Essay on Existential Questions in Judaism and Hinduism
All too often reoccurring themes are similarly revealed in Judaism and Hinduism to include existential questions of why we are here, if a God(s) does exist why is there evil, is there freewill, and how do these faiths treat the afterlife? I will closely analyze these themes, to answer the existential questions on the two religions.
Judaism is the religion of the Jews (Cohn-Sherbok & Cohn-Sherbok, 2010). Currently there are estimated to be about 13.5 million Jews in the world. In the holocaust of world war two, many Jews were tortured and killed. The earliest Jewish history goes back to the Hebrew Bible which has the five books of Moses, commonly known as the Torah. These documents are laws and ethical teachings, which begins with the story of creation. The main patriarchs of this religion are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Cohn-Sherbok & Cohn-Sherbok, 2010).
Today, Judaism is based on the commandments which are based on the Torah (Stern, 2009). Many of these commandments cannot be fulfilled without the use of the temple. Judaism believes in one God, they refer to the teachings of the prophets and the Rabbis. They engage in prayers three times a day. Through the acceptance of the covenant, the Jews chose to follow the commands of God (Wilson, 1989).
Judaism contends with the claim that, the primary aim that we are here is to celebrate life. Celebration of life involves fulfillment of GOD’S covenant. Jews believe that all believers should participate in doing good deeds for mankind (Edersheim, 2010). In a world that is full of injustice and evil deeds, the Jews perceive themselves as repairers of the world. They say that, people should love God with all their hearts. Our purpose according to the Jews, is to develop an immensely strong social justice ethics.
Judaism believes in Gods existence. They believe that, God is the sole creator of everything that is found in the world (Edersheim A. , 2006). According to this religion, God has always been in existence. They believe that, none existed before God and that God will exist forever. The Jews believe that, God has the power to transcend life and death. Evil is seen as a result of mans desire to commit sin, it is the immediate consequence of not following Gods commandments (Stern, 2009). This is attributed to the first human beings, Adam and Eve. After Eve persuaded Adam to eat a fruit from the tree of life and death (a tree that God had warned Adam not to eat from in the Garden of Eden) Adam ate, he immediately suffered the consequences of not following God’s directive (Cohn-Sherbok & Cohn-Sherbok, 2010). Currently the Jews repair their own sins through confessions. Through confessions, one is able to ask for forgiveness from God almighty. In case a person wrongs another person, they are supposed to ask for forgiveness from them.
The concept of free will among the Jews is centered on Gods interference with individual choices. The medieval philosophy and rabbinic literature, has for a long time developed the divine providence. God is concerned with watching over, guiding and intervening in the affairs of humankind. Free human will, according to the Jews, is within the dimensions of the Torah given to the Jews. Jews were urged to follow the precepts of the Torah.
Hinduism is a religion of the Hindus (Hopkins, 1971). This religion hailed supreme in the country of India. It takes pride in being the oldest tribe in the world. Hinduism was not founded on any prophet; its inception has no fixed date. Therefore its teaching is not based on any prophet or a set of dogmas which are preached by a particular set of teachers (Edgerton, 1972). Hinduism scriptures are the oldest in the world; the Vedas are the foundational scriptures of the Hinduism (Edgerton, 1972). The fundamental principle in this religion is that it is a liberal religion. Though it is divided into different sects, there is uniformity in the outlook of life and conception of religion among the different sects (Edgerton, 1972).
The Hindu religion, states that human beings are here to break the cycle of birth, death and reincarnation. After an individual achieves all this three cycles, then they are able to achieve salvation which is the sole purpose why human beings are here (Edgerton, 1972). Being in the world is perceived as a progressive growth towards salvation. The goal of this philosophy therefore, is to free from the cycle of birth and reincarnation (Hopkins, 1971).
The monists is a subset in the Hindu religion, it believes that only Brahman exists. They consider Brahman as their God. On the other hand, Pantheist believes that all things in the world, including the entities are God (Edgerton, 1972). According to the monotheistic sects, God is imminent and also transcendent (Hopkins, 1971). He is very different from the others. The Hindu belief in God therefore, varies from one sect to the other. The Hindu religion is dependent on different schools of thought such as monism. The Hindus believe that, everything in the world is a manifestation of God (Hopkins, 1971). Polytheism involves a number of deities, which controls the different aspects which are found in life. Through monotheism, the Hindu believes in one God, this line may have many incarnations and manifestations.
Unintentional sins repentance is prescribed, whenever a person commits a sin. Sins which are intentional in the Hindu religion are paid through what is commonly referred to as karmic consequences (Hopkins, 1971). Just like Judaism evil results from humans’ unwillingness to follow prescribed directives.
Hinduism suggests that, human beings have a free will. They however are only able to practice this free will when they look at the truth that lies within them. According to the Hindu religion, the fact that people have a living consciousness makes them have a free will. Every soul Atman is independent of the other according to the Hindu (Hopkins, 1971). Human beings possess the power to do such things like discrimination; this enables them to exercise free will. According to the Hindu religion, free will is the force that makes human beings different from the animals (Edgerton, 1972).
