Introduction to the New Edition
Also termed as the religion of the masses, Hinduism has never denied the existence or relevance of any other religion or teaching that has come before or after. It has always tried to accept the best of them all. it is a religion of tolerance, which throughout history has seen its bastions assailed but has survived as one of the most ancient and yet most vibrant of all religions. It has far outlived its most contemporary of religions. It in fact absorbed many of their precepts. Buddhism which sprang up as a challenge to the Brahminical form of Hinduism was allowed to flourish and spread until many of its teachings were accepted by the Hindus themselves. Buddhism finally died out in the land of its origin. Its teacher Gautam Buddha was accommodated in the Hindu pantheon of gods with a highly respected position within its traditions. Jainism and many other sects were also given their due respect. It may also be seen that the Semetic religions were and still are recognised by the Hindu majority.
L. S. S. O'Malley has outlined very clearly the beliefs and ideals of the Hindus in this book. He has taken trouble to mention the moral influences which have molded the Hindu people in their beliefs and at the same time has gone into the modes of worship and ceremonies, which form the backbone of the religion. Many people state that Hinduism is based more on a way of life than on scripture. It is a very practical and down to earth religion for the masses, revolving around their daily activities which include early rising, cleanliness and observance of its simple tenets. If looked at closely we find that many of the Hindu practices relate to the agrarian lifestyle of the majority of the people.
Hinduism is very much concerned with the concept of a personalized form of God and it finds itself linked to knowledge, faith and devotion rather than praises and prayers to the deities. Unlike most other religions it relates almost entirely to the every day life of the Hindus themselves. Each and every aspect of their daily life is, in some way or the other, related to their religious beliefs and reflects on their behaviour to others. As a religion which preaches non-violence, it also reserves the right to retaliate to the actions of others when and where it is called for.
India has been described as a land of contrasts, and in nothing are the contrasts more marked than in Hinduism, in which the differences between the beliefs and practices of the cultured classes and those of the masses, mostly unlettered villagers, are so great that they almost seem to be differences of kind rather than of degree. The religion of the latter ha few of the higher spiritual conception of Hinduism and represents in the main its lower side. A mixture of orthodox Hinduism and of that primitive form of religion which is known as animism, it combines Brahmanical rites and observances with the fetishism of lower cults. Offerings are made both to the great gods of Brahmanism and to minor deities outside the Brahmanical pantheon, whose name is legion, for different villages have special local deities of their own. As might be expected in a country with so large an area and so vast a population, a country, moreover, in which different sections of the people are at widely different stages of intellectual development, there are great variations of belief and practice, but there are also certain common characteristics. Of both alike I have endeavoured to give an outline in the following pages.
Back of the Book
India has been often described as a land of contrasts, and nowhere are the contrasts more marked than in Hinduism in which the crudest idolater and the subtlest philosopher feel equally at home! Few persons outside India have any in-depth knowledge of Hinduism. The differences between the beliefs and practices of the cultured classes and those of the masses are so great that they almost seem to be differences of kind rather than of degree. Inspite of these great variations of belief and practice, there are also some common characteristics. O'Malley gives of brief outline of both in this authentic book.
"The volume is, for its size, remarkably full, fair and accurate."
"If the ordinary man prefers to base his judgements upon reliable information instead of upon second-hand prejudices, O'Malley book will serve him well.
"The man who wants to get a general idea of Hinduism as it exists in India can hardly do better than read this unpretentious but excellent book."
"A comprehensive survey of modern Hinduism, as it is practised by the masses of the people."
"Mr. O'Malley has written with insight and sympathy. One or two small inaccuracies of detail do not detract from the merit of this excellent and fair-minded book."
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