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Re: On the subject of Hinduism

In article <raghupat-130794092206@pharm20.med.upenn.edu>, raghupat@pharm.med.upenn.edu (Revathi Raghupathi) says:
>It was a tremendous relief to read quite a few articles this week devoid of
>acrimony and conducive to discussion and thought. I have a comment and a
>request. My experience with Hinduism has been that I was formally taught
>very little about the religion itself, growing up, and I had to pick up any
>scraps of information I could. Of course, I now read as much as I can, but
>reading on one's own is a very poor substitute to instruction and
>discussion. I have felt for some time that this laxity about passing on
>knowledge about the essence and the history of this religion contributed to
>my disenchantment with it while growing up. This experience was shared by
>several friends of mine. Any rational discussion on this newsgroup,
>therefore, is greatly appreciated. Now the request: could anyone recommend
>some books which discuss the historical evolution of Hinduism? I would also
>like a list of the major texts and their salient features (a book that
>reviews them would be good).
>Thanks to all who respond.
>Revathi (raghupat@pharm.med.upenn.edu)
You are absolutely right. We are expected to kind of absorb our religious
teachings as we grow up. Here are my comments based on my own experience.
For the beginner, I always suggest that they start with the Upanishads. They
are relatively easy to understand, beautiful to read, and easily available
in the U.S. The Gita is also available, but my problem with all these books is
that they lose some of their flavor when read in English - but ce la vie.
There are many books on what people refer to as "Hinduism", but because
of the nature of the subject, I have never found any one of them
completely satisfying. Here are 2 books that are good for starters, but
they are just that.
  1. Hindu Sanskaras by Raj Bali Pandey
  2. History of the Dharmashastras (5 vol.) by P V Kane
     - pub. by Bhandarkar Oriental Res. Inst., Pune, India
The first book is a good concise description of all the sanskaras. The second
book is the life's work of a famous scholar. It is THE history of the
Dharmashastras.  The only problems I find with his works are:

   a. Chronology is all mixed up. He says - X said this and then Y said this
(about a certain topic) but sometimes forgets to mention that X and Y may have
lived centuries apart, so that the value system of the society may have
undergone many changes during this time.
   b. He lived during British occupation, and sometimes it shows.
An enjoyable book to read is Hinduism by Nirad Chaudhuri, but a very cynical
one. Still he does have some useful information. I would recommend reading
it after you have read some of the abovementioned works, simply because he is
so cynical most of the time.
Translations of the Ramayana and Mahabhaarata are available also. The Ramayana
translated by Manmath Nath Dutt is very good - it is a translation of
Valmikiji's Ramayana.
After you read several books you will begin to understand why we flinch at the
label "Hinduism" being applied to the collection of philosophies.
Anyway, I could go on and on and give you a much longer list, nut these books
should keep you occupied for quite a while. Happy reading.
Arun Sinha.

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