The Table Podcast

Respectfully Engaging Hinduism

In this episode, Drs. Darrell L. Bock and William J. Subash, join Conrad Bowman to discuss world religion, focusing on respectfully engaging Hinduism.

Respectfully Engaging World Religions
  1. Respectfully Engaging Shintoism
  2. Respectfully Engaging Animism
  3. Respectfully Engaging Judaism
  4. Respectfully Engaging Hinduism
  5. Respectfully Engaging the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Timecodes
00:15
Subash and Bowman share their backgrounds
05:00
Political tension experienced by Indian Christians and Muslims
06:20
The Hindu diaspora and Hinduism worldwide
08:00
How should we think about Hinduism?
16:30
The caste system and Indian Christianity
22:50
The impact of Christianity on India
26:00
The nature of Hinduism
34:45
Respectfully engaging with Hinduism
39:30
Sacred texts of Hinduism
40:30
What is the point of attraction of Hinduism?
41:35
Beginning spiritual conversations with Hindus
Transcript
Darrell Bock
Welcome to The Table, where we discuss issues of God and culture. I am Darrell Bock, executive director for the Hendricks Center for cultural engagement. And today our topic is in the series World Religions. And we are discussing Hinduism. Amand my guests are Subash – and I will let Subash share his last name, because he says I could never pronounce it. So go for it, Subash.
William Subash
Yeah. My full name is William Joseph Subash murthumodi. Murthumodi is my house name. And William Joseph was my father’s first name. And I came to United States in 2000. Social Security Office changed it. So now people get confused when I say my name is Subash; why not William? So I have to tell no, my name is Subash, it’s not William.
Darrell Bock
Okay. Well, Subash, we’re glad you’re with us. And you teach at the South Asia Institute of Christian Studies in Bangalore?
William Subash
Yes. I teach new testament studies.

Darrell Bock: Okay. And a graduate of the seminary here?

William Subash
Yes.
Darrell Bock
And you’re also lead pastor of Crossroads Church and an online teacher at Liberty University.
William Subash
That’s right.
Darrell Bock
So you’re just busy.
William Subash
Yes. Yeah. That’s right.
Darrell Bock
And we’ll talk more about your background and how you can help us understand Hinduism in just a minute.

And then we’ve got Conrad Bowman. Now, he is coming with us by Skype. And normally we would have a face and a name. But in this particular case, because of sensitivities – and we’ll talk about that in just a second – we’ve decided to do this audio-only with Conrad. And you are a missionary for Crossworld; is that right?

Conrad Bowman
Yes, that’s correct. And we currently [Crosstalk].

Darrell Bock: Go ahead.

