Unlike Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, which include concepts of personal immortality, Hindus are to seek supra-personal immortality, with individuals merged into “ultimate being.” That road to merger is a long and winding one, though, as a person may be reborn into a higher or lower life form, depending on karma.

 

Devout Hindus today still believe that a soul is reborn again and again until enlightened and liberated from rebirth, at which time what was an individual enters a state of ultimate bliss (moksha) and becomes one with the ultimate, but that does mean the extinguishing of personality.

 

Orthodox Hindus oppose abortion, believing that unborn humans deserve protection. Abortion is seen in Hindu scriptures as garha-batta (womb-killing) and bhroona hathya (killing the undeveloped soul). Abortion at any stage of fetal development has serious karmic consequences. A hymn in the Rig Veda pleads for protection of unborn children. The Kaushitaki Upanishad draws a parallel between abortion and killing parents. The Atharva Veda notes that the brunaghni (fetus slayer) is among the greatest of sinners. Gandhi said that in a good Indian state it’s “as clear as daylight that abortion would be a crime.”

 

Yet the concept of samsara (recycling of lives) leads to some devaluation of life. Katha Upanishad 2.19, written perhaps twenty-five hundred years ago, proclaimed, “If the slayer thinks he slays/ If the slain thinks he is slain,/ Both these do not understand:/ He slays not, is not slain.”

 

Click here to read Part One of this chapter.

Marvin Olasky is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and the editor-in-chief of World, the national weekly news magazine from a biblical perspective. Visit his website at www.olasy.com

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