History has always been a problematic issue in India, where the dating of many a figure is accurate to only within centuries. So to attempt a definitive history of Hinduism would seem foolhardy. Klaus Klostermaier approximated the impossible in his 715-page Survey of Hinduism
, and now he has boiled it all down to about half that size. Hinduism is defined as that family of religions that accept the Vedas as authoritative, but despite the single moniker the differences can be vast. From fertility cults to precise rituals that date back thousands of years, Klostermaier cuts across time to illustrate the major strains of Hindu tradition--Vaisnavism, Saivism, and Saktism, along with the nonsectarian smarta
. He includes a short history of Hindu philosophy, which in India is inseparable from religion. Klostermaier is a first-rate scholar who expects a lot from his readers, sometimes too much. Anyone who isn't somewhat versed in Hinduism already would do well to pick up his Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism
for handy reference. --Brian Bruya
From Library Journal
Oneworld has become one of the most successful publishers of books on world religions, fostering works that are remarkably thought-provoking without being pedantic or inaccessible. Their well-integrated series of single-volume works introduces the major religions (subtitled A Short Introduction), outlines their history (subtitled A Short History), provides biographies of their founders (subtitled A Short Biography), or gives access to topics in dictionary form (titled A Concise Encyclopedia of...). While the volumes vary somewhat in quality and length, they are all interesting and frequently offer new perspectives, at least for the lay reader. They also indirectly underscore the overlapping of the spiritual paths of the great religions. These two volumes are no exception. Klostermaier (A Survey of Hinduism) addresses "Hinduism" as a collection of indigenous Indian religions, myths, and modes of worship that have mutually influenced one another for millennia. He traces not so much the facts of Indian religious history as the development of the story and tradition of Indian spirituality through the development and transformation of myths about Indra in the Vedic period, through worship of Vishnu, Shiva, and other deities, to the complex responses of modern India to the inroads of Islam, Christianity, and colonialism. Klostermaier deals with controversial interpretations of history in a frank and careful manner. The works in this series of short histories include helpful chronologies, glossaries, and bibliographies. Ward's introduction to Christianity is surprisingly interesting, considering the array of literature about the faith. Ward (Regius Professor of Divinity, Oxford) enlightens through a short and chaste presentation of the major elements of Christian belief. Each motif is examined from three differing perspectives, treating each viewpoint fairly, with an apparent sympathy for the feelings of those who hold to each perspective. The result is an articulate presentation of diverse approaches to Christianity's central concerns. Ward's personal commitment to Christian faith is unfettered by any doctrinaire or close-minded approach. These works, and others in the Oneworld series, are highly recommended for college, public, theological, and personal libraries.DWilliam P. Collins, Library of Congress
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.