Connecting Faith and Life

Christian Salvation: Is it Unique?

Every religion has a set of beliefs about God, man, purpose in life, life after death and final destiny. The most important and interesting of all these is the study of life after death and ultimate destiny of human beings. A term that addresses these issues and related themes is salvation. Like the many other differences, the concept of salvation also differs from one religion to another. The purpose of this paper is to make a comparative study of salvation in Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, and subsequently to highlight the uniqueness of Christian salvation.

SALVATION: TOWARDS A DEFINITION
The Chambers English Dictionary defines salvation in varied ways: “the act of saving; the means of preservation from any serious evil; the saving of man from the power and penalty of sin; the conferring of eternal happiness.”[1] Norman Anderson comments that this term can be used both in a temporal and after life contexts.[2] In the religious circuit, the term “salvation” is closely identified with the Christian religious tradition, but its counterpart in easily recognised in other religions in terms like Nirvana, Moksha, liberation, enlightenment, absorption into ultimate reality, and redemption.

HINDUISM

The Soteriological Need
Hinduism, whether it be theistic or atheistic, believes that human in his or her essential being is an atman (soul). This soul is immortal in nature, survives bodily death and transmigrates from one body to another.[3] The Chandogya Upanishad states, “In exactly the same way, know that this, of course, dies when it is bereft of life (jiva); but life itself does not die”.[4] The transmigration of soul from one body to another is determined by one’s karma (actions).[5] This is considered to a sign of soul’s bondage. Thus, liberation from samsara (cycle of birth, death and rebirth), becomes the goal of a Hindu. In other words, this is the need for salvation. Similarly, Hinduism in its highest form believes that human being is a victim of Avidya or Ajnana (ignorance), and that is why he or she is attached to this world and is in bondage.[6] Therefore, there is a genuine search for truth or liberation in Hinduism. An ancient Indian prayer reflects this, “Asathoma sadgamay, thamasoma jyothirgamay, mrythyorma amrithangamay, Om santhi, santhi, santhi.”[7]

Salvation in Hinduism
The various schools of Hinduism view the concept of salvation in differing ways. The liberation of the soul from the Samsara or Avidya is called as Moksha or Mukthi.[8] Moksha is possible by adopting any of the three following paths. First, Jnana Marga (the way of knowledge). According to this, when one knows or understands that he or she is in reality the Brahman, then release from existence may be experienced.[9] Second, Karma Marga (the way of right conduct). It teaches that unselfish service as the means of reaching Brahman.[10] Third, Bhakthi Marga (the way of devotion). It states that salvation can be obtained by having devotion to gods.[11] Vedartha-Samgraha, an ancient Hindu writing, confirms this idea that god is moved by people’s devotion. It says, “And I (the Lord), dwelling in their hearts am moved by compassion and thereby destroy their darkness of soul born of ignorance by lighting luminous lamp of their knowledge.”[12]

Life After Death and Final Destiny
According to Hindu faith, the soul after death either enters into a new body or attains moksha. A famous Bhagavad Gita saying explains this, “Just as a person casts off worn-out garments and puts on others that are new, even so does the embodied souls cast off worn-out bodies and take on others.”[13] So long as one does not exhaust the fruits of his or her actions, he or she will be bound in samsara. Only actions done without attachment niskama karma, does not generate any samsara, and a performer of these actions will attain Moksha.[14] When moksha is attained before one’s death, it is then called as jevan mukthi. Moksha, the final destiny is sometimes understood as an merging of one’s personality in Brahman. Mundaka Upansihad says, “Just as the flowing rivers disappear in the ocean casting off name and shape, even so the knower, freed from name and form, attains to the divine, higher than the higher (III Mundaka, 2 Khanda, 8).[15] Interestingly, the Vedas also seem to imbibe the idea of heaven and hell.[16]

BUDDHISM

The Soteriological Need in Buddhism
Buddhism believes that man’s present condition is one of suffering. This is universal in nature and is caused by desire or Tanha. Buddha reflected on suffering, Birth is ill, and old age is ill and disease is ill and dying is ill, association with what is not dear is ill, separation from what is dear ill, not getting what one wants is ill.[17] Therefore, according to Buddha, to eliminate suffering one has to eliminate desires. If at death a person has not realised the true nature of his or her being, by completely destroying the desire for life, then this desire gathers fresh life and becomes a new being. Life will continue as long as there is desire, and it is the law of karma that keeps the process going. This cycle of birth, death and rebirth is called samskara.[18] Therefore, the goal for a Buddhist is to get liberated from this samskara.

