Author: Swami Achuthananda
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platforms
ISBN: 1481825526: ISBN-13: 9781481825528
There may not be the same curiosity for Westerners concerning Hinduism compared to such religions as Christianity or Islam, nonetheless, as Swami Achuthananda points out in his Many Many Many Gods of Hinduism, “its sacred literature is vast and represents thousands of years of accumulated spiritual experiences.” Unfortunately, it is a religion that has remained largely ignored, misunderstood and forgotten as many have found it to be mystical and perplexing, for it does not have a founder or an authoritative scripture, such as the Bible or the Koran.
In the form of short essays, Swami Achuthananda with his intimate knowledge of Hinduism, clearly and effectively sets the record straight concerning inaccurate information prevalent today pertaining to Hinduism and the way it is portrayed. As mentioned on the back cover of the book, “he singles out the gray-haired academics for perpetuating centuries-old myths and letting the secrets stay in the dark for so long.”
This useful and concise primer is divided into three main sections, Culture, Concepts and Controversies and is subdivided into sixty-four topics where the author cogently explores key aspects concerning the oldest of the major religions. Did you know that Hinduism has approximately one billion adherents and is the third largest religion in the world containing an enormous collection of traditions, beliefs, and practices? Its roots can be found in the Indian subcontinent and the cultures of the Indus Valley and Indo-European people.
And if we accept with an open mind Swami's invitation to begin a journey of the discovery of Hinduism in the company of one who has made the subject his life's devotion, we are assured that we will meet people not with a handshake but rather a Namaste, the traditional Indian greeting. Our thoughts concerning Yoga as a fitness regime will be altered for it will now mean the integration of the body, mind, and soul with God. And as for our perception of nature, it will take on a different meaning due to the fact that every tree, river, and mountain is revered in Hinduism and occupies a distinct place in the world. We will also have a better understanding of such sacred symbols as the Banyan tree which is more than a tree but rather the true embodiment of the religion. We will appreciate that the “many, many, many multi-limbed gods were all manifestations of the one, all prevailing Brahman,” which is one of the essential principles of Hinduism and although the religion may appear to be primitive, idolatrous, and polytheistic, its key principle is that it is a “henotheistic” religion which means the worshiping of one supreme God without denying the existence of others. Hinduism is “panentheism” in nature which means God is both immanent (within) and transcendent (beyond) as God is not only residing within all things, but beyond our conception of the world.
Despite the complexity of the subject matter, Many Many Many Gods of Hinduism is easily understood and should be essential reading for anyone seeking a better understanding of Hinduism. The author has used exactly the right mix of scholarship and unsophisticated prose to blow the lid off some of the most misconceived impressions of Hinduism. In addition, sprinkling the text with anecdotes and quotes from some well-known authors as Mark Twain gives the book a more popular tone than some others primers concerning the same topic.