Punjabi University has introduced Religion as an elective subject of study at the undergraduate level. This may be the first experiment of its kind in the country. In some of the Western countries and in Japan, Religion is an established academic discipline. In India, however, it has so far remained excluded from the university curriculum. Yet the study of human religiousness is an important intellectual and cultural inquiry. It is a legitimate and meaningful way of studying and interpreting the life of man. Religion has been a crucial historical force in shaping human civilization. Any study or understanding of man would be incomplete without knowing something about his inward beliefs and value. The relevance of the study of religion is even greater in a country like ours. We in India live in a multi-religious society. Here mutual understanding, tolerance and respect for the faiths of others are essential for the promotion of social harmony and integration. Our young boys and girls will grow into better citizens if they have the chance of acquainting themselves with the essential character and elements of the different religious orientations. This will open the doors to mutual goodwill, for knowing is halfway to understanding.
The present volume has been designed as a beginning course for college students. It deals with the religions of Indian origin-Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Chapters on these four traditions are preceded by a short one on our prehistoric religious heritage. Other religious traditions prevalent in India, such as Zoroastrian, Christian and Muslim, will be covered in the second book in this series planned by the Guru Gobind Singh Department of Religious Studies.
In this small book each religious tradition has been described in a simple way, emphasizing its historical development and its spiritual and moral principles. Details of technical nature and references to sources have been deliberately avoided. Words of Indian origin have been transcribed in popular spelling, without diacritical marks. Although this volume is meant to be a college textbook, it should be of interest to the general reader as well. It could perhaps also be recommended as supplementary reading for students of senior classes in our higher secondary schools.
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