Conrad Bowman
We lived in India for some time. And we are now in Toronto, Ontario, up here in Canada, working to reach the South Asian Diaspora. And then to coach, mentor, and train other churches and members on how do to skillful cross-cultural communication and ministering among South Asians, specifically from India and various parts of India.
Darrell Bock
Okay. And how long did you live in India?
Conrad Bowman
My wife and I have either been directly or indirectly involved with India for over 15 years. The most recent stint we were in a state that had an anti-conversion law and we were running a great commission company, seeking to expand the kingdom and see Jesus’ church expanded for about five years. And we ran into trouble with the government more or less, and we had to leave. And so now we are her pursuing God’s agenda here in Toronto.
Darrell Bock
Okay, sounds great. Appreciate the introduction. And let’s go ahead and talk about background here for a second. Because I think this is important. Subash, you grew up in India.
William Subash
Yes.
Darrell Bock
And were you in a Christian family to begin with or were you raised in
William Subash
My dad was a Catholic, my mom was a Hindu.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
William Subash
And my father did not practice Catholicism. On the other hand, he actually joined with my mom. And we grew up right from our childhood – I am the youngest in my family of five children. I grew up as Hindu until I became a follower of Jesus in 1983 when I was 19 years old.
Darrell Bock
Okay, very good. And Conrad, I take it that you ministered in an area that had a lot of Hindu practitioners. You live in India, pretty much it’s either Hindu or Muslim for the most part, right?
Conrad Bowman
That’s right. We lived in – it was actually the BJP heartland. And so a lot of fundamentalists Hindus lived where we lived. And we were kind of right in the thick of things, to say the least.
Darrell Bock
Okay, now, you used an abbreviation that I think most people wouldn’t know. So you said BJP, is that right?
Conrad Bowman
That’s the current ruling political party. And they are a political party that wants to see India return to her Hindu roots. And to be Indian means that you are Hindu in their eyes. And so they make policies and they instill persecution against Christians and Muslims because they are not Hindu.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. And this is part of really a reality that has come around relatively recently at the political realm. Subash, how common is this? And I know that it’s caused many Christian missionaries to be unable to get back into the country and work. So how common is this policy?
William Subash
This has been happening for the past 20 years. And there were four states before 1990 which had the anti-conversion bill that prohibits people moving from one religion to another religion. Although constitution gives complete freedom to profess, propagate, and practice any religion. So it’s stifles people from choosing a religion of their choice. But of late the government, as Conrad said, is a Hindu Nationalist government. So they want to make sure missionaries, both Christian missionaries and Muslim missionaries, do not convert Hindus to their religion. So they enforce anti-conversion.
Darrell Bock
Okay. Now, what most people probably aren’t aware of is that Hinduism – and I’m going to put it in quotes – we’ll talk about the reason why in just a minute – is the third-larges religious group in the world after Christianity and Islam. This has to do in part with the extensive population of India.

And, Conrad, I’m going to assume you might know this. And that is Hinduism was largely confined to the Indian region of the Southeast Asian region for a long time. But because of the diaspora that you’ve already mentioned, Hinduism and Hindus are now spread all around the world. Do you have any idea as to the numbers that we’re talking about when we talk about this?

Conrad Bowman
Sure, yes. So there is a saying that the sun never sets on the Indian Diaspora. And so you can go to any country in the world and you can find men, women, and children from India. In the States there are about 3 million people from India that reside. In Canada where we live, there are probably – in our city anywhere between 500,000 and 700,000 people from India. And they would be Sikh, Hindu, Jain, Parsi, or Muslim. But I mean, we’re talking millions and millions and millions of people who have gone to every corner of the world. Hindus used to be afraid to travel because of a concept called kala pani, which means black sea or black water. But with the advent of technology and modernization, now you can find Hindu people in almost every country in the world.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. And the number of Hindus worldwide is somewhere around between 800 and 900 million. So it’s a huge conglomeration of faith.

Well, let’s turn to something that I’ve alluded to a couple of times. I’m not necessarily intending to ease people about this. But when we speak of Hinduism, we have to think completely differently than Western religion. And also we have to think completely differently about thinking about there is one thing called Hinduism.

Conrad, I’ll start with you. I imagine when you went to India and began to minister to people, that it sort of took awhile for you to get your head around that. And we’re really dealing with a conglomeration of various religions tied to India, which some people say has been labeled Hinduism unfairly while other people defend the term. Since you’ve lived in India – and I’ll ask Subash about this as a native Indian in a minute – did you come across this when you were in India as you thought about interacting with people?

Conrad Bowman
Yeah. And this is a very crucial point that you bring up, Dr. bock. And so basically there are two ways of looking at Hinduism. You can either look at Hinduism as a religion, or you can look at it as a civilization. And depending upon how you look at Hinduism will determine how you interact and minister to people.

And so my family and I, we have come to a point where we understand Hinduism to be a civilization. So in the same way that you say someone from China is Chinese and they are a part of the Chinese civilization, we have learned to say that Hinduism is a civilization of people. And under the umbrella of this civilization, you can literally have thousands of varieties of various religions. You could be atheist, agnostic, pantheistic, you could be whatever you can think of, it exists within the Hindu umbrella. And so basically the short answer to your question, Hinduism is a civilization. And if you understand that, then every state you go to, every village, there’s going to be some different kind of religion. But Hinduism as a civilization is a great way to organize those thoughts.

