PRABHA Duneja, founder and president of the Geeta Society, is also an active member of the Women's Federation for World Peace and the United Nations Association, USA. She is also the chairwoman of the Women's Interfaith Circle of Service/CC-URI and a recipient of the Global Citizen award, given by UNA- USA. She travels extensively and is a frequent speaker at the Commonwealth Club San Francisco, the Parliament of World's Religions, schools, universities, churches, mosques, and interfaith conferences.
Mrs. Duneja, a graduate from the Sanskrit University of Kurukshetra, is a well-known Vedic scholar and a devotee of Lord Krishna. She is the author of The Legacy of Yoga in Bhagawad Geeta, Mantra and the Modem Man, Bhagawad Geeta: The Gospel of Timeless Wisdom, and has also recorded several series of lectures on the science of yoga and meditation, the secret powers of mantra, and The Bhagawad Geeta.
Over the last 15 years, I have had the opportunity to speak on Hinduism at interfaith conferences, the Parliament of World's Religions, the Commonwealth Club San Francisco, and at numerous schools, colleges, churches, and temples both in the United States and abroad. Everywhere, J noticed a sincere interest of the audiences in the study of ancient Hindu scriptures and religious practices; and quite often I received requests for the recommendation of a book that would explain the essential features of the Hindu religion in a short and simple format. Observing the immense popularity of Hinduism in the West and a sincere request for another book, I decided to compile the several topics of my lectures on the fundamentals of the Hindu religion, which I have been sharing with students at the universities and with other admirers of Hindu philosophies, customs, and ceremonies.
In this book I have sincerely endeavored to give an introduction to the study of the Hindu religion both in its theoretical as well as practical aspects. Beginning from an introduction to the Holy Vedas, Upanishads, and Manusmriti, through the great epics-the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, with a brief summary of the Bhagawad Geeta, the Hindu gods and goddesses, festivals and the customs of our rich cultural heritage, I have tried to cover a wide spectrum of subjects to the interest of the younger generation, from a new and contemporary way of life. The short and succinct summary of the Vedic rites and rituals, Patanjali Ashtanga Yoga and meditation makes the book more faithful to its subject.
The Vedic religious practices have been created and supported by some spiritual concepts and loyalty to the perseverance of these traditions has been emphasized over centuries. The entire social structure in Hindu society is centered in religious beliefs, followed by Hindu families through the ages. The contents of all the essays are intended to add depth to the clear understanding of time-honored spiritual traditions that form the significant features of Hindu culture. Each topic offers valuable insights into the systematic exploration of the subject. I hope the explanation of the vital aspects of Hindu religion covered in the following pages will provide an enlightened perspective, in this age of increased curiosity and the desire to create a global family.
In the course of my writing this concise commentary on the Hindu scriptures, occasionally, I was struck by a sense of awe and wonder as I glanced through the passages of the Holy Vedas, Upanishads, and other scriptures. It has been one of the most wondrous experiences of my life. I was really overwhelmed by the intellectual abilities, the heightened intuition, and the mesmerizing yogic powers of the divine sages, who compiled their valuable theses on scientific research and spiritual experiences. In connection with each of the topics addressed in this book, I have genuinely attempted to provide sufficient information from the texts concerned, in order to satisfy the immediate need of the beginners, who are interested in the multi-faceted aspects of Hinduism.
Although, most of these lectures have been revised for publication, still the informal style has been retained to some extent, which I thought had some significant value in itself. Also the readers may come across some repetition because of the essential character of the subject matter and my continuous effort to find the bridges that would connect the preceding chapter with the next; but I am sure that the inspired spontaneity in explanation will keep the interest alive for optimum benefits. It is hoped that the message of the melodious hymns of the Vedas, the profound treatises on Upanishads, and the timeless wisdom of the Bhagawad Geeta presented here will evoke in many the earnest desire to pursue the detailed study of these great scriptures and enrich their lives.
