On Hinduism

Overview


In this magisterial volume of essays, Wendy Doniger enhances our understanding of the ancient and complex religion to which she has devoted herself for half a century. This series of interconnected essays and lectures surveys the most critically important and hotly contested issues in Hinduism over 3,500 years, from the ancient time of the Vedas to the present day.

The essays contemplate the nature of Hinduism; Hindu concepts of divinity; attitudes concerning gender, control, ...

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Overview


In this magisterial volume of essays, Wendy Doniger enhances our understanding of the ancient and complex religion to which she has devoted herself for half a century. This series of interconnected essays and lectures surveys the most critically important and hotly contested issues in Hinduism over 3,500 years, from the ancient time of the Vedas to the present day.

The essays contemplate the nature of Hinduism; Hindu concepts of divinity; attitudes concerning gender, control, and desire; the question of reality and illusion; and the impermanent and the eternal in the two great Sanskrit epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Among the questions Doniger considers are: Are Hindus monotheists or polytheists? How can atheists be Hindu, and how can unrepentant Hindu sinners find salvation? Why have Hindus devoted so much attention to the psychology of addiction? What does the significance of dogs and cows tell us about Hinduism? How have Hindu concepts of death, rebirth, and karma changed over the course of history? How and why does a pluralistic faith, remarkable for its intellectual tolerance, foster religious intolerance?

Doniger concludes with four concise autobiographical essays in which she reflects on her lifetime of scholarship, Hindu criticism of her work, and the influence of Hinduism on her own philosophy of life. On Hinduism is the culmination of over forty years of scholarship from a renowned expert on one of the world's great faiths.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/10/2014
Doniger (The Hindus: An Alternative History) covers vast ground in this compendium of a lifetime of scholarship on diverse aspects of this world religion. She examines: the question of whether Hinduism is monotheistic or polytheistic; transgendered gods; reasons for intolerance in a faith often portrayed as supporting all religions; the Dalit (untouchable) class; the status of women; and the seismic impact of Edward Said’s Orientalism—Doniger believes we can now move beyond damage the West has done to Asian studies to appreciate Western scholars’ contributions. A fascinating chapter—one of many—describes the complicated interplay between Hinduism and Western gymnastics movements in the late 19th century that led to the development of modern yoga—less an ancient Hindu practice than a hybridizing of East and West. Religion does not develop in a vacuum, Doniger insists. Hinduism, a faith identified with a particular place and people, has responded to incursions—Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, political-imperial—to become a complex, often self-contradictory, but still discernible whole. For anyone seeking a deeper and more nuanced understanding of Hinduism, this book is a must read. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

"For anyone seeking a deeper and more nuanced understanding of Hinduism, this book is a must read." --Publishers Weekly

"Clear and direct this will stand as a reliable resource to return to frequently." --Library Journal

"On Hinduism is a treat. For those who already know and admire Wendy Doniger's work, this is a handy (if hefty) compendium of many of her essays.... For those who are reading her for the first time, the book is a marvellous introduction to the multiple ways that Hinduism can be approached and understood through the stories that it tells.... In short, the book is a winner on all counts." --Livemint

"Doniger really is a surprising writer. When you are not busy being astounded by her knowledge of the religion and its history, you are left wondering at the beautiful stories she culls out from ancient Hindu texts, and the unexpected connections she draws between pieces which appear centuries apart from each other. But the picture she paints is always complete, and the analysis she draws always fulfilling." --The Sunday Indian

"These lively essays, flowing from Wendy Doniger's decades-long encounter with Hinduism, show us what can happen when an extraordinary mind takes up an even more extraordinary subject. The constant freshness of her insights, the remarkable range of her reading, her eye for gender, and her unrivalled ability to enter and enact a story-all this is revealed over and over as we turn these pages. A collection to honor and celebrate." --John Stratton Hawley, author of The Memory of Love: Surdas Sings to Krishna

"This is a wonderful book, written with the grace and humor we have come to expect from Professor Doniger. There is an energy to the writing that carries the reader along. The book succeeds in presenting the complex and contentious range of cultural forms we call 'Hinduism' in a way that explains their complexity while identifying their uniting features. This book is a treat and pleasure to read." --Gavin Flood, Professor of Hindu Studies and Comparative Religion, Oxford University

