Back of the Book:
Only central truths as distinct from the dogmatic and institutional forms can appeal to the modern mind which is becoming increasingly rationalistic in temper and outlook. In this small book the author gives us a clear and precise account of the fundamental categories of Hindu thought. -Dr. S. Radhakrishnan in the foreword of this book
To the Hindu, Man is not travelling from error to truth, but from truth to truth, from lower to higher truth. To him all the religions, from the lowest fetishism to the highest absolutism, means so many attempts of the human soul to grasp and realise the infinite. Every soul is a young eagle soaring higher and higher, gathering more and more strength, till it reaches the Glorious Sun...To the Hindu, then, the whole world of religions is only a travelling, a coming up, of different men and women, through various conditions and circumstances, to the same goal. Every religion is only evolving a God out of the material man, and the same God is the inspirer of all of them. Why, then, are there so many contradictions? They are only apparent, says the Hindu. The contradictions come from the same truth adapting itself to the varying circumstances of different natures. Thus the whole object of their system is by constant struggle to become perfect, to become divine, to reach God and see God, and this constitutes the religion of the Hindus. -Swami Vivekananda in "Paper on Hinduism"
Preface to the First Edition
Hinduism, resting on numerous and varied scriptural texts and covering a vast number of sectarian creeds, obviously requires and encyclopaedic treatment. Hinduism at a Glance, however, as the name suggests, is only a broad outline of the prominent features of this religion. It presents its essential contents in a nutshell, and aims at acquainting the busy reader with all that Hinduism stands for, and that as quickly as possible.
Though intended mainly for Hindu students, the book seeks to provide the interested public, including those living outside India, with necessary information on this ancient religion. The subject has been surveyed from a catholic standpoint, and the views of different current schools of Hindu thought have been treated with due regard. The first part dwells especially on the practical aspect of Hinduism and the second part on its ideology.
Certain Sanskrit words like samsara, mukti, bhuta and Jiva are closely associated with the Hindu Religion. A world of ideas hangs on these words. They serve almost as so many keys to Hindu thought. Through them one can enter into the spirit of Hinduism. But these words have no exact equivalents in English. This is why they have been used in the original. A clear grasp of their meaning will, no doubt, usher the reader into the domain of Hindu thought. Of course, these words have been explained in detail, often through distinct chapters, and in every case the nearest English rendering has been juxtaposed. Moreover, a glossary of all such words has been appended at he end of the book.
Sanskrit and other foreign words have been italicized, exception being made for names of persons, sects, communities, clans, castes, places and subjects of study. No diacritical marks could, however, be used for helping the correct pronunciation of Sanskrit words. Only where, except in the names of persons and places, 'a' has to be pronounced as in 'part', it has been italicized in words of Roman character and vice versa.
Sir S. Radhakrishnan has placed the author under a deep debt of gratitude by furnishing this book with an appropriate Foreword. Grateful acknowledgement is made to Swami Madhavananda, the Secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission, who has very kindly gone through the manuscripts.
Our labour will be justified if the book serves its purpose by fulfilling a real need throughout the English-knowing world.
Preface to the Second Edition
In this edition slight changes have been made in be body of the book. For helping correct pronunciation of Sanskrit words 'a' has been used where 'a' has to be pronounced as in 'part', exception having been made in the cases of all names of persons and places. The letters 'jn' in a Sanskrit word have to be pronounced as hard 'gy' in English ; 'jnana', for instance, has to be pronounced as 'gyana', The letter 'e' in a Sanskrit word has always to be pronounced as 'e' in 'bed'.
THIS generation is loaded with a burden of fate as was hardly any other in the course of history. In previous periods of stress we had faith in certain general conceptions which gave us strength to stand the strain patiently. We have no such faith today. The increase of valid knowledge called science is having disturbing effects on religious traditions also. Only central truths as distinct from the dogmatic and institutional forms can appeal to the modern mind which is becoming increasingly rationalistic in temper and outlook. It is the author's conviction, which I share, that the essential principles of Hinduism have nothing to fear from any advance in scientific knowledge or historic criticism. In this small book which is directed not to the specialist, although based on specialized knowledge, but to the genera] educated reader, the author gives us a clear and precise account of the fundamental categories of Hindu thought. He has the gift of imparting information as if he were acquiring it. To my mind this book is an excellent introduction to the study of Hindu religion.
HINDUISM is one of the major religions of the world. Its followers, numbering nearly four hundred millions, dwell in India and they are known as the Hindus.
India has been the motherland of Hinduism for a long, long time. How long no one can say with precision. However, there is no doubt about the fact that Hinduism is several thousand years old, and that it is older than any other, major religion of the world.
In very ancient days Hinduism was known as the Arya dharma and its followers the Aryas. Their earliest home in India was in the Punjab. Nobody has yet been able to say finally where the Aryas of the Punjab had come from. Different scholars have made different guesses about the original home of the Aryas, such as the Arctic region, the great table-land of Central Asia, the Mediterranean coast, etc. Swami Vivekananda was firm in his belief that the Aryas had not come from any place outside India.
However, from the Punjab the Aryas gradually spread all over Northern India, which tract then came to be known as Aryavarta. In course of time they crossed the Vindhya range and spread their religion in Southern India. An Arya sage, Agastya by name, is said to have led this march of the Aryas to the South.
One may like to know how the Aryas came to be called the Hindus. The origin of the name Hindu is rather funny. The river Sindhu (Indus) marked the western frontier of the ancient Aryan settlement in the Punjab. On the other side of the river lived the ancient Iranians (Persians). It was by the name of this river that the Iranians called the Aryas. But they could not pronounce the word Sindhu correctly; they would pronounce it as Hindu. So Hindu came to be the name by which the Iranians called the Aryas. In course of time the Aryas themselves picked up this name from the Iranians.
The name Hindu also is very, very old. When the Hindus spread all over India, this entire country came to be known as Hindustan.
Hindustan has been the birthplace of many saints, many sages, many prophets. Through scores of centuries it has been prominently a land of religion. Its hills, mountains, rivers, lakes, seas and cities have been made holy by the touch of religion. These holy places strewn all over the country have made Hindustan really a holy land. Through the ages myriads of pilgrims have been rushing to and fro from different corners of Hindustan to visit these holy places. And religion has all along been the mainspring of the life of its people.
It was their religion that gave birth to the glorious culture of the Hindus. Even in the very ancient days the Hindus produced high class painting, sculpture, architecture, music and poetry. They wrote learned treatises on various subjects, such as Grammar, Philology, Logic, Philosophy, Politics, Astronomy (Jyotisha), Medicine and Surgery (Ayurveda). They put in valuable research work in Chemistry and have left behind sure proofs of their amazing skill in Engineering, Irrigation, Ship- building and in many other arts and crafts. And all these had their roots in religion; the ideas and ideals behind these were inspired mostly by Hindu saints.
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