For many, the vision of Hindu devatas or deities may seem curious and strike a certain fanciful disposition that they wish to explore, while for others it becomes a system of either equating with their preconceived Christian notions of God and Saints in the Catholic traditions, or try and equate them with modernist socialistic regimes, such as feminism and liberality. Yet still, we see many on social media who are not Hindus using such for their own personal gains to look as if they are being “cool/trendy”, or others as feminists (and feminists in denial), who equate themselves with the goddess in her forms as Kali, Durga etc. they see themselves as avatars or incarnations of!
This whole western vanity clashes with traditional systems as Hinduism, where aesthetics relative to the spiritual realm aren’t overwhelmed by personal human vanity, as appears to be the psyche of the west. Here, we can easily see that the western (European) world is one of flesh and physicalities, whereas the east is one where Spirit triumphs over these, and true (inner) spirituality.
As an example, we often see Europeans embracing Hinduism taking the ‘safe path’ of reverence of Bodhisattva Tara as their Mother Mary and Krishna as Jesus, as Vaishnavism has much in common with Christianity and Abahamic faiths. Few wish to explore the depths of the more challenging side of even vedanta, beyond the intellectualism which it often reverts to, in an almost dry, Zen Buddhistic manner! The western Satan or Egyptian Seth and their transcendental natures as in Gnosticism against the demiurge, for example, have more in common with Hinduism than mainstream Christianity does – yet so few Europeans in Vedic – Oriental doctrines actually even bother to study these, and dwell in a blissful world of equating all Hindu deities to the personality of the Demiurge Jehovah and a Christian sense of love, self-righteousness and (faux) piousness. This crystalises when they appropriate the Hindu sattvas or purity and superimpose Christian and eurocentric values upon it, rather than the original meanings in eastern sects as Hinduism; they fail to understand the cultural nuances!
We can historically place this down to the differences between the western Abrahamic systems and the eastern systems. The west looks at scapegoats such as the concept of Satan for man’s errors and ways, whereas the eastern concept is that of prajnaparadha (mistake of the intellect), causing us to act in manners not conducive to good actions (karmas) and thus we, by our own avidya (ignorance), commit mistakes ourselves as a result, which have future (negative) consequences. It is simply cause and effect and requires no separate agency to cause us to err. Likewise, the west views the highest goal in the Universe in totality, as being a physical-like heavenly paradise reminiscent of earth’s historical Kingdoms of civilisations of Babylon, ancient Egypt etc. – whereas the eastern idea is one of moksha (release), where one doesn’t become a servant of God upon death, but either reincarnate or is eventually liberated from the cycle of samsara or rebirth and becomes one with the formless, impersonal Paramatman or Supreme Soul or Parambrahman. This state isn’t simply even the mere shunya or void-state that is the mulaprakriti (primal nature) nor the manifested akasha (ether, the first manifest element), but a transcendental state beyond all of these levels and even the Cosmic Soul (Purusha). The various swargas or heavens are described in Hinduism as quite lowly and simply the third-highest level of the seven main realms of existence (lokas) – earth being the lowest. Even in said heavens, beings are light-forms (jyothirupas) with ethereal non-physical bodies and have a duration of time there alone; even their own devas or celestial “rulers” (higher enlightened beings) are not eternal and are bound by kala (time), the law of cause and effect or karma, as well as samsara (rebirth). Here, the duration of the Devas is said to be 12, 000 “celestial years”, which equates to 4, 320, 000 human years or a cycle of a Mahayuga comprising four ages of human existence.
Where also the Christian world believes the world was created in 4004BCE, Hindus believe we are in the seventh manvantara or cycle of humanity (6 Mahayugas comprising 4, 320 ,000 years each have passed) and we began our final leg of this seventh cycle in 3102BCE, which lasts for 432,000 years, after which another age commences.
This glimpse of differences alone reveals that there are numerous differences. As with older faiths as Judaism that has many prophets, Hinduism also has innumerable Rishis (Seers) and avatars (incarnations of the seers and demigods, as well as higher mahadevas or greater celestials) that take birth and give newer teachings. There is no final prophet or one book in Hinduism – though they look back to the four Vedas as the first revealed authoritative texts, which even today preserve the world’s oldest religious texts as well as the world’s oldest continuous language of Vedic Sanskrit.
There are also other differences. Whereas science evolved in the west contrary to and often as a deliberate defiance of Church or theological beliefs of creationism, Hinduism in the east embraces all systems of atomism and physics, logic, cosmology as well as metaphysics, ritualism and yoga (inner science) as complimentary within its field, not simply metaphysics alone. All such schools within these also refer to other systems to explain creation via formation of sub-atomic particles to solid matter, unlike the “God created” explanation of the west, which is seen as incomplete (apurna) and juvenile to the eastern thinkers and philosophers.
The great Sanskrit grammarians (Sanskrit possessing the world’s first texts on grammar in the world) were often also mathematicians, such as Pingalacharya, who first noted binary numbers. Hindu astrologer-astronomers also gave a vast wealth of knowledge to the world via the Arabs, from algebra, trigonometry, as well as the concept of zero and decimal system and numerals we use today, without which, said Einstein, modern calculations would be impossible! Hindus also look back even to a celestial origin for surgery – which included elaborate techniques as plastic surgery via Sushrutacharya that the British first learnt in the 18th Century from Ayurvedic physicians in India. Even today, the ‘Indian technique’ of Sushruta is used in rhinoplasty.
With these advancements and gifts to the world that went hand-in-hand with India’s central religion, again we find no contradiction, but rather, the philosophers were the scientists as well. The Rishis or seers had many facets in the east, not simply one alone as dogmatic ritualists and philosophers as in the west. Moreover, even the Vedic yajnas or rituals themselves were for scientific effects as changing weather patterns and reducing pollution and disease, such as modern research has also substantiated .
We hence see that cross-contamination of cultures or identifying one element of a culture within its own cultural context (as with science) in the west compared to eastern faiths, fails. Many often misappropriate the images and systems and use such for personal marketing zeals, over the respect that is given not only to Hinduism, but all native systems, out of respect also for the law of karma or cause and effect, which is quite different to subliminally believing one is absolved from these as they have belief in a deity (Jesus) alone, or one lusting after material comforts/vanity and uses spirituality for such purpose due to belief in a (physical) heavenly paradise or even having a scapegoat as Satan!
Perhaps overall, the greatest difference east and west is due to the western zeal for proselytisation in Islam and Christianity, which is almost like a contagious virus when these people come into contact with other systems and seek to “Christianise” the meaning and context of foreign words (notably sattvas and dharma), over the eastern zeal for simply honouring and preserving tradition within itself, and not seeking to proselytise and pasteurise, but to simply keep the original unpasteurised systems and their tenets organic, alive and pure! That alone is one’s dharma – not missionary activity!