Faith Through Friendship
A Hindu Story
I was raised in India in a Hindu Brahmin family. Brahmins belong to the priestly caste of Hindus, who in days past were given the exclusive task of reading and interpreting the Vedas or Hindu scriptures from the ancient Sanskrit language that they are written in.
I was raised in a very loving environment in a middle class South Indian family and, in spite of moving half way across the world I am very close to my family and love them dearly. Growing up in a Hindu way of life, I always questioned some of the beliefs and practices because they seemed to be steeped in tradition and culture and often defied reason. I remember as a young boy being in the Hindu temples and looking at the hundreds and hundreds of idols that line them. I often wondered if any one of them listened to my prayers and the desires of my heart. I was always a believer in god though the god I believed in sat on the shelf for most of the year except perhaps at exam time or other times of crisis.
Typical human thinking seems to be that we can handle most of what life has to offer on our “own” strength and whenever we come across something that seems too big for us, we call for “reinforcements” from God. The rationale being, “Why trouble God with the minor details of my life, I am sure He has better things to worry about”.
But if I truly believe that the God that made the entire Universe including me and knows every tiny detail of my life, the only logical conclusion would result in giving my entire life to Him and letting Him have control of it. I was never someone that accepts things at face value. Being an engineer by trade and having been given an objective and analytical mind, I have to examine things for myself and come to accept them through a rational decision. Inherent in every human being is the desire to make our lives count, we all search for meaning and purpose in our lives.
Going through my college years in India, I felt that I will gain significance and meaning in life when I get my degree and become an Engineer. Even before I graduated, I had a couple of scholarships to U.S. Universities to pursue a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering. I felt, for a short while, that I had “arrived”. I had been elevated from an average Indian to probably the top10% of Indian students who get to go to the U.S. on a scholarship. But soon the sense of euphoria and accomplishment dwindled away at the pressures felt from moving to a country half way across the world, loneliness and the separation from family and friends that I had known all my life. I then resolved to complete my Masters degree which I did, thinking that surely a degree from one of the most advanced nations in the world is just what I need to feel lasting satisfaction and accomplishment. But this too was short lived. Maybe I needed to secure a job and accumulate material things (a lot of which are out of reach for the average Indian) to feel peace and satisfaction. Shortly after, I found a job working for the automotive industry in Detroit making a lot more money than I was used to at school. I could even afford a car and a stereo and all of the toys that are attractive to a person freshly out of college. Even though I had temporary periods of accomplishment and satisfaction, the feelings of loneliness and lack of peace lingered on and surfaced time and again.
At this time in my life I was befriended by a co worker named Scott. Scott and his wife Wendy invited me to their house for some pop corn and ping-pong. Being new to the state of Michigan and not having much of a social life, I decided to go, grateful for anyone who would spend time with me. Soon this became a regular thing and I enjoyed getting together with them. Scott would take me out to breakfast on Saturday mornings and spend a couple of hours with me just talking. All this time, I was thinking why he would do this for a stranger like me when he can be spending time with his wife and baby at home on a Saturday morning. Underneath it all, I suspected that there must be some ulterior motive behind this. Scott was a senior employee to me, so there were no favours that I could do for him. With time, I came to the conclusion that their intentions had to be genuine. Scott and Wendy later invited me to their house for an informal discussion of the Bible. Not knowing much about the Christian faith and being curious myself, I decided to attend.
A small group of people like me would get together at their house once a week and we would read a portion from the Bible and have an objective discussion. We went through the book of John in the New Testament of the Bible, and I found the discussion times quite stimulating.
Christmas came by and I had nowhere to go, it was particularly a lonely time of the year for a single person like me. Scott and Wendy were gracious enough to invite me to their house for Christmas dinner with their family. I was very touched that they would invite me to spend the most important Holiday of the year with them. I really enjoyed getting to know their family. Scott asked me if I would be interested in sitting down with him for a few minutes while he explained and summarised what Christianity is all about. I felt a little uneasy accepting his invitation but I consented to it not knowing why. I can remember it very clearly, the day after Christmas 1990 when I sat down with Scott and he went on to tell me about how Jesus is the bridge between man and God and the purpose of Christ dying on the Cross. Specifically he shared the verse John 14:6 out of the Bible which says: “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me”.
Scott told me that Jesus was claiming to be the only way to Heaven and by believing in Him, I too could have the promise of spending eternity with Him in Heaven. I must admit that I was a little offended by this verse from Scripture. It seemed rather audacious and arrogant of Jesus to make such a claim. We as human beings “work” for someone’s approval all through our lives. When we are children, we try to win the approval of our parents and teachers, when we are adults this changes to that of our spouse or superiors at work. The thought of being given a gift that is perfectly “free” and “unconditional” is hard to swallow because we keep thinking that there must be something that I can do. That is the definition of Grace – unmerited or undeserved favour, a gift that we do not deserve. What Jesus did for all of mankind when He died on the Cross to bear our sins and provide a way into Heaven for us.
