Swami Bhaskarananda has written a compact, yet amazingly comprehensive treatment of the essentials of the Hindu view of life, emphasizing the very things one whishes most to know about when first approaching this complicated and many-sided subject. While there is no lack of books on Hinduism, many are ill-suited subject. While there is no lack of books on explain basic concepts.
Swamiji’s style is remarkable for its directness and lucidity, fresh and devoid of clichés to an extent that is truly rare nowadays.
The Essentials of Hinduism must form a part of the basic library of any student of comparative religions.
The Essentials of Hinduism addresses nearly every question that naturally arises in the mind of a Western reader studying Hinduism. I think that this book is perfect for North Americans who are interested in a solid introduction to Hinduism.
The first book on Hinduism that comprehensively addresses all of its important aspects and in a lucid way – a must for one interested in Hinduism or Indian culture.
While I have taught an introductory Asian Religions course for some twenty years, I have never been able to find such a helpful work. I shall recommend it enthusiastically for use by our college students.
Hinduism is one of humanity’s most ancient religions and, over time, it has evolved in an incredibly rich but complex form. Its metaphysics and philosophies are especially difficult for people coming from the so-called western religious traditions to grasp. Fortunately for us, Swami Bhaskarananda has come to our aid. His book elucidates Hinduism’s essentials in a clearly laced with wonderfully expressive analogies and delightful stories.
During the past twenty years of my stay in the United States, I have been invited to speak on Hinduism at many schools, colleges, and universities. I have also spoken at numerous churches and synagogues. The audiences, for the most part, have had either Christian or Jewish back grounds, and I have often received requests from these groups to recommend a book which would help them understand Hinduism without having to go through a lot of technical details. Many have complained that the authors of the available books on Hinduism assume that the readers already know quite a bit about the subject, making their presentation difficult for a newly interested reader to understand. Moreover, the children of Hindu immigrants, unfamiliar with their religious heritage, ask their parents many questions which they are often unable to answer. Some of these parents requested me to write a book on Hinduism which would address these questions.
These are the reasons which inspired me to write this book, I have tried to make it easy to understand, without indulging in oversimplification. The topics covered address the questions I have most often encountered form Western audiences over the last two decades. Keeping in mind that a large volume may easily daunt a college or high school student, the number of pages in this book has been kept well restrained without sacrificing the academic need of the students. An attempt also has been made to make this book helpful to high school and college teachers who cover Hinduism in their classes.
In the publication of this book the following persons have helped immensely and I acknowledge their loving assistance with deep gratitude.
Swami Atmatattwananda of the Vedanta Society of Southern California for his help and guidance during the final stages of editing the manuscript.
Biswa Ranjan Chakraborty of Calcutta for providing various illustrations and the original design upon which the cover is based.
Diane Fitzgerald for final proofreading of the manuscript.
Allen R. Freedman for his assistance with some of the diagrams and charts.
Devra A . Freedman for her help in editing and also preparing the index.
David Manning for providing thoughtful and constructive suggestions after reading the manuscript.
Charles Mathias for his many illustrations and the graphic design of the cover.
Kathleen& Timothy Teague for help with some of the illustrations.
Charles S. Wirth for providing assistance with the typesetting and printing of the manuscript.
I also thankful acknowledge my debt to the following publishers:
Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati, India, for permission to use quotations from Great Women of India.
The Ramakrishna- Vivekananda Center of New York for permission to use quotations from The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.
The Vedanta Society of southern California for permission to use quotations from Swami Prabhavnanda’s translations of the Upanishads.
Johan Benjamins Publishing Company, Philadelphia, for permission to quote Walter H. Maurer’s translation of the Nasadiya Sukta contained in Pinnacles of India’s Past ; Selections from the Rgveda.
I shall consider my labor well rewarded if the book proves to be helpful to those for whom it is intended.
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