With more than 870 million adherents,
Hinduism is one of the most enduring
and intriguing religions in the world.
Even if you are already familiar with some of
Hinduism's basic tenets, this beginner's guide
helps you truly understand this ancient religion.
It covers the major Hindu thinkers and their
philosophies as well as the dharma, the moral
way of life that Hindus practice.
In a straightforward, easy-to-understand
style, The Everything® Hinduism Book explains
the philosophy, gods, texts, and traditions of
the world's third largest religion, including:
• The power of karma
• Yoga as a path to God
• The authority of the Vedas
• The development of Jainism, Buddhism,
• The legacy of Mohandas Gandhi
• Hinduism in popular culture
Discover how yoga, karma, and reincarnation fit
into religious thought and practice. This lively
study of the world's oldest major religion is a
remarkably accessible introduction to the beliefs
and rituals of Hinduism.
Kenneth Shouler, Ph.D. is an associate professor at St. John's University
in Jamaica, New York. He has written dozens of newspapers and magazine
articles and is the author of several books, including The Everything'"
Guide to Understanding Philosophy. He lives in Harrison, NY.
Susai Anthony is the author of Hindutva: The Hydra at Work, and is
a resident scholar for the Policy Institute for Religion and State, a
Washington, D.C. think tank. Born in Madras, Ind ia, Mr. Anthony
was awarded degrees from St. Joseph's College, Tiruchirapalli; the
University of Madras; and De Paul University. He has also done
graduate work at George Washington University. He lives in Upper
HINDUISM CAN ATTRACT you in many ways. There are enough rituals, philosophy, and interesting doctrines to draw most anyone in. For those who enjoy the subtle pleasures of metaphysics, there is the philosophy of monism-that all things, however varied, are Brahman. Those drawn to lasting moral and political ideas can trace a continuous thread from the nonviolence that runs from the fifth-century B.C.E. Jains-who believed that no living thing should be harmed-all the way to Mohandas K. Gandhi-who was inspired by the Jains and embraced a philosophy of ahimsa, or nonviolence.
For more than 2,000 years, Yoga has taught concentration and meditation techniques as a means to know God. Hinduism created offshoots such as Jainism and Buddhism, which prescribed their own dharma, or set of duties, for living a proper life.
In all of the ages of Hindu thought there are kernels of insight. Consider this one: The great king Yudhishthira once said that the most wonderful and truly startling thing in life is that every moment we see people dying around us, and yet we think we shall never die.
For those seeking common ground between Eastern and Western thought, you need only look at the Hindu emphasis on a reality beyond the world of our senses. The following passage is from the ancient Katha Upanishad (3.3-7, 10-14). The metaphor of the chariot here also makes an appearance in Plato as he discusses the virtue of self-control.
Think of the soul as the master of a chariot. The body is the chariot itself, the faculty of reason is the rider, and the mind is the reins. The senses are the horses, and desires are the roads on which they travel.
When the master of a chariot has full control of the chariot, the rider, the reins, and the horses, then the chariot moves swiftly and smoothly. In the same way, when the soul controls the body, the mind, and the senses, life is joyful and happy. But when the master lacks control, the horses run wild. In the same way, when the body, the mind, and the senses are not controlled by the soul, there is misery and pain.
The objects of desire guide the senses. The senses supply information to the mind, and so influence what the mind thinks. The thoughts of the mind are ordered by the faculty of reason. And reason only operates successfully when it is guided by the soul. Reason and the mind can be trained to hear the guidance of the soul, and obey it. The training takes the form of meditation, by which the reason and the mind rise to a higher level of consciousness.
So wake up, rise to your feet, and seek a teacher who can train you. Plato and the Upanishads started in two different places but arrived at the same truth: Genuine happiness can only be attained when reason steers the desires, not the other way around. The idea is more than 2,500 years old.
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