Trade between India and
Europe continued throughout the Middle Ages up to the time of the
Turkish invasion of Europe (the fifteenth century), which was why
Columbus originally journeyed to America seeking India. Not
surprisingly many of the great Christian mystics like Meister
Eckhart or Hildegard of Bingen arose in the Rhineland region, noted
for its trade with the East.
No doubt spiritual ideas
came along with this trade. There is a possible Hindu and Vedantic
influence on Christianity through the Middle Ages and into the
Renaissance, where great thinkers like Marsilio Ficino mention Hindu
practices with great respect. The practices of Christian mystics
often have more in common with Hindu yogic practices of mantra and
meditation, than with what is ordinarily regarded as Christianity.
Otherwise Hinduism and
Christianity are very different in both their teachings and
practices, particularly the Protestant form, which like orthodox
Islam is against all images and generally anti-mystical.
Catholicism, though having a
mystical and devotional side like the Hindu, has an authoritarian
structure and missionary militancy quite different than the
diversity of Hinduism. Naturally as long as such missionary activity
is directed against Hindus, it is difficult for Hindus to respect
Christianity as a spiritual path, however much they may appreciate
some Christian mystics or Christ himself.