It was that day I accepted Christ into my life. No, there were no flashes of lightning or bolts of thunder, just a very hesitant and unsure human being making a decision out of the mere promise of Heaven to gain. Being very black and white in my thinking I saw only two possibilities with what Jesus said. It was the truth in which case I have Heaven to gain, or it could be false in which case I could always continue in the lifestyle that I was leading.
Having made such a radical change from my roots, I have felt the need to do a considerable amount of investigation and reading to really know and be convinced of my decision. I started to read up on Hinduism as well, something I had never done before. You are a Hindu by birth because you are born to Hindu parents. I had to prepare myself for the onslaught of questions from my family, friends and relatives. If I was not convinced myself, then how am I going to explain myself?
The more I delved into Hinduism the more contradictions seemed to come up. I have listed just a few here:
1) The Vedas does not talk about non Hindus or address their spiritual condition. If Hinduism claims to be a credible way to god, then it must include all people and not just Indians or people born to Hindu parents.
2) Hindus believe in reincarnation. No one seems to know exactly how many times man must be born again before he can hope to achieve Nirvana. Once you do attain Nirvana, what prevents the cycle from starting all over again?
3) The Hindu pantheon is composed of about 330 Million gods. How does one know which god to pray to? What if you spend your whole life praying to the wrong god?
4) The concept of Karma keeps a strict record of good deeds and bad deeds. How many good deeds are enough for Moksha and who determines the number? How good is good enough? What does one do with feelings of guilt from wrong deeds? There is no place for the concept of forgiveness with Karma. Only a tally of good and bad deeds. Take this thinking to an extreme – In fact some Hindus actually consider it bad to interfere in another human beings Karmic cycle to relieve pain and suffering. If someone is suffering it is a result of bad Karma from a previous life. They must endure the suffering to pay for the bad that they have accumulated. Only then can they rise above their circumstances.
5) Hinduism believes that there is some deity in every human being. If this was really true, why pray and who are we praying to if we ourselves are god?
6) Hinduism believes that God is all and all is God. In other words, God is everywhere, in a tree, table, chair, building, air, water and so on. If this is true, India should be the most environmentally friendly country in the world. With over 80% Hindus, they would have such respect for their surroundings that they would care for it and literally keep it in top condition. What you see in India is the exact opposite. People living in abject filth and squalor and as the population increases and the cities get overcrowded, the general environment is more and more dirty and polluted.
7) Hinduism explains away evil as ‘Maya’ or an illusion. Evil is not real (Maya), god is the only reality. However, when men commit acts of evil against each other, and there is certainly plenty of it around us everyday, we don’t merely dismiss it as Maya. Evil acts of jealousy, rage, anger, robbery, rape all cause a great deal of suffering which are very real.
There are some people that take the position that all religions operate merely on faith and it does not matter what you believe as long as you believe in something. But faith has to be backed by facts and evidence and not be a blind faith. Even a cursory examination of the Bible will reveal that it is absolutely unique (the Webster definition of the word “unique” is – different from all others with no like or parallel). Written over a period of 1500 years, 60 authors, 40 generations, 3 languages (Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic), 3 continents, in different moods, from different walks of life etc., but yet, there is ONE singular unfolding theme from the book of Genesis (start) to Revelation (end) – The redemption of mankind through the Messiah Jesus Christ. Even though the Bible talks about a variety of controversial subjects like sin, homosexuality, adultery etc., there is perfect harmony from the beginning to the end as if it was all written by one man.
Today you cannot get two authors from one country, one language and one generation to agree totally on the kind of issues that the Bible addresses. Museums across the world are packed with archaeological evidence that continue to confirm account after account from the Bible. The central theme of the Bible is about the once and for ever ‘Avatar’ (Incarnation) through whom alone can I enter Heaven and spend eternity. The Christian faith is a historical faith soundly backed by facts and evidence. Today in most parts of the world we measure time by when Jesus walked on this earth.
Please do not accept any of this because of what I have said. The search for the truth and genuine conversion is something deeply intimate and personal between a human being and His maker and should NOT come out of coercion. I write this not because I like to talk about myself but with the hope that you will see a portion of the plan of God to redeem mankind one individual at a time. Please take this matter very seriously as it is an issue of “eternal proportions”. I wish you much “Truth” in your search.
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me ” (John’s gospel 14:6), and ” I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life ” (John’s gospel 5:24).
Jesus is the only way to God because He is the only one who can forgive our sins. He does this through the sacrifice of His death on the cross in our place and so deals with God’s condemnation and punishment of all that we have done wrong. Without that forgiveness, we would all have to pay for our own sin in hell forever but Jesus paid the price for us and then rose to life again. God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ is open to anyone who will place their trust in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. God loves us and has promised forgiveness and a new life to all who put their life in Jesus hands. This promise is for all who want to turn from evil, ask God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ, and ask Jesus to be their Lord and take control of their lives but the power of his Holy Spirit.
By this simple trust, we can be freed from any punishment on the Day of Judgment and find a whole new living relationship with the real God who loves each one of us, with His Holy Spirit living within us to help us to follow the right way.
Millions of people from every country in the world and every faith background have found that their lives changed beyond all recognition when they placed such simple faith in Jesus Christ.