Darrell Bock
And so it’s a way of seeing life in the world is what you’re talking about in many ways.
William Subash
Yeah. There are definitely some unifying elements when it comes to Hindu culture. But you can basically say India is like a million countries wrapped up in one. And so even the Hindus, like the BJP party, they refer to India as Hindustan. You know, you’ve heard of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan. Stan basically means the place of. And Hindus have traditionally referred to India as Hindustan. So when the Mughal invaders invaded centuries ago, prior to that, Islam was not in India and Christianity would have been mainly in the south because of the Apostle Thomas. But generally speaking Hindustan is the place of the Hindus. And under Hinduism there are literally thousands of different kinds of religions that have different beliefs and world views.
Darrell Bock
It’s interesting because actually the name Hindu itself is basically a name for a region that surrounds this valley originally. So it fits that description.

Okay, Subash, so hoe did Conrad do in describing Hinduism and thinking through, you know, that we’re not just thinking about religion in the classical sense with a doctrine and that kind of thing?

William Subash
Yes. As Conrad said, it’s a conglomeration of many, many religions. And every village and every state you go to, you see different religions. And if you look at one thread that unites all the Hindus, probably you might not find one. So people try to define Hinduism and oftentimes they fall short of their definition. So I go with this kind of definition; Hinduism is a conglomeration of many religions, many world views that often change, adapt, but will have never one claim. And they have different claims and different world views, and they all live together. They try to adapt.

So for example, you come to India, Hinduism is different from the Hinduism that is practiced in Central America or Singapore and Malaysia. And in those days Hindus scattered to other places, like Sri Lanka, Mauritius, South Africa, through the British colonizers, and Central America. And those people who moved out of India, they still keep to their 200 years back religion. But you come to India, they have adapted so much. And the Hinduism between India and Malaysia probably are different.

Darrell Bock
Okay. So there’s no one-size-fits-all. It also strikes me to be – and this goes back to your comment, Conrad, about it being a civilization – that there is almost – I’m going to say this in the loosest sense of the term – there is almost an ethic identity or a cultural identity that’s a part of it that drives it. Is that your sense, Subash, that there is this cultural root that says in effect I’m Indian and this is what we believe, even though those beliefs are varied?
William Subash
Yes. There is something sacred that keeps Indians together. And if you look at India, there are three major races. One is a Dravidian race. Another one is Aryan race. And the other one is Mongolian. Mongolians look like Chinese people, oriental people. But Dravidians are dark-skinned people. Some places if you look at people, they share a lot of physical features with people in Africa.

So with all these racial differences and language differences and world view difference, there is something that unites Hindus, which I see is people not having a single claim; this is the way we need to live. It’s a democracy of religions. And there may be three people in a home – you, me, and our mother – all three of us can have three different gods, three different world views, but we are Hindus. And that keeps kind of the country together, the people together. Although we hear some of the unrest on the basis of religion in some places, particularly North India. But on the whole, the society is intact.

