Derek Sivers
The Essentials of Hinduism - by Swami Bhaskarananda

The Essentials of Hinduism - by Swami Bhaskarananda

ISBN: 1884852041
Date read: 2023-02-09
How strongly I recommend it: 6/10
(See my list of 360+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

If you want to learn about Hinduism, this is the best book I’ve found so far. That said, it’s still very confusing to me.

my notes

Hinduism is the most ancient of the world’s living religions.

If a religion cannot be updated or cleaned from time to time, it loses its usefulness and cannot relate anymore to changed times and people.

Four goals of human life:
Kāma - satisfying the desire for sense pleasure
Artha - acquisition of worldly possessions or money
Dharma - observance of religious duties
Moksha - liberation achieved through God-realization
Among these four, kāma is considered the lowest because this urge is common to both man and animals.
Artha, on the other hand, is noticeable mainly in human beings, and is considered superior to kāma.
Dharma is no other than a training in self-sacrifice.
Kāma and artha are rooted in selfishness, dharma is not. Thus, dharma is superior to kāma and artha.    

No matter how much pleasure or money he gets, he craves for more. He cannot find satisfaction through them.
This awareness inspires him to turn around and consciously search for that fountain of Infinite Bliss within himself.
When he arrives at this perennial source of Infinite Bliss, all his wants and cravings disappear.

A need was felt to collect and compile the Vedic Truths.
A sage named Krishna Dvaipāyana collected them from different sources and recorded them in a book called the Vedas.
Krishna Dvaipāyana was given the name Veda Vyāsa.
His birthday is called Guru Pūrnimā or Guru’s Day.
The Vedic texts must be at least 4000 years old.
Vyāsa lived before the 4th century B.C.

Two great epics, the Rāmāyana and the Mahābhārata, which were composed by the sages Vālmīki and Vyāsa respectively.
These contain many scriptural teachings side by side with the stories of the various Aryan clans and dynasties.
The Bhagavad Gītā is included in the Mahābhārata.
Both have many exalted characters who are considered role models.

Bhagavad Gītā contains most of the essential teachings of the Upanishads.
It contains a dialogue between Shrī Krishna, a Divine Incarnation.
In answering the questions of his disciple Arjuna, Shrī Krishna gives many excellent spiritual teachings.

Side by side with the Vedic disciplines, Hinduism has another parallel set of disciplines called the Tantras.
The scriptural texts of Tantra are usually in the form of dialogues between Shiva and Pārvatī.
The dialogues where Shiva is the speaker giving spiritual teachings and Pārvatī is the listener are called Āgama texts.
Where Pārvatī plays the role of teacher and Shiva the listener, the texts are called Nigama.

Four stages of Aryan life:
Brahmacharya - the stage of a student
Gārhasthya - the stage of a householder or family man
Vānaprasthya - the stage of a retired person or hermit
Sannyāsa - the stage of a monk or ascetic

There is no dating in Hindu society.

The modern Indian woman is no slave to her family, but the dispenser of its welfare.
This imposes a discipline over her emotions and desires.

Indian cows are very gentle by nature. They are like members of the family. Children grow up drinking their milk and treat them the same way pet dogs are treated in western countries. Apart from the religious taboo in regard to eating beef, this is another reason why a Hindu can never think of killing a cow and eating its meat.

Codes of conduct prevent the disintegration of the family.
Codes of conduct maintain a well-integrated society.

refraining from speaking a truth which hurts
control of anger
control of the lower passions
practicing charity and kindness to all
refraining from backbiting
practicing hospitality
Self-sacrifice is the common denominator among all these dharmas.
Without self-sacrifice the survival of the individual is not possible.
Such self-sacrifice is in fact self-sustenance and self-preservation; it is not self-deprivation.

Individuals have to make some self-sacrifice for their country to sustain its existence.

A householder must not eat before providing food for his parents, his wife and children, and the poor.
He must never scold, hurt the feelings of his wife, or show anger towards her. He must always take care of her.
He must always please his wife with money, clothes, love, faithfulness, and sweet words, and never do anything to hurt her.

A householder must never use improper language in the presence of women nor should he brag about his achievements.
He must not say, “I have done this, and I have done that.”
He must not talk in public of his own fame, nor should he brag about his wealth, power or position.
He must not talk about his poverty either.
He must not divulge to others what someone has confided in him.
He must not give excessive attention to food, clothes or his external appearance.
He should maintain the cleanliness of his body, and his heart should be pure.
He should always be enthusiastic and active.
He must be brave and should fight to resist his enemies like a hero.
He must not act like a coward and try to rationalize his cowardice by talking about non-resistance or non-violence.
He must never show respect to the wicked nor condone wickedness.
He must respect those who are good and endowed with noble qualities.
He should enter into friendship with only those who are reliable, after he carefully judges them by their dealings with other people.

The top 10% of the people who are most creative, constructive and thoughtful, do not have much to do with churches. To them the canons of reason come first, making faith secondary and questionable.

Bhagavad Gītā says, “No one can ever stay without doing work even for a moment.”
Any work done with attachment to its fruits generates a kind of psychological bondage for the doer.
Consider a florist who with great care has been trying to grow for the first time an extremely rare and delicate variety of rose in his garden. When the roses are about to bloom, he gets a call from a close friend who says, “I am going on a trip to Europe for a month. I shall be very happy if you come with me. All expenses are mine, you don’t have to worry about anything!” But the florist, even though he would like to go on that trip, feels that he cannot do so. It is as though his attachment to his exotic roses has put him in some kind of bondage. If he could shake off his attachment to the roses, he instantly would be free from this bondage and could go anywhere he liked.
An action done with attachment to its fruits puts the doer in bondage.
Karma Yoga teaches the secret of how to maintain one’s freedom even though working all the time.
The secret consists in working without any attachment to the fruits of the work.
Attachment is selfish involvement, and always rooted in selfish expectations.
Therefore, work done without attachment to its fruits is no other than work done unselfishly.

Too much optimism causes frequent disappointments, while pessimism robs people of their initiative.

Two goals pursued by man: (1) the pleasant and (2) the good.
What is pleasant may not necessarily be good, and what is good may not be pleasant.

Hinduism does not believe in fatalism.
Karma means a person’s future is his or her own creation.
The good or bad actions done in the present will cause enjoyment or suffering in the future.