Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices

Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices

Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices

Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices

Synopsis

An introduction to the evolution, multidimensional nature, and influences of Hinduism, this most comprehensive treatment of Hindu beliefs and practices explores the religion as a family of religions rather than a monolithic entity.

Excerpt

It was some years ago, during dinner at a conference in Canada I recall, that John Hinnells asked me if I would 'like to write a book on Hinduism'.

'Perhaps, ' I replied warily. 'But I already have a number of things on my plate, so to speak. Anyway, tell me what you have in mind.'

He told me.

'It's for this series we're editing. I want a book to cover Hinduism, but I don't want it to do so chronologically in the usual way. I want it to be different. I want it to deal with essentials of Hindu religion, of course, but not only from the point of view of belief; it's got to tell us how Hindus practise their faith. And it must have a scholarly foundation, ' he added, warming to his theme.

I paled at the prospect.

This book on Hinduism, ' he went on remorselessly, 'must be rooted in the historical tradition. It's got to have a historical perspective. Otherwise things hang in the air. And bring in your own experience here and there. Tell us the odd story, anecdote, etc. That makes for interesting reading, you know. Also, try and draw in the religion of ordinary folk in the towns and villages, and what they call the little tradition, ' he added. Traditions, ' he corrected himself. 'And oh! I'd like it done in a couple of years, if possible. Well, what do you say?'

I was horrified. A book on Hinduism-a complex, multi-faceted, intractable phenomenon spanning over three thousand years-fitting this description would be a Herculean task. It would be madness to accept.

I accepted. And I've had second thoughts ever since. But it's been an instructive and salutory experience. I've had a chance to collect my thoughts on a great and marvellous religious phenomenon in midcareer, to appreciate even more its extraordinary richness, the way

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