Library Journal
02/15/2014
Doniger (Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions, Univ. of Chicago; The Hindus: An Alternative History) collects—and revises—some 40-plus of her scholarly papers on Hinduism, written over the last decades. The pieces form a retrospective of her career as a Sanscrit scholar, historian, and theorist of comparative religion, as well as a reflection of her current thinking. She groups the articles topically into seven sections: On Being Hindu; Gods, Humans, and Anti-Gods; Women and Other Genders; Kama and Other Seductions; Horses and Other Animals; Illusion and Reality in the Hindu Epics; and On Not Being Hindu. In this last section she compares this book to her previous one, above, which was explicitly aimed at a general readership. This book assumes some basic knowledge of the subject, but her writing is clear and direct and will be intelligible to readers unacquainted with the technicalities of Hindu doctrine and literature. She's particularly impressive in her discussions of the mythologies of ancient Hindu literature, of sexual theory and practice, and on how these influence current Indian society. VERDICT Readable and worthwhile for both scholars and interested laypeople, this will stand as a reliable resource to return to frequently.—James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199360079
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/3/2014
  • Pages: 680
  • Sales rank: 443,310
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Wendy Doniger is the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago and the author of over 30 books, most recently The Hindus: An Alternative History.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Foreword into the Past
A Chronology

I. On Being Hindu

Hinduism by Any Other Name
Are Hindus Monotheists or Polytheists?
Three (or More) Forms of the Three (or More) - Fold Path in Hinduism
The Concept of Heresy in Hinduism
Eating Karma
Medical and Mythical Constructions of the Body in Sakskrit Texts
Death and Rebirth in Hinduism
Forgetting and Re-awakening to Incarnation
Assume the Position: The Fight over the Body of Yoga
The Toleration of Intolerance in Hinduism
The Politics of Hinduism Tomorrow

II. Gods, Humans and Anti-Gods

Saguna and Nirguna Images of the Deity
You Can't Get Here from There: The Logical Paradox of Hindu Creation Myths
Together Apart: Changing Ethical Implications of Hindu Cosmologies
God's Body, or, the Lingam Made Flesh: Conflicts over the Representation of Shiva
Sacrifice and Subsitution: Ritual Mystification and Mythical Demystification in Hinduism
The Scrapbook of Undeserved Salvation: The Kedara Khanda of the Skanda Purana

III. Women and Other Genders

Why Should a Brahmin Tell You Whom to Marry?: A Deconstruction of the Laws of Manu
Saranyu/Samjna: The Sun and the Shadow
The Clever Wife in Indian Mythology
Rings of Rejection and Recognition in Ancient India
The Third Nature: Gender Inversions in the Kamasutra
Bisexuality and Transsexuality Among the Hindu Gods
Transsexual Transformations of Subjectivity and Memory in Hindu Mythology

IV. Kama and other Seductions

The Control of Addiction in Ancient India
Reading the Kamasutra: It Isn't All About Sex
The Mythology of the Kamasutra
From Kama to Karma: The Resurgence of Puritanism in Contemporary India

V. Horses and Other Animals

The Ambivalence of Ahimsa
Zoomorphism in Ancient India: Humans More Bestial Than Beasts
The Mythology of Horses in India
The Submarine Mare in the Mythology of Shiva
Indra as the Stallion's Wife
Dogs as Dalits in Indian Literature
Sacred Cows and Beefeaters

VI. Illusion and Reality in the Hindu Epics

Impermanence and Eternity in Hindu Epic, Art and Performance
Shadows of the Ramayana
Women in the Mahabharata
The History of Ekalavya

VII. On Not Being Hindu

"I Have Scinde": Orientalism and Guilt
Doniger O'Flaherty on Doniger
You Can't Make an Omelette
The Forest-Dweller

Appendix I: Limericks on Hinduism
Appendix II: Essays on Hinduism by Wendy Doniger
List of Abbreviations
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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