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The Essentials of Hinduism: A Comprehensive Overview of the World's Oldest Religion Paperback – January 15, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 247 pages
  • Publisher: Viveka Press; 2nd edition (January 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1884852041
  • ISBN-13: 978-1884852046
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Swami Bhaskarananda, a monk of the Ramakrishna order, here offers a brief catechism aimed at Westerners unacquainted with Hindu religious traditions. Perforce covering those traditions in broad terms without going into doctrinal complexities, his book has a straightforward style that should appeal to casual readers and students at a basic level but will not interest advanced students and scholars. Bhaskarananda, who has founded and led several Vedanta societies, has also been involved in interfaith relations. His tone is frequently apologetic, and he corrects American stereotypes about India and Hindus. In general, he points out, Hinduism emphasizes family and personal devotion over communal celebration and values variety in viewpoint and observance. While this book is not broad enough to be a reference work and is somewhat biased toward the Vedanta philosophical school of thought, it could fill a gap in collections on Hindu philosophy and practice, especially in those collections dominated by the works of individual gurus. Recommended for public libraries. James F. DeRoche, Alexandria,
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review

...fills a great need of Hinduism worldwide...perfect for Hindus who need to know more about their own religion -- Hinduism Today

...mine of interpretative material on the essentials of Hinduism presented in concise and ready form consonant with modern aptitudes. -- The Vedanta Kesari

...remarkable for its directness and lucidity, fresh and devoid of cliches to an extent that is truly rare nowadays. -- Walter H. Maurer, Ph.D.,Professor of Sanskrit, University of Hawai'i, at Manoa

...valuable...introduction into the richly diverse traditions of one of the world's oldest religions, and... a succinct reference tool. -- "India West"

..well-written... compact, yet covering every aspect of Hinduism....combining an easy style with deep philosophical insights -- "Vedanta"

Customer Reviews

This is a concise and comprehensive introduction to a complex subject.
Marion Lee
Highly recommended for those who are interested in the world's oldest religion, or in Indian culture in general.
Eric S. Kim
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about Hinduism.
Matt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Oliver on April 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book was exactly what I was looking for: something to help me understand the basics of Hinduism without either oversimplifying or overcomplicating things. I had previously thought that Hinduism was difficult to understand, but it turns out that it just needed to be explained properly, something this book does far better than any others I have encountered. Bhaskarananda fills the pages with colorful stories and analogies, and sets up much of the book in a question-and-answer format, making it a delight to read. I found that almost all of the basic questions I had about Hinduism were answered. Questions are given in large, bold headings organized by topic, and are then answered in a concise but clear manner. Since Essentials of Hinduism is organized so well, it is excellent for keeping on the bookshelf as a quick reference. If you only buy one book on Hinduism, this should be it.
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Marion Lee on May 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a concise and comprehensive introduction to a complex subject. I have read a few books on Hinduism, and this is by far the most understandable. The author has a gift of making even obtuse concepts appear simple by means of his lucid writing style and apt analogies. Students of Hinduism of all levels should benefit from this reference book.
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Doctor in London on May 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
In August of 1997, during my visit to India from England, I was travelling with my [...] daughter from Benaras to Delhi by train. Our first class, air conditioned compartment was completely full. With us there were many lecturers and professors from the Benaras Hindu University. They were discussing different intellectual topics and we were listening to them with interest.

When the topic of Hinduism arose, one lady opened her hand bag and took out a book. She raised the book in her hand and showed it to everybody around and said, "This is the best book on Hinduism that I've ever read, I always carry this book in my hand bag." It was "The Essentials of Hinduism" by Swami Bhaskarananda. That lady said that she was the professor of Anatomy in Benaras Hindu University.

