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Hinduism and Judaism - Essay Example

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There are many definitions of the word religion, but one that tends to fit across the vast spectrum of cosmologies around the world is the one that refers to the human responses to experience. In ancient Egypt, the central god was Ra, or the sun god, because the very presence of light was so crucial to an agricultural, superstitious society…
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Hinduism and Judaism
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Hinduism and Judaism

There are interesting similarities and differences in their foundational teachings that show some of the elements that unite people, and some of the ways in which cultural context informs religious development.
Hinduism traces its roots back to approximately 2500 B.C. It was not a religion that began with one particular historical event, but was rather a gradual development of beliefs by peoples in the Indus Valley (Zaehner, pg. 15). Its sacred literature has two categories: sruti and smriti. The sruti were heard, or divinely revealed, and include the Vedas (the most ancient Hindu scriptures), the Upanishads, the Brahmanas, and the Aranyakas. The Vedas contain the creation account, regulations for sacrifices, and prayers. According to Hindu tradition, these texts were secretly taught by a prophet to a disciple (David S. Noss, 55). The smriti are texts that were remembered or passed down orally. The difference is that these were written by humans rather than by the gods. The smriti consist of the epics, the Sutras and the Puranas. The epics are long poems about events in the lives of heroic warriors. The Sutras relate to such ideas as dharma, yoga, and Vedanta. The most significant of these was the Laws of Manu, or the Manusmriti, which concerned proper law and conduct for Hindus. The Puranas are mythological writings, containing the stories of the gods and goddesses (Knott, pg. 24-25).
The Indus Valley civilization cohered around two cities, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. Between 2500 and 2000 B.C., the nomadic Indo-Aryans began to migrate into this area, just as the Indus Valley peoples began to disappear. The Vedas were the scriptures of the Indo-Aryans and are most commonly acknowledged as the basis for Hinduism, and they are also said to be Hinduism's supreme authority (Morgan, pg. 32). The Vedic conception of rita, or cosmic order, later served as the basis for the ideas of dharma and karma. The gods served as guardians of this idea of rita and had to be propitiated regularly by sacrifice. (Morgan, pg. 33). And so with the idea of sacrifice came a collection of regulations and technicalities for the sacrifice process (Kinsley, pg. 92). During this time, the priesthood came to assume a good amount of power in society. Such new doctrines as the four stages of life, the idea of transmigration, and the origins of the caste system (Morgan, pg. 48). While in its foundational stages, Hinduism had claimed that the soul could die, either on Earth or even in heaven, but this change had the soul being reborn in an endless cycle, seeking release, or moksha from this unending existence.
Despite the fact that Judaism started far from Hinduism, there are many striking similarities to complement the differences between the two faiths. According to such sources as the Tanakh and the Talmud, the Jewish faith is based on a covenant between God and Abraham, established approximately in 2000 B.C., and renewed between God and Moses around 1200 B.C. Unlike Hinduism, Judaism is monotheistic (Huns Kung, pg. 88). Like Hinduism, Judaism relies on its texts and traditions to provide its central authority. Like the Vedas, the Torah underwent a brief period of ... Read More
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