Musings on Hinduism
By Nithin Sridhar
Publisher: RARE Publications
Can a Hindu deity either be “God” or god, or both? Is there only one God in Hinduism or do Hindus have multiple Gods?
What is Sadhana, Vairagya, Maya, and Mithya? What is the meaning of the famous Nirvana Shatkam? What does it mean to say Tat Tvam Asi? The younger generations of Indians in general and Hindus in particular have always grappled with such questions. While not many, even among Hindus, could easily answer such deep philosophical questions about duality and non-duality, and the nature of the Brahman etc., many of the frequently used words, terms, and concepts such as Gyan, Bhakti, Karma and Dharma, etc., in a Hindu’s day-to-day life also remain unexplained leading to many misconception and misunderstandings. Due to the near-total absence of a formal curriculum-based education on the tenets of Hinduism through Indian school system, the state of cultural, religious, and philosophical learning involving Hinduism is in complete shambles. Author Nithin Sridhar’s book Musings on Hinduism, in this backdrop, is a brilliant attempt to put together the relevant concepts of religion, philosophy, and rituals, etc.
The author’s own journey from being an atheist during his high school days to later on fully embracing all aspects of Hinduism in his life puts him in a uniquely advantageous position which gives him and insider-outsider view of Hinduism.
The author’s own journey from being an atheist during his high school days to later on fully embracing all aspects of Hinduism in his life puts him in a uniquely advantageous position which gives him and insider-outsider view of Hinduism. This allows him to not only challenge himself, ask questions, and seek answers but to also explain his findings and experiences with a great deal of clarity and authority. When in chapter “A deity can either be God or god or both” he writes—“the basic philosophy of any religion relies on the acceptance of the existence of God and that of atheism on the rejection of such existence”—it showcases his internal churning. Similarly, in chapter “Nature of Brahman (God)”, he declares that all Saguna-Nirguna debates are “meaningless as they are based on a faulty understanding of the scriptures”. “The whole confusion arises”, he continues, “due to ignorance of difference between the Paramarthika Dasha and the Vyavharika Dasha”. The book also doesn’t shy away from some socio-political commentary. Chapters under the section “Hindu Society” ask whether Indians have forsaken “Dharma” or whether Hinduism was a British creation.
Divided in five sections, the book is a real delight to read. The first section has chapters related to Hindu Religion and Philosophy. The second section deals with many important topics specifically related to Vedanta. The third section is labeled Hindu Society while the forth section has English translation of some of the popular mantras. The fifth and final section covers miscellaneous topics such as the story of Ganesha.
Though at times dealing with all those Sanskrit terms and understanding deeply philosophical topics may feel daunting, the book is compact yet easy to read and comprehend. The language is simple and easy to follow. It may, at the surface, seem like a book for the outsiders, it is very much a great starting point for those, including Hindus, who want a deeper understanding of scriptural and philosophical moorings of Hinduism.
Nithin Sridhar is a well-known author and speaker on topics of Hinduism and Indian tradition. He is also editor of Indiafacts.org