Answering key questions on Hindu philosophy and associated Indian history in simple, lucid, engaging ways, and exploring the often curious customs and beliefs that arc an intrinsic part of the Hindu faith, Devdutt Pattanaik's latest book is a treasure house of information on the complex tenets of Hinduism. For many a curious reader, Faith: 40 Insights into Hinduism will prove to be a delightful and eye-opening introduction to the intricacies of one of the world's most widely practised religions.
There are two reasons for this book. One relates to the past, the other to the future.
First, the reason related to the past: Many Hindus find it difficult to explain the origins, and hence the logic, of Hindu customs and beliefs, even to their own children. Not surprising, as it is not as organized a religion as Islam or Christianity. It becomes even more difficult when any questions about Hinduism are received with hostility. Matters become worse when the answers are dismissed, and Hindus are branded as defensive, apologetic, even chauvinistic. It does not help that the global village functions using Western 'humanistic' or 'social justice' frameworks that owe their origin to Western religions (where God is judge on Judgement Day) despite claiming to be secular. That is why they are at dissonance with Eastern thought, especially Hinduism (where God is no judge and there is no concept of Judgement Day). Hence this book.
Second, the reason related to the future: Hindus need to outgrow their tendency to locate 'pure' Hinduism to a time, or to geography, or to a scripture. This usually results in fundamentalism. In a global village, as people migrate to different lands and mingle with different people, we need to view Hinduism with a more forward-looking gaze, in terms of transformation: fruits more than roots. Hinduism practiced in a village in India cannot be the same as that practiced in an Indian city, or in an American, European, Australian, African or Chinese neighbourhood. Reframing and realignment are needed to make it relevant to contemporary space and time. We must remember how Hindu sages who wrote the dharma-shastras always advised adapting rules to time (cala), place (sthana) and people (patra). The idea of one truth that is finite, absolute, universal and equally relevant to all is not a Hindu idea. Empathy for diversity, of gods and of truths and of interpretations, is the key to gaining insight into Hinduism.
Faith answers questions about Hinduism with love and dignity. It provides as many facts as possible, but is ultimately based on my personal understanding, years of study and comparing Hindu with world mythology. Mythology reveals cultural truths, encoded in stories, symbols and rituals. As you go through the book keep in mind that nature is diverse, culture is dynamic, and our mind that transmits, and receives ideas, has its limitations. Don't seek perfection. Don't seek destination. Seek tendencies, drifts and directions, because:
Within infinite myths lies an eternal truth
Who sees it all?
Varuna has but a thousand eyes
Indra, a hundred
You and I, only two.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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