I've recently gotten really involved into religion. A couple months back, I was very close to converting to Islam, as many of my friends introduced me to the faith, but as I researched more into Abrahamic faiths (spent two months reading both the Bible and Quran), I knew they weren't best suited for my liking. I grew up going to the mandir and Sikh temple as my mother is Hindu and my father is Sikh, but I never really had much of an attachment to either religions due to the common stereotype of Hindus in the west (casteist, cow worshippers, widow burners etc.). In spite of these stereotypes (they teach Hinduism HORRIBLY in schools, especially in the UK, US and Canada), I found myself hesitant to call myself a Hindu. Today, I am proud to be a part of the oldest religions in the world, but I want to become an expert in my own faith (hopefully LOL).

I know the basics of Hinduism, about Brahman being the universal principle, the term used to describe the entire universe and life on Earth. I understand that through Bhakti and Yoga, one is able to attain moksha, liberty from the reincarnation cycle. I recognize various Deities' names (sometimes unique to different states), but sometimes I get a little confused with the relationship each Deity has with one another. I know the concepts of Artha, Kama, Ahima, Karma, Dharma, which absolutely fascinate and resonate with me the most. I also understand the Swarg and Nark are not the Heaven and Hell that everyone believes in Abrahamic faiths (they're temporary states of the mind after death, before reincarnation basically right?)

However, when it comes to scriptures, I get REALLY confused. From my research, there are Shruti and Smriti texts. Shruti texts are considered most authoritative, and Smriti texts change depending on the Yugas, or time period. One time, I was browsing through internet, and I saw people exposing that child marriage was legal for Hindus (Vishnu Purana and Mahabharat) and it sorta dropped my heart a little bit. I asked someone and he mentioned that the life span for men especially was lower hundreds of years ago, thus such laws were implemented in society. Plus, the Puranas are Smriti, thus laws are to change depending on the time period. In today's day and age, people live until 100 years of age. I found a couple, controversial lines found in the ManuSmriti (I think Hindus themselves say this book sucks I’m not too sure though).

My heart just gets let down easily when I start researching, because I come across so many pages that 'expose' Hinduism, especially by Muslims and Christians. Thankfully though, this website clarifies and debunks MOST of those accusations made against our faith. I remember reading "Genocide of Women in Hinduism" by Sita Agarwal, but various other people on this forum debunked or explained 75% of her lines. Moreover, I remember reading "Pedophilia in Hinduism" from an Islamic site, but after reading the first line (and the entire thing) that said Bramha married his daughter Saraswati, I knew that entire blog was stupid, because Saraswati is Bramha's consort/helper. Anyways, there were many times where I was put down, so this made me realize that I need to start reading my own scriptures so people don't bash my faith. My university friends and I might be starting an organization called, "Canadian Hindu Foundation" similar to the American Hindu Foundation, because there really isn't a strong sense of community amongst Hindus in Canada.

I'm sorry that this is literally an essay, I just needed to get this off my chest. Anyways, where do I start reading scriptures, and what do I start reading? As I read scriptures, I will write down a chronological time period of WHEN it was written and HOW society was at the time, simply to get a better sense of why some controversial verses were written at that time. This will allow me to stand up against my faith, against Anti-Hindu people.

Rajiv Malhotra's videos are helpful, and I came across a video that demonstrated how Sanskrit has a lot of non-translatable, but this brings me to a problem.. WHO and WHICH authors/websites do I trust when reading and buying scriptures.

I think I'll start with reading the Bhagavad Gita, as it is very favoured amongst many Hindus AND Non-Hindus. But there's a problem, WHICH author do I trust to read scriptures from, who has translated such correctly.

Glad to be back to my Hindu roots though (literally up until now I found out that Yoga is a HINDU thing, shame on myself)

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    Welcome to Hinduism SE! Dharma is way vast than what we imagine. Regarding which scripture one should start with is kinda falls under opinion based question which is not allowed on this site. Regarding Bhagwat Gita question, I would suggest you to read "Bhagwat Gita in the light of Kashmiri Shaivism." Also if you're interested in reading Vedas, as per dharma one will have access to Vedas only after their upanayana sanskara is done. Once you have enough reputation you may want to connect in chatroom to discuss more about Hinduism: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/15189/hinduism – TheLittleNaruto Jan 2 at 5:32
  • @TheLittleNaruto Thank you for introducing me to the stack exchange! I cannot actually ask questions because my reputation is low, but I'll join once it's higher. Either way, I will definitely check up on that Bhagavad Gita first hand. Thanks! – user22647 Jan 2 at 6:04
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    @SeverusSnape No worries! To be honest, about child marriage.. I'm assuming it somehow made sense for this to happen during that time period probably due to invaders. Alexander came around 300 BC and the Vishnu Purana was made around this time, or a couple ten years after. Due to this, marriage of girls quickly seemed to be the solution for protection. – user22647 Jan 2 at 7:20
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    @DiyaSuhaniAmarॐ Sure! Since you have crossed 20 rep bar, you should be able to chat in chatrooms. :) – TheLittleNaruto Jan 2 at 12:45
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I was like you, similar. Till 25 years I was an agnostic although a born Brahmin. When I came to the west around that time there weren’t any big groups etc. Now we see a lot of faith groups The best book that I found that helped me initially was “Hindu Dharma : The Universal way of life” by Chandrasekarendra Saraswati’s Tamil lectures translation. I bought that from Amazon. You can check that out. Most South Indian Brahmins would know him.

