Hinduism is known for being inclusive and tolerant.
– Rasamandala Das
Religions of the World – Hinduism by Rasamandala Das
Although New Jersey is blessed with several fine Hindu temples, many people in the state are still not familiar with this great religion.
At first glance, Hinduism seems like the most confusing religion since there’s no single founder, single God or single scripture book.
Hindus don’t have a single authoritative scripture book like the Bible or Quran outlining broad principles to guide its followers.
No one can even speak with certainty about the origins of Hinduism although its adherents believe the religion to be several thousand years old.
Instead Hinduism abounds in variety – A plentiful choice in Gods, books, teachers, sects and practices.
Variety is the essence, the great beauty of Hinduism that makes it less dogmatic than other major religions like Islam and Christianity.
Think of Hinduism as a large banyan tree with its various branches representing different beliefs and sub-faiths.
It’s safe to say that at least 85% of Indian-American immigrants in New Jersey are Hindus.
Hindus – India & USA
Hinduism is an amalgam of practices of the natives who lived in the sub-continent and the Aryans who came to India from the steppes of Central Asia.
The majority of the world’s Hindus are to be found in India, Nepal, Fiji, Caribbean islands and Mauritius.
Thanks to migration, in recent decades the Hindu population has increased in US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Where are the Hindus in New Jersey?
Middlesex County in New Jersey has the largest number of Hindus followed by Bergen County and Somerset County.
There are so many books on Hinduism that a newbie to the religion might be forgiven for being hopelessly flummoxed over where to begin.
Hinduism by Rasamandala Das is a good introduction to Hinduism.
In just 48 pages (with plenty of pictures), Rasamandala Das offers a neat summary of Hinduism starting from its origins in the distant past to its practice today.
If you ignore the British-created catastrophe of Partition in 1947 in which Muslims massacred Hindus and Sikhs and vice versa and the odd attacks here and there, Hindus have historically rarely attacked members of other religions.
According to Rasamandala Das, “most Hindus do not reject other religions, believing them to be different paths toward the common goal of linking the soul with God.”
Many Hindus refer to their religion as “Sanatan Dharma” (eternal religion), an accurate description given that it’s been practiced for thousands of years.
Although there’s considerable variation in how different Hindus look at their religion, Rasamandal Das rightly observes that belief in Atman (soul), reincarnation, Karma and Moksha is common to most Hindus.
The book touches upon various strands of Hinduism (Vaishnavas, Shaivas, Shaktas), geographical distribution of Hindus, major sacred books (Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads, Shruti, Smriti, Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita), Hinduism through the ages, Hindu festivals and more.
If I have any objections to this book, it’s that the map of India on P.5 ‘donates’ the Indian state of Kashmir to Pakistan. Also, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 (not 1947, as the book states on p.38).
Religions of the World – Hinduism by Rasamandala Das should be available in several New Jersey libraries. Pick up your copy and introduce your kids to the beauty of Hinduism.
Should you wish to buy it, the book is also available on Amazon.