This book is a stupendous landmark. The author, Dr Seshadri has churned out a handy compendium of Hinduism explicating its every shred in a nutshell and yet in an eloquent manner. The reader gets to perceive the all-pervading nature of Hinduism. His book is testimony to the fact that Hinduism is a religion aiming at elevating oneself up the evolutionary ladder reaching unto Perfection in all aspects. As Radhakrishnan spake, ?The ideal man of India is?..one who has attained insight into the universal source?, thus setting a benchmark.
What is yoga? It is ?yoking the mind towards God?. It is ?art, science and philosophy ? all combined in one?. Yoga is derived from Sanskrit yug that is ?to join?. ?Yoga is union with God. Yoga is samadhi and samadhi is God.? Of the four yogas, except Raja yoga, the rest three are enunciated at length in the Bhagwad Gita. The four paths are not antagonistic to each other; rather serve to augment each other. Hatha yoga and Raja yoga are ?necessary components of each other?. The word ?Hatha? etymologically sprouts from ha (the moon) and tha (the sun, connoting pingala. And so, Hatha yoga teaches the way to unite the sun (prana) and the moon (apana), through a proper regulation of breath. SrI Seshadri goes on to correlate Yoga and Sankhya ? ?Sankhya covers the theoretical part while yoga forms the practical side?. The author expounds in such a lucid and riveting manner even the most incorrigible precepts.
The author speaks of the Shad Darshanas that constitute the classical Indian philosophy. Darshanas are the schools or systems that propound ?a way of life?. Among them Kapila'ssankhya sutras and Patanjali'syoga sutras stand out to remain two sides of the same coin. Sutras are aphorisms. And why pranayama? To fuse the opposing elements of water and fire that are among the other three elements constituting a man. Regulation of breath by controlling prana paves the way for smooth ascent of ?kundalini? to ?the unmanifested consciousness?, through the charkas. Patanjali is the father of Sankhya school of Hindu thought based on dualistic existence of purusha (self) and prakriti (matter or nature). His Yoga philosophy and his precepts are named Yoga Sutras, formulated around 200 B.C. are anthology of 196 slokas clubbed under ?Ashtanga Yoga?, meaning yoga with eight limbs. Samadhi (trance) happens to be the final and highest attainable state of a man, that may be Nirvikalpa Samadhi or Savikalpa Samadhi. Patanjali is also credited with writing Maha-Bhasya, an authentic commentary on Panini'sgrammar. As many as 84 lakh asanas were described by Lord Shiva. The mention of Yogi, first appears in Maitri Upanishad wherein the characteristics of a yogi are found. A yet another interpretation holding yoga as a marga is found in Svetasvatara Upanishad. As Hinduism has it, ?Siddhis are developed in a human being by the rise of Kundalini power or serpent power through the spinal cord?. Dr Seshadri splurges revelations after revelations upon his reader sufficient even to infuse an agnostic with divine reverence.
There are numerous anecdotes and startling revelations in the book. In ?1657 AD, Moghul prince Darah Shikoh (Shah Jahan'seldest son) translated the original Sanskrit Upanishad into Persian. His religious tolerance cost his life (by his own younger brother, Aurangzeb).? Dara says in one of his poems:
?Turn to none except God,
The rosary and the sacred thread are but only a means to an end?
?You dwell in the Ka?aba and in Somnath
And in the hearts of the enamoured lovers?.
The author has presented a scintillating tapestry resplendent with the genesis of Hinduism and tracked the genealogy of different facets of Hinduism as well as the makers of Hinduism till the modern day. Be it the ladies in mythology like Anasya, Anuradha, Tara, Maitreyi or the present day zealots like Sister Nivedita (Margaret Elizabeth Noble), all have been accorded their due. The vedic seers like Dattatreya, Markandeya, Gotama (founder of Nyaya school of philosophy) and Kumarila-Bhatta have been given their due cognizance. The modern votaries like Mahavataar Babaji propounder of Kriya-yoga, Meher Baba, Dr K.B.Hedgewar founder of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Swami Ramteertha all find their mention. All have heard about the Bhagavad Gita but how about Uddhava Gita? At Dwarka, Krishna refused to take Uddhava with him and their confabulation has been recorded therein.
The author dwells upon Vedic sciences and Mathematics as well. He quotes Prof Ginsburg, ??The Hindu notation (numerical notation and decimal scale) was carried to Arabia about 770 AD by a Hindu scholar named Kanka?. Dr Seshadri discusses vastu shastra and its implications based on the panchabhuta tatwas. He delves into the marvels of Ayurveda often called the fifth Veda.
How the obdurate west perceives India? Dr Seshadri projects the views of Aldous Huxley, Max Muller, Wlliam Jones on Hinduism that holds out their earnest reverence. Romain Rolland and Arnold Toynbee in their book, ?Life of Ramakrishna? extolled him with the highest virtues. The German philosopher Schopenhauer had opined, ?In the whole world, there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as that of the ?Upanishads?.
This book indeed serves what Dr Seshadri vouches for ? ?one that would try to answer every conceivable question one could have on Hinduism and life in general?. To eliminate any ambiguity, short treatises of Sanskrit grammar and pronunciation guide have also been included. This repository on Hinduism offers a panoramic vista into the innards of Hinduism and into its clogged crannies of time that otherwise remained obliterated to many of us.
(Smt. T. Ratnamala, 6-3-597/A/16, Flat No. 101, Harry'sMansion, V.R.Colony, Khairatabad, Hyderabad-500 004 (AP))