How to Explain Hinduism

It’s sometimes hard for me to remember that Hinduism can seem extremely strange, foreign, or confusing to people who aren’t familiar with it. Maybe they’ve heard the word, they know it’s associated with India, but that’s it.

In America there are a lot of times when you find yourself in an interfaith dialog. People ask you what Hinduism is and you’re at a loss to sum it up or people want to open a pathway to encouraging you to convert to their religion.

What is Hinduism?

It’s a good idea to have a one or two sentence explanation ready for when someone is curious but doesn’t want an hours-long theological discussion! I would say something like this:

As a Hindu, I believe that we are all part of one Divinity and it is expressed in thousands of different ways.  God is present within our own hearts and so any way that we listen and connect with God is good and helps us progress towards Moksha, which is the realization that we are God. In Moksha we will merge with that divinity and no longer need a body or to live out various lives to learn lessons and grow as a soul.

You should take some time and think about what Hinduism is to you, which beliefs are most central to how you live your life, and formulate a quick summary that you can give to those who are curious.

Be cautious of people who are not actually curious at all, but want to hear exactly what you believe so that they can look for holes to poke at or problems to bring up as a way to convince you to convert to their religion. If I suspect someone has this motive in mind, I do not engage in any discussion of what Hinduism is. I know what I believe and I know that if I try to explain it, they will not truly listen and hear what I’m saying. All religions have potentially problematic things which depend a lot on how you see the world and the filter that you apply to what you see and experience. What looks like a hole to one person is not a problem at all to someone else.

If you do meet people who attempt to engage you in a conversation for the purpose of converting you to Christianity or Islam, here are suggested responses to some of the statements or questions you might hear (And apologies in advance to my great Christian and Muslim friends; this is not directed at you!)


Jesus Christ died for your sins and the only salvation is through him. John 3:16 says so.

The Bible is your book, but it isn’t mine. There might be nice things to learn from stories of Jesus, but the Bible is not the word of God, it’s just a book where people wrote down stories about someone they admired. I believe we are all equally children of God.

*Bible Quotes*

Respond with quotes from the Gita. To them the Bible is the word of God and to us the Gita is the word of God. Neither of us can be proved to be correct. The Bible saying something doesn’t make that something true. See the end of this post for some suggested Bhagavad Gita quotes.

Krishna is a substitute for Jesus, a myth that drew on stories of Jesus

Krishna is a great deal older than Jesus and stories of Krishna are older than even the supposed prophecies about Jesus. If anything, it would be more likely for Jesus to have been an imaginary figure based on stories of Krishna.

Some will say that Krishna is a prophesy of Jesus. That’s just a way to try to justify why our stories are older. That’s a big hoop to jump through to justify to yourself that you’re right.

Aren’t you afraid of Hell? What if you’re wrong that there is no Hell?

Why would I want to believe in a God who would punish people for eternity? A system like that is far from fair and seems petty and sad. We could all be wrong and the true God could be the flying spaghetti monster. Am I going to bow down to a bowl of pasta just in case? Nope.

If you become a Christian, you are promised heaven and everything.

I’ve already been promised everything from Lord Brahma (or substitute Sri Krishna, Lord Shiva, etc.) The reward of Hinduism is unity with God for eternity, not just heaven.

Jesus’s love allows me to love others.

I’m capable of loving all of humanity without needing Jesus to prop me up.

You are sinful and unhappy now, only God brings peace.

I am already at peace. My God answers my prayers and brings me joy and peace, so I have a hard time believing that He doesn’t exist and your God is better.

The caste system is terrible.

You don’t have to believe in the caste system to be Hindu. I believe that its original intent has been corrupted and caste should no longer exist. Krishna said that it is our actions that show who we are, not our birth.

*Presenting “testimonials” is a common practice. The Christian will tell you his or her story of how they came to be Christian and how awesome it was in their life*

Tell your own stories about all the wonderful things you’ve experienced through Hinduism. Be prepared with some stories of ways Hinduism has benefited your life.

