The ocean of Hindu scriptural wisdom in the form of teaching of ancient masters of the religion is too massive for a single individual. This book presents, however, a compact connected collection of such wisdom from the vast and deep literature on scriptural Hindu Thought. Presenting the esoteric meaning and significance of numerous names of God, through the words of Rishis it explains the philosophical foundations of Hinduism, rooted in the Upanishads, the Gita and other ancient scriptures. A glimpse of the synthesis of religion and art as exhibited by the Divine Dance in the Nataraja temple of Chidambaram is also provided.
V. Krishnamurthy (b. 1927) has served the Department of Mathematics in Thiagarajar Department of mathematics in Thiagarajar College, Madurai; Annamalai University; university of Illinois, U.S.A and BITS, Pilani, where he was also Deputy Director for two decades. His mathematical research is in the area of functional Analysis, Topology, Combinatorics and Mathematics Education.
Prof. Krishnamurthy was also trained systematically in the traditional Hindu scriptures. In addition to a good number of lectures on Hindu scriptural literatures and Vidanta, he has to his credit many book on Hinduism, including Essentials of Hinduism (1989; Hinduism for the Next Generation (1992); The Ten Commandments of Hinduism (1994); Science and Spirituality-A Vedanta Perception (2002); live Happily the Gita way (2008); and Gems from the Ocean of Spiritual Hindu Thought (2010).
To the lotus feel of the one person. From whom I have drawn inspiration and guidance. (Even after he has been no more in this world). For the conception of everything in this book. He was a monumental example of a Karma Yogi, Ananya Bhakta and Atmajnani all put together in his day to day life which I could closely watch for twenty-five years because he was My Father Shri R. Visvananth Sastrigal.
One of the most difficult questions to answer is what is Hinduism? Some scholars say that it is a conglomeration of many religions. There are some others who declare that Hinduism is not a religion, but a way to life. There are the traditional people who reject the very word Hinduism are replace it with the word Sanatana Dharma. Thus, there is no consensus with regard to the definition of the very word Hinduism.’
If a person wants to know the basic tenets of Hinduism, the situation is worse. The views are too many to consider. Many great scholars, both traditional and academic, have tried to capture the basic tenets of Hinduism and we have many such books. A lay person does not know which book to choose.
In this scenario, Professor V.Krishnamurthy has attempted the different task of collecting the teachings of Hinduism from the vast and deep literature available in this field. ‘Gems from the Ocean of Spiritual Hindu Thought’ is the result of such a painstaking effort. He has done a commendable job in presenting a reasonably comprehensive representation of the traditional teachings of Hinduism. The language and format are sufficiently modern for a lay reader to understand.
I congratulate Professor V.Krishnamurthy for bringing on this useful compendium and recommend this book for all those who want to get a good grasp of traditional Hindu thoughts.
This is the first book in the series: Traditional Thought.
First what the series is not. It is not a collection of quotations, not a glossary of technical terms, not a dictionary for words of spiritualistic import, not an anthology of scriptures, not a chronological religious history, not a book on Hinduism for’ dummies’, not a book for casual reading. It is other than all of these. It is a continuing account of thoughts, though selective, from the mind of scriptures, writers, expositors, devotees and seers from ancient times. It is a connected presentation in the form of a mirror of the spiritual ethos, of concepts and ideas form Hindu religious eclectic culture, generously supplemented by the ancient serious study, though it can be read from anywhere to anywhere. The central emphasis is Vedanta. The base of communication is Sanatana Dharma, popularly called Hinduism. Vedanta being only scaffolding to build up the edifice of spiritual experience, differing viewpoints do get presented as and how they appear in the original sources. However, the author’s slant towards Advaita does show up everywhere, but no apology is necessary, because that is his inherited tradition from his father. This book mainly contains:
• The esoteric meaning and significance simplified as much as possible, of numerous (as many as 150) name of God as found in the various stotras and sahasranamas-though the acadmic explanations of the derivations may appear to be hard-going for a reader who is habitually allergic to Sanskrit;
• The philosophical foundations rooted in the Upanishads, expounded simplistically in the chapter on ‘ The Absolute As it is’;
• Rock bottom fundamentals through the sections on “The Animal Passions of Man’ and ‘The Three Fundamental Urges of Man’;
• The deeper, more technical aspects of Vedantic thought in the section on Meanings of Names of Lalita.
• A touch of the Gita by means of a quick presentation of its 6th and 7th chapters, coupled with a capsule overview of the full Gita, followed by a technical exposition-a beginner may need to study this more than once for a proper comprehension- of the ‘I am neither the doer not the experiencer’ –attitude established and advocated by Advaita;
• Two long imaginary conversations concocted for the purpose of clarifying the nuances of Divine will and free will and the spectrum of all shades of convictions from extreme rationalism to deep faith; the latter one for the purpose of establishing some streamlined thinking in the wake of confusions and dilemmas even in the mind of the ‘faithful’, because not all with faith realise the difference between a conviction and a dogma;
• A hand –shake with the body of ancient scriptures of Hinduism, incidentally touching also upon certain problems of understanding by the modern mind; one such being the insistence on obedience to parents and elders which is a common heritage of all Hindu India;
• A glimpse of the syntheseis of religion and art as exhibited by the Divine Dance in the Natraja Temple of Chidambaram;
• A small but strong dose of hard-core Advaita in the Epilogue on the light of all lights; and
• A comprehensive index of men and materials covered in the book.
