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The Essentials of Hinduism (A Comprehensive Overview of the World's Oldest Religion)

The Essentials of Hinduism (A Comprehensive Overview of the World's Oldest Religion)
Item Code: NAG141
Author: Swami Bhaskarananda
Publisher: Sri Ramakrishna Math
Language: English
Edition: 1998
ISBN: 9788171208180
Pages: 254 (17 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 8.0 inch X 5.5 inch
weight of the book: 255 gms
Back of The Book

Swami Bhaskarananda has written a compact, yet amazingly comprehensive treatment of the essentials of the Hindu view of life, emphasizing the very things one whishes most to know about when first approaching this complicated and many-sided subject. While there is no lack of books on Hinduism, many are ill-suited subject. While there is no lack of books on explain basic concepts.

Swamiji’s style is remarkable for its directness and lucidity, fresh and devoid of clichés to an extent that is truly rare nowadays.

The Essentials of Hinduism must form a part of the basic library of any student of comparative religions.

The Essentials of Hinduism addresses nearly every question that naturally arises in the mind of a Western reader studying Hinduism. I think that this book is perfect for North Americans who are interested in a solid introduction to Hinduism.

The first book on Hinduism that comprehensively addresses all of its important aspects and in a lucid way – a must for one interested in Hinduism or Indian culture. While I have taught an introductory Asian Religions course for some twenty years, I have never been able to find such a helpful work. I shall recommend it enthusiastically for use by our college students.

Hinduism is one of humanity’s most ancient religions and, over time, it has evolved in an incredibly rich but complex form. Its metaphysics and philosophies are especially difficult for people coming from the so-called western religious traditions to grasp. Fortunately for us, Swami Bhaskarananda has come to our aid. His book elucidates Hinduism’s essentials in a clearly laced with wonderfully expressive analogies and delightful stories.


During the past twenty years of my stay in the United States, I have been invited to speak on Hinduism at many schools, colleges, and universities. I have also spoken at numerous churches and synagogues. The audiences, for the most part, have had either Christian or Jewish back grounds, and I have often received requests from these groups to recommend a book which would help them understand Hinduism without having to go through a lot of technical details. Many have complained that the authors of the available books on Hinduism assume that the readers already know quite a bit about the subject, making their presentation difficult for a newly interested reader to understand. Moreover, the children of Hindu immigrants, unfamiliar with their religious heritage, ask their parents many questions which they are often unable to answer. Some of these parents requested me to write a book on Hinduism which would address these questions.

These are the reasons which inspired me to write this book, I have tried to make it easy to understand, without indulging in oversimplification. The topics covered address the questions I have most often encountered form Western audiences over the last two decades. Keeping in mind that a large volume may easily daunt a college or high school student, the number of pages in this book has been kept well restrained without sacrificing the academic need of the students. An attempt also has been made to make this book helpful to high school and college teachers who cover Hinduism in their classes.

In the publication of this book the following persons have helped immensely and I acknowledge their loving assistance with deep gratitude.

Swami Atmatattwananda of the Vedanta Society of Southern California for his help and guidance during the final stages of editing the manuscript.

Biswa Ranjan Chakraborty of Calcutta for providing various illustrations and the original design upon which the cover is based.

Diane Fitzgerald for final proofreading of the manuscript.

Allen R. Freedman for his assistance with some of the diagrams and charts.

Devra A . Freedman for her help in editing and also preparing the index.

David Manning for providing thoughtful and constructive suggestions after reading the manuscript.

Charles Mathias for his many illustrations and the graphic design of the cover.

Kathleen& Timothy Teague for help with some of the illustrations.

Charles S. Wirth for providing assistance with the typesetting and printing of the manuscript.

I also thankful acknowledge my debt to the following publishers:

Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati, India, for permission to use quotations from Great Women of India.

The Ramakrishna- Vivekananda Center of New York for permission to use quotations from The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.

The Vedanta Society of southern California for permission to use quotations from Swami Prabhavnanda’s translations of the Upanishads.

Johan Benjamins Publishing Company, Philadelphia, for permission to quote Walter H. Maurer’s translation of the Nasadiya Sukta contained in Pinnacles of India’s Past ; Selections from the Rgveda.

I shall consider my labor well rewarded if the book proves to be helpful to those for whom it is intended.


