Friday, May 22, 2009

Catholicism & Hinduism: 10 Similarities

(I originally posted this on my previous blog. Because of continued commenting there, I decided to re-post it here.)

I know everyone will not be happy with this post. That's fine - healthy discussion is usually a good thing.

After having lived in the USA and India, I have been exposed first-hand to both Catholicism and Hinduism. This pertains to both belief and practice. Let me say first of all that not all Catholics believe the same things or practice in the same ways. This is also true for Hindus. Therefore, the following 10 similarities are generalizations based upon what I have experienced both here in America and in South Asia.

I'd also like to point out that we have friends who are Catholics and friends who are Hindus. This post is not intended to be an assault on either religion, but rather a comment on similarities that I have observed.

That said, here we go.

Ten Similarities:

1) Repeated sacrifice - At every Catholic Mass, Jesus is again "sacrificed." This is why the elements of the Mass are literally thought to be Christ's body and blood. When Hindus go to temple, they perform some sort of sacrifice, usually presenting an offering to the gods.

2) Rituals - The Mass itself is a type of ritual. Also, the Rosary is one of the most well-known rituals of the Catholic faith. At a Hindu temple, various rituals are performed such as ringing a bell to wake the gods, bowing before the gods, and chanting different mantras.

3) Prayer to multiple saints/gods - Many Catholics (not all) pray to various saints within the Catholic church. Most Hindus (not all) pray to various gods within the Hindu pantheon. Some of the most popular are Shiva, Vishnu, Lakshmi, and Ganesh.

4) Priests - both Catholics and Hindus must go through a priest to get to god. There is no direct access to any god.

5) Cathedral/Temple - In both religions, all important practices occur at some type of building. There is little encouragement for meeting in homes because priests cannot be at multiple homes at the same time.

6) Images & Icons - In Catholic churches, pictures and statues of saints are common-place. These typically receive veneration. At any Hindu temple, there will be multiple statues of the various gods. These will include Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesh, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Durga, and others.

7) Works-based salvation - In both Catholicism and Hinduism, salvation is based, at least in part, upon the works of the individual. This is far different from the cry of the Protestant Reformation: "Justification by faith alone."

8) Lack of knowledge of sacred writings - Within both religions, the typical follower of the faith has limited knowledge of the sacred writings of his religion. The same is true within Protestantism, but to a much lesser degree. Within Catholicism and Hinduism, the priest is heavily relied upon for scriptural knowledge and understanding.

9) Centered on Rome/Ganges River - Both religions are very centralized. Rome is the epicenter of Catholicism, is the home of the Pope, and is a destination for thousands of Catholics each year. For Hindus, the Ganges River is the site of pilgrimage. Many Hindus travel hundreds of miles to take a dip in the "holy river," in the hope that it will wash away their sins.

10) Death: purgatory/reincarnation - Both faiths teach that upon death, people do not go directly to heaven or hell. For Catholics, purgatory awaits. For Hindus, death leads to another cycle of reincarnation.

I will let you draw your own conclusions about the significance of these similarities. If you have any comments about why you think these exist, please let me know.

1 comment:

acucent said...

....the rosary is a spin on the mala. rosary has 54 beads, 1/2 the beads of a mala, which is 108.

in hinduism, ash or other pastes are placed on the third eye, after the materials have been blessed by the prayers. catholics receive ash on the third eye, once a year on ash wednesday.

in the hindu pantheon, each 'goddess or god' is really an expression of the aspects of God, who creates and also destroys as part of the creation process. we can wittness that by observing the natural world. Buddhists too have similiar 'gods and goddesses.' green tara is very similiar to Lakshmi. So yes the saints of catholicism appear to be archetypes or energy expressions of gifts. hindus and catholics pray to saints or goddess/gods for specific gifts or help.