Vidyajyoti Journal

January 3, 2022

The series to which this volume belongs is entitled World Spirituality: An Encyclopedic History of the Religious Quest and was planned years ago by the Crossroads Publishing Company in consultation with world scholars. This is the seventh volume published, although its proper place is the sixth in the 25-volume project. The first five volumes will deal with archaic spiritualties, and the last five with modern esoteric movements, the spirituality of the secular quest, the encounter of spiritualties and a dictionary of world spirituality. The remaining fifteen volumes deal with the spiritualties developed by the classical religions of the world.

The book under review is the first of two projected volumes on Hindu spirituality. If we may use a musical comparison, one could say that this volume sounds the chief movements of the hindu spiritual symphony down the centuries while the second volume will play the variations of the themes in “postclassical” Hinduism. Even in its chief movements the symphony is rich and varied. The editor rejects the strong dichotomy between Vadim and Hinduism characteristic of some indo-logical scholarship. There is continuity in the concert, even if one can distinguish the overture movements of the Vedic period from the intermezzo of the classical times and the finale of modern Hindu saints.

The essays are not written on the model of entries in classical dictionaries: summing up and presenting in an orderly fashion all the information available. For this the reader will have to go elsewhere. These volumes present rather reflective and sophisticated statements of the tradition, by people who have either lived within the Hindu tradition all their lives or made it the object of a long and sympathetic study. The ecumenical character of the contributors is one of the strong points of the work. The articles suppose therefore a fairly deep acquaintance with the Hindu tradition and would not make much sense to a beginner who is seeking for “Hindu spirituality in a nutshell.” The four essays describing the Vedic period speak of Vision, Sacrifice, Truth and Spiritual Knowledge (Upanishads). The classical period includes the Spiritual Foundations of Caste, presented as “a manifestation of a beginning less justice which is sovereign over all things” (xxxiii), the Ramayana ideal of the Perfect Life, and Dharma as goal in the Mahabharata. The Shamanic spirituality is represented by only one essay on Jainism, since Buddhism has to be covered in two separate volumes of the series. The hard core of orthodoxy is to be found in Kalidas Bhattacharyya’s learned paper on “Vedanta as Philosophy of Spiritual Life,” analyzing the metaphysics of knowledge, the paper on the Spiritual Vision of Ramanujan (S.S. Raghavachar), the editor’s own presentation of Srikantha (“Spirit as the Inner Space within the Heart”) and K.T. Paduang’s presentation of Madhva’s “Vedanta as God-Realization.” Yoga and the Gita could of course not be absent from the volume but there are also rich secondary themes not often articulated in ideological books, like the “Word Spirituality in the Grammarian Tradition” (specially Bhartrhari), “Spirituality and Health” in the, Ayurveda tradition, and a general study on Spirituality and Nature by K. Klostermeier, stressing the outlook of the Samkhya tradition. The finale of the volume presents three modern examples of “traditional” Hindu spirituality: Ramana Maharshi, Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati, the sixty-eighth Sankaracarya of Kanci, and Anandamayi Ma.

The authors are recognized scholars and each of’ the essays is accompanied by a short bibliography of sources and studies. Good footnotes and indices enhance the value of the book. We could end by quoting the Editor: “What is the ‘Hindu’ character? One may say that it consists of making one live spiritually as if time were not ‘history.’ This is not the same as living without a sense of time or the change that time brings, as it is often caricatured. If anything, it bespeaks a sense of ‘history’ or change but as enfolded in timeless meaning. . . . Hinduism is . . .

a severe judge of all notions of history and historical theology that occidental historical awareness assumes as valid, and of all forms of evolution which, likewise, rest on the assumption of an all-too-easy identification of the good with the necessary”(xxv).

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