In an era of untrammelled attacks on traditional religious beliefs from a forceful Hindutva and Islam, Dr. Hiro Badlani has performed signal service to Hindu youth diaspora, in unraveling facets and percepts, as they evolved over millennia to our times.
Today, the young generations of the substantial Indians scattered around the world do need a versatile introduction to the richness of their own religion: away from the old mumbo jumbo to an understanding of how its evolution over millennia allows adapting and synthesizing to a technological future, while abiding by ancient creeds of tolerance and kindness, and adapting to whichever corner of the globe they are in, to ensure the peace and harmony that made India a great nation.
Dr. Badlani’s research reveals a wealth of information and archives of the most ancient religion, preserved not only all over India, but also institutions scattered at different foreign locales, that have preserved manuscripts, even some digital formats from various schools of thought including the remarkable Kashmiri Shaivite philosophy, reckoned outstanding in many ways, with its startling modernism: accepting the reality of the world but adding that the world is a “play of consciousness”.
The book traces philosophies and thought flows, from the earliest Vedic culture and heavy ritualism that culminated in the germination of Jainism and Buddhism, to sidestep the stifling emphasis on Brahminism. Both stress on less dogmatic approaches to problems, with room for differences of opinions, reminiscent of the older Vedic free flow of ideas.
The Vedas spoke of one Supreme Divine, “One alone exists; sages call by various names…”, manifested and worshipped in the various gods of Nature. Interesting to note that “Supreme Being” in the Constitution of the USA replaced the word “God”, after hearing pleas quoting the above from the Rig Veda.
The later Upanishads led the way to more internal spiritual realization. Short readable chapters trace evolution of an abstract Supreme God, to the Brahma, Vishnu Mahesh trinity with all their human faces and avatars, including Buddha and Jesus Christ…Kalki on a white charger yet to arrive, akin to Persian, Jewish, Christian, Tibetan, native American and some Central Asian cultures too.
The unique features of Hinduism cover Karma: as you sow, so shall you reap; punarjanam: i.e. reincarnation; moksha i.e. salvation and avatarkaran: incarnation samsara, the eternal cycle of birth- death; so that turning the mind towards virtue and divinity mitigates past sins and errors, for spiritual knowledge gained in one life does not vanish but flows into the next life. In Hindu philosophy, death is part of an immortal life journey or mahaprasthama -- An interlude in the passage of the soul, neither to be feared nor prematurely enticed.
Badlani exposes a ‘modern’ nonviolent Jainism, with emphasis on animal rights, wildlife preservation and eco. issues; while Buddhism inaugurated global interfaith movement with the dictat disallowing anyone from saying anything derogatory to any other ….. Oh, would we learn that in today’s world.
Describing temples as the homes of God where Hindus and non Hindus came seek solace and peace, the writer emphasizes free flow of ideas and philosophies, over centuries through innumerable acharyas, from Adi Shankaracharya through Guru Nanak and bhakts enjoining a breakdown of the caste folds and Ista Dev, meaning personal gods, to Vivekananda and numerous godmen discourses.
This readable little book, with its reasonable explanations and brief catch-all coverage could become a valuable go-to for young Hindus, in the diaspora, and at home for seekers in Gen Next India too.