All non English quotes(the bulk of them in the footnotes the together contains as many as 180 are presented in a uniform transliterated form to facilitate easy reading and also in translation in the main text to help uninterrupted flow of reading and easy understanding. Technical words or jargon get their explanations each time they occur, but the explanations are limited to the context. One would benefit by tracing them through the index.
One observation on the book could be that there seems to be repetition of thoughts and emphasis. The explanation is clear. The bottom line of all traditional Hindu Philosophical perception is the constant awareness of God’s omnipresence. This is the point of the whole book. Throughout the past, from eternity, a Hindu religious thought has not swerved from this. Surely, it has had various dressings, but the fountainhead of thinking has been the same. One of the main purposes of the book is to bring this ours. And in the process we naturally come across an unending panorama of sages, seers, master’s devotees and role models, each of whom, without exception have shown through their life and teaching that, there is no greater gain than Atma-Labha (attainment of the self). Each of these has thrown away material welfare as trivial in comparison with the towering strength of spirituality and Godliness. This common characteristic of the spirit of spirituality and Devotion certainly reflects as repetition of the same thought. On the other hand, the system of liberal cross-referencing, which reaches even into the second book of the series, helps the reader recognize the shades of nuances in parallel thoughts or interpretations.
The recurring appearance of the same thoughts has another objective, however. “A characteristic of Vedantic Sadhana is,” according to the masters, “thinking of the Transcendental Absolute, talking of that, and mutual exchange of ideas of That,” these being the only recommended practical ways of ascent to that peak of spirituality where stand all those giants. And a book like this does exactly that. In doing that, there has emerged, even without the author intending it, an imperceptible undercurrent of movement from soft to hard of most of the ideas of Vedanta. For instance , the core fact of Advaita Vedanta, namely, the identity between the individual self and the Universal Absolute(jiva-brahma –aikyam)get touched up a chapter1 itself at three places (pp.28,33,46). Get enuniciated in Chapter -2 in the discussion of the Mahavakya, significantly used in the concocted conversation on Divine will authenticated from the Upanishads in 4.3, and technically discussed threadbare in 5.6.3. The whole book has been written as svadhyaya yajna,; if the readers also take it to be one such, the purpose of the book is more than fulfilled!
Numerous other ‘gems’ could have been included in the book. I would not get away by giving the excuse that it would have increased the size of the book. However another book with the title Gems from the ocean of Devotional Hindu Thought is under publication. Criticisms, as well as suggestions, for the improvement of the present book are surely welcome.
First of all, my humble acknowledgments are due to his Holiness the Shankaracharya of Kamakoti Mutt, Kanchi who has blessed me by writing a foreword for the book. The book has grown over a period of several years ever since I started writing on my website 10 years ago. Great is my indebtedness to the numberless exponents of the faith (starting from my father) whose inspiring books and speeches must have sunk into my system to such an extent that I use their words without the cognition that they are theirs. Over the years, several friends, readers and well-wishers have given me encouragement, appreciation, constructive criticisms and technical help. In mentioning a few names, I may be missing many more. I am , therefore, making a universal thanks to all of them by the famous lines of Thyagaraja: ‘ Endaro mahavnubahvulu andariki vandanamu’: great souls are indeed many. Pranams to them all!
However, I would like to express my deep sense of gratitude to: Abhijit Jadeja, B. Madhavan, Br. Pranipata Chaitanya, Chittaranjan Naik, Dennis Waite, (late) Dr.S.Venkateswran , Ganapathy Vijaya, Gidu Sriram, Gomati Gopinath Harsh K. Luthar, Jaldhar Vyas, K.Balasubramanin, Ken Knight, K. Narayanaswamy, K.E. Raman, Kuntimatti Sadananda Madathil Nair, M.S Ravishankar, Prasd Kaipa , Ram V. Chandran , Ramakrishna Upadrashta, Rama Sharma, Ravi Gomatam, S.N.Sastri , S.V.R Iyengar, shailendra Bhatnagar, Shantibai Mehta, Shyam Sunder Hattangadi, Vijay Dikshit, V.L Swaminathan, T. Subramainian and V. Swaminathan.
I appreciate and thank my wife Kamala and other family members for their patience and tolerance in allowing me the necessary time and energy to sit at my work, away from family responsibilities.
Finally my thanks are due to my publishers, Readworthy Publications (p) Ltd. For doing a nice job.
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