Salvation in Buddhism
Buddha pointed out that there existed a way for human beings to put an end to reincarnation. This he called “the middle way,” and it consists of eight steps.
Buddha told his monks: “It is this ariyan eightfold Way itself, that is to say: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right mode of living, right endeavour, right mindfulness, right concentration. This monks, is the middle course.”[19] The goal of the middle way is to attain Nirvana.[20] However, Mahayana Buddhism believes that there is a devotional way of salvation through bodhisattva.[21] Lay people who cannot follow the strict moral way of eight fold path can seek the help of bodhisattva to attain Nirvana.[22]

Life After Death and Final Destiny
The life after death in Buddhism is either rebirth or Nirvana.[23] The doers of attached actions are forced to be reborn. Those who have performed actions without attachment fulfilling them through the disciplines of the eight fold path will attain Nirvana at death.[24] This is the final destiny. Nirvana in a negative sense is the cessation of all suffering. Some Buddhists compare Nirvana to attaining Godhood.[25] The Tripitaka, an early Buddhist Scripture describes the abstract nature of Nirvana: Nirvana is the area where there is no earth, water, fire and air; it is not the region of infinite space, nor that of infinite consciousness; nor this world nor the other world; where is neither sun or moon. It is without foundation, without continuation and without stopping.[26]

ISLAM

The Soteriological Need in Islam
Islam teaches that human beings are created by God and they are superior to angels and stand as the crown of God’s creation.[27] However, it also contends that through shaytan, who fell from heaven, Adam and Eve (the first man and woman) committed sin against Allah, and as a result, they were sent out of Eden.[28] Subsequently, Allah promised them of his guidance and restoration. The Qu’ran narrates this event. Subsequently his Lord showed him favour and relented towards him and guided him, saying: Both of you go down from here. There is a state of mutual enmity between you. Nevertheless, guidance on my part will avail you and whoever follows My guidance will not go astray nor come to grief (Surah 20.123).[29] Islam teaches that all people are sinners. Islam also believes in the day of final judgement on which God would demand account of one’s good or bad deeds. A sinner needs to fulfil all the requirements of Islam before death to escape Allah’s wrath.[30] Therefore, escaping wrath or salvation is at the heart of a Muslim’s life.

Salvation in Islam
Salvation, according to Islam, can be attained through observing the five pillars of Islamic practice – Ash-shahadah, Salat, Zakat, Siyam, Hajj.[31] By performing these, the Muslim hopes that he or she will be saved. However, despite all these, Allah reserves the absolute right to send the deceased to wherever he pleases, paradise or hell. The Qur’an states, “Knowest thou not that unto Allah belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth? He punisheth whom He will, and forgiveth whom He will. Allah is able to do all things (Surah 5.40).”[32] Therefore, one has to have faith in Allah and fulfil all his requirements for salvation.

Life After Death and Final Destiny
The Islamic eschatology is clearly described with vivid picture language. Islam believes that human life does not come to a final end with one’s physical death. Though the body is consumed by the earth in the grave, the spiritual being remains uncorrupted till the last day when the world comes to its final end.[33] On the judgement day all the dead will rise from the graves. Their souls will be reunited with their bodies and be brought before the Allah by the angels for the final examination of one’s deeds on earth. The Qur’an states, “On that day you will see every people kneeling, every people being called to its book. Today you will be required for your every deed. All that you have ever done We have been recording in a register (Surah 45.28).”[34] Those whose good deeds balance over the bad ones are rewarded by Allah by having a place near him in heaven and those whose evil deeds exceed good deeds are damned eternally to Hell. Moreover, heaven and hell are also described elaborately in the Qur’an (Surah 47.15; 56.15-22).[35] Thus, the final destiny of a saved person is in the company of God and his angels in eternal pleasure or in Hell.[36]

CHRISTIANITY

The Soteriological Need in Christianity
Christianity takes all of its teachings from the Bible. According to the Bible God created man and woman in his own image (Gen. 1:27).[37] However, sin entered into the world through Adam’s (the first man) disobedience.[38] This implies that every human being is born in a state of sin. Since the sinful nature exists right from birth, human beings do commit actual sins. As a result of this, the whole of mankind became guilty and utterly corrupt, got delineated from God’s presence, and fell under the sway of eternal death. Romans 5:12 states, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men. “(NIV) This is the problem of sin and salvation, and the question is – How can man be once again restored to the fellowship of God?

