The majority religion of India
is in fact a web of co-existing systems, the most important
division being that between "Vaisnava" (Vishnu-centred) and
"Saivava" (Shiva-centred) Hinduism. Most Hindus claim to be monotheists,
the different "gods" being manifestations of one supreme being.
In the most widely-publicised philosophical systems, this supreme
being is identified with Reality itself, so that all things
whatsoever are manifestations of the One God; such monism,
however, is not accepted by all Hindus. I have noticed that Westerners
find it disappointing somehow to learn that there is a dualist
tradition in India, but there is.
The Hellenistic world was in close contact with India (at the
time largely Buddhist rather than Hindu) and was fascinated by stories
about yogis, known in Greek as "gymnosophists" or "naked wise-men".
Some early writings seem to conflate them with Jewish
ascetics like the Biblical
Rechabites (called "Brachmani" in some manuscripts of
the Narrative of Zosimus) or with Christian monks.
There was of course a strong though short-lived early
wave of Orthodox Christianity in India.
The Mar Thoma church in Kerala originated with the conversion
of high-caste Brahmins by St. Thomas or later in the IV Century,
and "the monks of India" are frequently mentioned in Patrisitic
literature (although confusion with Ethiopia sometimes makes
these references ambiguous). The dualist or "Dvaita"
school of Vedanta most likely originated partly from theological
debates between the school's founder Madhva
and Mar Thoma clergy;
probably many other instances of Christian influence on Hinduism could be
Norman Hugh Redington
- Interactions with Christianity:
M. M. Ninan: Christian Influences on Hinduism.
Presents an interesting take on what happened to the Church of
St. Thomas, although few scholars would agree with the whole article.
It does emphasise the little-mentioned recency of Hinduism
in the forms with which we are familiar.
[Read with caution]
--- M. M. Ninan
Preface to the Divine Names
Argues that the Areopagetic writings are the source
of certain Hindu ideas, an idea well worth exploring
in far more depth.
- EXAMPLES OF ALLEGED CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE:
- Svetadvipa (The White Island):
utopia mentioned in the Mahabharata
and other Hindu texts, the home of Krishna
in the midst of the Sea of Milk.
In the XIX Century, this was for some reason
frequently cited as
an example of Christian influence on
Hinduism, possibly as an Indian version of
the legend of the
modern scholars would accept this.
Bull. School Oriental Studies,
Univ. Lond. (5/2): 253.
Svetadvipa or the "White Island" is an Hindu
- Kasten Ronnow:
Some Remarks on Svetadvipa, (1929).
Return to St Pachomius Library.