The Spirit of Hinduism
by David Burnett
Trade Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Monarch Books
Released: August 15, 2007
Source: Bought through Half.com.
Book Description from Goodreads.com:
Hinduism is a complex faith, rooted in the Indian subcontinent and finding many forms of expression. David Burnett brings together a vast array of information concerning the history of Hinduism, the role of various deities, the nature of Hindu worship, the role of ghosts and spirits, and more. This new edition includes updated text and added Web-based resources for every chapter, along with learning objectives and topics for discussion.
The Spirit of Hinduism is a book describing the development of different religious ideas found in Hinduism throughout its history. The author started back before recorded history and discussed the writings and developments made at different times. Since Hinduism seems to borrow religious ideas from any religion it comes into contact with, it almost seemed like it'd be easier to describe what it isn't than what it is.
I wanted to know how a Hindu lives out his faith--as in, how it effects or influences his everyday life--and how a Christian could effectively communicate what we believe to a Hindu. I don't feel like this book really helped with that. It did have some interfaith discussion questions and occasionally compared Hindu beliefs to Christian or Muslim beliefs. But generally the author tried to approach Hinduism from a non-critical viewpoint (as in, not questioning the beliefs). It was also focused more on what was taught than on how it's actually lived out.
While I probably understand Hinduism better now, I'm not sure I'm any better prepared to talk religion with a modern Hindu. This probably wasn't the ideal book for my intent as it's more about Hindu thought throughout history than modern Hindu ideas which I might actually encounter.
Update: I've read a few "what various religions believe" books now that tried to explain Hinduism. I realized that they were so simplifying the religion that they weren't much help. This book gave me a foundational understanding, and I probably just need to talk with any Hindu I come across about what variation they believe and go from there. So, in the end, I think this was a more useful book than I'd originally thought.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.