Hindu Dharma: The Universal Way of Life https://www.amazon.com/dp/8172760558/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glc_fabc_Zts8FbN1P22WF

Online PDF is available here


One more Online version topic-wise here (Thanks @ram)


He is a well read Sannyasin who renounced family life at a very young age and lived a 100 years. Nowhere else, I saw the breadth coverage. You do need breadth to put things in place when someone talks about a topic. For e.g what is Veda, Upanishad. Vedanta, Mimamsa, Vyakarana etc. not in depth at first but just the important aspects of that. Depth comes later. That book covers a lot of such topics in each of its chapters and each is a gist few pages so you get broad overview. And then you could search this site for e.g. . Do not get academic type books initially. Do not get a sect or cult oriented books initially. Use them to fill the gaps. This one is Sanatan dharma specific. Not Tantric or Agamic. That you read later. In fact this book covers some of that. Do not read Saivism books before the Vedic. The Sikh books (Saheb) cover gists of Upanishad, Do not delve into Upanishads right away. Get your Vedic understanding in order. You don’t want to start with Gita right away as well. Save the Puranas later as well. I got by without reading Mahabharata so far (since I’ve watched the old TV serial 😀). Bhakthi comes after understanding what is being taught...😀

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    I was on same boat.. born in brahmin family, agnostic/atheistic in college. I also recommend the same Hindu Dharma. The articles are categorized and available on website also - kamakoti.org/misc/hindudharma.html. If you only have 1 day to live and you want to learn almost everything about Hinduism, read the above. @DiyaSuhaniAmarॐ – mar Jan 3 at 6:19
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    @ram Thanks for the link! I'll check it out sometime this week for sure. My mother actually comes from the Vaishya varna, and my father is a Sikh (but he came from a Brahmin background, but his mother made him a Sikh in childhood). I was very close to converting to Islam, until I read the Quran & some Hadiths, and researched Indian history. – user22647 Jan 3 at 9:23
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    @DiyaSuhaniAmarॐ - each religion is suitable for people of certain temperaments. Just as there are 3 gunas, to cater to each type, there are 3 main religions - Hinduism (Satva), Christianity (Rajas), Islam (Tamas) – mar Jan 3 at 22:33
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    yes. an agnostic is more appropriate – Gopal Anantharaman Jan 5 at 1:25
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    @hindustudent - Abrahamic religions are NOT adharma. That would be like saying 'Shukracharya is Adharma'. Even rakshas have their dharma. What Jesus and Mohammed say is suitable for THOSE people of degraded spirituality. It's like a 4th-standard syllabus is suitable for children, while adults read PhD. After a few births in those religions, they'll get molded into more spiritual, less sensual beings, then get promoted to birth in Hindu religion. Those who in Hindu religion but behave in animalistic fashion get demoted to other religions in future births. – mar Jan 9 at 4:30

You want to become an expert in Hinduism. The books suggested below will certainly be very helpful in your project.

You should read a low level introductory book that nevertheless gives a decent overview of Hinduism. Otherwise you will have difficulty in understanding Hindu scriptures. Books like 'The Hindu mind' by Bansi Pandit and 'The complete Idiot's guide to Hinduism' by Linda Johnsen would help. Another introductory text is 'A primer of Hinduism' by D. S. Sharma. A good text is 'Essentials of Hinduism' by Swami Bhaskarananda. A good survey of Hindu scriptures is 'Windows into the Infinite A guide to the Hindu scriptures' by Barbara Powell. An advanced level beginner text is 'The Spiritual Heritage of India' by Swami Prabhavananda. You can also read 'Hindu Gods and Goddesses' by Swami Harshananda to learn about the many Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

You can then read some of the seminal texts of Hinduism like the Gita, the Upanishads and if you are really interested in the Brahma Sutra. You can read the Gita translated by Swami Tapasyananda. You can also read ‘Universal Message of the Bhagavad Gita: An Exposition of the Gita in the light of Modern thought and Modern Needs’ by Swami Ranganathananda. If you want to go really deep into it then commentaries of Sankara on the Gita, the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutra are a must. You can read Srimad Bhagavad Gita Bhasya of Sri Sankaracharya translated by Dr. A. G. Krishna Warrier. You can also read Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sri Sankaracharya translated by Swami Gambhirananda. Reading the translations of Upanishads by Swami Nikhilananda and Swami Gambhirananda will also be helpful.You will find many Hindu seminal texts on online sites. There is a list in one of the questions here.

