I am new to Hinduism and I find some of the philosophies interesting. What is the best way to go about it as a beginner?

  • atma+paramatma+dharma+karma+moksha = hinduism philosophy. stories+rituals+festivals+dress+food = hindu culture.
    – ram
    Oct 12, 2022 at 3:10
  • @komora I really suggest you start off with reading the Vedas. It will give you all knowledge about 80% of Hinduism. Though, know, that the Rigveda is very harsh and violent at times. It talks about the death and killings of Dravidian (present-day South Indian people) by Indradeva (the King of Devas, devas are gods) because he thought they were evil (though he did get punished.) I would compare the Rigveda to that of the Old Testament in the Bible. The other Vedas advocate for peacefulness. Oct 12, 2022 at 5:09
  • I would also recommend reading our 2 main stories, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. It is two beautiful pieces of work, but be warned, the Mahabharata is about 4 times longer than the Ramayana, and about 10 times longer than the Greek epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey combined. It has 200,000 verses. But, this will give you all the knowledge. Oct 12, 2022 at 5:11
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    Check out this brilliant answer by our dear mod @Pandya hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/15693/… Oct 12, 2022 at 7:28
  • @Harihara stop recommending beginners to read Vedas.Vedas are meant to be learned in Sanskrit and only under guidance of a Veda-Shastra-Sampanna teacher.Reading online commentaries in other languages distorts the spiritual understanding of the verses(English Translations are the worst when it comes to Vedas). Oct 12, 2022 at 7:34

4 Answers 4


I would recommend this book : https://archive.org/details/hindu-dharma-the-universal-way-of-life

It's comprehensive, but not detailed and not technical either. It's only 800 pages which is good for a general overview, but not overwhelming or lacking. It covers Varna, Aashrama, Shastras, 6 Vedangas, Dharmashastras, Puranas, Darshanas, Marriage, Dharma and tops it all with a bit of spirituality that you can find in texts like Bhagavad or Anu or Ashtavakra or Dattatreya or Ganesha etc Gitas and Upanishads.

It's written by a traditional swami, and not neohindu individuals like Vivekananda or Yogananda or Ramakrishna or whoever is in trend these days. Stick to tradition, not to popularity!

I'd also suggest that you read Puranas or Mahabharata, if you just read Mahbharata in entirety, then you should be more familiar with the religion than the majority of people who claim to be of it.

It's more important to know what not to read, than it is to know what to read. So, I'd suggest especially to not read Veda Samhita, Brahmana, Aaranyakas and especially not Upanishads. Also stay away from Aagamic or Tantric or Yogic texts, as it will just lead you to confusion as a beginner or even as someone half familiar with Hinduism.

Most importantly, DO NOT go into anything like Advaita Vedanta. It is trendy so every random guy claims to follow it. But, at best, a few tens of thousands of people truly understand texts like Brahma Sutras or Panchaadashi.

  • What's your suggestion for a comprehensive guide to Dharmashastras and solely Vaidik morality?
    – Haridasa
    Apr 29 at 15:24
  • @Haridasa Puraanas, read them all. Dharma is a lot like a language. You CAN study the grammar (DharmaShaastras), but then you only know the hard and fixed structure. To live and breathe it and be fluent, you need to deal with all the different dialects, forms, contexts and so on, a LOT of times. Which is really only accessible in certain Puranas. I'll recommend starting with Naarada and Maarkandeya Puranas as well as Mahabhaarata. Apr 29 at 20:43
  • I have heard that, but those texts seem quite extensive in comparison to the more brief Dharmashastras. I am also already beginning to understand some. But, is there a more recent scholar like 1700s-ish or earlier who wrote on this subject? Also isn't knowledge of other texts outside Dharmashastras necessary like Shashruta Samhita and maybe even Vastu Shashtras? I plan on doing a deeper study into learning Sanskrit first though. Currently learning through James R. Ballentynes First Lessons in Sanskrit with Introduction to Hitopadesh.
    – Haridasa
    Apr 29 at 21:54
  • Can you check the book and make sure it's good for beginner a skim would make do.
    – Haridasa
    Apr 29 at 21:55
  • It is worth every bit, putting in several years to read the Puranas. -- There is some things written by Swami Karpaatra/Karpaatri who lived around a 100 years ago. But these kinds of works are niche and rare. You will not even find them printed, and if they are online, somehow, then they'll be in Sanskrit or Hindi. Only the famous and widespread works get translated to English. -- And yes, knowledge of everything is complementory. Knowledge of Jyotisham is fundamental to understand the nature of most Devataas for example. -- Regarding that book, I'll contact you else where. @Haridasa Apr 29 at 22:27

I would suggest that you take the help of a teacher, who will help you to study the Sanatana Dharma. In absence of a teacher, the next best thing is to read books. There are many on this topic. My favorite is Swami Vivekananda, who addressed people who had little knowledge of this topic.

