I have a question about Hinduism. I just had a conversation with someone who claims to be Hindu, yet believe in Christianity as well. He said that salvation in Hinduism is not only by karma (or karm, as he called it), but also by dharm, which he referred to as the acknowledgment of God being God. He also said karm was what good you have done, and didn’t talk about consequences of it. He said that wasn’t as much doctrine as mis-interpretation. He was saying that they believe in the same Jesus, but there’s no way this could be true. I wish we could have talked longer, but this wasn’t possible. My question is this: are any of these claims found in their scripture?
Thanks for your question about Hinduism. Hinduism is a very diverse collection of religious/philosophical beliefs. It’s very common to meet two Hindus who completely contradict one another. That being said, it’s not a surprise to hear some of the things that you heard from your Hindu friend.
One of the yogas (ways to reach human potential) of Hindu thought is called bhakti. This type of yoga is the personal devotion a person can have in any given form of the Deity. Many Hindus think Christianity is a great means by which to devote oneself to God. It already has a rigorous set of beliefs and practices in place that can be used as a road to ultimate liberation. Huston Smith says, “Many Hindus acknowledge Christ as a God-man, while believing that there have been others, such as Rama, Krishna, and the Buddha.”
Allow me to make some observations. First of all, if you meet a Hindu who believes in Jesus, consider this a great place to find common ground. Don’t be discouraged. The next step is to find out just what he or she believes about Him. It’s possible that this person may be a true believer in Christ. Remember, God is not just the God of “western” thought. But it’s also possible that he or she believes in a different Jesus, influenced by a pantheistic worldview. Does he think Jesus is just one of many ishtas (forms of the divine)? If so, then why would Jesus claim to be the only way to God in John 14:6? If the Scriptures are called to question, then what other resources do they use to believe that Jesus was even an ishta in the first place? If his Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible, then it might be a great idea to find out just where he’s getting his concepts of Him. Also you might bone up on why there’s warrant for belief in the inspiration of the Bible and the person of Jesus in the Bible. See our Web site for all sorts of information and helps (Theology and Philosophy Topics)
I would also suggest you read up on Hindu thought a bit. I’d say the best bet is to form a relationship with this Hindu and talk to him. There may or may not be any textual source for his beliefs. Unlike the religions of the West, Hinduism doesn’t have an authoritative text to refer to for all their beliefs. They have some helpful texts, such as the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita. These are the most well known and accessible texts for understanding the religion and philosophy of Hindus. But neither of them will talk about Jesus, per se (being written before His time). I suggest Huston Smith’s book The World’s Religions or S.A. Nigosian’s World Religions: A Historical Approach. I pray that you’ll have plenty of discussions with this person and that God would use you to sharpen one another (you to be a better disciple, him to be a disciple of the one true God).