Religion has been a widely held practice by the human species for as far back as most historians can trace. The need for human life to have meaning and purpose is evident from the significance placed in religion throughout the world. Whether the religion is monotheistic or polytheistic, the dedication of the believers guides and directs them through the most important aspects of their lives. The Catholic religion is a monotheistic religion, which is designed with one God in mind as the only God. Straying from the worship of the one God in Catholicism is considered a sin. Whereas, Hinduism, a polytheistic religion, which observes the worship of (what appears to be) many Gods. These two religions will be examined regarding the distinct beliefs of what the nature and destiny of the soul is according to the Catholic and Hindu beliefs. Breaking the topic down into the three fundamental aspects of life in the material body, the soul, and the final destination of the human being as pertains to the Catholic and Hindu perspectives.
The Material Body
The “material body,” also known as the mortal body or vessel in which the soul resides is an unavoidable and complex phenomenon for anyone to truly understand in the context of spirituality. The fact that life is experienced for each living person in the body, despite their religious beliefs is a reality that all religions must acknowledge. However, the role of the physical body according to the Catholics and Hindus differs greatly in terms of the grand scheme of the nature and destiny of the soul. In the Catholic religion, the biblical version, prior to the dualistic beliefs introduced by Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, had a wholistic view of the body and soul as an indissoluble unit (Bacchiocchi, 1997). A fundamental aspect of the unity of body and soul in the Catholic religion is integral to the nature and destiny of the process of one’s spiritual journey on earth and in eternity (Bacchiocchi, 1997). The concept of resurrection of one’s body is a significant belief for Catholics, and one of the reason’s the body must be buried after death.
In Hinduism, the importance of the material body is not relevant to the journey and purpose of the soul, aside from the use of the soul to carry out its work while residing in the particular body that is chosen for specific karmic deeds. Hindu’s consider the physical body similar to that of one’s garment that is worn and then removed when no longer useful. According to the Emporia State University website (2015), there is a two-fold aspect to man’s nature, which involves the “guna-self,” the physical body, and the “Atman,” the soul. The human body is not one that the Hindu is supposed to be attached to, but rather one that he or she is able to reside in and observe the experience of life. It is only a vessel that is used to fulfil one’s work on the earthly plane.
What is the soul? That is a question that has not yet been answered by the scientific world, but religion has a lot to say on the importance of the soul. One may question if the material body could function without the soul, and if it is the exiting of one’s soul that causes physical death of the body? Although the answers to these questions are not identified through empirical studies in science, they are a large part of both the Catholic and Hindu religions. First I will explain the purpose of the soul from the Catholic perspective, which sees the importance of the soul to be equal to that of the body. The separation of body and soul is not accurate from the wholistic biblical belief, therefore it is possible for the soul to be mortal or immortal based on whether or not the whole individual is worthy of immortality (Bacchiocchi, 1997). In the Catholic faith, each individual’s body and soul are born mortal, and it is the spiritual and religious goal to live in such a manner that God may grace the individual with immortality (Bacchiocchi, 1997).
Hinduism places much more emphasis on the role the soul plays in one’s spiritual progression. The soul is everlasting and without form or feeling. The soul is something that exists with no beginning or end, like the Universal Consciousness known as Brahman (Emporia State University, 2015). It is the goal of each living person to find recognition with one’s soul to experience the true essence of ‘self.’ Everything in the spiritual growth process evolves around detachment from the physical body allowing one to recognize and bring awareness of the soul into the physical realm, which is one of the biggest obstacles that life in the material body has. It is through the attachments of this body and the relationships with the other materialistic realities that cause the most suffering, therefore living in the body without attachment leads to true enlightenment (Emporia State University, 2015).
The Final Destination
If any of the concepts and theories of religion are accurate, then there must be a goal that is meant to be attained, a final destination so-to-speak. Perhaps it is possible that life is meaningless and that nothing happens in the end, but that would not be optimal for religious individuals. One of the primary features of religion is to secure one’s position after death. At least that is what I have gathered from my religious studies. After having examined the concepts of the Catholic faith regarding the body and soul, as well as the Hindu philosophy on the body and soul, there must also be distinction for the final destination of the purpose of life in both religions as well.
Those practicing the Catholic religion believe that the ultimate destiny for the body and soul is to resurrect upon the return of Jesus. If one has lived his or her life as a devout Catholic, then when Jesus is resurrected, they will also return to live on the earth once again. In this second opportunity life on the planet will no longer have the evil and suffering that are the current reality. However, the world will be as it was meant to be, the way Jesus and God would want it.
Hindus have an entirely different set of beliefs on the goal that is to be attained. Considering the soul is pure and free of suffering, once the individual has realized him or herself as the soul, free from the attachments of the worldly body, then final union or return to the Creator’s entity will be reestablished. Until the soul has realized itself, known as ‘enlightenment’, rebirth into the physical body is expected. This process of re-birth known as reincarnation is the belief of the soul’s return to a new physical form until self-realization occurs, which liberates the soul in a rejoining with the Universal Consciousness in which eternity will be spent.
Both Catholicism and Hinduism share the foundational parts of the body, soul, and finality that are expected of life. Although the meaning and purpose differs greatly, the student can verify that these religious beliefs provide meaning and motivation towards a greater purpose of human existence. Religion provides a sense of reward for living that seems to be an aspect of human life that is needed for so many people. In concluding the essay, I must state that despite the differences of the two religions I discussed, the common end goal seeking unity is what becomes evident from the teaching of these diverse religions.
Bacchiocchi, S. (1997). Immortality or Resurrection? A Biblical Study on Human Nature and
Destiny. Berrian Springs, Michigan: Biblical Perspectives.
Emporia State University. (2015). Philosophies of the East. Retrieved from