Category Archives: books

books that have some (maybe tenuous) connection to Hindism

Was C. S. Lewis right about Hinduism?

C. S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis aged 50

I have read and enjoyed a number of C. S. Lewis’s stories. I remember being read the Narnia series of stories by my father when I was small. Though you can tell that they have a Christian analogy this does not get in the way of them being good stories.

I cannot say that I have read much of his non-fiction work, but I know that he was renowned as a Christian writer. I was reminded of this by a post from the myownashram blog.

C. S. Lewis is still often quoted by Christian evangelists. As he was an atheist who converted to Christianity he is seen as validating their beliefs.  One quote that I have seen used a lot is this one:

There is no question of just a crowd of disconnected religions. The choice is between (a.) The materialist world picture: wh. I can’t believe. (b.) The real archaic primitive religions; wh. are not moral enough. (c.) The (claimed) fulfillment of these in Hinduism. (d.) The claimed fulfillment of these in Xianity. But the weakness of Hinduism is that it doesn’t really merge the two strands. Unredeemable savage religion goes on in the village; the Hermit philosophizes in the forest: and neither really interfaces with the other. It is only Xianity which compels a high brow like me to partake of a ritual blood feast, and also compels a central African convert to attempt an elightened [sic] code of ethics.

Some Christian sights embellish the quote, this is an example from a Catholic site, which gives no reference . Searches fail to find a corresponding original text!:

Religions are like soups, he said. Some, like consomme, are thin and clear (Unitarianism, Confucianism, modern Judaism); others, like minestrone, are thick and dark (paganism, “mystery religions”). Only Hinduism and Christianity are both “thin” (philosophical) and “thick” (sacramental and mysterious). But Hinduism is really two religions: “thick” for the masses, “thin” for the sages. Only Christianity is both.

I think in dismissing all religions apart from Christianity and Hinduism he does a disservice to many; I am sure that Taoism, Judaism, Sikhism and many more are practiced by both the highly sophisticated and the simple country village folk. I will leave that point for followers of these religions to answer though.  I will answer one question: Is his comment on Hinduism true though? I don’t believe it is.  Continue reading

Review – The Spiral Staircase (Karen Armstrong)

The Spiral Staircase

The Spiral Staircase

The Spiral Staircase, by Karen Armstrong is an autobiography of her life, detailing how she left a Catholic convent and her life afterwards. This is written from a highly introspective point of view and gives an insight into how Karen lost and eventually regained her faith but in a different form.

The accounts of her life in the convent are rather sad. The regime obviously did not suit her and she was forced to follow the various rituals blindly. In addition to this Karen suffered from epilepsy, which had a physical cause and was later successfully treated with medication. Unfortunately the nuns of her religious order did not recognise this, and put what they assumed to be “fainting spells” down to attention seeking.

As a Hindu it is interesting to look at whether the same kind of failure could happen if someone entered the Hindu monastic life. Continue reading

Himalayan Academy Master Course, Initial Impressions

The Himalayan Academy master Course Books

The Himalayan Academy master Course Books

I previously wrote that after completing the Chinmaya International Foundation’s “Foundation Level” e-vedanta course”, I was not going to continue with their advanced course but take the Himalayan Academy’s Master Course. I thought it might be useful to give some first impressions of the course, though I have been following it for just over two weeks, so it is a very early impression. I have not even completed my first self-assessment yet!

I ordered the books and the self-assessment PDFs, which are sent via email. When I ordered the books I had thought that they seemed rather expensive, but when they arrived the size, weight and sheer quality Continue reading

Review of "The Book of Shiva"

book_of_shivaThe Book of Shiva, by Namita Gokhale is an extremely informative and rather strange book. It describes the way representations and views of Lord Shiva and the way he is worshiped today and was worshiped historically. It is illustrated with drawings similar to the one on the cover. They show all elements of the various manifestations clearly but are somehow not inspiring.

The text varies in style, sometimes talking enthusiastically and with feeling about a real live belief, and at other times becoming almost detached and reading like an anthropological report. Continue reading

Review of "Hindu Spirituality in a Nutshell"

I was recently asked to review the booklet “Hindu Spirituality in a Nutshell”. available from This is available as a downloadable e-booklet at a cost of £0.73, or as a paperback at £4.03. Being just over 30 pages long it is easily readable on the computer, so I would recommend the electronic version rather than the rather expensive paperback.

