creative energy and cosmic reaction. Brahman was conceived to be beyond all definition, capable of being comprehended only by the successive negation of all finite qualities. It was definitely a belief in an absolute, even an infinite, being, but this concept was largely devoid of personality attributes and was therefore not experiencible by individual religionists.
Brahman-Narayana was conceived as the Absolute, the infinite IT IS, the primordial creative potency of the potential cosmos, the Universal Self existing static and potential throughout all eternity. Had the philosophers of those days been able to make the next advance in deity conception, had they been able to conceive of the Brahman as associative and creative, as a personality approachable by created and evolving beings, then might such a teaching have become the most advanced portraiture of Deity on Urantia since it would have encompassed the first five levels of total deity function and might possibly have envisioned the remaining two.
In certain phases the concept of the One Universal Oversoul as the totality of the summation of all creature existence led the Indian philosophers very close to the truth of the Supreme Being, but this truth availed them naught because they failed to evolve any reasonable or rational personal approach to the attainment of their theoretic monotheistic goal of Brahman-Narayana.
The karma principle of causality continuity is, again, very close to the truth of the repercussional synthesis of all time-space actions in the Deity presence of the Supreme; but this postulate never provided for the co-ordinate personal attainment of Deity by the individual religionist, only for the ultimate engulfment of all personality by the Universal Oversoul.
The philosophy of Brahmanism also came very near to the realization of the indwelling of the Thought Adjusters, only to become perverted through the misconception of truth. The teaching that the soul is the indwelling of the Brahman would have paved the way for an advanced religion had not this concept been completely vitiated by the belief that there is no human individuality apart from this indwelling of the Universal One.
In the doctrine of the merging of the self-soul with the Oversoul, the theologians of India failed to provide for the survival of something human, something new and unique, something born of the union of the will of man and the will of God. The teaching of the soul's return to the Brahman is closely parallel to the truth of the Adjuster's return to the bosom of the Universal Father, but there is something distinct from the Adjuster which also survives, the morontial counterpart of mortal personality. And this vital concept was fatally absent from Brahmanic philosophy.
Brahmanic philosophy has approximated many of the facts of the universe and has approached numerous cosmic truths, but it has all too often fallen victim to the error of failing to differentiate between the several levels of reality, such as absolute, transcendental, and finite. It has failed to take into account that what may be finite-illusory on the absolute level may be absolutely real on the finite level. And it has also taken no cognizance of the essential personality of the Universal Father, who is personally contactable on all levels from the evolutionary creature's limited experience with God on up to the limitless experience of the Eternal Son with the Paradise Father.
4. THE HINDU RELIGION
With the passing of the centuries in India, the populace returned in measure to the ancient rituals of the Vedas as they had been modified by the teachings of the Melchizedek missionaries and crystallized by the later Brahman priesthood. This, the oldest and most cosmopolitan of the world's religions, has undergone further changes in response to Buddhism and Jainism and to the later appearing influences of Mohammedanism and Christianity. But by the time the teachings of Jesus arrived, they had already become so Occidentalized as to be a "white man's religion," hence strange and foreign to the Hindu mind.
Hindu theology, at present, depicts four descending levels of deity and divinity:
1. The Brahman, the Absolute, the Infinite One, the IT IS.
2. The Trimurti, the supreme trinity of Hinduism. In this association Brahma, the first member, is conceived as being self-created out of the Brahman--infinity. Were it not for close identification with the pantheistic Infinite One, Brahma could constitute the foundation for a concept of the Universal Father. Brahma is also identified with fate.
The worship of the second and third members, Siva and Vishnu, arose in the first millennium after Christ. Siva is lord of life and death, god of fertility, and master of destruction. Vishnu is extremely popular due to the belief that he periodically incarnates in human form. In this way, Vishnu becomes real and living in the imaginations of the Indians. Siva and Vishnu are each regarded by some as supreme over all.
3. Vedic and post-Vedic deities. Many of the ancient gods of the Aryans, such as Agni, Indra, Soma, have persisted as secondary to the three members of the Trimurti. Numerous additional gods have arisen since the early days of Vedic India, and these have also been incorporated into the Hindu pantheon.
4. The demigods: supermen, semigods, heroes, demons, ghosts, evil spirits, sprites, monsters, goblins, and saints of the later-day cults.
While Hinduism has long failed to vivify the Indian people, at the same time it has usually been a tolerant religion. Its great strength lies in the fact that it has proved to be the most adaptive, amorphic religion to appear on Urantia. It is capable of almost unlimited change and possesses an unusual range of flexible adjustment from the high and semimonotheistic speculations of the intellectual Brahman to the arrant fetishism and primitive cult practices of the debased and depressed classes of ignorant believers.
Hinduism has survived because it is essentially an integral part of the basic social fabric of India. It has no great hierarchy which can be disturbed or destroyed; it is interwoven into the life pattern of the people. It has an adaptability to changing conditions that excels all other cults, and it displays a tolerant attitude of adoption toward many other religions, Gautama Buddha and even Christ himself being claimed as incarnations of Vishnu.
Today, in India, the great need is for the portrayal of the Jesusonian gospel--the Fatherhood of God and the sonship and consequent brotherhood of all men, which is personally realized in loving ministry and social service. In India the philosophical framework is existent, the cult structure is present; all that is needed is the vitalizing spark of the dynamic love portrayed in the original gospel of the Son of Man, divested of the Occidental dogmas and doctrines which have tended to make Michael's life bestowal a white man's religion.
Hinduism differs from Christianity and other Western religions in that it does not have a single founder, a specific theological system, a single system of morality, or a central religious organization. It consists of "thousands of different religious groups that have evolved in India since 1500 BCE."
Hinduism has grown to become the world's third largest religion, after Christianity & Islam. It claims about 837 million followers - 13% of the world's population.It is the dominant religion in India, Nepal, and among the Tamils in Sri Lanka. According to the "Yearbook of American &Canadian Churches," there are about 1.1 million Hindus in the U.S. The "American Religious Identification Survey" is believed to be more accurate. They estimated smaller number: 766,000 Hindus in 2001.Still, this is a very significant increase from 227,000 in 1990. Statistics Canada estimates that there are about 157,015 Hindus in Canada.
Hinduism is generally regarded as the world's oldest organized religion.
Most forms of Hinduism are henotheistic religions. They recognize a single deity, and view other Gods and Goddesses as manifestations or aspects of that supreme God. Henotheistic and polytheistic religions have traditionally been among the world's most religiously tolerant faiths.However, until recently, a Hindu nationalistic political party controlled the government of India. The linkage of religion, the national government, and nationalism led to a degeneration of the separation of church and state in India. This, in turn, has decreased the level of religious tolerance in that country. The escalation of anti-Christian violence was one manifestation of this linkage. With the recent change in government, the level of violence will diminish.
In the days of Melchizedek, India was a cosmopolitan country which had recently come under the political and religious dominance of the Aryan-Andite invaders from the north and west. At this time only the northern and western portions of the peninsula had been extensively permeated by the Aryans. These Vedic newcomers had brought along with them their many tribal deities. Their religious forms of worship followed closely the ceremonial practices of their earlier Andite forebears in that the father still functioned as a priest and the mother as a priestess, and the family hearth was still utilized as an altar.