My daughter and I were overjoyed to hear what she had said, because we also had the same opinion about that book. When we first read the book in 1994, my husband said ,"This is the best book to learn about Hinduism," and started recommending the
book to all his friends in England who wanted to know about that religion.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Deborah L. Pirman on February 27, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When looking to study the Hindu religion, I searched high and low for resources. I found them sorely lacking, unless I wanted to learn Sanskrit and plow through all of the original script. This book was a wonderful overview of the religion within the context of cultural understanding. It gave not only the basics of the religion in theory but also great insight into how it is practiced. It is amazingly comprehensive for as short as it is. It is well-written and conversational in style. I have recommended this book to many friends that are curious about other religions and cultures, and I have even bought it as a gift.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Swapan K Das PhD (CWRU,Cleveland, 1981) on April 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
As a young student of Hindu heritage arrived in USA about 3 decades ago, I had always carried a sense of guilt with me. Though I grew up with the ritualistic world of Hinduism but was never attracted to Hindu Philosophy, partly because the subject is complex, and appeared arcane. Eventually my guilt turned in to shame, when my young daughter started asking questions about Hinduism and I could not answer them. I desperately searched for a comprehensive book on Hinduism and finally got one in the Essentials of Hinduism by Swami Bhaskrananda. Using a layman's language Swami described those difficult concepts of Hinduism in a way, which became pellucid for the first time. After reading this book my guilt disappeared and experienced pure joy. In those intervening years, my daughter too (now twenty something) has read this book, and feels proud to be a part of both worlds (east and west).

Last but not the least. I will recommend to the reader another book by the Swami on Meditation, wherein, he has unveiled the mysteries of mind. The Mind-what it is, how it works, and the means to control it? Another great piece of work by Swami Bhaskarananda!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By EMAN NEP on December 4, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the obstacles in studying Hinduism is finding a book that doesn't inundate each sentence with difficult Sanskrit words.

Thankfully, although this book does have some Sanskrit, every single word is promptly defined and sometimes even more than once. Advanced concepts that have a Sanskrit term are often broken down with modern-day analogies, which I frequently found to be extremely helpful. Honestly, some of the analogies I've read in this book are among the best I've come across.

As if that weren't enough, there is a glossary in the back for quick reference. I rarely had to use it as the in-book definitions were often sufficient.

A quick look at the table of contents shows how thorough this book is in explaining Hinduism. It certainly revealed the basics of Hinduism faster than trying to wade through the many couplets of the Rigveda Samhita on my own.

To accompany the text are several diagrams and pictures, my personal favorite being the chart that shows the staggering amount of Hindu scriptures and how they all break down.

The chapters on Karma and Reincarnation, potentially some of the most difficult to grasp, were explained very well and at length.
However, I was disappointed at the brevity of the chapter on Predestination (a measly page).

On the scholarly side, there are frequent footnotes referring to the Upanishads, Rig Veda and other texts, but they're not exhaustive. For example, page 186 says that "Hindu scriptures speak of two goals pursued by man: the pleasant and the good". Unfortunately, there is no reference for either of these. I'm sure there is one, but it'd be nice to have a footnote referring to it so one can see for themselves.
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More About the Author

Swami Bhaskarananda is a senior monk of the Ramakrishna Order of India and the president of the Vedanta Society of Western Washington in Seattle, Washington (an affiliated branch of the Ramakrishna Mission.) He joined the Ramakrishna Order in 1958.

Sent here by the Headquarters of the Order at the invitation of the Vedanta Society in Seattle, Swami Bhaskarananda has been in America since 1974.

He frequently gives talks on Hinduism in churches, synagogues, schools, colleges and universities all over America. He has also lectured on invitation, in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, France, the Netherlands, England, Iceland, Japan and several other Asian countries. He is actively involved in the interfaith movement in America and is a past President of the Interfaith Council of Washington.

Swami Bhaskarananda is also the founder and editor-in-chief of the quarterly journal Global Vedanta. In addition to his duties in Seattle, the Swami also serves as the spiritual head of the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of British Columbia, Canada; the Vedanta Society of Calgary, Alberta; and the Vedanta Society of Hawaii.

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