Saturday, August 5, 2017

Survey of Hinduism

A Survey of HinduismA Survey of Hinduism: Third Edition by Klaus K Klostermaier, 507 pages

As a religion practiced by hundreds of millions of people and the oldest of the great world religions, with roots in a time before human memory, Hinduism is unsurprisingly mind-bogglingly diverse - indeed, there are even those who claim that the very idea of a singular "Hinduism" is a colonialist imposition of Western categories on Asian reality.  Certainly, Hinduism is inseparable from Indian life and culture, and it is this aspect of the religion as a living experience that Klostermaier attempts to present.  To this end, he thankfully consciously rejects dissection and over-analysis, thus making it possible to "not only learn about Hinduism but also learn from Hinduism."  Unfortunately, this also results in his giving perhaps too much credence to the Hindu pseudo-science equivalents of creationism and the "Bible code".

A Survey of Hinduism is designed as a course textbook, and as such it is not ideal for solitary reading - much would benefit from expansion and elucidation.  Although there are many black and white photos and illustrations, these are pedestrian in the textbook tradition.  Klostermaier slips somewhat when referencing Western religion - there, he participates in the same kind of dead academicism he wisely avoids when the subject is Hinduism, a problem compounded by his evident animus towards Christianity - but this does not affect the bulk of the book.

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