June 14, 2010

Lakshmi, Karma, and the Vedas: This is Hinduism

Oxford University Press has got it going on with these "A Very Short Introduction" books. There are around 200 volumes in 25 languages written by experts in fields of religion, history, art, philosophy, art, science. The list goes on.

So when in London last October I ran into a 3 for 2 deal on these books at Foyles Bookstore I had to take advantage.

The 3 volumes I bought are A Very Short Intro to Hinduism, A Very Short Intro to Islam, and A Very Short Intro to The Apocryphal Gospels. The first book I picked up was the one on Hinduism.
Hinduism fascinates me because it is so different from the monotheistic religions I both grew up with and that surrounded me as a child. It also fascinates me because my brother-in-law grew up in India, and in the Hindu religion (although he doesn't exactly practice it now.) I also have several friends from India who are Hindu, and I have been learning some from them as well.

However, this book really helped me understand where the whole concept originated and what is really going on with all of the gods and goddesses and which Sacred Texts are for what purposes. I studied Hinduism in a course in college briefly. We read Upanishads and the Rig Veda. But I didn't really understand it because my professor was, well, dumb as a bag of rocks.

I loved learning about the rituals and the festivals, and I really enjoyed learning all of the language/terms used and what they represented.

My favorite gods to read about were Lakshmi and Ganesha. They didn't talk much at all about Lakshmi in the book, barely mentioning her but I knew of her already. Lakshmi brings good luck to her followers and is a great source of strength. She signifies beauty and grace and is the goddess of light, wealth, beauty, and good fortune.

The book did talk a little more about Ganesha, or Ganesh as I learned to call him, and which is also appropriate. Ganesh is one of the most popular and most recognized Hindu deities. He is kind and removes obstacles for his devotees. He is also the Lord of Beginnings.

Below is a typical Hindu temple where followers go to worship and to offer gifts to the gods.

I think that this book was very good for introducing someone to Hinduism, but Hinduism is so much more complex than this book could get into. I recommend also reading another book about one of the aspects of the religion that interests you once you have finished this book, whether it be the gods and goddesses, whether it be the history of how Hinduism began, or whether you want to know more about karma and dharma and jatis (castes) and pujas.

Here is a link to see the grand opening of a Hindu temple in Cary, North Carolina, the closest temple to where I live (and yet still an hour and a half drive.) Hindu Temple Opening Video

(The picture at the top of this post is of the Hindu Deity Krishna.)

BOOK #: 38
RATING: 3 Stars
FOR CHALLENGES: World Religion Challenge, 100+ in 2010
GENRE: Religious Studies
PUBLISHER: Oxford Press
FORMAT/PAGES: Paperback/135
HEY, FCC!: I bought this book at Foyles while I was in London. Yeah, baby.


  1. Thanks for the great post Rebecca. It seems as though the book gives a nice little oerview of Hinduism, but you have added so much with your thoughts and sharing additional pictures and resources.

  2. Hey, be nice to your professors and they'll be nice to you. ;) It think I slept through most of my world religions class, though, so I'm not the one to talk....

    I think you should God Is Not One by Stephen Prothero--it's all about the major world religions and how they each have different paths to God, and how these paths affect people's attitudes and politics.

  3. I studied a bit about Hinduism in college but it's been many years and I don't remember much. I actually like to study world religions so I think I would enjoy this one.

  4. This sounds fascinating! My daughter and I read about Hinduism the first year she homeschooled. One of the things that really intrigued me was the teaching that there are multiple paths to salvation/enlightenment. Belief in the God or gods of your choice is but one of them. Others include yoga/meditation and good works. This struck me as very different from the teaching of monotheistic faiths ("you must believe in Him") and it kinda makes sense to me.


  5. i've been fascinated by Hinduism for a very long time, since I had some Hindu friends in high school.

    It sounds like you got a good deal on the books!

  6. i've been fascinated by Hinduism for a very long time, since I had some Hindu friends in high school.

    It sounds like you got a good deal on the books!


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