Warning: Be cautious and vigilant if befriended by a vocal Christian, particularly if the first thing you know about them is their religion. Evangelical-style Christians are encouraged to befriend Hindus for the sole purpose of getting the chance to try to convert you once your guard is down. Personally I find it disgusting to pretend to initiate a friendship when you have such an ulterior motive. (Muslims do this as well. See this quote from a message board advising a Muslim girl on how to convert people: “If you’re attending University/School/or are working then get to know your colleagues/classmates. Ask them their interests, hobbies, and ask about their background, etc. Talk about the job/class your both in and the positives you enjoy out of the class/job. Discuss what you would like to achieve in life. Remember to appear interested when you’re listening to them, and try to smile and look happy.” (Emphasis mine).

Potentially Interesting Reading:

Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects
Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith


There is NO GOD but only ALLAH and MUHAMMAD is the Last and Final Messenger.CONVERT to ISLAM otherwise BURN in HELL FIRE. -A comment on this blog that I deleted

Lo! those who disbelieve, among the People of the Scripture  and the idolaters, will abide in fire of hell. They are the worst of created beings. [Quran Surah Bayyinah 98:6]

Another religion that uses scare tactics. You’ll burn in hell if you don’t believe what I believe. Funny, the Christians just told me the same thing! I have no reason to believe this since the only evidence is a book that only you believe in. Observing how the world operates, reincarnation and forgiveness make a lot more sense to me than some eternal hell realm.

I don’t know how anyone thinks that leaving random drive-by comments like this one will convince anyone. Why should I believe that sentence? You’ve given me no reason at all to believe you.

The reason why you should be a Muslim is simply because the Creator commanded you and us to do so, as is revealed in the Quraan

I’m “commanded”? Really? By someone that I don’t know.  I’m someone who asks why. I don’t take orders. I follow the Gods that I do because of the good and the peace that they’ve brought to my life, not because they commanded me to respect them. I love them because they earned that love. My Gods never had to resort to “Because I said so.”

Islam is the only religion whose sources have remained free of human alteration and interference.

This is not true. Hindu scriptures are ancient and have been carefully passed on with no alteration. Generation after generation are taught to chant the holy scriptures with absolute adherence to the exact sounds of every letter in Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages in the world. Those scriptures are not always easy to understand and gurus provide commentary and interpretations, but the original text is still available for anyone to see, learn, and understand.

Islam is the only religion which insists upon worship of the Creator alone and completely rejects the worship of any aspect of creation.

How is that a good thing? Your religion divides the world up and encourages you to make judgment calls about what is divine and what is base. I don’t believe in division, I believe in unity.

Islam has no intermediaries between man and God and allows every individual to contact God, thus eliminating religious hierarchies and other sources of exploitation which have characterized the history of religions throughout the ages.  In Islam no cleric or establishment can come between a person and his Creator. 

There is no one between me and God, who lives within my own heart and is my True Self. A guru can help to guide me as he has seen further ahead of the path than I, just as a therapist might help me see things in my life more clearly. Imams do not always uphold this vision of Islam and there can be false gurus as well.

Hindu scriptures predicted and speak of Mohammad


This argument is just taking advantage of Hinduism’s open-mindedness and ability to see the good in many different paths to God. Even if there is mention of Mohammad in Hindu stories, that doesn’t make him the right or only path.

Mohammad and Jesus can be figures worth listening to. They have some interesting ideas, some things worth pondering. That does not make either one of them the one and only path to God.

The Puranas are stories, they are not prophesies.

Coincidences in names and language indicate to me that things were borrowed and/or stolen from Hinduism. It seems that sometimes these “translations” are going so far as to translate regular words as names or leaving them untranslated because they happen to sound similar to Arabic words with different meanings.

*Someone might point out a bad thing that a Hindu has done*

People make mistakes and learn from them. Thanks to karma and reincarnation, we will always be able to correct for our mistakes. Few of us are already perfected and enlightened. There are people in all religions and cultures who do bad things.

Warning: Remember that people may make claims that sound good but are not actually true. They may tell you that the Quran has no contradictions and is always clear. Keep your wits sharp and remember that such big claims are rarely true.

Some Potentially Interesting Reading:

Why I Am Not a Muslim
What the Koran Really Says


I have no issue with anyone choosing whatever religion he wants and even changing his mind later. I think there are many religions that touch Truth (although, I of course think that Hinduism reveals that Truth most clearly). I think atheism can also lead one closer to Truth (if you believe in your true inner Self, that’s the same as what I do).

