“Engaging rather than didactic, this exploration of Hinduism’s roots enlightens readers on the essence of creativity and karma.”
—ForeWord Reviews (September 2013)
What is Hinduism? Historians, teachers, scholars, and gurus have disagreed for centuries—and continue to disagree. One reason is because Hinduism—the world’s oldest continuously extant major religion—is a faith open to interpretation and evolving scientific knowledge. It does not demand adherence to specific belief and deeply respects individual ideas. Hindu scripture and thought arrived on the Indian subcontinent fully formed, in Sanskrit, the most sophisticated language known to humankind. Though Hindu tenets are varied in content and philosophy, they are unified by their worship of Truth.
In this, her latest book, Gajjar has striven for clarity in her explanations while recognizing the immense complexity of the subject matter. “In a sense,” she writes, “On Hinduism is an opinion about an opinion. Religions are beliefs and opinions about the universe, about humankind, about birth and death and matters of the spirit. Hinduism itself is a widely held belief system and this work is a true account of what Hindus believe.”
On Hinduism is a comprehensive account of contemporary Hinduism, a religion that for many justifies place and existence. The author skillfully weaves together history, philosophy, science, mythology, literature, and biography to give even the novice a strong framework to understand the depth and importance of Hinduism. The book is both an historical and a philosophical account, grounded by the deep reflections of an important mind.
About the Author
Irina Gajjar holds a PhD in Ancient Indian Studies from Bombay University, and studied Sanskrit in India for ten years. She speaks eight languages, including Gujarati, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, and French. Her first book, The Gita, was a new translation of the Bhagavad Gita, one of the great treasures of world religious, philosophical, and ethical literature. Gajjar lives in Chicago.
Michelle Anne Schingler, ForeWord Reviews (Sept. 2013):
“On Hinduism is an intellectually engaging and respectful appraisal of a complex, diverse system which tends to resist simple explanations. That Gajjar manages to communicate so much of Hinduism to the reader so neatly, and with such authorial flair, seems quite an accomplishment.”
[Complete review: pdf]
A Skeptic’s Perspective
1: Hindus and Hinduism
3: The Bhagavad Gita
4: Paths to God
5: Myths and Legends
6: Karma and Reincarnation
7: Rituals and Traditions
10: In Essence
About the Author
Thanks to Readers and a Word about Authorities
Thanks to you, the reader, for your interest in this work. If you go on, you will read a book about Hinduism. You might have opened it because you are curious about Hinduism, or seriously interested in Hinduism, or find Hinduism confusing, or implausible or because you are a Hindu and wonder what to say when someone questions you about your belief. You might be a student, or a teacher. You might be a scientist, attracted by the skeptic’s perspective and wondering how so many people can believe the nonsense that you think Hinduism represents. You might be a scholar and wonder how anyone can dare to present herself as an authority in a book with no references. You might be seeking a companion to The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture published a few years ago. Whatever your viewpoint or reason for reading at least this far, I hope not to disappoint you. This book was written for you.
You do not have to read On Hinduism in its entirety to benefit from it. You can pick and choose among the chapters because each chapter has a different theme and each one is self-contained. If you do read the whole book, you will find some subjects revisited in different contexts and you will gain more understanding. To assist you, we have provided a complete index and glossary. To make reading convenient, I have incorporated details that could have been relegated to footnotes into the text itself. Similarly, I have explained some important terms as they appear.
Hinduism is a big subject with many facets and much as I have tried to avoid complexity, I may not have always succeeded. In some cases, I chose completeness and accuracy over simplicity. Thus, it is fine for readers to skip portions that may not address questions of immediate interest. This work is designed to be used as a reference, and readers can always revisit what was missed the first time around.
Hindu Philosophy is a dominant force in our world, as it has been for millennia. Although Hinduism is a viewpoint, like all philosophies and religions, this particular viewpoint has had great impact on large numbers of people for many thousands of years and in the twenty-first century it is marching full steam ahead. Thus, Hinduism should not be an enigma to so many.
In a sense, On Hinduism is an opinion about an opinion. Religions are beliefs and opinions about the universe, about humankind, about birth and death and matters of the spirit. Hinduism itself is a widely held belief system and this work is a true account of what Hindus believe. It is grounded in too many sources to list, sources that do not lend themselves to a bibliography as many details have been absorbed, shaped, and evolved as they worked themselves into this book.
The authorities upon which this work is gratefully based can be placed in four categories as follows:
- Translations and commentaries on scripture
- Historical texts
- Biographical texts
- Philosophical texts
- Sanskrit grammars
- Annotated illustrations and photographs
- Scientific works
Word of Mouth
- Countless conversations in several languages with three generations of Hindu priests,
- philosophers, devotees, relatives, friends of Hinduism.
- Countless conversations in several languages with three generations of agnostics,
- atheists, critics of Hinduism and believers in other religions.
- Participation in Hindu life over many years
- Participation in Hindu rituals over many years.
- Travel throughout the world.
- With particular appreciation for Wikipedia and many individuals and organizations who have shared their viewpoints and wisdom on many websites.
Once again, thank you for giving this book your consideration.