Darrell Bock
So India in many ways was designed to be – it ended up being very pluralistic from the beginning because of the mix of its history.
William Subash
That’s correct, yeah.
Darrell Bock
Interesting. And of course people may or may not be aware that in the recent history you have the division of what originally was a much larger country in that you have Pakistan, which was created in 1947, 1948. And then you have Bangladeshi, which I think was in 1991. And these were predominantly Muslim areas that got shredded off of or divided from India, which was predominantly Hindu, but not uniquely Hindu. There was a significant Muslims population in India as well.
William Subash
Yes. 18 to 20 percent of Indian population that we are talking about. 200 million people are Muslims. They say every fifth Indian is a Muslim. There are concentrations in places like the Old Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Very high concentration. And there are a lot of Christians in pockets. You come to Kerala, where my – that is my home state – 40 percent are Christians. And some places in northeast are Christians. In one state, 97 percent is Christian.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. My sense is from what little I know about India, is that there is a significant Christian presence in Southern parts of India, particularly the further South you go.
William Subash
That’s right.
Darrell Bock
And then as you move north, it becomes less so. There is one other element of this before we get into kind of the world view elements of Hinduism that I think is important. Usually when people hear about India, they think about alongside of it the caste system that is a part of Indian culture or at least has been. And this is also related to this racial mix that you’ve been talking about, Subash. And originally the various ways in which the various races came together and that there are basically four castes and then there’s a non-caste, if I can say it that way.
William Subash
That’s right.
Darrell Bock
So you’ve got your priests, your warriors, and traders, who are all considered to be what’s called twice born. And those are separate groupings of castes. And then you have the servant-level of the caste, and then you have the non-caste or the Dalits.
William Subash
Yes.
Darrell Bock
And I take it that one of the things that’s happening in India proper is that Christians have begun to approach Dalits and treat them completely different than the caste system.
William Subash
Yes.
Darrell Bock
And this has produced a response from Dalits towards Christianity.
William Subash
Yes. The sociology of Dalits and Dalits embracing Christianity goes back to 16th Century, to missionaries like Francis Xavier, who was a catholic missionary. And then another missionary during the same time, Robert de Nobili. He embraced the upper caste. Francis Xavier embraced low-caste people. Hinduism, if you look at it, it’s a religion of color. As I mentioned to you earlier, there are three races. And we actually talk about only two races in this, Dravidians and Arians. And the Mongolians joined a little bit later. The sociology of Hindu religion assumes that the caste system was introduced by the Arians when they moved to India many thousand years ago. And they introduced this caste based on color, Brahman, Kshatriyas, was the warrior, and Vaishya, who is a businessman. And Shudra is a person who burns dead bodies, keeps the city clean. When they were living together, there was another caste that was born. That caste is Dalit. It’s not considered still as a caste, but it can mean anyone who is depressed, oppressed, underprivileged, who is not under any class system.
Darrell Bock
Sometimes called the untouchables and oftentimes viewed not as a full human being in many ways, right?
William Subash
Yes. Actually, until 1940s they were called Untouchables. And that discrimination is still there in many, many villages. And later on, Gandhi called them Children of God. And that actually kind of derogatory word. Because sociologically speaking the gods were the Brahmans. So they didn’t want to be called Children of God. And so they adopted this name, Dalit. Dalit can be in north India, south India. And the Dalit is not a caste; it is an identity.
Darrell Bock
Interesting. And Conrad, you’ve seen this at work too I take it. And it certainly is one of the features that many people are aware of, even if they have a distant relationship to India that exists. What is the impact of Christians and Dalits that you are aware of?
Conrad Bowman
There’s a lot of neat work happening in India among the Dalits. And my family and I, we worked among middle and upper-class, economically middle and upper-class Indians, most of whom were Brahmans or Shakuras in the state we live. Because a lot of the Christian work that happens among the Dalits, which means that consequently the upper-class and the Brahman and the Shakuras there is not much work being done among them. And so we decided that we would go to reach among them.

But what Subash is saying is really crucial to understand. Because caste plays such a huge role in India. And for those who are not familiar with India, you have to understand that historically when you were born, your caste determines a number of things immediately before you life a week of life. It will determine who you can marry. It will determine in some cases what kind of job you’ll have or what kind of life you’ll have or who you can interact with or who you can’t interact with. And even when I lived in Benares or in Aussie for a little bit, even when they would burn the bodies on the Gandak river, even the low caste people, different levels of the ghats or the stairs leading down the rivers, they’ll burn the high-caste people higher, and it just decreases from there. And so in life and in death there is this discrimination based on the name that you were given by this system. And even if you go out to the India matrimonial websites, like Shaadi.com, one of the things you have to fill out is caste. And a lot of times parents in India when they have arranged marriages, parents won’t even consider marrying off their son or their daughter to someone who is not from the same caste. And so it’s a limiting factor in terms of love and families. And so it’s very well intricate. And in order to understand India, you have to understand the caste system.