While sharing my understanding of Hinduism, I have often felt the living presence of those great Rishis who encapsulated the Divine wisdom in their yogic unity with the soul, and also shared their knowledge with their most inquisitive disciples at the Gurukuls (schools) of ancient India. The escription of the notable celebrities in the two great epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata aroused my genuine devotion to Lord Rama and Lord Krishna. Even while writing on Hindu gods and goddesses I often felt in personal communion with the deities and sharing the subjective experience of spiritual ecstasy. The explanation of Hindu Samskaras and the popular religious practices has also come quite spontaneously because of my direct involvement in the performance of Hindu rites and rituals over the past several years in the USA and abroad. In these essays I have tried to give only a few glimpses of the great philosophical treatises and the highly cherished spiritual practices of Hindu religion, which are truly beyond accurate counting and descriptions.
I hope this book will offer a valuable overview of the connecting points into the study of Hinduism through the ages. I have made sincere efforts to present before the modem world, the timeless wisdom of Hindu scriptures treasured over centuries and to answer the questions I have often encountered from my audiences at schools, colleges, and conferences. I sincerely believe that this elegant edition will open another door to enter into the spirit of Hindu philosophies and help in the mobilization of our inherent spiritual intimacy centered in the Supreme-soul. There are hundreds of books on Hinduism written by the learned exponents of Hindu heritage. All these commentaries by learned Indians as well as erudite Western scholars are worthy of genuine respect and appreciation.
This book is only a humble addition to the work which has been accomplished by the previous expounders of Hinduism. I feel immensely blessed that the essential philosophies and the performance of the spiritual practices of Hindu rites and rituals, which I have enjoyed sharing with others over the last several years, is finally going to be presented as a commentary to the admirers of Hindu traditions.
May the teachings of the Holy scriptures and Yogic unity with the Supreme-soul bless everyone with the power of enlightened love, devotion, spiritual intimacy, and true knowledge-restoring peace, happiness, and harmony on Earth.
The reader of Hinduism-Scriptures & Practices is in for a real joy. For many decades Prabha Duneja has been foremost among that rare sort of deeply devoted religious practitioners who also direct an equal share of their attention to interpreting their tradition to those outside the fold. For a dozen-plus years my own students at Saint Mary's College of California have been privileged to learn about Hinduism from Prabha, either directly from her when she has visited my classroom or when we have met her at a temple, or by means of her written work, most notably until now her volume The Legacy of Yoga in Bhagawad Geeta, which provides not only a fresh translation of the Geeta but also a deeply thoughtful commentary on it.
In all of her work, Duneja writes with the assurance of one who has not only spent decades translating sacred Hindu texts from Sanskrit into English or an equal number of years interpreting Hindu rituals and practice for those uniformed about them, but as one who understands the practice and study of Hinduism by having spent a lifetime immersed in it. In this volume, Duneja makes a unique contribution by presenting Hinduism not merely as either an ancient set of ethical codes of conduct or as a timeless philosophical outlook but, rather, as a vibrant, living tradition in which life's greatest questions and most profound meanings may be worked out.
While cognizant of the many other scholarly works already on the shelf, Duneja's voice stands out among them. This is not a volume for those interested in picking apart Hindu Scripture in its finest grammatical details. Those sorts of books already exist. Neither is this an arms-length, academic interrogation of traditions that analyzes the very life out of them. Rather, Hinduism Scriptures & Practices makes it greatest contribution by extolling the virtues of those scriptures and explaining their application to daily life. This volume presents an informed and intelligent interpretation of the spiritual realities resident within Hindu Scripture and practices, allowing readers to experience firsthand how a Hindu woman understands them. In an age when tradition is often dismissed as simply "myth" or "legend," Duneja reminds us of the greater truths and essential life lessons at the very core of this tradition.
