The oldest religions that are still thriving today seem to have nothing in common whatsoever. By simply juxtaposing the religions of Judaism, Hinduism and the Santeria religious tradition next to each other would invoke confusion and the realization that in fact, these religions are different in several ways and therefore, can never relate with each other. Going against the grain of reason, these established religions are in fact similar. Interestingly enough, the similarities are not in specific elements of religion; the similarities are in one core belief found in all three religions.
Following the initial, natural reaction of comparing Judaism, Hinduism and the Santeria religion, several differences can be discerned. One important distinction is religious classification of all three. Judaism is strictly monotheistic in nature. Judaism places great emphasis that the existence of one God. Hinduism is perceived to be polytheistic as well as monistic in nature. Some of the deities found in Hinduism include Vishnu, Soma and Siva, and its monistic nature is derived from the concept of Brahman. Although Hindu believers revere and respect all the deities within their religious tradition, certain cults exist that strictly worship one deity. The Santeria belief system is also polytheistic in nature. Santeria deities include Oludumare, Olorun, Olofi, Obatala, Yemeya and Eleggua. Santeria practitioners also revere all the deities, but each individual places greater emphasis on one deity above other deities. This action can be seen as cultic in nature, but it differs from cultic nature of Hinduism. Rather than choosing to worship a single deity above the rest, Santeria followers are designated, or rather, chosen by guardian deities. Santeria followers will then offer gifts and prayers to appease their guardian deity in order to gain protection and favor only because they were chosen by their particular guardian deity.
Another distinction held between all three religious traditions is the existence, role and importance of religious literature. In Judaism, the Torah, or the Hebrew Bible, is believed to be the primary sacred literature. The Torah contains the religious commandments that instruct the Jewish believer to properly follow the Jewish faith, which is structured as a detailed handbook that contains examples and rules which every Jewish believer should adhere to. Because the Torah's content holds knowledge that formulates the Jewish faith, it holds utmost importance for the religion. The religious practice of taking the Torah out of a special container to be walked around in a procession before service shows the importance of the Torah in Judaism. In Hinduism, several sacred texts have been conceived throughout its long existence. Some of those sacred texts include the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. All of these sacred texts are revered by the Hindu believer. Religious literature does contain instructions and allegories but, unlike the Torah, the literature is structured in a poetic manner. Verses were written in this way due to the fact that early Hindu culture passed religious practices and traditions through poems and hymns. While great importance is places in Hindu literature, greater importance is placed in ritual practices and traditions. The Santeria religious tradition has no recorded sacred text. The Santeria religion still exists as an oral culture that passes its religious rituals from generation to generation through oral transference.
Religious worship also varies greatly between the three religions. Judaism emphasizes structured prayer in which Jewish practitioners recite verses from the Torah for a certain number of times per day. Hinduism contains a wide array of religious worship. Religious worship includes yoga, meditation or practicing rituals that require priests that read verses from sacred literature. For the Santeria religious tradition, great emphasis is placed in meditation as a form of personal prayer.
Certainly, several other differences exist between the three religions of Judaism, Hinduism and Santeria, but with all of these differences, there exists the one amazing similarity of the belief in the existence of one great essence. Whether or not the religion classifies this divine essence as a deity, each religion describes the divine essence as being transcendental, omniscient, androgynous and ineffable by man. Judaism classifies this divine essence as the one God. Although God holds other characteristics, the prime elements that define the divine essence are used to describe God found in Judaism. Due to the belief that God holds great power, the first two traits of transcendence and omniscience is easily seen by Jewish practitioners. The trait of androgyny comes with the belief that God has created man not through reproductive means, but through his own divine power. Ineffability comes from the allegories found within the Torah. One particular example of the attribute of ineffability can be found in the story of Moses seeing only a portion of God. In the story, Moses was nearly burned from the ineffable and powerful essence that God is made out of.
Within the Hindu faith, the divine essence is seen as Brahman found in the monistic belief system. The first linking attribute between the divine essence and Brahman is the characteristic of ineffability. The creation myth found in the Rig Veda can only describe Brahman through examples of tangible worldly objects, such as the ocean. Furthermore, Brahman is imprinted as ineffable due to the confusing belief that to understand or comprehend Brahman is a false understanding or comprehension of Brahman. Brahman is also described in the creation myth as transcendental and omniscient due to the belief that Brahman makes up everything and is found within everything. The last characteristic of androgyny comes from the fact the Brahman never created anything, but the desire of existence created the first man from the pool of Brahman.
The Santeria religious tradition defines the divine essence as the deity known as Oludumare. Much like the Jewish belief of God, Oludumare is a Supreme Being. This entails the characteristics of transcendence and omniscience due to Oludumare's supreme power. The characteristic of ineffability comes from Oludumare's ability to encompass everything. Because of his transcendence, there is no possible way to place traits and characteristics to fully describe Him. The characteristic of androgyny also mirrors that of Judaism. Oludumare created mankind and all of existence not through reproductive means, but through his own power and ability.
Several discrepancies and divergences exist between the religions of Judaism, Hinduism and the Santeria religious tradition. Distinctions such as religious classification, role and importance of religious scriptures, methods of worship, as well as several others exist to drive the perceived separation of the three religions. However, the core belief that is found within each of these religions is the belief in a divine, transcendental, omniscient, ineffable androgynous essence or being that each practitioner believes and reveres. This one similarity has the amazing ability to unite individuals from incredibly diverse belief systems.