Darrell Bock
And of course this is deeply-rooted in the history of the country. We should have done this earlier on. But the practice of Hinduism in the religions associated with it really go back to the mid-second millennium B.C. I mean, this is an old, old faith that we’re talking about. And then it’s gone through many variations with many impacts.

Let’s talk a little bit, before we transition into Hinduism, real briefly on the impact of Christianity on India. Because this is an important part of the story. One of the things that is a feature of Hinduism is it’s primarily an oral set of beliefs as opposed to being based in written texts and that kind of thing. And so it produced a culture that was very oral. That kind of thing. And you were sharing in the break how Christianity has had a real impact on India because of the influence of what came with Christianity. Talk a little bit about that.

William Subash
Yes. Actually modern India is a product of Christianity and the work of the missionaries. Missionary movement began in 1600s with the arrival of many important people. But notable among them was Francis Xavier, Robert de Nobili, and Ziegenbalg. But former two were Catholic missionaries and Ziegenbalg was a protestant missionary. And he was the one who introduced printing press. And he introduced a typing in Tamil, scripture.

And the revolution began with the arrival of William Carey from England in 1792. When he came after a lot of struggle, he introduced newspapers in which he actually surfaced social issues like burning of widows, and women education, educating the Dalits and the underprivileged people. And eventually they started schools for women and underprivileged people. That began the education movement in 1800s and 1900s. And you go to any city, any religions; good schools were started by Christian missionaries. And all this computer revolution, medical revolution, all of them were the seeds of missionary work.

Darrell Bock
And in fact education today still has some of this character in some parts of India. I was taught in India – this was about ten years ago. And went to speak to teachers at a school that a Christian school was sponsoring. It was a Christian school, but the intent was to educate anyone in the region. And parents of people, a variety of backgrounds brought their kids to these schools because they knew these were the best schools in the region.
William Subash
Yes, that’s right. And they blindly trust Christian educators. So if there is a name like Holy Cross or Little Flower, Mary’s School, whatever it is. And Protestants also have great schools. And they blindly send their children because they know Christians educate their children well. They trust the educators.

There is an undergraduate college in New Delhi called St. Stephens. That has produced all the major leaders in the Civil government. Lawyers and journalists and the people who are sitting in the cabinet. They are all – most of them come from that school.

Darrell Bock
That makes for a good transition in thinking about the nature of Hinduism and just the nature of eastern thought in general. Because again, another difference between western religion as we think about it and the beliefs that are tied to Hinduism and the world view beliefs are that you’re not talking about doctrines and you’re not talking about holy books in the way that we think about it. You’re talking about a reflection on what life is and how you’re connected to the creation and that kind of thing in very, very general terms. So let’s talk a little bit about what Hindus are likely to believe about who they are. And now I’ve got concepts like – and I’m just going to introduce words here and let you talk about them – like samsara, karma, moksha. I don’t know of a law firm that’s called Samsara, Karma, and Moksha. So what are we talking about?
William Subash
Actually Hinduism was a literal religion once upon a time. Hinduism can be divided into two. One is a philosophical religion. Another one is the popular religion. The popular religion goes with stories, orality and superstition. And suddenly Dr. Bock comes and teaches, someone benefitted, and Dr. Bock becomes a god, small g.

But the philosophical religion which is practiced probably by ten percent of the people, they don’t have many gods. And they have scripture. And Indian philosophy has six schools of philosophy. They call it the six world views. And along with that, three other are there. The first six are based on scripture, called Veda. And the other three are not based on any scripture.

Darrell Bock
Veda means knowledge.
William Subash
Veda means knowledge. Veda is also scripture. So the first six are called Sudarshan. So you look at the world through six windows. If you don’t like one window, you choose the other five. And if you don’t like any of those six, you just choose the other three.

So let me just quickly tell you what they are. Nyaya, Vaisheshika, yoga, Samkhya, Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā, and Uttara-Mīmāṃsā. These are based on Vedas. And the other three are materialism – they call it Cārvāka philosophy – Buddhism, and Jainism. So we have nine schools through which you can look at the world.

