Monotheists, especially fundamentalist Christians, sometimes criticize Hinduism by saying it’s polytheistic. This kind of critique, however, doesn’t necessarily hold up. The actual picture in Indian philosophy is far more complicated than the one painted by some Christian fundamentalists.¹ So a critique of Hinduism based on the idea of monotheism can – and should be – further examined.²
For Ramanuja, the Brahman is real and beyond pain and suffering. But individual souls (jivas) emerging from and ultimately resting within the Brahman are also real. While the Brahman is beyond the law of karma, the individual soul (jiva) is not. As a result, the jiva experiences the pleasure and pain of earthly life.
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- P. D. Devanandan, The Concept of Maya, London: Lutterworth Press, 1950.
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¹ This is not to say that Christianity and Hinduism are necessarily the same. I don’t believe they are. But my reasons for saying this are mostly phenomenological. Unfortunately, I can’t share my personal experience with others, so I usually don’t say too much about this. I don’t want any “all religions are the same” people getting upset and judgmental over my simply stating what I’ve experienced. If they can’t see a difference, it’s usually not worth the hassle.
² Similarly, one can critique an argument about the existence of God while still believing in God.
³ JSTOR may be accessed from university and many public libraries. It’s also an app at Facebook.