Salvation in Christianity
The Bible uses the term redemption to explain God’s special intervention for the salvation of mankind.[39] As we have seen in the previous section,  mankind was enslaved in sin and was under the wrath of God (Gal.3:13). God’s absolute justice demanded an infinite sacrifice.[40] Throughout the Old Testament practices one can clearly see the necessity of blood in redemption (Heb.5:1-3). Hebrews 9:22 says, “In fact the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (NIV) Therefore, the Bible says that God himself, out of his infinite love, decided to act on behalf of His creature. To redeem the entire humanity Jesus Christ, the second person of trinity, took upon himself the form of a man – incarnation. Hebrews 9:26, states, But now he (Jesus) has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. (NIV)
Jesus offered himself as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of all humanity (Heb.10:18). Through death on the cross, He overcame the dominion of Satan and sin. The Bible also clearly proclaims Christ’s resurrection from the death and His ascension into heaven to the father (Rom.1:4, Acts 1:11, 2:32-36).[41] Any one who trusts in Christ’s atoning work and confesses Jesus Christ to be the Lord is saved for eternity (John 3:16-18). Salvation is thus God’s grace and it is received by faith during one’s earthly life itself. This experience is also called as rebirth. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through – faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (NIV) Nevertheless, Roman Catholic Christianity differs from the Protestant Christianity in one vital aspect of salvation. Although both agree that faith is necessary for salvation, Catholics say that a person must also do good works to finish what was begun by faith, and complete salvation comes only through Roman Catholic Church.[42]

Life After Death and Final Destiny
As Christianity believes soul is immortal, it also believes in life after death. The soul endures after death and it is believed to be in an intermediary state till the world comes to an end.[43] Eventually, when the world comes to an end, there is resurrection of the dead. All souls after resurrection, on the day of judgement, will be brought before God for the final assessment. Revelation 20: 12-15 says, “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life……if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (NIV) Those had been redeemed by Jesus Christ would be sent to heaven whereas those who rejected Christ and followed their ways would be damned for Hell.[44] Eternal life or eternal death is the final destiny.

A SHORT COMPARISON AND CONTRAST

The Soteriological Need
All the four religions agree that human beings are in a miserable condition and  are in need of salvation. However, they differ with each other in stating the reasons for this condition. Both Hinduism and Buddhism say that human beings are in need of salvation because they are caught in Samsara / Samskara (the cycle of birth, death and rebirth).[45] Both Christianity and Islam say that the need for human salvation arises out of the fact that human beings are sinful and would face God’s judgement on the final day. Nevertheless, Christianity emphasis both on the original sin inherited from Adam and man’s actual sins but Islam sees sin as more of a failure to fulfil the requirements of Allah given in the Qur’an.

The Concept of Salvation and Ways of Attaining it
Negatively, salvation in Islam and Christianity means an escape from the anger of God which leads to the eternal damnation of the sinner into Hell. On the other hand, in Hinduism and Buddhism salvation negatively means an escape from the endless cycle of births and rebirths. Positively, salvation or liberation in all the four religions means a life of unending bliss devoid of misery and suffering. One must also observe that unlike Islam and Christianity, in most of the traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism, the concepts of God and sin does not even appear in regard to salvation.

Regarding the way of salvation, all the four religions differ in many aspects.   Hinduism and Buddhism emphasises on one’s work, rituals and efforts.[47] Similarly, Islam says that one can win salvation by strict obedience to the commandments of Allah and by observing the five pillars of faith. Contradicting itself, Islam also states that even after all these deeds one has to depend on Allah’s mercy on the final judgement to be saved. Distinct from all the three, salvation in Christianity is solely based on faith in Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the cross. The work of Christ dying on the cross is deemed the all sufficient atonement for sin apart from any human works of righteousness.[48] Moreover, all the religions except Islam state the possibility of attaining salvation during earthly life. Islam leaves out the issue of salvation to the final judgement day. In Hinduism and Buddhism there are more than one way to attain salvation. People can choose according to their ability.[49] Moreover, Hinduism and Buddhism do not claim any exclusivity to its way of salvation. However, Islam and Christianity present just one way of attaining salvation and each claim exclusivity.[50]

Life after Death and Final Destiny
All the four religions believe in life after death but they differ largely in the details. Hinduism and Buddhism present two alternatives. After death one either reincarnates (continuous in the Karma samsara / samskara) or attains
Moksha / Nirvana.[51] Christianity and Islam believe that after death, the body and soul are separated, but the soul and new body are reunited at resurrection when the world comes to an end. They both believe that God would finally judge all people one day. At the end of judgement, according to Christianity, one is either with God forever in heaven or away from God forever in hell based on one’s acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ during earthly life. However, Islam believes that one is judged according to his or her earthly deeds and send to heaven or hell accordingly.

