Over the month long break I took, I was helping firm up my ideas for R for Analytics , I also took a break and read some books. Here are brief reviews of two, three of them-
This is a classical book translated from original Sanskrit written by Professor Wendy O Flaherty of University of Chicago. I found some of the older myths very interesting in terms of contradictions, retelling the same story in a modified way by another classic, the beautiful poetic and fantastic imagery evoked by Hindu myths. Some stories are as relevant in prayers, fasts and religious ceremonies as they were around 11000 years while most have morphed , edited or even distorted.
It should help the non Indian reader understand why hundreds of millions of conservative Indians worship Shiv Ling ( or literally an idol of the Phallus of Shiva), the Hindu two cents of creation of the universe, and the somewhat fantastic stories on super heroes /gods/ in the ancient world.
The book suffers from a few drawbacks in my opinion-
1) Sanskrit is a bit like Latin- you can lose not just the flavor but original meaning of words and situational context. Some of the stories made better sense when i read a more recent Hindi translation.
2) An excessive emphasis on sexual imagery rather than emotional imagery. The author seems wonder struck to read and translate ancient indians were so matter of fact about physical relationships. However the words were always written in discrete poetic than crass soft pornography.
3) Almost no drawings or figures. This makes the book a bit dense to read at 300 pages.
I liked another book on Hindu Myths (Myth= Mithya which I read in 2009) and you can see if you can read it if you find the topic interesting.
A Handbook of Hindu Mythology
Hindus have one God.
They also have 330 million gods: male gods, female gods, personal gods, family gods, household gods, village gods, gods of space and time, gods for specific castes and particular professions, gods who reside in trees, in animals, in minerals, in geometrical patterns and in man-made objects.
Then there are a whole host of demons.
But no Devil.
Mere Christianity by C S Lewis is a classic book on reinterpreting Christianity in modern times. However the author wrote this when World War 2 was on and it seems more like a British or Anglo Saxon interpretation of beliefs of Christ Jesus– who was actually a Jewish teacher born in Middle East Asia.
While the language and reading makes it much easier to read- it is recommended more at Western audiences, than Eastern ones, as it seems some of the parables are a more palatable re interpretation of the New Testament. The Bible is a deceptively easy book to read, the language is short and beautiful-and the original parables in the Gospels remain powerful easy to understand.
C S Lewis tends to emphasize morality than religiosity or faith, and there is not much comparison with any other faith or alternative morality. Dumbing down the Bible so as to market it better to reluctant consumers seems to be Mr Lewis intention and it is not as scholarly a work as an exercise in pure prose.
However it is quite good as a self improvement book and is quite better than the “You Can Win” kind of books or even business concept books.
Note- I find reading books on religion as good exercises in reading the fountain source of philosophies. As a polytheist- I tend to read more than one faith.
- The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger – review (guardian.co.uk)
- Newsweek Depicts Obama as Hindu Deity (foxnews.com)
- “Hindu’s want to take back yoga” and related posts (christianresearchnetwork.com)