I would like to point it out to you that you have got one historical fact about Buddha wrong and you also missed a couple of vital points about Hinduism in your interesting write up titled "The Other Jesus" in the issue dated March 27, 2000.
You have noted that "both are conceived without sexual intercourse and born to chaste women" in order to jump to the conclusion that "the life stories of Jesus and Buddha are strikingly similar." This piece of your fact is very far from the historical truth in as much as the birth of Siddhartha Gautam is concerned who ultimately achieved enlightenment to become Buddha and after whom the world has one more religion today. Siddhartha Gautam was born in Lumbini in present Nepal to queen Mayadevi wedded to Shakya King Sudhdhodhana of Kapilvastu, also in present Nepal. There was no so called "Immaculate Conception" in the case of Siddhartha. In fact he was a normal human being to the extent that he fell out with the then Hindu priests and his disenchantment with and disaffection towards Hinduism caused by this impelled him to forsake his palace life, a son (Rahul) and wife (Princess Yashodhara), in the quest of knowledge about salvation. Even in that age and time he was rebelling against any cult, dogma or any such thing and if he was around today he would be the most astounded person to learn that human kind has started a religion in his name.
You also go on to say that "Hindus find the notion of a single god unnecessarily restrictive." This is another piece of untruth, perhaps based on shallow knowledge and information about Hinduism. Yes, Hindus talk of 33 Crore (330 million) gods, but it merely reflects a multitude of various manifestation of the single god which can be found in the concept of "Adwaita" (there is but one). What you need to know about Hinduism is that it is our "Dharma" (mistakenly transliterated to mean religion or faith by the westerners) which means "one’s duty." The western world also wrongly uses the word "Karma" to imply fate or destiny. In fact "Karma" for us is the "action" that we need to perform and shall be responsible for, in order to fulfill our duty manifest in "Dharma."
There is an interesting facet of Hinduism with regard to its beliefs about other religions that you have completely missed which would have made your write up very interesting. Most of the western pundits of Hinduism know that Hindus believe in the concept of reincarnation and so far we have had nine reincarnations; the last one being Lord Krishna – considered to be a romantic fellow (even philanderer) by the western world. However, what is interesting in the context is that Hindus believe Buddha to be the reincarnation following Krishna (having taken place more than two and a half millenniums ago). Some tolerant Hindus even go on to say that Jesus Christ was another reincarnation that took place about two millenniums ago. Hence, his visit to "Asia to learn about "yogic meditation."
With best regards,
Ratna Sansar Shrestha, FCA
45 Basundhara Height,
This is a letter to editor written to Newsweek whcih didn't get publisehd.