The doctrine of karma (salvation by works) and transmigration are the basic principles underlying Buddhism and Jainism, as well as Hinduism. No other belief has obtained so great a sway over such a large portion of the human race. According to this conception a sinner must work out his own salvation. He must be born and reborn, age after age, eon after eon, to pay the penalty of his misdeeds. Agelong suffering, and no forgiveness from God! The very thought strikes terror into the sinner's heart. The Hindu sadhak (devotee) has often prayed: "Save me, O Lotus-eyed one, and take away all my sins." Now, the question is, how to get mukti (salvation). Can the broken vessel repair itself ? Ah, a sinner can no more save himself than a blind man can go to an unknown place without being guided. There are many teachers and preachers, but to whom should the sinner turn for salvation? It would be well for him to go to One who is ready to share with him his sufferings.
The Bible tells us that Jesus suffered for our sins on the cross and that therefore He is the Saviour we should seek. The moment the sinner puts faith in Christ, the law of karma ceases to act upon him. The sinner becomes a new man, or to use the word of our divine Guru (Teacher), he is "born again." Thus the attainment of mukti (salvation), at which Hinduism aims, is offered free of cost by Christ, who says : "Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye, . . . buy, without money and without price."
In India we are asked time and again whether we can prove that Jesus Christ is a real character in history. We gladly accept this challenge, and we are prepared to prove from secular history that Jesus Christ is a real historical character, as real as Socrates, or William the Conqueror, or Akbar. We present two important historians who were early non-Christian witnesses to Christ. First we take the writings of Tacitus, the Roman historian, who lived in the first century of the Christian Era. He speaks of Christ and of the Christians who were persecuted by the cruel Nero from 54 to 68 A.D. He describes how this emperor after the great fire of Rome in 64 A.D., in order to divert suspicion from himself, accused the Christians of having set the fire. The passage reads:
"Nero, in order to stifle the rumor (as if he had himself set Rome on fire), ascribed it to those people who were hated for their wicked practices, and called by the vulgar 'Christian these he punished exquisitely. The author of this name was Christ, who, in the reign of Tiberius, was brought to punishment by Pontius Pilate, the procurator."—"The Works of Flavius Josephus," Appendix, Dissertation 1, "Tacitus Annals," book 15, Par. 44-
Of this statement Gibbon says : "The most skeptical criticism is obliged to respect the truth of this extraordinary fact."--"Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," Gibbon, Vol. II, chap. 16. No, Christ was not a myth to Tacitus, who was born about the middle of the first century, within thirty years after the death of Christ. Second, Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian, born about the year 37 A.D., writes thus:
"Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call Him a man; for He was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to Him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned Him to the cross, those that loved Him at the first did not forsake Him; for He appeared to them alive again the third day ; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning Him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from Him, are not extinct at this day."—"Antiquities of the fazes," Flavius Josephus, book 18, chap. 3, Par. 3.
In another place Josephus tells of an attack made upon James, "the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ."--/d., book 20, chap. 9, par. i. A number of other non-Christian witnesses might be cited. First, there was a Roman governor in Bithynia, called Pliny. About the year that Tacitus died, he wrote a letter to the Emperor Trajan telling him that what he calls the "depraved and immoderate superstition of Christianity" was spreading everywhere in his province. Second, "Ram Mohan Roy, who had studied both Christianity and Hinduism, and who was no Christian himself, said, 'Jesus is justly termed and esteemed Saviour of mankind. For He has revealed God to mankind as none has yet done.' "—The Epiphany, Sept. 13, 1913.
Third, K. N. Sitaram, vice-principal of Rajaran College, Kolhapur, says : "Jesus Christ is the highest flower of the human race and the greatest son of Asia."—"India's Religious Questions," by I. W. R. Netram, p. 82. Fourth, Swami Apurvananda, of the Ram Krishna Mission, Belur Math, says the Indians worship Jesus of Nazareth as God incarnated on earth to save humanity, for He said, "I have come to give you Myself and by knowing Me you may know your Father."
However, mere knowledge of the historicity of Christ will not save anyone. It is the personal experience of the sin-pardoning Saviour Jesus Christ in an individual's life that will count for salvation. Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, the sum and substance of its gospel, the Saviour of mankind, is steadily coming to attract the life and ideals of Indians. We, as Indians, see in Christ "our Oriental Brother:"