Darrell Bock
And we have separate shows that we have dedicated to Buddhism and Jainism. And these are all different paths.
William Subash
Different paths. Different paths, different way you look at – say for example yoga. Yoga actually originated as a philosophy. It was an answer to a philosophy called Samkhya. Samkhya was more like a science. And they introduced two concepts, Purusha and Prakṛti. And people had a lot of questions. How do we deal with the Purusha and Prakṛti.
Darrell Bock
And we’re talking about suffering, right?
William Subash
No. Purusha and Prakṛti is like yin and yang, male and female. And they are inseparable by a kind of – are eye blind, plain eyes. But actually they are completely different. How do you separate this?

Then about 200 years before Christ, a philosopher by name – I forgot his name. He introduced something called ashtanga yoga. Eight steps through which you are able to separate your soul from your body. And a little bit later instead of looking outside for god, they came inside to god. And that is where you have these five principles, all the philosophers and all those people know about it. One is called karma, samsara. Karma is whatever you do, you do it today, but it has effect tomorrow. And samsara is cycle of birth and rebirth. Then next one is Māyā. Māyā is vanity. Everything that you look in this world is vanity. Even the table that we look, it is vanity. Because we are in something called Māyā, or ignorance. Then achaman. Achaman, you know, analogously you can say it is the should. Then brahman. And brahman is the ultimate reality. This brahman is not he or she, but it is it.

So through this five principle, philosophical Hindus define the world. And any guru movement except iskcon, all of them are followers of openishic religion.

Darrell Bock
And so the goal of knowledge, if I can put it that way, is to kind of create a union between yourself and this real creation that’s out there of which you are a part. But there is a lot about Hindu philosophy that says the things that we see and touch and that ultimately aren’t real and we need to break away from.
William Subash
That’s right. Hindu, if you look at an educated Hindu, his goal, ultimate goal – they call it ultimate desire – is to realize that they are gods. In Sanskrit they say Aham Brahmasmi. That is I am god. So atman and brahman are both the same. You have a spark of brahman in you. And because of this ignorance, or Maya, you perceive this atman as atman. But yoga or – you know, the philosophical schools help you to understand that you are nothing but brahman. That is also called Madhava Heer, the greatest verse.

And most guru movements that you see in the west –

Darrell Bock
And guru means teacher.
William Subash
Yeah, guru means a teacher. People get attracted because their fate is not really properly defined. And it is very attractive. They say oh, I am one day a god. I am going to be god. Aham Brahmasmi; I am god.
Darrell Bock
And yoga is a term that simply means union, doesn’t it?
William Subash
Yes. It comes from a Sanskrit word yug, just unite. What does it unite? You just separate it from everything and unite with the ultimate reality.
Darrell Bock
So kind of this ultimate spiritual connection with the creation in some ways.
William Subash
Yes. Yes.
Darrell Bock
Before we move on, let me do one other thing and then we’ll come to some of the key texts. The religious practice of those who are practicing Hindus involve the offering of – you said originally there was a religious root to this – the offering of sacrifices and a room that’s dedicated to these offerings to the gods. Home shrines, food and drink offerings to the gods. Some ritual cleansing, removal of shoes, issues of purity with regard to the dead and menstruating women. Those are features of practice that you see from people who are very devout Hindus. Is this correct?
William Subash
Yes, yes. And it is also part of the culture. And in India, in most places you cannot separate religion and culture. It’s both the same. And all these things that you mentioned are very much part of their life and it is very much a religion. You know, when you come home, you leave the sandals outside. You don’t bring a leather sandal inside because it defiles the house. If a menstruating women comes to a public place, she defiles the place. It’s all kind of laws they have developed, and they live by it. Even though people probably are scientists, people have got terminal degrees. But still they do it. It has become part and parcel of their DNA.
Darrell Bock
Interesting. So, Conrad, I take it this is – if someone meets someone who comes out of a Hindu background, they really are meeting someone who looks at the world very differently than they do if they come out of the west.
Conrad Bowman
Yeah. And, you know, everything that Subash is saying is really fascinating, and it’s good. And I would encourage the listeners not to be overwhelmed. Because the reality is that when you meet a Hindu, it’s almost impossible to be able to predict what they are going to believe. And so the best way to engage with a Hindu person is simply just as you develop the relationship with them is just to ask them what they believe about things. Because Hindus are very spiritually-minded. They love talking about spiritual thins. In fact, my experience has been a lot of Hindus think it’s strange that more westerners don’t talk about their faith or their spirituality.