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    – max bench
    Mar 14, 2023 at 10:58

You can read Swami Sivananda's All About Hinduism.

"A unique book of its kind elucidating, as never before, the nuances of the all-comprehensive religion of Hinduism, the best extant textbook in its theory and practice." 1


Introduction to Hindu Philosophy

The primary Hinduism is based on the foundation of texts called - Vedanta. There are 6 major schools of Indian Philosophy, hence Shatdarshanas. They form the interpretation - the metaphysics, and epistemology that connects various concepts described in Upanishads.

Here are some of the best suggestions of the texts that cover some of these important aspects of philosophy.

  1. Sankhya Philosophy: The premise of Sankhya Philosophy relies on two independent aspects, i.e. a subject and an object, as purusha and prikriti. This is one of the simplest philosophies to start reading with. Swami Vivekananda used to consider sage Kapila as one of the earliest philosophers of Indian history and was the one who started this school. Samkhyakarika by Ishvarakrishna is one of the earliest texts on Sankhya philosophy.

  2. Yoga: Some schools are inclined towards mystical experiences through meditation. Yoga school of philosophy covers them wonderfully with a lot of examples. The yoga school is just a further development of Sankhya Philosophy that establishes the oneness of purusha and Prakriti through yogic practices (siddhis). Yoga sutras of Patanjali is one such text with ~ 200 verses covering this school.

  3. Nyaya: The fundamental aspect of philosophy in Indian schools is derived from a system of formal judicial language logic. The world is understood through logical analysis and systematic reasoning. Causation, perception, and inference are key methods to ascertain truth. Liberation is achieved by discerning ultimate reality through meticulous logical investigation. Nyaya sutras are fundamental texts that cover this school of philosophy.

  4. Advaita Vedanta: The premise of Advaita is oneness, i.e. subject and object are one, and the object is the cause of appearance of the subject only. Advaita holds the features of all previous schools in 1-3 in a well-established way, i.e. defends the oneness feature of yoga, and has a vast majority of buildup through Nyaya school philosophy. The three good texts on such are - Ashtavakra Gita, Brahma Sutra bhasya by Adi Shankaracharya, and AdvaitaSiddhi by Madhusūdana Sarasvatī which discusses the logical and reasoning aspects of such.

Important Texts

  1. Gitas: Gitas, roughly translating to song are some of the important sources of Hinduism via sayings and speeches of the sages and gods. There are many Gitas, out of them, the most important and frequently popular ones are: the Bhagavad Gita, Ashtavakra Gita, Vyadha Gita, Avadhuta Gita, Uttara Gita, Devi Gita, Surya Gita, Shiva Gita, Ganesha Gita, Ishvara Gita, Anu Gita, etc.

Out of all Gitas Bhagavad Gita is considered the chief summary of all the Gitas and the Ganesha Gita a shorter summary of the Bhagavad Gita.

  1. Principal Upanishads: There are certain Upanishads that are considered Principal ones and the rest Upanishads elaborate on them. There are 10 principal Upanishads on which Adi Shankaracharya has written commentary and other major philosophers have followed. Some of these include Mandukya Upanishad, Taittiriya Upanishad, Kena Upanishad, Mundaka Upanishad, etc.

  2. Itihaasas and Puranas: Itihaasas translates to Historical texts. Out of all such texts, two prime of them are considered in Hinduism - Ramayana and Mahabharata. Puranas are a mythological bunch of compilation of stories, history, rituals, etc. Out of all Puranas, there are 18 mahapuranas - devi mahapuran, bhagavad mahapuran, shiva mahapuran, skanda mahapuran, etc. There are minor Puranas apart from Mahapuranas too and are supposed to be read with the intent of pure devotion only.

Modern Teachers

  1. Swami Vivekananda: One of the biggest scholars, is popularly known for spreading Hinduism in the West. He was known to inspire various science scholars directly, as a result adding inspiration from Hinduism to their modern Scientific Discoveries.

  2. Paramahansa Yogananda: One of the sages of the century who spread the secret of Mahavatar Baba Ji's Kriya Yoga to the west that he learned from the sages of the Himalayas before he took Mahasamadhi. Popularly known for his book - Autobiography of a Yogi.

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