Many Christians are extremely insulting about Hinduism and other religions. They call us ignorant, dumb, followers of Satan and mock our beliefs and practices. They tell converts that they should not associate with non-Christians, and sometimes even incite violence, trickery, deception, and destruction of shrines. You only have to look at some of the comments by Christians on this blog to see the degrees of hatred. These Christians honestly believe that this is what their religion teaches.
In contrast, many Hindus believe that Jesus was a guru, and that his teachings do not incite this type of behaviour. I have looked at the teachings of Jesus and I have come to the conclusion that many Christians have misunderstood the real meaning of the teachings of Jesus. In short, what the many missionaries teach is not in accord with the true teachings of Jesus.
Jesus as a Guru
If Jesus is seen as a guru, and the gospels as the teachings of Jesus become clear. When Jesus says to Thomas In John 14:6-7
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.
This is an explanation of the Guru student relationship. Many gurus would say the same thing to their students, but this would not exclude the possibility of other gurus. Many sayings that are taken as instructions to be exclusive and divisive by the Christian Right are in reality simply instructions to keep firm to the guru-shishya relationship.
Jesus’s words on Other Faiths
From the way that many modern Christians behave you would expect Jesus to be full of condemnation, insults, and irreverence for the Roman and Greek gods. In fact, Jesus never said anything negative about these beliefs. Having queried this on a Christian board someone eventually came up with two passages from Jesus:
(Mark 16:15 NKJV) And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. (16) He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
(Luke 24:46 NKJV) Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, (47) and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
First of all, compared to the vitriol that comes from many modern Christians this is pretty mild. Even so, they do appear to be quotes from Jesus himself giving what appears to be a message of exclusivity, so I investigated further.
The translations of the Bible into English come from Greek gospels, which are considered to be the oldest and most authentic representation of the gospels, that is closest to the true story of Jesus. Looking up Mark 16:14-17 in one of the online interlinear bibles we can see that the word that is translated as “does not believe” is ajpistevw, which can also be translated as “to betray a trust, be unfaithful” or “to have no belief, disbelieve“. This means that the verse could equally be translated as”but those who are not true to their beliefs will be condemned“, or “but those who have no belief will be condemned“. Suddenly this is sounds much more like something a guru would say, and the message of divisiveness is gone.
Looking at Luke 24:46 In the interlinear bible, Luke 24:46 is talking about fulfillment of prophecy. The “should” in the NKJV version is not in the original Greek. In fact even later Christian transaltions acknowledge this, in the NIV as it is translated as:
46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
In context this is obviously about fulfilment of prophecy, and is not an instruction to preach. Of course there is the implication that it will be preached, but nothing about denigrating other paths. The most that could be taken from this is to spread the word to those who are willing to hear, and without the imperative to condemn other religions. You could see this as an instruction to act like the Swaminarayan or Chinmaya organisation, spreading the word and respecting those who want to hold to other beliefs.
What Jesus doesn’t Tolerate
Jesus does show intolerance for people who profess to faith but are really filled with self-importance. He also condemns those who use religion as a pretext to make money. He was so angry about this that he turned over the money-changer’s tables in the temple. This intolerance is important for two reasons. Firstly it shows that the lack of any condemnation of the Roman or other religions is significant. It shows that Jesus is willing to express anger, even when it is dangerous to do so.
Secondly, this intolerance is perfectly in line with what we would expect from a guru. Satyam or truthfulness together with putting the spiritual above material wealth are core Hindu values. Jesus’s message again is in concordance with Hindu truths.
He who is not with me is against me
This is often used to justify intollerance and division. The context is (Matthew 12:30-32):
30 He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Jesus is talking about blasphemy of the holy spirit. Many Christians say that this means deliberately saying what you know to be holy is caused by the devil. In this context it means not speaking for what you know to be right is being against that thing, and is not divisive.
That this is not a general statement is confirmed by the fact that the opposing sentiment “He who is not against us is for us” is spoken by Jesus in two gospels:
(Mark 9: 38-41) 38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
(Luke 9:49-50) 49 And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.
This could easily be seen as a reference to other gurus with teachings that do not oppose but give the common truth.
What Christianity Should have Been
From what I have seen there is much more evidence to show that Jesus was a guru than that he preached exclusivity and hatred towards others. Many of Jesus’s words are exactly what you would expect an enlightened guru to say. I would recommend “The Sermon on the Mount According to Vedanta” by Swami Prabhavananda as an example of the true teachings of Christ.
Christianity should have been a religion of peace and inclusivity. Just as Jesus never condemned other faiths neither would Christians. Christians would, of course, have been true to their own guru and tradition. The rules of love thy neighbour, and love God with all your heart as a condensation of the Old Testament commandments would have been central to this true Christianity. There would have been emphasis on devotion (bhakti) and karma yoga (the parable of the lilies of the field tells people not to worry about the fruits of their labour). All the genocides, killings and violence that Christianity brought throught history would not have happened, the very idea would have been abhorrent to the followers.
Could someone follow Jesus as a guru today? Well, there are a few exceptional people who have seen Jesus’s message of peace despite the teachings of the church, so It is possible. If anyone felt called to that path I would not say it was wrong. But there are dangers, so much of the modern teaching takes people away from the true message of Jesus, and there is so little of the original to go on. I would say to someone, if you really want to understand Christianity, look at Hinduism.