This post is not to criticize or condemn Christianity or Islam. Rather, it explains how I respond to those who start trying to convert me entirely uninvited. It’s a shame that I am now suspicious of friendship from people of other religions. I have some great friends who are Christian and Muslim. I have friends I can honestly talk about religion with and not have that fear that they are just looking for an opportunity to tell me that I am wrong and they are right. But when I meet someone new, I start out suspicious.

If you are someone who is one of these religions or would like to become one of these religions, don’t let me stop you! You are completely free to convert if you would like.

I believe in conversion by choice. You became curious, learned, studied, grew, and decided to become ____ religion. I cannot abide people who go out into the world with the purpose of talking others into becoming their religion.

I am not available for conversion. I have my religion, I am happy with it, and I’m not interested in hearing all the reasons you think yours is better. For others in the same position as me, I hope this post will help you to explain to those who want to convert you why your choice is Hinduism.

Remember that you are not going to convince the person you’re talking to that Hinduism is awesome. It would be extremely rare for you to find a person who is actually listening and willing to let go of their own agenda long enough to actually hear you.


Gita Quotes

Best Bhagavad Gita Quotes #Krishna


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  • Agni Puthra

    “Fear not what is not real, never was and never will be. What is real, always was and cannot be destroyed.”

    There are lot of doubts and confusions regarding religious beliefs by followers of other religions. The authenticity of Christianity is doubted even by Christians many times. There are lots of questions raised by them in their inner minds.
    Was Jesus a myth?
    Was Jesus a Buddhist monk?
    Was Horus forged into Jesus?
    Were the teachings of a group of Buddhists preached in the name of Jesus?
    Who wrote the bible?
    And so on..
    Some of them are raised even by the believers of other religions. Visit the following link: /was-jesus-really-born/

    But, Hindus do believe that it is FAITH that leads us to god and not the names, images, story or history of a particular person.

    • Ambaa

      Fantastic quote! Thank you.

      I completely agree that “Hindus do believe that it is FAITH that leads us to god and not the names, images, story or history of a particular person.”

      • Agni Puthra

        The website address was wrongly typed by mistake. the correct address there is no space between /was-jesus-really-born/

  • Truth Seeker

    Beautiful article Amba:-)) …this article is a powerful slap on those who accuse you of cultural appropriation !!!

  • jas

    I love your blog and your thoughts! Please keep up the good work, I hope more people read it. It is unfortunate more Hindus by birth are not as passionate as you are. Thank you! You have made me feel that I am not alone in my thoughts

    • Ambaa

      Thank you so much for your comment! I really appreciate that 🙂

  • Great article! However, after my last encounter with a Christian town in northeast Texas last winter, I hesitate to get involved… I had an altercation with a woman who might have been a Jehovah’s Witness (we didn’t get that far because it devolved into a shouting match where the woman was screaming things like “I hope Jesus saves you!” and all that stuff. I walked away from her, and she was still screaming when I was 40 feet away, and I turned and yelled, “WHY ARE YOU STILL YELLING AT ME?? I am deaf, I cannot understand a word from this distance!!” I turned away, greatly disturbed at the sneaky intrusion. At the time, I was staying at a missionary shelter in the town, the only dang one there was. I spent nearly three weeks there. I wrote the following shortly after the experience, in December 2013.


    One of the employees at the music store I stopped at told me about a homeless shelter there. The name of it should have warned me; Godtel. It is one of those bible-thumping shelters, a ministry where they try to convert non-Christians and reinforce the conditioning in Christians. Remember, the Christians down here in east Texas are not quite like you. All of the shelter residents are REQUIRED to attend bible-study every morning and evening. Some of the stuff was “out there,” like the ONLY reason you would have had a right to divorce Ken would have been adultery, and other than that, since you married the man, you ARE STUCK WITH HIM, and you must work out your differences and move on. Otherwise, you will not be with god. Or that the people are in shelters or otherwise on hard times because of lack of obedience to god. How does that make you feel? Most of the time, I simply looked at the presenter with my worse eye, so I would be shielded from the conditioning. They sent a teacher after me one night after bible study. He was like a snake, trying to slither past my defenses and basically saying that he’s right and I’m wrong, with NO REGARD for my background. The founder’s wife on Sunday night of the week of Thanksgiving said something about being required to be there that day on Thanksgiving and something about being a Christian, which everyone would have to do. That was one incentive to get out of there, the other being that there was no paid work available on the two farms I knew about, never mind a place to stay on those farms. [This was such an affront to me because of my Native American ancestry that I left the very next day and got out of east Texas forever.]

