In India religion wears many different faces. With that comes many different ideas for how to touch the divine — how to know our Creator and achieve salvation.
India religion has a very long history, going back as far as the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. The Indian Subcontinent has been the cradle of a vast array of faiths and has welcomed several others from beyond its shores.
Hinduism ... Jews in India ... St Thomas Christians and others ... Buddhism ... Jainism ... Islam ... Bahai Faith ... Zoroastrianism (Parsis) ... Sikhism ... tribal religions ... secular humanism ...
In Hinduism alone there are estimates in the millions for the number of Indian gods and goddesses worshipped and innumerable paths marked out for this spiritual journey based on one’s god or caste.
Each of the Indian religions has an extensive history and native tradition attached to it — even those with a different birthplace. These have all woven themselves into the very culture and language of India and its people.
What deep yearning ... what questions ... do these faiths seek to answer? There are many aspects to consider.
Do all paths lead to the same destination?
How did each India religion begin and why? What are strengths or problems with each?
How does each religion of India define and deal with sin (or does it recognise sin), and is that solution adequate?
Are all Indian gods facets of the same Supreme Being, or are they mutually exclusive?
What is the cause of suffering — attachment, evil forces, bad choices, punishment for past-life actions? Is it the sin condition? Does that faith recognise suffering and answer it compassionately, or does it leave the individual to overcome him- or herself?
How can we achieve salvation ... and how is salvation defined?
These are important questions, and each India religion answers them a bit differently. How we answer them determines our fate beyond this lifetime. It is said, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart.”
We must seek the truth wholeheartedly — insisting upon the truth that is and not the one we would make in our own image.
One Morality or Many?
Certain moral ideas are common to many (but not all) religions, such as honesty and condemnation of murder. Others are vastly different and stick on certain basic points, as noted by Paul Little:
“Take, for instance, the fact of the deity, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christianity affirms these facts as the heart of its message. Islam, on the other hand, denies the deity, death, and resurrection of Christ. On this very crucial point, one of these mutually contradictory views is untrue and wrong. They cannot both be simultaneously true, no matter how sincerely each is believed by any number of people.”
Sometimes there really is just one right answer to a question, just as there is in math. We can't afford to get this one wrong.
Christians, Muslims, and Jews insist there is but one God and to worship more is idolatry. Polytheistic Hindus may accept a family member’s prayers to Jesus ... unless that person becomes monotheistic and ceases prayers to their family’s gods. Many Buddhists and Jains deny the existence of any god, yet believe in the eternal nature of the soul.
Obviously, each of these radically different assertions among the faiths of India cannot be true. Yet in understanding, a brotherhood of spirit may be born and companionship for the quest found. We will seek and find the Truth when we seek it with our whole heart.
What we each believe to be true — the light we choose to follow — will affect how we walk through life and what destination we eventually reach.
Whether you’re a seeker of Truth or want simply to know more about Indian religion, you’re a welcome visitor! Click on any button to the left to learn more about each India religion and begin your journey through the Subcontinent's rich and varied religious landscape.