The Hindu religion says that, a person should be the master of their own fate. Both religions have included the existential questions on the reason that human exists. Religion affirms that a person is responsible for whatever thing that may make them suffer. One has the freedom and ability to determine their actions. Man has the ability to change their thoughts and desires. Whoever selfishness has contaminated the concept of free will; this is because the Hindu religion says that man’s will is free.
Similarities between Hinduism and Judaism
The Hindu religion and Judaism have several similarities. These two religions to a large extent have characteristics that overlap one another. Both religions have symbols. In Hinduism, there is a religious symbol called the Om, this symbol literally means Brahman (Edgerton, 1972). On the other hand, Judaism has a symbol that is commonly referred to as “The star of David”. This symbol is an emblem which was modeled after the Shield of David (Jacobsen, 2008). Both Hinduism and Judaism are the oldest religions in their categories. While Hinduism is the oldest polytheistic religion (Hopkins, 1971), Judaism takes credit in being the oldest monotheistic religion (Cohn-Sherbok & Cohn-Sherbok, 2010). Hinduism has the belief that all gods are one. Jews on the other hand believe that there is one God.
When we look at Metz’s analysis of Hinduism and the Rig Veda as “transcending, the literal meaning of the words” (K. A. Jacobsen 54), we can begin to understand Jacobsen’s perspective on death in Hinduism. Death is not the end of life, Jacobsen writes, “the next life is also here in this world” – essentially defining reincarnation (K. A. Jacobsen 78 ). Hindus refer to death, as mahaprasthana or the great journey (Edgerton, 1972). When a person learns the lessons of this life, and the karma intensifies, then the soul comes out of the physical body. The physical body returns its elements to the earth (Jacobsen, 2008). The awareness, intelligence, will and memory still lives in the soul. According to the Hindu, death is a natural experience and people should not fear it. Death is seen as a transition from a physical world to an astral plane. Through dying, people drop of their physical bodies, death in the Hindu religion is seen as a spiritual opportunity, which helps people to achieve their divine self.
According to the Hindu, the soul is immortal. It is responsible for animating life. After death, the soul reincarnates again until all the karmas have been created (Hopkins, 1971). The soul never dies and it is Gods presentation of will and love (Edgerton, 1972). Death according to the Hindu is blissful; it is like meditation (Hopkins, 1971). After death a person’s soul is reborn in a fleshy body. The fleshy body must be one that fulfills the karmic pattern of an individual. Therefore Hinduism perceives the current body of a person as a duplicate of the last physical form (Edgerton, 1972).
Afterlife in Judaism
The Jewish interpretation of the afterlife is found to be vague and is rarely discussed in Jewish circles. In fact the Torah, which you would expect would prepare a Jewish follower for the afterlife, has no clear reference at all. Though the afterlife concept in Judaism is vague, some Jewish have tried to explain Judaism beliefs of the afterlife. According to Judaism religion, after death the soul becomes immensely confused (Hopkins, 1971). It lingers round the body of a person trying to go back. After the confusion, there is a twelve month period where the soul becomes purified of all its sins. During the twelve month period, the soul is punished for all its sins a period referred to as Gehanna (Cohn-Sherbok & Cohn-Sherbok, 2010). After purification, the soul goes to a place referred to as Gan-Eden. Those who are righteous are not subjected through the punishments. People who do not repent during this time, are cut off and are not promised of an afterlife (Edersheim A. , 2010). Gan Eden is a transitory phase, in this phase there is a physical resurrection which enables the soul to reside in a spiritualized state of existence in the olam-Ha-ba (Stern, 2009).
Differences between Hinduism and Judaism
Hinduism greatly emphasizes on reincarnation, while Judaism emphasizes on life after death. Hinduism religion perceives the soul as having a free will to do things; whoever Judaism shows the soul as being subject to a supreme being. According to Hinduism beliefs, a person dies many times, before he/she attains salvation or oneness with God, this is not the case for Judaism religion, where a person dies once and the soul waits for twelve months to know its fate. The soul begins its journey once a person dies according to the Hinduism religion; however Judaism is contrary to this belief since they suggest that once a person dies, the soul struggles to leave the body.
There are several similarities on the beliefs about afterlife in Judaism and Hinduism. Both religions believe that there is life after death. Hinduism believes that through reincarnation a person is able to acquire a new life, Judaism on the other hand believe that resurrection, enables the body to live in a spiritualized form. Both religions believe in soul transformation, while Hinduism believes in the Karma, Judaism has strong believes in Gehanna (Edersheim A. , 2010). Both religions refer to the soul as being immortal; this means that the soul cannot be destroyed.
Though Hinduism and Judaism have distinctive features, which make them differ from one another, the two religions share some characteristics. Despite the fact that their belief in God contrast immensely, they both believe in life after death. According to the two religions, evil emanates as a consequence of man’s wrong doings. Though Hinduism encourages a free will among its followers, Judaism is limited to Gods will upon human kind.
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