Duneja is to be rightly praised for her careful explication of Hindu beliefs and practices, which those of us raised beyond their scope often find bewildering. Whether explaining the nature of the Divine, the 16 Samskaras, or discussing any number of festivals, Duneja always has her sights trained on her audience and thoughtfully delivers uniformly insightful explanations. This is a volume written for those in need of careful reflection and explanation from the inside, one that doesn't devolve into the tedious and unimportant distinctions that are often drawn in the scholar's study, and obscure the larger truths of Hinduism.
It is a great pleasure to recommend this work. Persons seeking a Hindu interpretation of Hinduism will immeasurably enriched by reading it, and all persons will be challenged to live more thoughtful lives by thoughtfully examining its pages.
Hindu religion, or Sana tan Vedic Dharma, is the ancient code of conduct supported by the voice of the inner-Self. Sanatan Vedic Dharma is as old as human civilization itself. It has evolved over thousands of years. Since Vedic knowledge developed originally in the Indus Valley, it is also known as Hindu Religion. The oldest and the most prominent scriptures of Hindu Dharma are the four Vedas, the Upanishads, Manusmriti, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Bhagawad Geeta. The essential message of these Holy books is to live in peace and harmony with ourselves, with other people, and with nature. The hymns of the Vedas describe the glories of the Supreme power and the perennial inter-dependence, which exists between God, nature, and the other created beings. In the Vedas there are beautiful illustrations of the origin of the world and detailed descriptions of the bounties and blessings of nature.
The four Vedas, the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda, and the Atharvaveda, have been revealed to the four privileged sages-Agni, Vayu, Aditya, and Angira-at the beginning of creation. The Rigveda was revealed to the great sage Agni, the Yajurveda to sage Vayu, the melodies of the Samaveda were revealed to the great Rishi Aditya, and the great sage Angira was blessed with the hymns of the Atharvaveda. In the Vedic hymns we find a remarkable fusion of spirituality, philosophy, science, and religion The power and glory of God have been represented by the traditional Vedic personification of gods and goddesses. Each of these four Vedas has one Upaveda (sub- Veda),that is, for the Rigveda-Ayurveda (the science of life),the Yajurveda Dhanurveda (the military science), the Samaveda Gandharvaveda (the science of sound), and the Atharvaveda Arthaveda (multiple branches of knowledge). The entire message of the Vedas revolves around the theme of living a healthy, happy, prosperous, creative, and productive life while keeping in mind the global welfare. The last prayer of the Rigveda is, "Aum Sam gachchhaddhvam, sam vadaddhvai sam va manamsi janatam. Deva bhagam yatha purve sam janana upasate" (Rig.1D.191),which means, "May we all prosper with mutual understanding, mutual intimacy, respect love and care while staying in touch with the voice of God, a! advised by our predecessors."
Manusmriti, also known as The Ordinances of Manu, holds a revered place amongst the other sacred scriptures of Hindu religion. Smriti as the word explains itself, is the knowledge reproduced in different versions based on the sacred knowledge of ancient literature. Manusmriti was compiled during the early centuries of the Vedic Era as a codification of the guiding rules for the proper management of society in almost all walks of human life, according to time and place. It is a compendium of ancient wisdom systematically epitomizing the rules of practice in religion political. social. and cultural life of people. It outlines the laws for the organization of a peaceful society; the administration of a country; source of revenue; methods of conducting trade, business, provisions for good education and medical care and also the punishment of criminals and offenders. The institutes of sacred law proclaimed by Manu in Vedic times, however modified and changed to some extent throughout the history, still serves as a decisive authority in various fields of life in Hindu society. The ethical code of Manu was written for the proper development of society, where everybody would live with mutual respect, in peace and harmony with each other, and promote economic progress, better standards of life and freedom. This great work of the learned sage Manu opens the door to the understanding of the entire subsequent social structure of Hindu society in the Vedic Era.
Although there are a variety of topics in the book in reference to an ideal cultural setup in society, the most popular ones refer to Varna-Ashrama-Dharma-which means the respective duties and rights of an individual at the different stages of life; the Caste System, the four Ashramas (stages) of life, and the ritualistic performance of 16 Samskaras, or the purificatory sacraments.
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