The Uniqueness of Christian Salvation
This section of the paper would attempt to bring out the unique features of Christian salvation. First, Christian salvation is unique because it is attained by faith rather than works.[52] All other religions expect human works either in the form of good works or discipline or rituals. Unfortunately, Roman Catholic Church also believes that salvation is secured by faith plus good works – as channelled through the Church.[53] However, the Bible says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and  this is not from yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8-9).

Second, Christian salvation is unique because it is founded on a unique person in history – Jesus Christ, the incarnate son of God. Although there were several avatars, prophets and Buddhas, none of them claimed themselves to be God’s only son. Moreover, no one in the history of mankind has died for the cause of humanity’s sin. Jesus’ birth, life, teachings, death and resurrection, are unique when compared to the religious figures of other religions. Third, Christian salvation is unique because it gives meaning and purpose to one’s life. It does not just deal with one’s life after death but gives a person a new goal and purpose in life. Salvation is actually a new birth. John Stott comments, “The plan of God in salvation is first to reconcile us to himself, and then progressively to liberate us from our self-centredness and bring us into harmony with our fellow men.”[54]

Fourth, Christian salvation is unique because it gives assurance and certainty. Since salvation in all other religions is based on one’s own effort, there lacks a certainty about one’s final salvation. There always remains a sense of doubt –  Have I done enough to be liberated? Even in Islam one cannot be sure of one’s salvation because it all depends on what Allah is going to determine finally.[55] A Christian can have confidence about his or her eternal security because it rests on the finished work of Jesus Christ.[56] Jesus assured, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day” (John 6:39).

Fifth, Christian salvation is unique because it is available for all people, at all time, irrespective of one’s caste, colour and race. Hinduism claims that for a Brahmin, salvation is near whereas for a Sudra it is far away. Similarly, in Buddhism, Nirvana is easily attainable for a person who has been in an ascetic journey in life whereas for a common man it is distant. Christian salvation is made available for anyone at any point of time during this earthly life (John 1:12).

Sixth, Christian salvation is unique because of the promise of eternity with God. Human beings naturally possess a thirst to live on. This thirst is fully met in Jesus Christ who offers eternal life (John 3:16). Hinduism states by attaining moksha one loses his or her identity and becomes one with Brahman. Similarly, Buddhism claim that by attaining Nirvana, a person almost becomes nothing. However, Christianity gives the hope of heaven and new earth, where one will live with God for eternity as the child of God. Moreover, this salvation is unique because of its design, revelation and fulfilment in history (Gal.4:4, Heb 1:1,2).

CONCLUSION
The comparative study of salvation in Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, has indeed been a rich blessing to the researcher. It helped him to gain many a new insight. Although there are some similarities among the concepts, the above study clearly shows that there are fundamental differences between religions in matters of salvation approach and final destiny. Besides this, the study also shows the unique features of Christian salvation. A prime aspect of Christian salvation is the fact that it is initiated, sustained and perfected by God. Overall, the researcher’s confidence in the validity of Christian experience has been really strengthened through this study.

