7.3 The Meaning Of Persons And Hinduism
The Hindu view of humanity seems to me to devalue the human person. By contrast the Biblical record of the one God and the attitude of His Son Jesus shows a tremendous value placed on the importance of the individual. Our bodies are not in themselves wicked- our body can be the temple of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 6:19), and they are made in God’s image. The Son of God Himself had a normal body like we do. And we are promised “the redemption of the body” through being given a body like that which Jesus now has (1 Cor. 15:52,53; Phil. 3:20,21). Our passions, failures, strengths and personalities are all used by an all wise Father in His plan to develop each of His children to manifest Him eternally. By contrast the Hindu Scriptures claim:
“The gods consider him a Brahmana (a knower of Brahman) who has no desires, who undertakes no work, who does not salute or praise anybody, whose work has been exhausted by who himself is unchanged”.
— Mahabharata, XII.269.34
True Christianity places a remarkable value on the worth of the individual person. If we perceive this, we will not consider anyone as merely an " ordinary" person. There is no such thing, no such person. In my own search for a partner, and probably in yours too, I have observed the sense that it has to be someone special, not just one of the crowd, someone different from all those normal ones. This attitude has some wrong implications. If we perceive the meaning of persons, their value, we won’t consider those near and dear to us as somehow unique when compared to the mass of others. Everyone is special, nobody is like anyone else. This is how God sees His children, and we should reflect this perspective. It is this which will make us arrestingly different from the people with whom we daily walk.
The Lord’s parables all feature an element of unreality, which flags attention to His essential point. The shepherd who left the 99 and went after the lost one was an unusual shepherd. Common sense tells us that one should think of the good of the majority, not max out on the minority. We invest effort and resources in ways which will benefit the maximum number of people. But the Lord turned all that on its head. The Christ-like heart cannot disregard the minority, however small or stupid or irritating it or they may be. For people matter, and the heart of Christ will bleed for every single one.
The goal in Hinduism is to bring the individual person to the realization that indeed he is not a separate being, but rather a partaker of the great Self. So the saying is “Atman (self, soul) is Brahman.” The goal of the individual through yoga and spiritual exercise is to realize and know that he is Brahman. This is to me an effective atheism, replacing the one true God by self-ism. And this is what the majority of human beings do, whatever religion they claim to adhere to. All Hinduism has done is to make it intellectually respectable. Hinduism teaches that we should lose ourselves, in that the individual human being should not speak or think of being an individual self. The goal in Hinduism is to attain detachment from self desires and wants, and to become one with the universal Self. In the teaching of Jesus Christ, the concept of “losing self” is very different. Jesus affirms the individual self as a real and true creature. This individual self is never lost or dissipated into some greater Self, but is a created being with definite personal existence. It is “us” who are to be saved by the work of Jesus. We identify personally with His death and resurrection through water baptism, and then we live a life based upon copying and manifesting His character. This is why Jesus could promise that we will “see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of God”. Then He will wipe away all tears from our faces. You and me, personally, really can be there in the eternity of God’s very real and literal Kingdom which is to come on this earth, with Jerusalem as its capital, and the places that are now barren deserts changed… At judgment day, with the prospect of that Kingdom clearly before everyone who appears there, the Lord will discuss our lives with us, commending the faithful for their good deeds, and criticizing the wicked for their selfishness. This is all something very real and personal.
The concept that Jesus taught of selflessness was to forsake the desires of a real, independent self that are in rebellion to God’s ways. Jesus taught that man has lived in sin and separation from God ever since the fall or rebellion of Adam and Eve (the first man and woman God created). To live for the self, according to Jesus, is to live in sin. Jesus said, " If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). This means to abandon the sinful self desires that are a part of human nature. This means to choose as an individual to live for others and for God. In this sense, the selflessness of Jesus’ teaching is the virtue of abandoning the sinful and destructive desires of the sinful self and pursue instead God and the good of your neighbour. The virtue of self-denial according to Jesus then is not merely something abstract, achieved within the meditating mind. It is not an enlightenment or realization of being universal Self. It is the individual, in real, hard human life, choosing to deny his real personal desires and to live instead for what God has said is good.
“This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins”. Love is an issue of awareness, not a denial of individual self for a great cosmic Self. Love is a sacrificial act, a personal act of laying down one’s life for others, just as Jesus has done for us. True Christianity enables us to live lives that are real, to experience present life as a great and thrilling reality. According to their doctrine of maya [illusion], Hinduism seems to consider this life to be an illusion, an annihilation of the human personality. Sin is merely ritual disobedience or infringement of the caste system, not a real, felt, hurtful act against a loving Heavenly Father. Thus Hinduism has lost sight of telling right from wrong in real life. Sin can be got round by paying money to a priest [as, effectively, in Catholic and Orthodox churches]. Yet the offence of sin is against God, and the way to attain forgiveness is only through the sacrifice of His Son and our association with it. Of course, most human beings are the same- they have no real sense of offending God, no sharp sense of right and wrong, seeing everything as an effective illusion, and deciding between good and bad behaviour merely on the basis of expediency. And yet, again, Hinduism has turned this basic human condition into a religion. It offers no real salvation from it. In the real Christ there is ample, real and relevant salvation from sin and all negative effects upon us, from wherever they may come.