Hinduism and Christianity are two of the largest religions in the world today with nearly half of the world’s population claiming one of the two as their own. Without a doubt, both religions have been extremely influential in the world. In the minds of most, this is about as far as the similarities between Hinduism and Christianity go; however, the fact is that the two religions actually have much more in common than is often perceived at passing glance.
There are commonalities strung all throughout the two religions, from parallel texts of scripture to eerily similar view’s concerning the nature of the divine. In this paper, I will thoroughly explore many these little known similarities. In an effort to do so as objectively as possible, I will use authoritative scriptures from the two religions themselves to state my case and provide evidence for it. First off, there are similarities in the ideas on cosmology, or how the cosmos came to be, in Hinduism and Christianity. In Christianity, God is seen as the creator of all things, in whom all things draw their very existence.
This is evidenced in scriptures such as “ in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1: 1) and “ in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17: 28). For Hindus, Brahman is viewed in quite a similar manner. The Katha Upanishad tells us that “ the whole universe came forth from Brahman and moves in Brahman… in Brahman it lives and has its being.” Obvious similarities can be seen between the two religions view of creation from these passages (BibleGateway, Krishnananda, & Wolfe).
Hinduism and Christianity also agree on the natural state of man, in that both believe that man is deluded, and can only be enlightened to the real truth by God incarnate. The bible says, speaking of man, that “ they are
blind guides, and if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15: 14). Jesus Christ is the solution for this problem though, as he says, in John 8: 12, “ I am the light of the world: he who follows me will not walk in darkness but have the light of life.”
The Hindu scriptures paint a similar picture as the Mundaka Upanishad says that men are “ living in the abyss of ignorance, yet wise in their own conceit, the deluded go round and round, like the blind led by the blind.” Like Christ, the leading Hindu incarnation of God, Krishna, declares “ I destroy the darkness born of ignorance with the shining light of wisdom” (Bhagavad Gita). The scenarios presented between man and incarnate God in the two religions bear a striking resemblance (BibleGateway, Krishnananda, Purohit, & Wolfe).
The religions also seem to agree on the reason for the presence of sin and evil in the world. The Christian bible tells us, in the seventh chapter of the book of Mark, that evil comes “ from within, out of the hearts of men… all evil things come from within, and defile the man,” and that man is “ lured and enticed by his own desire; then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin,” in James 1: 14-15.
The Bhagavad Gita offers a similar explanation when it asks, “ What is it that compels a man to commit sin, even involuntarily, as if driven by force?” and replies to the question “ it is (human) desire… all consuming and most evil; know this to be the enemy here on earth.” It is evident from these passages that both religions find man and his desires to be the cause of evil and sin in the world (BibleGateway, Purohit, Rood, & Wolfe).
Another similarity between the two religions can be seen in the idea of God dwelling within man. This idea is evident in Christianity through scriptures such as Luke 17: 20-21, which states that “ the Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘ Lo, here it is!” or “ There!” for behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.”
Also, God says, “ I will put my Spirit in you,” (Ezekiel 36: 27) and “ I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts,” (Hebrews 8: 10) speaking of his people. For Christians, this indwelling of God in man is a symbol of salvation. In Hinduism, Atman (God within) is “ the spirit dwelling within man” according to Swami Krishnananda, a highly respected Hindu philosopher and monk.
The Svetasvatara Upanishad says of Brahman, “ thou, lord of all, in the hearts of thy creatures thou hidest thyself,” showing with clarity that Hindus believe God indwells people. Furthermore, the realization of this fact is linked with salvation in this religion as well. The key difference here is that for Hindus, God dwells in every man, while for Christians, God only dwells inside of those who belong to him (BibleGateway, Krishnananda, Pratte, & Wolfe).
One particularly interesting similarity between the two religions is the fact that in both, God cannot be seen by all as he has concealed himself from many. Moses writes that “ Jehovah our God hides himself; but reveals himself to us and to our children,” (Deuteronomy 29: 29) and Isaiah speaks of a “ veil that is spread over all nations” (Isaiah 25: 7). Clearly the God of Christianity hides himself from certain people.
The Bhagavad Gita declares that “ wisdom is veiled by ignorance, thereby creatures are deluded,” and the Isa Upanishad states that “ the door of truth is covered by a golden disc,” and asks for Brahman to “ remove it so that I may behold (truth).”
