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Hinduism

See also India.

1. Brief Introduction
2. Religion and Politics Sections
3. A Few Books or Articles
4. Other Resource Materials
5. Recent Articles

1. Brief Introduction:

Of the world religious traditions, Westerners have the most difficulty understanding Hinduism. It has no founder, no one scripture, and no central institution, doctrine, or belief. India’s long and varied history has contributed to the enormous variety within this religious tradition. The Hindu tradition also exhibits the very complex socio-religious system of caste. At the beginning of the second millennium B.C.E. nomadic peoples from the Northwest invaded India’s northern half. These Aryans brought their gods, largely associated with heavenly phenomena, into the culture of the native Dravidians whose pantheon consisted mostly of earthly phenomena. Both groups then borrowed from the other, creating a highly diffuse and localized system. The Vedas, Hinduism’s most revered scriptures, reflect the dominance of the Aryans. At the end of the Veda period, other anonymous authors wrote the Upanishads, which add a more human touch. Most beloved of the common people are the epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. The Bhagavad-Gita, which treats the instructions of Krishna to the warrior prince Arjuna about his duty (dharma), is a section of the former. It was this classic that inspired the twentieth-century independence leader Mohandus K. Gandhi.

While Hinduism is the least organized of the major world religions, it does provide leadership in the pandit (storyteller), the guru (spiritual guide), and the sannyasis or sadhu (ascetic). Hindus seek moksha (release) from samsara (the endless cycle of rebirth) through one of the three paths of intellect (jnana yoga), action (karma yoga), or devotion (bhakti yoga). Gandhi saw himself as following the second path, even as he strongly opposed the caste system. Current Hindu politics revolve around the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which led the Indian government from 1998 to 2004. The BJP has advocated Hindutva (“Hinduness”) as the basis for Indian identity, thus alarming adherents of other religions. Hindus constitute a majority in India and Nepal, and an influential minority in Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, the Pacific, and the United States. 

2. Religion and Politics Sections:

“Out of India: Hinduism and Buddhism” (pp. 107-10)

“The Gandhian Vision: (pp. 199-203)

“India and Pakistan: Religious and Secular Nationalism After Fifty Years” (pp. 203-08)

“The Bomb and South Asia” (pp. 211)

3. A Few Books or Articles:

Knott offers a fine brief introduction to Hinduism very accessible to the English reader. Griffiths and Clooney, an English Benedictine monk and a Jesuit Harvard professor, have spent most of their lives practicing and studying Hindu spirituality. These two books are their attempts to present the spiritual wealth of Hinduism to non-Hindu audiences. Vohra offers a classic history of a country where knowing the history is absolutely essential for understanding current religion and politics. Sahu explains the rise of the BJP in recent Indian politics. Mehta discusses the relationship of Hinduism and democracy. 

Knott, Kim. Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).

Griffiths, Bede. The Cosmic Revelation: The Hindu Way to God (Springfield, Il.: Templegate Publishers, 1983). 

Clooney, Francis X., S.J. Hindu Wisdom For All God's Children (Eugene, Or.: Wipf and Stock, 2005).

Vohra, Ranbir. The Making of India: A Historical Survey, 2nd ed. (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2001).

Sahu, Sunil K., “Religion and Politics in India: The Emergence of Hindu Nationalism and the Bharatiya Janata Party,” in Jelen, Ted Gerald, and Wilcox, Clyde, eds. Religion and Politics in Comparative Perspective: The One, the Few, and the Many (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 243-68.

Mehta, Pratap Bhanu, “Hinduism and Self-Rule,” in Diamond, Plattner, and Costopoulos, Philip J., eds. World Religions and Democracy (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2005).

4. Other Resource Materials

Adeney, Katherine, and Saez, Lawrence, eds. Coalition Politics and Hindu Nationalism (London: Routledge, 2005).

Bhatt, Chetan. Hindu Nationalism: Origins, Ideologies and Modern Myths (Oxford: Berg, 2001).

Brass, Paul R. The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005).

Cady, Linell E.., and Simon, Sheldon, eds. Religion and Conflict in South and Southeast Asia: Disrupting Violence (London: Routledge, 2006).

Clooney, Francis X., S.J. Beyond Compare: St. Francis de Sales and Sri Vedanta Desika on Loving Surrender to God (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2008).

Clooney, Francis X., S.J. Hindu God, Christian God: How Reason Helps Break Down the Boundaries between Religions (New York: Oxford, 2001). 

Fisher, Louis. Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World (New York: The New American Library, Inc., 1954).

Griffiths, Bede. River of Compassion: A Christian Commentary of the Bhagavad Gita (Springfield, Il.: Templegate Publishers, 1987).
 
Hansen, Blom Thomas. The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).

Küng, Hans, “Hinduism” in Tracing the Way: Spiritual Dimensions of the World Religions (New York: Continuum, 2002), 37-77.

Lelyveld, Joseph. Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011).

Lobo, Lancy. Globalisation, Hindu Nationalism, and Christians in India (New Delhi: Rawat Publishers, 2002). 

Misra, Maria. Vishnu's Crowded Temple: India since the Great Rebellion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008).
 
 
MacFarquhar, Larissa, “Letter from India,” The New Yorker (May 26, 2003).

Thangaraj, M. Thomas, “Hinduism and Globalization: A Christian Theological Approach,” in Max L. Stackhouse and Diane B. Obenchain, eds., God and Globalization: Christ and the Dominions of Civilization (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity International Press, 2002), 213-38.

The BBC’s site on Hinduism.

5. Recent Articles:

"Fr. Panikkar, interreligious scholar, dies at 91," National Catholic Reporter, October 1, 2010. Fr. Raimon Panikkar, born of an Indian Hindu father and a Spanish Catholic mother, visited India for the first time at 36 in 1954. He joined others like Bede Griffiths who practiced Hindu spirituality.  Panikkar wrote "I left Europe as a Christian, discovered I was a Hindu and returned as a Buddhist without ever having ceased to be a Christian."

See India.

August 18, 2011.