Term Paper: Allah and Brahman Perhaps the Most Fundamental

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Allah and Brahman

Perhaps the most fundamental difference between the Hindu and Islamic conception of God would be that a Hindu faith could admit the one-ness of Allah with Brahman, while Islamic faith would claim there was no connection. The situation is, however, slightly more complicated than this mere identity crisis. Allah, the "One True God" of Islamic faith, is in an essentially different category of being from Brahman, the panentheistic "Ultimate Truth" principle of Hinduism. Hence a comparison between them is somewhat difficult. They are alike in their primacy, in their centrality to the world, and their association with light and morality; they are particularly different in their natures, their relationship to other deities.

Allah is a word which simply means "One True God." (Robinson, Introduction to Islam) survey of the Qur'an indicates that he has a spiritual body and distinct personality, replete with emotions and desires. At the same time, " according to Holy Quran Allah has a form which is Absolute, Spiritual, infallible, most beautiful and transcendental to all kind of material conceptions, free from even a tinge of material contamination. This is the form which possess light" (Chandra) So Allah has a certain dualism about him. Despite this dualism, Allah is seen as a unique deity -- he is the only being of his kind, and he is indivisible. The idea that other gods are a "part" of Allah would be an abomination (hence Islam's problem with the Christian Trinity).

Brahman, on the other hand, does not have a spiritual body or form, or a personality with emotions and desires. "the panentheistic principle of Brahman, [is] that all reality is a unity. The entire universe is seen as one divine entity who is simultaneously at one with the universe and who transcends it as well. " (Robinson, "Hinduism...") Brahman is an effulgence of light (Chandra), not a body. However, Brahman becomes manifest at times in the form of deities, among which the most important are Brahma the Creator, Vishnu/Krishna the preserver who interacts directly with people, and Shiva the destroyer. Krishna has a spiritual body and desires, not unlike Allah, and many Hindu would suggest that Allah is of a kind with these primary Gods such as Brahman.

So Brahman is a non-personal force of truth, while Allah is a personal being. However, there are branches of both Hinduism and Islam which functionally approach religion more after the fashion of the other. For example, the Sufis focus on inner knowledge and a relationship with a sort of effulgent Allah who is more akin to the transcendent Brahman, while many Hindus focus their devotion to Brahman on Krishna who has a more personal frame and gives commands and guidelines and rewards in a way not dissimilar from Allah.

The afterlife as it exists in Chinese religion with the idea of the afterlife in Islam.

The view of the ideal afterlife is radically different in Eastern traditions compared to Islamic traditions. Islam suggests that after death there is a great Judgment, at which believers and those who have a greater proportion of good than evil in their soul will be sent into Paradise. This paradise is conceived of as a physical place, whose names are alternately translated as "paradise, a garden on high, a home that will last, garden of eternity, garden of everlasting bliss, gardens of delight, home of peace, home of the righteous, etc." (Names of Paradise)

This paradise is not only so perfect because here the body is incorruptible and free for pain and evil, but also because the body is here allowed every kind of physical delight, free to feast and have sex with many wives in an opulent palace. Those who do not deserve paradise will be turned away, presumably to go to a place of punishment.

Hindus and Buddhist alike, on the other hand, believe that after death (and perhaps following a short-term of transition and review) ones soul is transmigrated into another body, so that one is reincarnated. One's actions in past lives determine inescapable elements of one's fate in the current life. So righteousness for the Hindu, like for the Muslim, is rewarded after death with physical pleasure in the coming lives. However, the goal of Hindu and Buddhist mystics and the truly devout, is to break this cycle of reincarnation and escape from the pain of the world into a place of Nirvana, where the soul is free from desires and physical attachments. In the state or Nirvana, the soul is returned to being a part of Brahman, the ultimate truth of the world. Thus the two faiths have totally disparate goals, with the one desiring to reach a place in which the body is eternally comforted and satiated, and the other to reach a place where the body is transcended.

Compare and contrast Krishna and Christ

The comparison between Krishna and Christ is relatively easy on the surface, to such a degree that many scholars such as Kersey Graves have questioned whether the story of Christ was directly drawn from the Krishna stories. Both are avatars of God, which is to say that they are a part of God made physical in order to reach and interact with humankind. (Christ is seen as being unique in this respect, while Krishna is seen as being the ultimate among many) Both are seen as the second member of a trinity, both are referred to as the Son of God, and both came to earth by means of a miraculous, sexless birth. Both were or royal descent, and their births marked with stars, placed in a manger at their birth, and persecuted by kings so that their parents had to flee. Both withdrew to the wilderness to fast, and both performed miracles including the healing of leprosy and raising of the dead. Both were condemned by their contemporaries for accepting sinners, though both were said to be without sin. Both were said to have come to cleanse and save man, both went into hell and returned, and both spoke of themselves as the resurrection.

With so many similarities, it is good to ask where the differences lie. One significant difference is that much of Jesus' work on earth centered around critiquing and reforming the religion to which he was born. This was not true in the case of Krishna, who does not seem to have been typified by a clash with the religious authorities of his time. Additionally, Jesus appears to have entirely taught a doctrine of nonaggression, suggesting that one should rather turn the other cheek than strike out against another. Krishna, though he taught that it was not good to harm others, also appears to have allowed for and even encouraged, the making of war when it was necessary. Krishna tells Arjuna that as there is resurrection and eternal life, if one must go to war it is not necessary to be shamed, and one ought not be cowardly. Jesus never directly address war, however.

Additionally, Jesus appears to have endorsed a message of absolute poverty, saying that the rich man cannot enter heaven. While Krishna spoke of detachment from the physical desires, the focus on social justice and devoiding one's self of belongings does not appear to be present. Of course, many of the striking differences (such as absolute nonviolence and an insistence on joyful poverty) between Jesus and Krishna have not been maintained by the Church or by Hindu practice, so that often the answer to "what would Jesus do?" By modern Christians seems to allow them to pursue wealth and warfare, while many devout Hindus practice asceticism and nonviolence as primary means of worship.

Buddhist Enlightenment vs. Christian Salvation

The difference between the Buddhist search for Enlightenment and the Christian search for salvation shares many elements in common with the difference between the Eastern perception of the afterlife and the Islamic perception -- the Buddhist is looking for a state of Nirvana where all desires have ceased and the personal is subsumed into the divine, where the Christian looks forward to a paradise where all desires are fulfilled and the personal is allowed to see and worship the divine. This is the fundamental difference between the two in terms of final outcome. However, there is also a significant difference between the two in terms of process, wherein Salvation is focused on the actions of God while Enlightenment in Buddhist terms is focused on the state of the individual.

The Christian idea of Salvation is a little more complicated than the Buddhist ideal of Enlightenment because there are so many radically different Christian denominations, with varying requirements for salvation. What might be called the old-school beliefs, of Catholicism and related denominations, suggest that Salvation is worked out between the individual and God -- the death of Christ allows for the possibility of redemption, and the purification of the soul leading an individual to heaven. Being pure of heart, mind, and body is necessary for the individual to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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