Would you be surprised if I told you the third largest religion in the world is Hinduism (900mil)? And that’s after Christianity (2bil) and Islam (1.6bil). And yet in the West we know very little about this religion that is the majority faith in India and Nepal and also has influence in other countries. It seems like such a foreign faith to Westerners with images that are fanciful and undiscerning, but in North America alone there are one million adherents.
Hinduism is one of the oldest known organized religions—its sacred writings date as far back as 1400 to 1500 B.C. It is also one of the most diverse and complex, having millions of gods. According to the Supreme Court of India, “Unlike other religions in the World, the Hindu religion does not claim any one Prophet, it does not worship any one God, it does not believe in any one philosophic concept, it does not follow any one act of religious rites or performances; in fact, it does not satisfy the traditional features of a religion or creed. It is a way of life and nothing more". But there are two things almost all Hindus believe: reincarnation and karma. It’s the belief that the soul continually recycles itself unto perfection in the next life and that there is merit in one’s life that determines a person’s station in the next life.
Most Hindus observe non-mandatory religious rituals at home. These vary greatly among regions, villages, and individuals. Daily rituals may include worshiping at dawn after bathing (usually at a family shrine, and typically includes lighting a lamp and offering foodstuffs before the images of deities), reciting of religious scripts, singing devotional hymns, yoga, meditation, chanting mantras, etc. Many Hindus embrace vegetarianism to respect higher forms of life.
Hindu thought began to influence the West with the help of the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, David Thoreau, and others. In the 1960s the Beatles spent time in India and were taught transcendental meditation (TM) by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, which became very popular in the West. This in turn opened the door for the motto that all roads lead to God and are true. Soon the New Age movement would build upon some of these premises and draw more people into its beliefs.
Hindus do not believe in a personal God and that Jesus is not God but one of many incarnations. The Bible teaches that God is a personal and infinite Being manifested in the three persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus is God and died for the redemption of mankind (John 1:1; Eph 1:7). Hindus seek deliverance from the endless cycle of death and rebirth that they believe is achieved through devotion, meditation, good works and self-control. The Bible teaches salvation is gained through believing in the sacrificial death of Jesus and His resurrection. Hindus reach enlightenment by the Path of Knowledge, the Path of devotion, or the Path of Good Deeds. The Bible says we are saved by the grace of Christ and not by works. (Eph 2:8-9) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.