    Having said that, the shelter was a place for me to stay for nearly three weeks. It’s housed in the former Red Hotel, which was a popular place to stay for stage performers and musicians performing at the opera house across Main Street from it. Think turn-of-the-century, the 1900s. The oldest town in Texas. Anyhow, the former hotel has a ballroom downstairs which is COLD in the winter (had already experienced 20-degree weather there last month!) and two floors above it, one for men and one for women. The bathroom facilities are a bit wanting, but I made do with a bathtub that didn’t have a shower head. I’d just lean back into the tub half-filled with water and wash my hair that way. It was cold in my room for some reason, and I got really mad because I discovered that the window was a bit open, on a day when it was low 30s outside! This meant I had to wait 24 hours for it to warm up again, and it never does with these old buildings. This hotel was ahead of its time with steam heat, one of the few places that had it in those days.

    The food was something else… I had to think about the fact that these homeless people, especially those not working, have NOTHING else to eat nor money to buy food with, and I was very thankful to my circumstances to be able to supplement this food with additional food outside the shelter. It was EXPENSIVE, with no means to reliably store food and prepare it. No food is allowed inside the shelter. I had to go out one night when they served a BBQ-theme meal with nothing for me to eat, not even a salad (they did realize this problem and later helped with providing meals with salads, soup, and fruit out of a can). Fortunately, it was all you can eat until there was no more to eat. We would always have chores to do after eating and on Saturday mornings. We would have to be outside of the shelter during the week days, except when it was extremely cold. What was sad was that there would be people who sleep outside and will not sleep inside the shelter, and come inside in the mornings and evenings to eat, and then go back out to where they were. Hard times for these people. There were three mothers with babies…

    I was looking for work, eating somewhere, going to a coffee house to power up my desktop computer (until I realized that public libraries have free wifi in general), getting to know Nacogdoches, and had to go by Lufkin, 20 miles away, to get another sleeping bag that was either stolen or misplaced when I was still in Houston. I was NOT going to sleep when it was cold and had a few hard nights with that. It really helped to have a sleeping bag I could zip myself in. I volunteered on Appleby farm to the north of town a few times and learned a few things there. Anyhow, I was trying to get services for new hearing aids and looking to go into the workforce retraining program in a nearby town. Cindy, the owner of Appleby Farm, helped me get into the farm volunteer web site at, paying for my year’s membership there. Nothing really turned up, not even outside temporary work. A farm outside of Victoria did contact me, and I had said that I would contact them one day.

    The religious nature of the shelter finally gave me the incentive to start deciding what to do next and get out. My stepmother contacted me and said, “If you cannot stand it there any longer, don’t wait and get down here! When will you be here?” I hesitated ’til about 10 AM, and then decided I was going to go ahead and get out. I had to let it go… 3 weeks was long enough to realize that I really didn’t belong there. There is even a facebook page for pagans called “Living Pagan in the Bible Belt!” I joined up with it days before, knowing that it would be a tiny minority in this part of Texas. I learned in hindsight that it was not the place for me to be, and that it was a necessary experience, to realize that there is really no place for a person like me in east Texas.


    In hindsight, I looked at the Pagan group not as a way of “becoming Pagan,” but of finding a group of people tolerant of my beliefs, just as I had found with Universal Unitarians (I never did solidify my membership with them because I still have too many questions, and I moved away from the immediate area to the farm I initially had contact with while in Nacogdoches).

    Again, in hindsight. Do not ever come down into most parts of Texas unless you are willing to fight fire with fire. If you have to drive through, just STFU, get your gas, food, bathroom breaks, get in your car, and keep going. These are the kind of people who will fight you with a gun if they could get away with it in the absence of federal and state rule of law. The safest parts are around Austin, a very open-minded area of Texas. There’s a mandir in Austin and another one in Houston, which I have been to. I haven’t been to the one in Austin, yet. Unfortunately, because of my financial circumstances of being tight with money, I haven’t gone closer to Austin than Sherwood Forest Faire (where I work as a bar back during the season) in the last 9 years!