And so my wife and I have learned to integrate talking about spiritual things in almost every area or every aspect of life. And especially money. Like Hindus love when we talk about money and Jesus’ teachings about money, because Hindus love money. But yeah, don’t be overwhelmed with all these big terms or these big, hard-to-pronounce ideas. The main thing is you go straight to the source. You have to go straight to the man, to the woman, to the child and ask them specifically, hey, what’s your understanding of the universe, what’s your understanding of why we’re here? What keeps you up at night? What are you afraid of? And once you begin to learn to ask questions that really peel away the outside and getting to the core, into the heart of who someone is, you can then begin understanding who this person is, why they do the things they do, why they think the way they think. And so that’s the only thing I can really add in terms of some of these ideas.

Darrell Bock
Yeah. We’ve called this getting a spiritual GPS on someone as we move through these various religions, that oftentimes the best thing we can do is ask questions and see what’s motivating people, what the nature of their belief is, what the nature of their religious experience is, how they view transcendence and that kind of thing. And just get oriented and just do a lot of listening to start off with.
Conrad Bowman
Yeah. Can I just add one more thing?
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Conrad Bowman
When you start thinking about some of these concepts like – like the guy that taught me a lot about Hinduism was a Hindu himself. And he taught me that a lot of Hindus – they call it Kura de Grumpis. So when you start thinking about these concepts, it very quickly becomes evident that the dragon has created a system of fear and fatalism where even a lot of Hindus are even afraid to ask questions. Because even in asking questions, it’s bad karma. So when you Bhagavad Gita,you know, you had two families that are about to kill each other on the battlefield. And Arjuna and Krishna disguised themselves. And Krishna basically says to Arjuna in response to Arjuna concern that hey, I’m going go fight my cousin on the battlefield. I don’t feel like I should do this. He’s like, do your duty. You need to do what you need to do. Don’t ask questions. Right?

And so the demonic ideology that really kind of comes forward is basically a system in which questions are not encouraged. And in fact, you get bad karma for asking questions. So there’s a lot of fear in a lot of this stuff. And that’s really important to know going into this.

Darrell Bock
That’s interesting. Now, you’ve mentioned a couple of things. We’re really running tight for time. So I’m just going to cover this quickly. But you’ve mentioned the Bhagavata – I probably butchered that name. But anyway, that’s one of the texts that has one of the core stories that undergirds some aspects of Hinduism. We’ve got a series of legends that feed into this faith. And you’ve mentioned Krishna and then Vishnu is another god. Krishna and Vishnu are the two major deity figures that are a part of the faith. We’ve hardly talked about this at all. Because again, we’re talking about more an orientation to thinking about life than we are talking about doctrine.

We’ve chatted a little bit – and I’m transitioning now. I just put that in there so that people are aware of it. But the Gita is a major piece of kind of background story, isn’t it, Subash?

