I have been to India a couple of times, and it’s an amazing place to visit. No matter where you go, there are people everywhere, there is poverty, there is a rich culture, there are vibrant colours and there is a deep spirituality.
Of the 1.3 billion people who call India home, estimates are close to 80% are Hindus. They are seeking liberation from the endless cycles of life, death, birth and for many Hinduism is the answer.
Green and McGrath in their book “How Shall We Reach Them”describe Hinduism this way: ‘Hinduism is not a single logical belief system like Judaism or Christianity. Rather, it is a collage made up of all the religious beliefs of the Indian subcontinent.’ Another way of saying it would be that Hinduism is not at set of beliefs, but a network. As such, it is not always clear what people are pinning their hopes on for liberation or salvation.
Nevertheless, Hinduism is characterised by the two big ideas of karma and reincarnation. The belief in reincarnation is the belief that your atman, your uncreated eternal soul, is on a journey through suffering and toward union with the infinite. Through many lives of wandering and suffering, you can achieve moksha or liberation. For some this is an eternity with a personal god, for others it is a loss of self.
Karma is intricately wrapped up with this cycle. Karma is action, it has to do with cause and effect. It is the idea that certain things bring about demerit, whilst others bring about merit. These merits or demerits go on your permanent record and are carried with you from life to life to life. Your karma from your previous lives will determine your station in this life.
The dilemma for the Hindu is with karma and reincarnation is you never really know what you owe. You never really know how much bad you need to undo. You never really know the size of the debt you have to repay. You don’t know how long you have been repaying it for. You don’t know when you will repay.
You are stuck in a cycle where your very existence is a reminder of your shame. The shame of your past, even the past you can’t reminder, and life is a desperate attempt to escape that vicious cycle. As a result , there are a billion people on this planet who are trying to get free of the oppressive weight of karma. Who are trying to move beyond an existence defined by shame to an existence where there is eternal peace found in union with the divine.
Perhaps you resonate with the yearning for freedom that is found in the Hindu?
The narrative of the Bible is that we need not be trapped in an endless cycle of shame. Jesus takes on our shame, so that we don’t have to be defined by it.
Hebrew 9: 24-28 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Whilst this section of Hebrews is talking about the sacrifice of Jesus once and for all for us, did you notice the narrative of Scripture is not that existence is an endless cycle of life, death and birth, but that you live once, you die once, and Jesus comes to take away your sin, your shame, if you’ll let him.
You are not trapped in an endless cycle of shame for things you can’t even remember doing. Jesus takes on our “demerits” so that we can be free of the weight and consequences of them. The freedom we long for is found in union with Him.