    Thirdly, in hindsight. I have learned the hard way, as a VERY, VERY tiny minority in the Land of the Ori, that the best way for me to handle this as soon as I hear someone say something in reference to Jesus or ask nothing but this, “Are you a believer?” with no provocation or statement from me, out of the blue to a total stranger, is simply, “Thank you, but my personal beliefs are not up for discussion at this time. G’day!” And leave. Quickly… These people are very militant around here. I wanted to see how you handle this, but other than the above which I wrote, I am staying out of this. I’ve done enough fighting these people.

    • Ambaa

      I’m pretty scared of some parts of Texas. Although there are times it’s tempting to go to those kinds of places just to be an example of another way of life. I don’t think it’s good for people to get into such a bubble that they never realize or acknowledge or meet anyone who isn’t the same religion they are.

  • guest

    Hindu scriptures never predict anything about Islam or Mahomad it is a faulse propaganda carried out by Zakir Naik to win converts. Though Buddhist guru mentions that a “barbaric religion will come into existence after 500 years”.

  • Sati

    It is my personal opinion and through various readings. I understand that caste system was adopted by Hindu seers like Adi shankaracharya and King Bhojraj, during period of 100 BC to 100 AD to stop dissolution of Sanatana Dharma from the upcoming conversions to future religions being created during Kaliyuga. They had seen the effect of Buddhism which had almost finished santana Dharma in various parts of continent. So they created four divisions within santana dharma on the basis of castes and thus created a long lasting rift within the religion. Now if any other religion people try to convince one part of the Sanatana dharma to convert then only 1/4th of the population will get converted. Because rest 3 castes will not follow the 4th caste followers but wuill try to restore them back to the original religion of santana dharma. That is what is happening since one thousand years of Muslim rule and 200 years of British rule. Roday also we see that Islam and christianity managed to convert Dalits or Buddhists into their religion but failed to penetrate other three caste systems. Because rest of three caste systems will not follow what dalits or Buddhists will follow.

  • NDM2014

    I know I have already posted this but I think it is more relevant for this article 🙂

    • Ambaa


  • The Bhagawad Gita is like Nectar from Heaven. Among all interpretations, “God Talks with Arjuna” by Yogananda is the best and most authentic since Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda is the reincarnation of Arjuna of the Mahabharata. Please do read

    • Ambaa

      Thank you for the translation suggestion! I definitely agree that the Bhagavad Gita is nectar from Heaven!

  • Vineet Menon

    Haha.. this is cool. Thanks for the writeup.

    Fortunately, in India we don’t need to be this ‘armed’ with rhetorics in day-2-day conversation with acquaintances.

  • satishvis

    This book may enlighten you.

    Bhagvad Gita is not like Bible or the Koran. Hinduism is not a religion, it is a way of life. Yes, you will find it difficult to understand it.

    I am an atheist and still a very staunch Hindu. I do read and interpret the Gita in my own way. I am GOD in that sense. I just have to learn the difference between ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’, and should support the ‘Good’.

    Don’t blame Rajiv Ji. There is a battle going on and he is busy fighting it.

  • Pen

    धन्यवाद अंबजी॥

  • saroj

    Hinduism is not a history-centric religion; it religion where principles/ideals of the Supreme Being and Dharma are metaphorised/personified as stories and deities- its all symbolisms basically. This makes hinduism more tolerant and open to other systems of faith,in the sense that, we do not believe that only “one particular form/deity can alone save us, we beleive that the same idea can be expressed in a million different ways, and thus hinduism is more pluralistic and tolerant. This makes a difference with Christianity,which believes in “particular book, a chosen people,chosen prophets, chosen culture(middle east(, chosen Son of God in a chosen “holy land”, thus making it less limited to a specific area.
    Hinduism, of course has holy lands that are in India, but hinduism dosen’t give exclusivity status; hinduism is open minded and tolerant enough to honour other faiths also provided they too get over with their exclusivity claims of being the “only true faith”. This attitude of hinduism makes it a clearly universal faith.

  • चाणक्य my teacher

    i’ve to say very nice article n well informed one also. i’d like to ask u can i share ur article.

  • Seeker