Christian conversion is based upon the promise of forgiveness of all sins and everlasting salvation by belief in Jesus. It is important that Hindus and all others subject to conversion efforts understand the wrong ideas and wishful thinking behind these views.
Christianity is based upon a theology of sin and salvation. In the Christian view, one is born into sin owing to the original sin of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, as described in the Bible, who were tempted by the Devil and went against God’s will. We gain salvation through Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, whom God sent down to Earth to redeem us. Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins and the original sin of Adam and Eve, which his blood washed away.
Those who accept Jesus as their savior and become Christians are said to be immediately saved. Faith in Jesus is the basis of salvation, not any action of our own. According to Christian thought, nothing we can do apart from accepting Jesus can save us. Souls who fail to accept Jesus are condemned to damnation, however good or wise they may be. Each individual has only one life to make this decision to accept Jesus or not, which is then irreversible for all eternity.
After death, those who are saved go to heaven, where Jesus dwells. In Christianity, heaven is usually a physical world, which requires a physical body, such as promoted in the Christian belief in the Last Judgment and resurrection of the body, and the reason why Christians bury the dead. Those who are not saved are condemned to eternal damnation.
Such is a brief synopsis of historical Christian theology, which has slight variations among different Christian sects. There is no Christianity without Jesus and no salvation without faith in Jesus. This idea of sin and salvation by belief in Jesus and gaining a place in heaven is the basis of Christian conversion efforts, and of baptism to become a Christian.
Evangelical Christians, such as are coming to Bharat from the USA, take this theology literally, and still argue that the world is only six thousand years old as proclaimed in the Bible. Some modern Christians, perhaps embarrassed by the condemnation of the majority of the human race that remains non-Christian, try to explain it away as metaphorical. Yet to date the Catholic Church has not disavowed this theology of sin and salvation either.
Hindu View of Liberation
Hindu Dharma respects freedom of belief for all people, holding that there is ultimately One Truth and a unity of consciousness behind all existence. Hindu Dharma states that each individual should be free to follow whatever spiritual path he or she feels most drawn to, or even no path at all.
Yet this view of religious pluralism does not mean that Hindu Dharma regards all religious theologies as correct or equal. The Hindu view like that of science allows for the existence of a variety of theories but these theories must be proven by experience and cannot be regarded as correct merely because someone believes in them.
Hindu Dharma encourages us to inquire into our inner nature through examining our own minds and striving to come to a direct realization of truth, which it teaches through various dharmic philosophies and meditation practices.
Hindu sacred texts like the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita describe the supreme truth or Brahman as an infinite and eternal Being-Consciousness-Bliss (Sacchidananda) beyond all names and forms. This unlimited Being is the Self of all, Atman, dwelling within each creature. The Supreme Reality dwells with you as you, not as your mere physical body but your core awareness, the inner witness behind all your thoughts and experiences.
In Hindu Dharma, the soul is an individualised power of consciousness and has many lives as it evolves in consciousness to realize its true nature of unity with the Supreme. The individual soul is bound by ignorance and karma, which is the cause of rebirth and suffering, a failure to recognize its true nature that causes attachment to the external world of appearances, birth and death.
The Hindu view is one of karma and rebirth, not sin and salvation and one life only. All souls will gain liberation eventually and return to their true nature of pure consciousness. The goal is not one of heaven but of Self-realization. It is not of a glorified physical world but a blissful awareness beyond body and mind.
We must be very clear about our concepts in interfaith discussions. There has been a superficial and uncritical approach that equates Christian salvation and Hindu liberation (Moksha), as well as equating religion as faith with the Sanskrit term dharma.
In Hindu Dharma there is no original sin attributed to our ancestors or to any Devil that we must atone for. There is only an ignorance and wrong actions that arise from it. This ignorance is removed by knowledge of truth and development of higher awareness, not by mere belief.
We as individuals are responsible for our condition in life that results from our own karma. There are certain actions that are inherently wrong, like harming others. These do not depend upon the commandment of any deity but on a violation of dharma and natural law.
No Salvation or Spiritual Realization by Proxy
In Hindu Dharma , there is no salvation or liberation by proxy. Neither Jesus nor any other figure can save you or realize the truth for you. In fact you do not need to be saved at all!
You only need to understand your true Self and the nature of existence, which are one, which takes you beyond all suffering born of attachment to body and mind. To transcend ignorance requires a sadhana or spiritual practice, defined in Hindu Shastras through dharmic living, ritual, mantra, Yoga and meditation.
One cannot go beyond karma and ignorance simply by believing in someone or by accepting someone as your savior. That is merely wishful thinking. Just as another person cannot eat food for you, or be educated in your place, you must do your own spiritual practices to purify body and mind in order to access the universal consciousness.
A heaven that requires a physical body is only an attachment to the earth and physical reality in disguise, not understanding our true spiritual nature. The soul does not need a body for its happiness. Its true nature is the pure light of awareness.
One may honor the compassion shown by Jesus, but Christian theology of sin and salvation is far from the truth. It does not reveal our true nature or explain our real purpose in life.
We must have a clear discernment of different theologies and their different goals. Only Self-knowledge brings about liberation. Christian theology, including that endorsed by the Vatican today, does not teach this and its goal of salvation is very different.