Endnotes:
[1]W. S. Ramson, ed., Chambers English Dictionary (New Delhi: Allied Publishers limited, 1988), 1298.
[2]In terms of this life this means to be delivered or saved from sickness, calamity, injustice, oppression, false attitudes, ignorance or sin; and in terms of the hereafter to deliverance from judgement, loss, separation from God or an endless cycle of re-incarnations. Norman Anderson, Christianity and World Religions (Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984), 83.
[3]This is popularly known as the doctrine of rebirth. Kedar Nath Tiwari, Comparative Religion (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987), 12.
[4]Patrick Olivelle, (trans.), Chandogya Upanishad (OUP, 1996), 153-6. Cited in Gwilym Beckerlegge, ed., The World Religious Reader (London: Routledge, 2002), 251.
[5]Karma is not a moral law in the Hindu classical sense. It is similar to the law of cause and effect. A soul gets incarnated into four levels of existence namely, human, animal, plant and mineral depending on one’s previous actions. Continuous bad karma results in rebirth into lower life forms. George A. Mather and Larry A. Nichols, Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult (Michigan: Zondervan, 1993), 120. See also Aravind Sharma, Classical Hindu Thought: An Introduction (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000), 99-101.
[6]W. Owen Cole, ed., Six World Faiths (New York: Continuum, 2000), 15.
[7]The meaning of this Sanskrit verse is – From unreal lead me to real, from untrue lead me to truth, from darkness lead me to light, from death lead me to immortality. Source: Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1, iii, 2. Cited by Sudhakar Mondhitoka, class lectures, 26/09/2005.
[8]Y. Masih, A Comparative Study of Religions (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1990), 180.
[9]This way of enlightenment is particularly stressed by Advaita (non-dualist) Hinduism. Martin Goldsmith and Rosemary Harley, Who is My Neighbour?: World Faiths and Christian Witness (London: Scripture Union, 1988), 70.
[10]Action done with a sense of attachment is the root cause of bad karma which keeps man in the chain of birth and rebirth, and therefore if someone wants to get liberated from this chain he or she needs to accumulate enough good karma by doing good deeds. This path to salvation involves moral behaviour, selfless service, ritual practises, carrying faithfully one’s duty in the society, and non-violence. David A. Brown, A Guide to Religions (Delhi: ISPCK, 1987), 80. Some claim that unless one is born as a Brahmin by doing enough good karma, moksha is not possible. Goldsmith and Harley, 106. To Hindus is the only reality, all others are only an illusion.
[11]This way is the prominent one among popular Hindus. This Marga emphasises on god’s grace along with human works for salvation. Vaishnava schools grounded by the great thinkers Ramanuja and Madhva advocate this way. Masih, 187-191.
[12]Vedartha-Samgraha, pada 125. cited in Masih, 186.
[13]P. Lal, (trans.), The Bhagavad Gita, II, 22.(New Delhi: Roli Books, 1994), 33.
[14]It is interesting to note that the idea of rebirth originated only during the period of Upanishads. Nath, 24-25.
[15]F. Max Muller, The Upanishads Part II (New York: Dover Publication, Inc, 1962), 41. This attainment of perfection, according to Sankara, is in fact the soul attaining infinite status, one with Brahman. However, for people like Ramanuja, human soul even after liberation is finite and subjective to Brahman. Nath, 28.
[16]The Vedas believed that the spirit of a human was sent to hell or heaven according to one’s good or bad actions. The exact nature of moksha or heaven and hell is not held uniformly or clearly held in Hindu traditions. Nath, 26.
[17]I. B. Horner, (trans.) “Mahavagga I” in The Book of the Discipline Vol. IV (London: Luzac, 1971), 15-16, Cited in Beckerlegge, 343.
[18]Brown, 130.
[19]Horner, 343.
[20]Nath, 54.
[21]The disciple of Mahayana Buddhism aims to become a bodhisattva, a celestial being that postpones his own entrance into parinirvana (final extinction) in order to help other humans attain it. Cole, 157.
[22]Mahayana Buddhists also believe in liberation through intuitive knowledge. Wulf Metz, “The Enlightened One: Buddhsim,” in The World’s Religions: A Lion Handbook, eds. R. Pierce Beaver, Jan Bergman, Myrtle S. Langley (Herts: Lion Publishing, 1982), 235-239.
[23]The literal meaning of word Nirvana is “dying out” or “extinction.” This is a spiritual state of freedom and perfection. This state can be attained by any person irrespective of caste. Moreover, Nirvana may be attained in this life also. Brown, 131.
[24]Buddhism also teaches about the bliss of saints after death called parinirvana. Nath, 57. Moreover, many have described it as a state of perfect peace and equanimity that stays for eternity.
[25]Ibid., 54.
[26]Metz, 234.
[27]Mather and Nichols, 143.
[28]The chief sin of humankind according to Islam is pride and generally sin is seen as failure to Allah’s will.
[29]Kenneth Cragg, Readings in the Qur’an (London: Collins, 1988), 95.
[30]Masih, 126.