Also, both religions compare the truth of God to hidden treasure, alluding to the fact that it is concealed from humanity. Further contributing to the uncanny similarity of the two religions’ positions on the matter, both also seem to claim that this truth about God can only be revealed to man by God himself, and man cannot discover God apart from this divine self-revealing (BibleGateway, Krishnananda, Purohit, Wolfe).
Another similarity between Hinduism and Christianity is the idea that the material things of this world are not to be focused on because they will not last. Instead, the emphasis is placed on the eternal in both cases. In Christianity, 2 Corinthians 4: 18 instructs us “ not to look to things that are seen but to things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Likewise, the Hindu Katha Upanishad tells us that “ the wise, knowing the self as eternal, seek not the things that pass away.” In each instance there is a devaluing of the temporal things of this world, and an emphasizing of spiritual well being, which will be of long-lasting importance (BibleGateway, Krishnananda & Wolfe).
Moreover, God is compared to both lightning and light in each religion. The bible tells us that “ as lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of man be in his day,” (Luke 17: 24) and claims that “ God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1: 5). In like fashion, the Chandogya Upanishad describes Brahman as “ he who dwells in the sky and makes lightning his home,” and says that “ the world of Brahman is light itself. These comparisons to lightning and light signify the power, goodness, and truth of the God of both Christianity and Hinduism (BibleGateway, Krishnananda & Wolfe).
The two religions also contain stories of individuals within their scriptures which are largely parallel. For instance, the Katha Upanishad contains the story of Nachiketa, a tale which includes many similarities to the story of Christ. Like Christ, Nachiketa possesses the knowledge of truth of scriptures. Also like Christ, his father has given him over to die.
The son accepts his fate and declares that “ like corn, a man ripens and falls to the ground; like corn, he springs up again in his season.” Accepting his own impending death, Jesus Christ makes the eerily similar statement that “ unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bares much fruit” (John 12: 24).
The similarities do not stop here either. Upon his death, Nachiketa spends three days in the house of the King of Death, and subsequently is granted a wish for the secret of immortality. In much the same way, Christ spends three days in a tomb after his death, after which he is resurrected to immortality. Furthermore, while in the house of the King of Death, Nachiketa is tempted by the King of Death to wish for power or riches, but he resists and gains the secret to immortality.
This scenario parallels Jesus Christ’s encounter with Satan while in the desert. He also is tempted by the “ king of death” to ask for power or riches, but like Nachiketa, he resists each temptation. The congruence in the stories of Nachiketa and Christ is overwhelmingly apparent (Bible Gateway, Krishnananda & Wolfe).
Another intriguing parallel between the two religions is found in their moral teachings. The Ten Commandments are the basic moral teachings of Christianity, and they are paralleled by the moral teachings of the first two “ limbs” of yoga, yama and niyama, of which there are ten of course. However, the truly intriguing resemblance lies not in this fact, but rather in the fact that each set of moral guidelines is applied in practically the same way. In both Christianity and Hinduism, these teachings are expanded to include not only the realm of actions, but also of thoughts.
For instance, the first yama, “ non-violence”, means not simply refraining from acts of violence, but also not harboring internal thoughts of anger. Jesus Christ, speaking of the analogous commandment in Christianity, says “ you have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘ you shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment;” but I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says ‘ you fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5: 21-22). The fact that these two religions’ systems of morality are both expounded to include thoughts and motives is really quite remarkable (BibleGateway & Wolfe).
Another source of correspondence between these two religions is found in the vast parallels between the lives, teachings, and purposes of Jesus Christ and Lord Krishna. First, both of these figures are the source of all being and order in their respective religions. Christian scriptures tell us that Christ was “ in the beginning with God” and that “ all things were made through him” (John 1: 1-3), and Paul asserts that “ in (Christ) all things hold together” (Colossians 1: 17).
Additionally, in Ephesians 1: 10, God reveals his plan to “ unite all things in (Christ), things in heaven and things on earth.” In much the same way, Krishna is described in the Bhagavad Gita as the “ source of all beings, Lord of all creatures, God of gods, Lord of the world.” Also, Krishna claims that “ all this (universe) is strung on my like jewels on a string,” and that “ the whole world of moving and unmoving things, united in my body.” Consequently, each individual is set up as a foundational cornerstone in their religion. Take away Krishna and you really have no Hinduism; take away Christ and you have no Christianity (BibleGateway, Purohit, & Wolfe).