Introduction to Hinduism


Hinduism is the religion of the majority of people in India and Nepal. It also exists among significant populations outside of the sub-continent and has over 900 million adherents worldwide.

In some ways Hinduism is the oldest living religion in the world, or at least elements within it stretch back many thousands of years. Yet Hinduism resists easy definition, partly because of the vast array of practices and beliefs found within it. It is also closely associated conceptually and historically with the other Indian religions, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.

Unlike most other religions, Hinduism has no single founder, no single scripture, and no commonly agreed set of teachings. Throughout its extensive history, there have been many key figures teaching different philosophies and writing numerous holy books. For these reasons, writers often refer to Hinduism as ‘a way of life’ or ‘a family of religions’ rather than a single religion.

Websites on Hinduism

Hindu American Foundation

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) is an advocacy organization for the Hindu American community. The Foundation educates the public about Hinduism, speaks out about issues affecting Hindus worldwide, and builds bridges with institutions and individuals whose work aligns with HAF’s objectives.  Their website has some excellent resources with pdf and PowerPoints.  See in particular:

Hindu Council of Australia

The homepage gives a short resume of Hinduism as well as links to interfaith events/statements and ecology resources. These, and the other links, are slightly dated, and naturally weighted towards Australia and the Asia/Pacific Region.


BBC – Religion: Hinduism

This comprehensive and attractively presented site has subsections on Hinduism at a Glance, Concepts, Deities, Ethics, History, Holy Days, Rites and Rituals, Texts and Worship.


History of Hinduism

This Katmandu based blogspot subtitled “All You Need to Know About Hinduism”  and has a very comprehensive list of themes, grouped under “About Hinduism”, “Hindu Beliefs”, “Gods and Goddesses”, Ancient Sciences and Arts, and a “More…” section. With an attractive and accessible layout, and ability to receive online comments, it will prove a valuable launching pad for deeper research.


Understanding Hinduism

This very large site from South Africa is “dedicated to understanding Sanatan Ved Dharma (Hinduism)” and offers the dates and prescription of Hindu festivals well into the future.


One of the  links (http://www.hinduism.co.za/jesus.htm) is to an interesting, quite polemic, discussion about “Jesus vs ‘Churchianity’” (as opposed to “Jesus vs ‘Christianity’”). The author believes that  ‘true’ Christians will recognize the compatibility of Hinduism with Christ, whereas most opposition to Hinduism, he claims, has come from ecclesiastical (often abetted by colonial and neo-colonial) power structures .

Hindu Forum of Europe

This website contains lots of good material on Hinduism.


Videos on Hinduism

“Hinduism”, National Geographic, Religions of the World

This one hour documentary provides a summary of the history and practices of Hinduism.  It plots well the transitions from a Brahmanic ‘Vedic’ movement, through the ‘crisis’ of the parting of the ways with Buddhism and Jainism and subsequent arrival of Islam (to all of which it adapted and changed itself), to the neo-Hindu revival, associated with British colonialism, of Ram Rohan Roy, Tilak and Gandhi, who famously once said, “The friendly study of all scriptures is the sacred duty of every individual”. The video suffers from rather poor visual quality, a preponderance of American commentators and unhelpful advertising insertions.


Extreme Pilgrim – Hindu Mela (BBC)

Part 2 of Anglican Vicar Peter Owen Jone’s BBC Extreme Pilgrim trilogy takes him to the Kumbh Mela, the 6 yearly mass gathering of sadhus (holy men) on the banks of the Ganges at Allahabad, to try to discover, experientially, the power of the ancient rituals there enacted. He is eventually guided by his chosen guru to undertake a solitary pilgrimage to the Hamalayas, ‘home’ of most Hindu deities, which has a profound spiritual effect on Peter, but into which a very ‘physical’ amoebic dysentry intervenes and brings to a sudden end. The ‘creative’ tension of  mass-ritual and solitary meditation is one of many that Hinduism has straddled over three millennia.


Hindu-Christian Relations


Hindu-Christian Dialogue

“An Examination of Catholic-Hindu Relations on the Occasion of the Hindu Feast of ‘Diwali’: Getting to Know the World’s Third Largest Religion” by Felix A Machado

This article provides an overview of Hinduism, the world’s third largest religion, with guidelines on how dialogue with Hindus may best be conducted with respect, while avoiding a lowest-common-denominator approach.


Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama

The Theology Library has a general section on Interreligious Dialogue.  As part of this, there separate pages on Jewish-Christian Dialogue, Muslim-Christian Dialogue and Buddhist-Christian Dialogue.

The section on Hindu-Christian dialogue can be found at http://www.shc.edu/theolibrary/hindu.htm

Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID)

The PCID offers a very helpful annual greeting on the Feast of Diwali.  The message for 2014 is entitled “Together to Foster a Culture of ‘Inclusion’”.  The messages can be found at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/interelg/index.htm.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

The IRD department of the USCCB has sponsored a number of recent high-level theological symposia:

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB)

The Catholic-Hindu Dialogue of Canada has published a photo essay which provides an overview of the dialogue meetings, its members, as well as its goals and aims.

For introduction and link to download the article see: http://www.cccb.ca/site/eng/commissions-committees-and-aboriginal-council/national-commissions/christian-unity-religious-relations-with-the-jews-and-interfaith-dialogue/documents/4613-photo-essay-by-catholic-hindu-dialogue-of-canada-

To download the pdf directly see:  www.cccb.ca/site/images/stories/pdf/Hindu-Catholic_Dialogue_-_Final_English.pdf


“Honouring the Divine in Each Other: United Church-Hindu Relations Today”, United Church of Canada

This Study Guide on a proposed interfaith statement is offered for study and response by May 1, 2016.