William Subash
It is part of a major scripture. People use it because that is where their core of teaching is demonstrated. They have Vedas. They also have Upanishad. They have other scriptures like Brahma sūtras. And Gita is part of Mahabharata scripture, which is divided into 18 chapters in which they talk about various tenets of the caste-based religion.
Darrell Bock
Interesting. So it’s supportive ultimately of the caste structure.
William Subash
Yes.
Darrell Bock
Okay, I’m going to transition. We’ve talked about what makes for adherence. Adherence here primarily almost sounds like an ethic or regional loyalty and an attachment to your roots. Is that a fair summary of kind of what the point of attraction is?
William Subash
It is. Actually because of the caste system, it is so engrained and they have a deep attachment to their caste and a deep attachment to the family traditions. So if a person moves out of their religion or out of their caste, they excommunicate them –
Darrell Bock
Yeah, it’s a defection.
William Subash
It is a defection. And they can also go to an extent of honor killing. A lot of movies have come – this is kind of one of the major stories these days, is when a person marries from one caste to another caste or one religion, Hindu religion to another religion, it becomes a major issue.
Darrell Bock
So this walks us into kind of what we want to talk about in closing. And that is how does one step into this? In other words, you’ve got this deep cultural adherence to really an orientation which you’ve described, Conrad, as a civilization as opposed to a religion. And there’s a lot of sacrifice that comes with considering the gospel, and there’s also a lot of almost reorientation about how you even view religion.

So, Conrad, tell us what that looks like as you approach someone and you’re interacting. You’ve already said to interact personally with them, just talk about spiritual things. But that seems like it’s a bridge that’s a challenge to cross in some ways.

Conrad Bowman
I have learned from ministering in the Hindu world that several things are necessary and required in approaching Hindu people. The first is that I have to be secure and confident in the gospel of Jesus. Even though there is this huge world out there fueled by a billion Hindus who worship 330 million gods and goddesses, you have to have the conviction that Jesus is the only way and he is the only true god. And so when you have the gospel interacting and engaging with a world view and a civilization that has been built over millennia, and demonic footprints are all over the place, it’s going to be intense for the mindsets of men, women, and children created in God’s image who have never heard the gospel.

So for your listeners, if God is putting on your heart to engage Hindu people, no matter what our background, no matter what your ethnic background is, this is a situation that requires all hands on deck. And so the idea that you’ve got to be confident in the power of God to be with you and to strengthen you and to encourage you because Hindu ministry is very, very difficult. It’s not easy. And you’ll have more bad days than good days. But basically just realizing that as you begin to think about God loves these people so much that he died for them. And he doesn’t desire any should perish, but all have eternal life with Him in heaven.

And so that’s my biggest encouragement and challenge; that the main thing is that you do something and that you love people, you learn how to communicate in a way that they understand and that you really put it all on the line because so much is at stake. And the reality is God accomplishes everything He wants to accomplish, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s so crucial to understand that this is a spiritual battle and it’s going to hit pretty hard once you start doing it.

Darrell Bock
And we’re almost out of time unfortunately. So the key here is to engage, to listen, to be aware that this is a very challenging conversation in some ways because the orientations are so different. And yet at the same time there’s something to offer to people about what it is that the gospel steps into and a kind of individual orientation to being related to God. We haven’t even talked about the whole corporate emphasis that’s a part of this, although we’ve suggested it.

What this suggests to me is that we’ve done an introduction to Hinduism. There is a lot more that could be said. And I’m sure we’ll be coming back to you guys for more discussion of this and to get into a little more detail. We’ve served to try and introduce the conglomeration that is Hinduism and the variety of things that one deals with when one walks into a world that is impacted by Hinduism. And I really do thank you both for taking the time to be with us and help us get a little bit oriented.

William Subash
Thank you so much, Dr. Bock.
Darrell Bock
Yes. And thank you, Conrad, as well.
Conrad Bowman
Thank you.
Darrell Bock
And we thank you for being a part of The Table, and we hope you’ll join us again soon.
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Conrad Bauman
Conrad is a staff member with Crossworld ministering to Hindus in Ontario, Canada.
Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than forty books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
William Subash
Born and raised in south India, William J. Subash became a follower of Jesus Christ in 1983 at the age of nineteen. After a brief career in a tea and coffee plantation, Subash decided to spend rest of his life to preach about Jesus and his life-transforming message of God, which is popularly known as “the Gospel.” Subash teaches New Testament Studies at two institutions: SAIACS in India and Liberty University Online, VA, USA. Currently, Subash serves as the chief point person for GROW Gospel Initiatives and the Lead Pastor of the Crossroad Church, Bangalore
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