This book sets it self one goal, to teach the basic ideas of Hindu spirituality. It describes the basic ideas of reincarnation, God, Karma and the nature of the spiritual and physical world. It does not seek to teach any practical spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation, or devotional worship. I have to say that it achieves simple goals it sets for itself very well. There are some things that I would have probably included that were missing, for example it described the physical and spiritual world but did not distinguish the subtle plane. Continue reading

Review – Hindu Children in our Schools, Their Culture and Background

This ia a review of a booklet that I was fortunate enough to be given by its author, Mr Johar. It may seem silly to review a booklet that is not generally available, but I am following my feeling that it may be useful to someone. I have often found that things tend to come into people’s hands at a time they are needed, so I will follow my intuition and review this booklet.

The booklet of about 25 pages was written by Mr Johar Ji when he was a teacher on secondment to Bradford and Ilkley College (now incorporated into Bradford College), in 1984. It was intended to give teachers a background in Hinduism and the Hindu community so they would understand Hindu children in their classes. It does that and much more. Continue reading

Book Review: "Am I a Hindu? The Hinduism Primer".

Am I a Hindu? book cover

The Book Am I a Hindu? The Hinduism Primer by Ed Viswanathan is aimed primarily at people of Indian descnt who have been brought up in the west. It is written as a dialogue between an Indian-born father and his teenage son who has been brought up in the west. The son questions his father about Hinduism and Hindu traditions.

Despite not being part of the target audience, I found the book very useful, enjoyable and informative. I particularly appreciated the fact that the book did not avoid difficult areas. It gave honest answers about tantric practices, sati and the historical possibility of human sacrifices. Though sati and sacrifices have no part in modern Hinduism, and very little through history these subjects are often brought up by critics of Hinduism, and avoided altogether by many supporters. Continue reading

Thoughts on Cloud Atlas

The novel Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchel is at one level a collection of stories. This review is from the perspective of Hinduism, so I talk about the theme of reincarnation and spiritual advancement more  than conventional reviews; I also skip over the plot. If you want to read a more conventional review, then there are many on the web [1], [2].

The stories describe various characters, a naive 19th century traveler, a rather immoral composer, a female journalist in the 1970s, a present day publisher, a victimised clone in the future, and a member of a Hawaiian tribe in the distant future following the collapse of civilisation. These stories are written with such a diversity of styles that they could almost be from different authors.

Continue reading

Thoughts on "Labyrinth", By Kate Mosse

The book Labyrinth, by Kate Mosse is at one level an intellectualised cross between Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone and The Da Vinci Code, with magic to extend lifespans and secrets that the church must suppress. It is, however a much better book than either of these and is very thought provoking, especially for those with an interest in Hinduism.

Continue reading

Julian of Norwich – Revelations of Divine Love

There have been mystics outside of Hinduism who have seen revelations that reflect Hindu beliefs. Indeed often their writings would seem to be more like Hindu writings than those of their own religion. One of those is Julian of Norwich, 1342 to 1423. In Revelations of Divine Love she wrote:

“HE [God] ALSO SHOWED ME a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand. It was as round as a ball, as it seemed to me. I looked at it with the eyes of my understanding and thought, “What can this be?” My question was answered in general terms in this fashion: “It is everything that is made.” I marveled at how this could be, for it seemed to me that it might suddenly fall into nothingness, it was so small. An answer for this was given to my understanding: “It lasts, and ever shall last, because God loves it. And in this fashion all things have their being by the grace of God…. It is necessary for us to know the littleness of creatures in order to reduce them to nothingness in our judgment, so that we may love and have the uncreated God. The reason we are not fully at ease in heart and soul is because we seek rest within them, and pay no attention to our God, who is Almighty, All-wise, All-good and the only real rest.”

Here are the ideas of Advaita Vedanta (God in everything), the illusion of Evil and the distraction of May from someone who had never heard of Hinduism. Note also that there is no Judgement day, the world lasts for ever. Surely this is proof of the universality of revelation and the ultimate truths in Hinduism.