[31]First, one has to believe that Allah is the only god and Muhammad his messenger. Second, one has to perform the five daily prayers. Third,  One has to fast throughout the month of Ramadan. Fourth, one has to give to the poor alms and involve in charity. Finally, one should make it a point to take pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime, if he or she can afford it. Goldsmith and Harley, 55-57.
[32]Muhammad Abdul-Haleem Eliasi, (trans.), The Holy Quraan (Delhi: Arish Company, 1991),118.
[33]In the intermediary period, the soul rests in a place called Al-berzahk. Comparative religions, 163.
[34]Cragg, 329.
[35]Heaven is painted as a rosebed of pleasure and hell as an unending abyss of terrible pain and suffering. Seven heavens are mentioned in Qur’an which really represent seven stages of celestial bliss. Similarly, seven hells are also described. Thus, people are given a place according to their earthly good deeds. Brown, 208.
[36]Man in his eternal form lives in a pure spiritual form without any physical body. However, man in no condition attains a status equal to God. Man always remains finite in relation to the infinite god Nath, 163.
[37]God made human beings with moral freedom. God expected that human beings would live in continuous relationship with him. Adam and Eve misused God’s freedom.
[38]Thus, sin is not a creation of God, it’s the result of the deliberate misuse of God’s provision. Faith and Focus, 72. Besides, the guilt and pollution of Adam’s sin was imputed to all humans (Romans 5:12-19).
[39]The idea of redemption is well demonstrated in the Old Testament. The Jews were slaves to Egyptians and God’s act of setting them free is described as redemption. In the act, on the pass over night, a lamb was sacrificed and its blood was used against the plague of death (Ex.13:15).
[40]The sacrifices of bulls and goats could not bring about real forgiveness of sins (Heb.10:1-4). Nor does any of man’s deeds could appease God.
[41]To affect the humanity’s redemption, he has become the mediator between God and human (I Tim.2:5).
[42]The seven sacraments of the Church are depicted as steps in ladder to heaven. Fritz Ridenour, So, What’s the difference? (California: GL Regal Books, 1967), 41.
[43]Protestant theologians are hesitant to say anything concrete about this intermediatory period. They just point out to the terms used for life after death like “sleep” (I Cor 15:51) and “waiting” (Rev.6:9). However, Roman Catholic idea of purgatory claims that, in the period between death and fulness of this age, the souls of believers are subjected to an experience of purification. Bruce Milne, Know the Truth (Leichester: IVP, 1998), 328-329.
[44]Man’s ultimate destiny consists in getting rid of his present status and attaining to a status which may be called a status of life eternal or immortality. Moreover, the Bible gives a glimpse of heaven and Hell.
[45]However, there is no unanimity in both the religions with regard to the reasons for bondage. Some claim that the bondage is due to the ignorance (Ajnana/ Avidya) of one’s own reality. Another view is that it is because of the law of Karma. Buddhism states that it is human desire (Tanha), which is preventing one from attaining Nirvana.
[46]The Ramanuja’s teachings in Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhist traditions’ Bodhisattva are exceptions in some ways.
[47]The major strands of Hinduism and Buddhism advocates non-attached actions (nishkama Karma) and complete obliteration of bad karma to attain Moksha or Nirvana. Buddhism even claims that no help of superior power is required and prescribes the eight fold path as the sure way to salvation.
[48]Mather and Nichols, 144.
[49]Hinduism presents Jnana Marga, Bhakthi Marga and Karma Marga as possible ways to salvation. Similarly, Mahayana Buddhists talk about devotion to Bodhisattvas as an alternate way to salvation.
[50]One may raise an objection here – what about Roman Catholic Christianity that claims the need for good works in attaining salvation and has a pluralistic view of salvation? The Christian views presented in this paper represent mostly the beliefs of Protestant Christianity. To defend the Protestant views are beyond the scope of this paper.
[51]Hindus and Buddhists believe that at death, the body and soul gets separated, but the soul, either reincarnates or attains moksha depending on one’s present karma. Sudhakar Mondithoka, “Truth in Religion(s): Are all Religions the same?,” Apologia Magazine, July-Sept 2004, 17-18.
[52]The forgiveness of sins is not based on what one does but based on what Jesus Christ has done on the cross.  Christianity in no way rejects good works but in fact the experience of salvation makes people capable of doing good (Eph. 2:10). All other religions strive hard seeking salvation but in Christianity salvation is offered freely by God.
[53]Ridenour, 51.
[54]John R. W. Stott, Basic Christianity (Illinois: IVP, 1971), 98.
[55]Mather and Nichols, 144.
[56]There is nothing to fear. The Bible states, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1)

By Sam K John

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