You can then read the 9 volume Vivekananda's complete works if you have the time for it. It is available on line here:http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/. If not, then I recommend 'What religion is in the words of Swami Vivekananda' edited by Swami Vidyatmananda. You can also read Patanjali's Yoga Sutra. A good book is 'Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali' by Swami Hariharananda Aranya.

If you have the time for it then you can go through the entire Mahabharata which is full of gems. You can try reading K. M. Ganguli's translation of the Mahabharata. You can also read the translation of Srimad Bhagavataam by Swami Tapasyananda.

Till now you have gained theoretical knowledge. If you have the time then you can go through the Ramakrishna Kathamrita (translated as the 'The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna) to read about an exemplar of the Hindu tradition.

You can go to any Ramakrishna Vedanta Center to learn about Hindu scripture. You can find out about the Centers at the following web site: www.vedanta.org. You will get most of these books from www.vedanta.com or from Amazon. There is a Vedanta Center in Toronto, Canada: http://newsite.vedantatoronto.ca/aboutus.shtml.

I have given the list that I found useful. It is definitely inclined towards Advaita. You will need to read commentaries of Hindu seminal texts by other Acharyas if you are interested in other Vedantic traditions.

  • Hinduism, which is Sanataan Dharma by the way, is a set of spiritual and practical life style conducts. More than that, more than a philosophy, Sanataan Dharma is THE Universe explained as its best. Having too many books, it incorporates the real birth of the consciousness into the jivan loka. Only in the canon of Sanataan Dharma one can find logical and consistent truths explained, which lead to the Ultimate Truth or Reality. If one dig into Sanataan Dharma canon, there will be the perfect sense to everything, being Science and Spirit the same and not making any distinction. – user22667 Jan 5 at 15:18
  • Because only after Kali Yuga arrived, then the human minds downgraded, hence the religions (abrahmic cults) and a sterile and limited euclidean science came into existence. Thanks to whom the contemporary scientists of Nasa do understand the Universe and the Space and the quantum particles? Thanks to Sanataan Dharma canon: several Upanisads and Rig Vedas. – user22667 Jan 5 at 15:23
  • @hindustudent thank you for this reply! means a lot and i will most definitely check out all the websites and books you've mentioned. your tips and insights are beyond helpful. thank you! – user22647 Jan 9 at 1:51
  • Thank you @Diya I feel happy to help you as a european born I feel that only Sanataani can save this World and I hope that Indians will help me to grow and make themselves Proud to be Sanatani. It is the only way in my humble opinion as a non hindu born. Now many indians wannabe western, instead I want to be Hindu – user22667 Jan 9 at 2:17

This is my take on your question.

No matter what your faith is, if someone is regularly bashing your faith, then they are not really worthy of being your friends. It sounds very hypocritical when people of Abrahamic religions point fingers at you, given that Islam and Christianity have a very bloody history and their own share of indefensible doctrines.

There are some things in Hinduism that cannot be defended and if your aim in learning Hinduism is to defend them by hook or crook, then good luck to you. On the other hand, for the genuine learners, fortunately, these indefensible things themselves do not define Hinduism because it is very broad in scope and most of these are irrelevant in the modern day.

Some of the values of Hinduism are infact much better than modern day values. In the wars of 20th and 21st century, even so-called civilized nations have inflicted tremendous collateral damage (many times, intentionally) on civilians. Whereas if you look at the great wars of Ramayana and Mahabharata, civilians were never harmed. Very admirable ideals.

To answer your question about Bhagavad Gita, you can pick up the Bhagavad Gita translation by Gita Press, Gorakhpur. Their books can be ordered online at amazon. They also have a website for online ordering.

  • thank you for this wonderful reply! i agree, Hinduism isn't perfect. there's beauty to it in terms of philosophy, and has been admired by various people in the past and even today. but there are definitely some customs or verses that don't make any sense. thanks! – user22647 Jan 9 at 1:49

I found Bhagavad Geeta and Moksha Geeta both very useful books. Sri Swami Sivananda Saraswaati books useful as well.

See also Rig Vedas explained and commented and Abhinavagupta, Sri Swami Sivananda and Vivekananda ways to comment BG.

  • thank you so much! – user22647 Jan 9 at 1:54
  • You are more than welcome! – user22667 Jan 9 at 2:21