Reaching Tibetans (4/5)

Reaching Tibetans (4/5)

[This is a five-part series by Charles Rijnhart on reaching Tibetans]

Section 4: Nepal: Barries and Bridges, Nepal: Pre-Christianity

Nepal: Barriers and Bridges

Of the around 29 million plus people that live in Nepal most are Hindu. Hinduism has existed in Nepal alongside Buddhism for centuries. Nepal’s religious expression is very syncretistic combining elements of Hinduism and Buddhism together. Nepal being the birthplace of Buddha and also neighbor to India (which has been dominated by Hinduism for well over 3,500 years) results in both Hindus and Buddhists worshipping together. It is not uncommon to see Hindus worshipping at Buddhist temples and vice versa. Both religions have a general respect for each other and have lived peacefully among each other for years.

There are many barriers for missionaries when seeking to share with Nepali people. One challenge is the differences between the Hindu and biblical view for the concepts of God and man. Dr. Mangal Man Maharjan states:

In Hinduism man was not created but he appeared from the golden egg and in another account he comes from the water. The first man, Purusa or Prajapati was sacrificed and by it the world and its habitants were created. Later on, this same first man is called Brahman. But later in the Bhagavad Gita it is said that Brahman is everything and everything is Brahman. From this Monotheism later Hinduism developed Pantheism. From Pantheism Polytheism was developed. In contrast, the Biblical creation story is historical and fixed. There is no confusion about the creation account. In the Bible God is not man and man is not God.[1]

These different creation accounts made it difficult for missionaries to point to God’s Lordship because the Hindus do not believe in a Creator God. Hinduism has no distinction between God, man, and other living beings and still emphasizes a caste-system existence.[2] Just like Buddhism, Hindus believe in karma and rebirth, which provides challenges for evangelism.

Common strategies for sharing with Hindus include listening and respecting Hindu beliefs, politely sharing stories of the Bible that illustrate God’s love and forgiveness, emphasizing the exclusivity of forgiveness found in Jesus through faith, and being aware of Hindus negative misconceptions of Christianity and helping them see something different.[3] If we hope to see Hindus come to faith we must be intentional in living near or visiting our Hindu friends, patient, respectful, and hopeful that God will open their eyes as we share faithfully.

Nepal: Pre-Christianity

Nepal’ has not always been Nepal. Cindy Perry explains that Nepal can be divided up into three geographical regions before the 1750s when she writes:

It is important to look at three broad geographical regions which were united in the latter half of the 18th century to form modern-day Nepal – the western hills, the Valley of Nepal, and the eastern hills – all apart of the temperate middle hills transversing Nepal from east to west, which until recent decades have always held the vast majority of Nepal’s population. From the political perspective, these Himalayan hills and valleys were divided into a number of mini-kingdoms or states with shifting alliances and varying degrees of unification with the above regions. From a cultural perspective, three distinct yet overlapping cultural areas evolved in these regions, corresponding to the broad movements of people into them as outlined above: Nepali-Pahari culture which evolved in the western hills; Newar culture in the Nepal Valley; and     Kirata tribal culture in the eastern hills.[4]

Nepal was a series of multi-ethnic kingdoms before its unification by the Gorkha King Prithvi Narayan Shah. King Shah embarked on a successful campaign of conquest of the profusion of mini-states and kingdoms in the Central Himalayas that included the conquering of the Magar, Gurung, and Tamang chieftains and finally the Nepal Valley in 1769.[5] The heirs to the throne would continue to expand the borders up until 1803, which is similar to the geographical boundaries of the current day, with few exceptions. In short, Shah unified Nepal and made it collectively a stronger nation that would repel any future colonial nations from succeeding in conquering it.

 


 

[1] Maharjan, Mangal M., Comparative Study of Hinduism and Christianity in Nepal (Kathmandu: Ekta Books Distributors, 2002), 60.

[2] Maharjan, Mangal M., 60.

[3] Turner, Ryan, “The Do’s and Don’ts of Hindu Evangelism” (CARM, 2001) https://carm.org/dos-donts-hindu-evangelism (Accessed Dec. 9, 2017)

[4] Perry, Cindy L., Nepali Around the World: Emphasizing Nepali Christians of the Himalayas (Kathmandu: Ekta Books Distributors, 1997), 5.

[5] Perry, 11.

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