The Outsider’s Perspective: World Religions in Dialogue
In her contribution to World religions in dialogue, enhanced edition: A comparative theological approach (2017), Aimee Upjohn Light offers an overview of Hinduism through the lens of a non-Hindu believer. Upjohn Light (2017) juxtaposes Christianity and Hinduism to urge her reader to consider Hinduism as more than “just a philosophy, set of practices, or specific cannon” but rather “a reasonable, explanatory worldview” that is of the same importance to Hindus as it is to Christian devotees (p. 133; p.134). To support her claim that Hinduism is “a [pervasive] snapshot of the system of life,” the author provides a description of the Hindu practices, the sacred texts, the notion of sacredness, and its historical development (Upjohn Light 2017, p. 134). Identifying numerous misconceptions, such as “multiplicity of [Brahman] manifestations” or “yoga… [being] a much prodder term designating spiritual practice,” is central to Upjohn Light’s argument (Upjohn Light 2017, p. 137; Upjohn Light 2017, p. 138). Her purpose is to convey the value of Hinduism’s distinct yet similar nature compared to Christianity to non-Hindu.
Though Upjohn Light urges the reader to consider Hinduism as a multifaceted worldview rather than a religion, the ideas discussed in the chapter still offer interesting spiritual insights even for non-Hindus. For example, karma yoga dictates that mindfulness about one’s actions without attaching to outcomes is a way to connect and serve with God, specifically, the eternal way with no end or beginning, or the present. This conception is particularly inspiring because it provides a refreshing perspective to the achievement culture pervasive in the contemporary world.
As noted by Upjohn Light (2017), Hinduism can be contradictory. For instance, she mentions gurus “need not come from the Brahmin caste” (p. 141). However, the rigidity of the Hindu caste system, particularly the Laws of Manu, calls for following one’s drahma (duty) and take one’s determined place in society. Individuals outside of the Brahmin caste assuming the role of spiritual leaders and essentially changing their caste appear contradictory to the Hindu religion’s central belief.
Upjohn Light, A. (2017). An outsider’s perspective. In P. Valkenberg (Ed.), World religions in dialogue, enhanced edition: A comparative theological approach (Enhanced ed., pp. 133–146). Anselm Academic.