What is Hinduism? To many in the West it’s a bizarre and alien religion teeming with multi-armed gods and irrational beliefs, crawling with holy cows and complex rituals; archaic, gaudy, and defined by bizarre and very un-Western traditions such as primitive idol worship and the despicable caste system. A big, pagan city whose winding alleyways go through districts so foreign to our own culture one might easily get confused and hopelessly lost, so better stay away. As a result Hindism, more perhaps than any other religion, is often reduced to cliché, prejudice, and outright fallacy.
That’s why I prefer the Russian Doll image of Hinduism to the Big City, the outer and more conspicuous, sometimes bizarre form of each separate doll peeling away to gradually lead to an inner, deeper, single Truth common to each one. Behind the seemingly bizarre outer appearance of Hinduism lies a quieter, less conspicuous, more abstract core, a philosophical mind-set not usually visible or comprehensible at first glance, and inaccessible through our everyday language. To get beneath the skin of these deeper concepts it’s a good idea to learn a few Sanskrit terms: words for which there are no English translations. I’ve chosen ten which, it seems to me, are essential for a basic understanding of the essence of Hinduism.
Written by Sharon Maas