‘Hinduism Explained’ by Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

Book Review

‘Hinduism Explained’ by Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

 Our weekly collaborator Dr R Neerunjun Gopee is bringing out a book in a series of publications by the Ramayana Centre dedicated to Hindu culture. Titled ‘Hinduism Explained’, the book is based on the series of talks in French that he gave during Maha Shivaratri 2014. He was encouraged to do so following the positive responses he got from a number of friends and acquaintances, both non-Hindu and Hindu, who opined that for the first time they were able to appreciate the basics of Hinduism in a simple and direct way.

A request had also been made to Pt. Rajendra Arun President of Ramayana Centre, Union Park, for the Centre to come with a book of this kind that explained the core ideas of Hinduism in simple and reader-friendly language for the young generation in particular. Pt. Arun had approached Dr R N Gopee, a trustee of Ramayana Centre, for this project, and the book is a result of these two streams.

The book starts with an ‘Overview of Hinduism’, which is akin to an executive summary of the contents, followed by a short statement of what it means to be a Hindu; this will be useful to the many Hindus, students in particular, who often do not know how to give a concise answer when they are asked this question. Then come the short and easy to read chapters, each new chapter being a logical sequence to the previous one, as elucidated in the opening paragraph of each new chapter.

As the author points out, the aim of the book is to help ‘the reader to dispel the erroneous and common perception of Hinduism as being a mere repetition of rituals’ and ‘that there is a rationale underlying its rites, customs and way of living’. Light is thrown on key concepts such as Karma and Dharma as the ethical foundation of righteous living – which means understanding one’s role and responsibilities at each of the four ashramas or stages of life. Short but lucid accounts are given of the ‘why’ of performing pujas and of the importance of festivals in making life enjoyable as well as in purifying the mind so as to gain spiritual knowledge. There is a brief introduction to symbolism in Hinduism and Hindu scriptures.

The book ends with an ‘Appendix: Hindus and Beef-Eating’ which clears a number of misconceptions about this issue and a ‘Selective Bibliography’ for those who would wish to explore the subject matter in greater depth.

The book is pocket-sized and handy, and the large print facilitates reading. On the front cover is a picture of the symbol ‘Aum’ or ‘Om’ – whose significance is detailed in the book – which the author acknowledges is taken from a painting by the renowned late Sino-Mauritian artist Anna Lan, who had presented it to him in 1986.

In the first instance the book, which is dedicated to the several Gurus who have taught the author, will be available at the stalls of the Ramayana Centre and Chinmaya Mission at Ganga Talao during the Maha Shivaratri week.

The author would welcome any suggestions, queries and feedback, which may be sent to him at: ngopee@intnet.mu.

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