For website:  http://www.united-church.ca/partners/relations/interfaith

To download pdf: http://www.united-church.ca/files/partners/relations/honouring-divine.pdf

Hindus and Christians for 2000 Years

“Hindus and Christians for 2000 Years” by Roger E. Hedlund, PhD (retired India missionary), published under “Featured Articles” at www.globalmissiology.org, (January 2008, pp.1-10).

“I like your Christ…but your Christians are so unlike [Him]” – this oft-quoted statement by Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) sums up the drama of the encounter of Christ, most often wrapped and distorted  in Western cultural mode, to the minds and spirits of the great thinkers of India. Dr Hedlund, in this historical survey of Hindu responses to Christianity and vice versa, from the ancient “Thomas Christians” of Kerala to the British Raj and beyond, traces the highs and lows of a dialogue, so often intersecting with both colonialism and Hindu reform movements (e.g. the Brahmo Samaj, neo-Vedantism ) that help  situate the still precarious, but dynamic,  Christian presence in the subcontinent.


Some Recent Developments in Hindu Understanding of Jesus

“Some Recent Developments in Hindu Understanding of Jesus”, by Bradley Malkovsky (Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies, 2010, pp 1-5.)

Hindu reflection on the person and work of Jesus Christ  is an enterprise that has  evolved since the early nineteenth century and is still very much in the making.  In this article we read of some surprising new perspectives (e.g. that Jesus allegedly visited India during his “missing years”, that his resurrection was less a transformation of the whole human person than the [visible] return of the “Master” as spirit or in the form of a ‘subtle’ body [like many other Swamis have reputedly done], and in what sense can we describe Jesus as a/the avatar of God?).


Missionary Views of Hinduism

Missionary Views of Hinduism”, by Catherine Cornille, associate professor of Comparative Theology at Boston College, in Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies, 2008 (pp.1-5)

Since the beginning of the modern missionary movement, Christian views of Hinduism have changed significantly, partly due to linguistic and theological shifts. We are all creatures of our cultures and churches, so the views of an a contemporary Catholic missionary may bear little resemblance to that of an Evangelical, of today or before. Divisions over questions like “Is Hinduism Brahmanism, or is Hinduism even a ‘religion’?’ continue to exercise minds, and missionary strategy.


The Hindu-Christian Dialogue and the Interior Dialogue

“The Hindu-Christian Dialogue and the Interior Dialogue”, by James D Redington SJ in Theological Studies 44, #4D (1983,  pp. 587-603)

This classic article addresses the general question of the impact of the other world religions on a person’s own faith by raising the possibility that, in such an “interior dialogue” of one’s own faith with the truths of other religions, a person may reach belief in some of these truths, and these beliefs become part of his faith. To contextualize this line of thought, some central questions (soteriological, ascetical, christological, ecumenical) of the Hindu-Christian dialogue in India are presented and commented upon; then “interior dialogue” is defined. Finally, certain components of a theology of the interior dialogue (especially the distinction between faith and beliefs) are explained.


When Shiva Has Blue Eyes

“When Shiva Has Blue Eyes” by Ishpriya Mataji, in “The Way” (2002, pp. 41-53).

Ishpriya RSCJ, an English member of her congregation’s Indian province, is based in the Hindu holy city of Rishikesh. She has a doctorate in psychology, and is engaged in a wide variety of activities promoting interfaith understanding.

The title of the article arises from an Afro- American 6 year old’s question to her Caucasian teacher, “Miss, what’s wrong with your eyes… Miss, they’re blue… never mind, they’ll turn brown when you grow up !”  Basing her profoundly spiritual  reflections on similarly ‘provocative’ real-life anecdotes, Sr Ishpriya weaves a tapestry of inter-religious dialogue as an affair of ‘kenotic death’ to our pre-suppositions, relinquishing our treasured  “God-box” (p 44), to arrive even a stage of “double belonging’ to two traditions, both of which reflect but never exhaust  God’s Beauty and Power.


Hinduism in Fiji

To contextualize Hindu-Christian dialogue among Columbans, Columban priest Pat Colgan offers the Wikipedia entry on “Hinduism in Fiji”.  As one who worked for 20 years among Fiji’s Hindus, he reckons this post-2008 Wikipedia entry quite accurately outlines this group’s traumatic rendition from the depots of Calcutta (Kolkata) and Madras (Chennai) to work in the British post-slavery indentured labour system in the sugar cane fields of Fiji. Boats travelled from 1879 to 1916, bringing an estimated 40,000 mostly coolie, lower-caste, Hindu and Muslim workforce; where both caste and linguistic distinctions and taboos had to be literally ditched overboard from the boats in which they were travelling in favour of  the greater task of sheer survival, which has ever since imbibed Fiji Hinduism with a ‘fighting’, sometimes ghettoized, but highly ‘democratic’ spirit.


Resilience and Resistance as the Foundations of a Practical Theology for an Oppressed People

“Resilience and Resistance as the Foundations of a Practical Theology for an Oppressed People” (thesis submitted by Tomas King in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Ministry, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, December 2008).

Tomas King, a Columban priest, has worked for 20 years in Sindh, Pakistan among the Parkari Koli and other tribal communities who come from a predominantly Hindu background.  He gives rich missionary insights about how the interlinking religious, political and cultural substrata of these groups influence their present precarious reality. Tomas claims that the Christian marriage rites in particular, heavily influenced by Indian culture and Hindu belief (familiar also to Columbans in Fiji) are moments of “liminal freedom”, where a different life-vision is ritually performed and whose energy can be harvested in a wholistic struggle for the right and good.

King, Tomas. “Resilience and Resistance as the Foundations of a Practical Theology for an Oppressed People.” Catholic Theological Union, 2008.