Publisher's Notevii
Lost of Illustrations and Diagramsxix
Pronunciation Guidexx
IHistory of Hinduism 1
The Ancestors of the Hindus and Their Religion1
Super sensuous Truths- The Basis of Hinduism2
IIGod- Realization 7
The Inevitable goal7
IIIThe Holy Books 11
Vedas- the Revealed Texts11
Samhita and Brahmana15
Darshans- Schools of Hindu Religious Philosophy17
The Two Epics- The Ramayana& The Mahabharata18
The Bhagavad Gita19
The Tantras19
Shaiva Agamas and Pancharatra Samhitas20
IVIndo-Aryans &Their Society 21
Theories Concerning the Origin of the Indo-Aryans21
Aryans and Their Gotra22
The Caste System23
The four Stages of Aryan Life29
VHinduism- A way of Life39
Hindu Marriage- Ancient & Modern40
Hindu Funerals47
VIIHindu Society Today 49
Family structure49
Treatment of children in Hindu Society51
Condition of Women in Today's Hindy society52
VIIIThe Role Of Food59
Did the Vedic Ancestors of Hinduism Eat Meat?59
Why the Hindus of Today Do not Eat Beef60
Is the Cow Holy?60
The Right Kinds of Food as Prescribed by the Scriptures61
Nirguna Brahman66
Deities in Hinduism73
Devas and Devis: Beings with Shining Bodies73
Presiding Devas or Devis74
Divine Incarnations75
IXThe Doctrine of Karma79
Sanchita karma and Prarabdha karma80
kriyamana (Agami) karma81
Hinduism's view on Suicide82
Hinduism's Interpretation of Death in Childhood82
Can a saint Have Physical Illness or Mental suffering?82
A Divine Incarnation is Beyond the karmic Forces84
Suffering at Birth-Seen in the Light of karma& Reincarnation84
Karmic Forces Do Not Completely Govern Human Lives85
God's Grace in Hinduism86
XThe Doctrine of Predestination89
XIThe Doctrine of Reincarnation91
The Gross and subtle Bodies of Man Death and the Lokas92
The Different Planes of Existence92
Unfulfilled Desire Causes Reincarnation Reincarnation-94
An Opportunity to Make Spiritual Progress94
Transmigration of Souls95
Reincarnation and the Idea of Evolution of Species95
XIIHindu Ethics97
Dharma or Religious Duties98
Five Debts or pancha Rina102
God Is the Upholder of Morality102
XIIIGuru And Disciple Relationship105
XIVTwo Different Spiritual Paths109
Pravritti Marga- The Path of Permitted Sensula Desires109
Nivritti Marga- The Path of Renunciation of Sensual Desires112
XVThe Four Yogas115
Bhakti Yoga-The Path of Devotion115
Jnan Yoga-The Path of Rational Inquiry119
Raja Yoga- The Path of Mental Concentration122
Karma Yoga - The Path of Right Action130
XVIWorship of God137
Worship of God through Images137
Ritualistic Worship139
Hindu Religious Festivals143
XVIIMantras And Sacred Symbols145
The Sacred Symbol Om147
The Gayatri Mantra148
Mantras and Yantras in the Discipline of Tantra149
Temple sites151
Temple Architecture151
Priests and Their Duties155
The Role of Temples in Hindu society157
XIXThe Three Gunas159
Prakriti or Mother Nature is Composed of the Three Gunas159
The Gunas Constitute the Universe160
The Existence of the Gunas Can Only Be known Indirectly161
The Characteristics of the Gunas161
God-Vision is Possible with the Help of Sattva- guna162
Liberated souls Go beyond the Three Gunas164
Pralaya or the Dissolution of The World174
An Objection Regarding the Hindu Theories of creation & Its Refutation175
Moksha Or Liberation From Samsara179
According to the Dvaita179
School of Philosophy180
According to the Advaita School of Philosophy182
According to the Vishishtadvaita183
School of Philosophy183
XXIIConcluding Remarks185
Hinduism Is Realistic- It Is Neither Optimistic Nor Pessimistic185
Hinduism Is Not Fatalistic186
Hinduism’s Position in Regard to Mortification of the Body187
Idea and Practice of Nonviolence in Hinduism187
The Idea of the Harmony of Religions Is Inherent in Hinduism189
A-World Thinkers on Hinduism and Indian Culture193
B- Major Hindu Religious Festivals195
C-Suggested Reading199

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