“Try and contemplate the vastness and mind-boggling impermanence of the entire physical universe, Arjuna, and you just begin to gather an idea of My absolute permanence. By ruminating on the utter immensity of the cosmos you begin to receive hints of the incomprehensible scope of My omnipresence. I am present everywhere in all this vastness.” – The Bhagavad Gita (Purushottma Yoga)
In the past I wrote an article called The Original Trinity, Brought to You By Egypt since the spirituality and culture of ancient Egypt most likely had an influence on the formation of early Christianity. The Cult of Isis was highly popular in Rome before Christianity arrived on the scene. Ideas like the sacrifice of the God Osiris and salvation through his death have strong parallels to the Christian faith, as well as the trinity of Osiris, Isis and Horus.
I have also written about the shared connection between Hindu and Celtic culture.
Yet another interesting theory to examine is the possible Hindu origins of Christianity. As I have said in past articles, the Ancient World was much more interconnected than modern people believe. There was a great sharing of knowledge and exchange of culture – especially among trade routes. Cleopatra wore Chinese silks. Greek was once the dominant language of the Seleucid Empire – a territory containing what is now Kuwait, Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan and Turkmenistan. Variants of the Greek language are even still spoken in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan today. And Alexander the Great’s Kingdom stretched all the way to the borders of India. There were even Greek coins minted in northern India for a time.
(Borders of Alexander The Great’s Kingdom. 323 BC)
So what does this all this Greek stuff have to do with Christianity? The New Testament authors wrote in Greek. Greek was the language of scholarship during the years the New Testament was written (in 50 AD – 100 AD). Much of this is due to the spread of Hellenistic culture from Greece into the Middle East by the conquests of Alexander the Great several centuries prior. Yet what this possibly entails is that the early authors of the New Testament (and other early Christian thinkers) were plugged in to the culture and thought prevalent throughout Rome, Greece along with the Middle East. And what is very probable is that Christianity was influenced by the many other cults and religious ideas of the era (Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, the Cult of Isis, etc.) This is quite likely considering the striking similarities between those religions and Christianity.
Yet is it also possible that the ideas of Hinduism were thrown into the mix as well? I cannot say with complete concrete certainty whether this is true or not, but we do know that there was an interchange between Greek and Hindu cultural ideas in the Hellenistic Empire that came out of places like Bactria and the Seleucid Empire.
Then there are also concepts in Christianity that never existed in the prior Jewish tradition, but do have striking similarities to the Hindu Tradition.
Let me list these below:
Baptism: John the Baptist and his Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. This is very similar to the Hindu practice of plunging into the Ganges River to wash away their sins.
The Avatar: Many Christians have said that their religion is unique in that they believe that God came to Earth as a human being in order to teach man how to avoid sin. And yet Hindus believed that their Gods had been doing this for centuries before Christianity ever existed. For instance, Krishna was believed to be born 14 centuries before Jesus’s purported existence. Hindus believe that whenever profound evil spreads widely throughout the earth, the Supreme Being comes to earth in the form of a human person in order to uproot vice and to establish virtue so that the earth may get rid of sinners. Lord Krishna was such an incarnation.
Similar Advice from Krishna and Jesus:
(BG stands for Bhagavad Gita)
‘Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead’ (BG 2:11) with the sense of Jesus’ advice to ‘let the dead bury their own dead’ (Matt. 8:22 ).
Krishna’s saying, ‘I envy no man, nor am I partial to anyone; I am equal to all’ (BG 9:29) is a lot like the idea that God is no respecter of persons (Rom. 2:11 ).
And ‘one who is equal to friends and enemies… is very dear to me’ (BG 12:18) is reminiscent of ‘love your enemies’ (Matt. 5:44 ).
Krishna also said that ‘by human calculation, a thousand ages taken together is the duration of Brahma’s one day’ (BG 8:17), which is very similar to 2 Peter 3:8.
Early Church Father Saint Augustine praises India:
“We never cease to look towards India, where many things are proposed to our admiration.”
(The Hindu Trinity)
This is an obvious one. Hindus have the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Christians have “The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Similarities in Religious Practice:
The way in which Christianity was practiced by the early church fathers, as well as some modern Christians is also more similar in certain ways to the Hindu tradition, than the Jewish one. In this I’m talking about the practice of asceticism among monks, bells in the church, incense, altars, holy water, chanting prayers on beads and even the serving of sacred bread (prasadam).
What many people today don’t understand is that the doctrine of Christianity wasn’t formed all at once. Most written accounts of the life of Jesus did not exist until a couple decades after his purported existence. These accounts were presented by a number of different authors and had somewhat conflicting stories about his existence. These written accounts are known as the Gospels. Also, it is worth knowing that not all of the gospels that were written even made their way into the bible. Only four gospels became the canonical writings for the church. The rest were burned, destroyed or lost. Historians estimate that the first written gospel, the gospel of Mark, was written sometime after 70 C.E, which means that at the earliest, it would have been written 40 years after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus.
So in its formation over time and through hearsay, it can be said that a lot of the Christian religion in the early days of its creation was syncretic jumble of the different cultural and theological ideas in the region, whether it be Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Celtic or Hindu. While it is difficult to say with certainty what traditions did and did not make it into the mix, it is an interesting topic to examine.
I wrote an article a while ago on the link between Celtic and Hindu culture.
This is a subject of interest for many people in the Pagan and Hindu community.
It is believed that in the Iron Ages, the Aryans were an Indo-European tribe that spread East and West. Those who spread West intermingled with the Celts, who spread all the way from central Europe to Ireland.
Most of the Celtic culture in this large swath of land was eradicated or subsumed by The Romans.
However, there was never any Roman conquest of Ireland. So the Vedic/Celtic culture thrived there until the advent of Christianity.
Druidism and the Ancient Religions of India (The Order of Bards Ovates and Druids)
Meet the Brahmins of Ancient Europe (Hindu Wisdom)
Hinduism is an important religion for Pagans to learn about and understand, because it is one of the few Pagan Religions to last the test of time. Several of the world’s other Pagan belief systems have either been destroyed or synthesized into one of the Judeo-Christian Faiths. Most other Pagan religions alive today are small tribal, ethnic traditions or are Neo-Pagan revivals of religions that were forced underground for a thousand years.
So, read about a Pagan system that has survived the test of time, and is even a major world religion.
“May heaven and earth make me glorious. May lord Frey and the wise sage god Odin make me glorious. May I attain the glory of divine light. May this great glory never abandon me. May it never abandon my people, among whom, let me be a speaker of truth.” ~ Found on Reddit.
A modified Hindu prayer. The author supplanted Indra with Frey and Bṛhaspati with Odin. It is taken from the Vedas.
While called the “Festival of Lights,” Diwali is most importantly a day to become aware of one’s “inner light.” In Hindu philosophy there is an idea of “Atman,” something beyond the body and mind which is pure, infinite and eternal. Today is a celebration of “good” versus “evil”; A day when the light of higher knowledge dispels ignorance. With this awakening comes compassion and joy.
The background story and practices very region to region. Many people celebrate by lighting fireworks and sharing sweets and candies. Diwali is a holiday celebrated across a vast array of countries and religions. It’s celebrated in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji, by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists.
A GREAT INFOGRAPHIC ON DIWALI