Comparing Hindu and Christian After-life Concepts

Every religion has the concept of after-life existence, which depends on the way the person has led life. Here I give a comparison of Hindu and Christian concepts.

I am presenting here the analysis that I have done based on my understanding of both religions. I have had the good fortune of studying Hinduism under great teachers. So, I expect that understanding to be reliable. I have not studied Christianity formally. That is based on what I have been able to understand by reading books and talking to some Christian friends.

For this comparison, I would like to classify life on both secular and faith-based features. First, let me present the definitions that I have taken.

  • Virtuous – Following human moral and ethical norms of being honest and kind, to the best of his ability. Repenting for slippages and wanting to become better and better.
  • Vicious – Willfully violating human moral and ethical norms of being honest and kind.
  • Hindu Believer – Belief in God in a personal aspect like Vishnu, Shiva, etc. and in law of Karma, innate divinity of soul, charity, yoga, meditation, etc.
  • Christian Believer – Belief in Christ as (only?) savior from original sin.
  • Spiritual Non-religious Hindu – No belief/interest in personal aspect of God, but belief in law of Karma, innate divinity of soul, charity, yoga, meditation, etc.
  • Hindu Non-believer – No belief in personal aspect of God nor in law of Karma, etc.
  • Christian Non-believer – No belief in original sin, Christ as savior, etc.
  • Confused – A person who is confused about why to be virtuous, and in reality a mixture of virtue and vice.

Note that a person cannot be a true believer of any religion and also be a vicious person. All religions teach honesty and kindness to all creatures. Any other interpretation on this has to be taken as an obsolete or wrong interpretation, which has to be corrected by the teachers and practitioners of that religion.

Note that a person cannot be simultaneously be a Hindu and Christian “believer”, because there is no concept of original sin and Christ as savior in Hinduism, which are core to Christian belief. Typically a Hindu accepts Christ as a saint and not as a savior. The Christian “good news” is “Christ is savior”. The Hindu “good news” is “You are divine and do not need to be saved”.

PersonAccording to HinduismAccording to Christianity
Virtuous Hindu Believer or Spiritual Non-religious Hindu or Hindu Non-believer, and in all cases, Christian Non-believerCase 1: If the person has totally realized his unlimited true nature, free from all limitations of individuality, he is already free while living in the world (jivanmukti). When the body drops, he will immediately merge with the whole of existence (videhamukti).
Case 2: If the person does not have any worldly or other-worldly desires, he will go to a divine abode (brahmaloka) immediately after death and never come back to the world. In that divine realm, he will realize his freedom. If the person is a devotee of a particular aspect of God like Vishnu, Shiva, etc. the realm will be correspondingly Vaikuntha, Kailasha, etc, which are particular aspects of brahmaloka.
Case 3: If the person has other-worldly desires, he will spend some time in swarga till the merits earned for that is exhausted. After that he will come back to the world. If the person has only this-worldly desires, he will not spend much time in other worlds. In either case, he will come back in a cultured and devoted family, and continue his spiritual development from where he left.
According to some Christians, he will have to wait till Judgement day, when he will be condemned to eternal hell. According to some other Christians, he will have to wait till Judgement day, when he will be sent to a divine realm for eternal life.
Virtuous Christian Believer and Hindu Non-believerSame as the case of Virtuous Hindu Believer. Hinduism does not depend on belief. His after-life direction will be immediately decided based on the cases mentioned above.He will have to wait till Judgement day, when he will be sent to a divine realm for eternal life. Any minor imperfections will be corrected in the Purgatory on the way to the divine realm.
ViciousHe will be immediately sent to naraka, where he will have to suffer for some time for his evil deeds. Then he will come back to the world for another chance to lead a virtuous life and develop spiritually.He will have to wait till Judgement day, when he will be condemned to eternal hell.
Confused and mixed behaviorHe will be immediately sent to swarga and then to naraka (or the other way round), where he will have to enjoy and suffer for some time for his good and evil deeds, respectively. Then he will come back to the world for another chance to lead a more virtuous life, develop spiritually and to develop detachment from all worldly and other-worldly desires.He will have to wait till Judgement day, when he will be judged based on his belief and deeds, and given eternal life or condemned to eternal hell. If he is allotted eternal life, any imperfections will be corrected in the Purgatory on the way.

I am not going to pass a judgement of which is better than the other, which is more rational than the other, etc. That is left to the reader. Some people may feel this way and some may feel the other way.

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2 Responses to Comparing Hindu and Christian After-life Concepts

  1. Aman says:

    What was the need to create life?

    I am posting this again since i didnot ‘check’ the notify me options.

    Thanks

    • gokulmuthu says:

      Dear Aman,

      This is a very deep and interesting question. You can get a good answer to this from the book “The Religion of Man” by Rabindranath Tagore. I views very closely match with what is discussed in the book.

      You can also read the recent article “All is One”. That will answer many such questions.

      With regards,
      Gokulmuthu.

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