Review by Ashok Bhargava
The principal idea pursued by Promod Puri’s is to explore meaning of the term ‘Hinduism’ and thereby to understand the Hindu identity in a wide-open structure both traditionally and in the modern world.
I have often heard people saying that Hinduism is so vast and deep that many seers have spent their lifetime to ascertain its expanse and complexity without success. I think Mr. Puri has captured the spirit and core of Hinduism in merely 122 pages (14 chapters) very successfully and I congratulate him on his success.
Promod’s book provides significant knowledge and insight into a range of topics concerning the philosophies and the literature of Hinduism with an easy understanding of the beliefs and values of the Hindu traditions to encourage us to think about the meaning of these ideas in our own personal life and for the world as a whole.
Since manifestations of Hinduism have varied from age to age, from community to community, from person to person, we learn that to be a Hindu one does not have to practice any specific set of observations, follow any particular beliefs, and any prophet or believe in any particular god or gods.
Hinduism depends neither on any particular historic event, comparable to birth of Christ or the hegira i.e. journey of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina, nor on revealed truth, comparable to the Gospels or the Koran. It has neither a founder nor an established institution to prescribe a specific meaning to numerous sacred books like Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad-Gita and Ramayana.
In fact, Hinduism has always been a religion of such wide-ranging beliefs and practices that a belief or a practice that is followed by some Hindus may be shunned by others.
Since its Vedic origins, the religion has grown to encompass more and more philosophical and theological schools (yoga and Vedanta) and independent sects (Vaishnavas and Shivites). In addition to that it has branched out into the separate religions of Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
These schools, sects and religions propound, accept, reject and reinterpret a multiplicity of doctrines such as dharma, karma, avatar, samsara, bhakti, yoga, moksha, murti puja and maya etc. All gradation of beliefs, from the crudest to the refined have coexisted in Hinduism from the earliest times, making it the most syncretic religion in the world.
When the author says Hinduism is a democracy of conflicting, contradicting and controversial thoughts and theories, he appears to be proclaiming oneness of humanity in Hinduism despite outrageous violation of human dignity promoted by Manusmriti in management of society and that of self.
I think Mr. Puri’s book implies the following points:
– we can never come to reality by just considering shortcomings that have crept into Hinduism.
– The spirit of Hinduism can be summed up as professed in New Testament, “the kingdom of God is within us and we are all children of God.”
– Hinduism does not lack definition but defining.
Vancouver-based Ashok Bhargava is a poet, essayist and inspirational speaker. He has published four books of poetry. He is president of Writers International Network Canada.