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 be immeasurably enriched by reading it, and all persons will be challenged to live more thoughtful lives by thoughtfully examining its pages.
Norris W. Palmer, PhD
Professor, Theology & Religious Studies
Saint Mary's College of California
Hinduism—Scriptures and Practices by Prabha Duneja is ambitious in that it introduces the four Vedas, the Upanishads, the epics and the law codes of Manu—as succinctly as possible. The author also discusses the concept of God in Hinduism and she highlights some important deities with their specific worship and iconography. To wrap the book in an encyclopedic fabric, the author devotes a separate chapter on Yoga and mantra, two major aspects of Hinduism. Finally, the author introduces various festivals in the life of a Hindu and ends the book with the status of women in Hindu society from the Vedic period to modern times. This encyclopedic work is a must read for anyone who wants a quick answer to the history, philosophy, rituals and cultural meanings of symbols that are necessary to understand Hinduism at a deeper level. Mrs. Duneja has embarked on a crusade to introduce Hinduism to a seeker in a simple language, an almost impossible task when it comes to making sense of the complexity that Hinduism is. I salute her for her noble efforts.
Deepak Shimkhada, Ph.D.
Professor of Religious Studies
Claremont Graduate Universit
A devotee, scholar, priest and teacher who lives Hinduism through and through, Prabha Duneja is an apt guide to this profound stream of teaching and practice. She has “nut shelled” the major scriptures from Rig Veda to Bhagawad Geeta, including the Upanishads, Manusmirti, Ramayana, and Mahabharata – an extraordinary feat! Sprinkled throughout are tiny tastes of Hindu scriptures. Mrs. Duneja seamlessly weaves story and meaning to make this ancient wisdom accessible. Her evocative translations bring the Sanskrit to life and reveal its spiritual meanings. For anyone seeking a deeper grounding in Hinduism, this book will open the door to a house of treasure.
Prabha Duneja has created a gracious, accessible and sublime journey into the breadth and depth of Hinduism. While her book is a treasure trove of information and insight for anyone seeking to know more about the scriptures and practices of this great religion, I believe it is most distinguished as a work of love by a skilled writer. Through her engaging presentation of Hinduism, she offers her readers a rare opportunity to journey more deeply on their own path of spiritual development. This is a book I will return to many times.
The Rev. Canon Charles P. Gibbs
United Religions Initiative
Prabha Duneja’s Hinduism—Scriptures and Practices is a text should be in the library of anyone who wants to know more about the Hindu religion and culture. With its primordial nature, varied texts, and countless gods and goddesses the Hindu religion often seems too vast and complex to fully comprehend, even to many of its practitioners, but this book provides thorough explanations in a format that is simple to navigate. Part reference manual and part philosophical treatise, the book explains the Hindu scriptures, festivals, and cultural and societal norms in language that is clear and easy to understand for people of all ages and backgrounds. Whether read by students, philosophers, scholars, or simply those seeking answers to their questions about Hinduism, this book serves as a go-to guide that will become indispensable.
Literature and Language Teacher
Once again Prabha Duneja has given us a comprehensive insight into the beliefs, scriptures, and practices of Hinduism and to their evolution over many millennia, from before the existence of most current religions. She describes the God of Hinduism in the unmanifest form as the one pervasive unifying power and soul of the universe, and tells of the deities depicted in Hindu temples as the manifestations of the one God, which adherents have added over time to help them visualize and personify the one God.
As I read her description of the Bhagawad Geeta and the teachings of the divine man, Sri Krishna, I am reminded of the gospels and the teachings of Jesus. She summarizes the whole of the Ramayana, an epic tale of heroes of extreme virtue, power, and magic. The magnificent Mahabharata epic, which has no parallel in Western literature, is only sampled in this book. I have seen scenes from both of these grand moral allegories on the walls of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Professor Duneja discusses yoga, meditation, detachment, liberation, karma, and self-perfection in transcendence over many life cycles. She describes the scriptures, which contain the beliefs, ethics, practices, prayers, and hymns of Hinduism. She describes the deities and festivals.
She begins with a long introduction, which places all of these elements of Hinduism in context, and ends with an insightful discussion of the role of Hindu women through the course of their history, a tale of submergence and reemergence in current times.
This treatise might be the text for initiation into Hinduism, or a thoroughly enjoyable introduction for those of us seeking a cultural familiarity with this religion. It certainly prepares you and whets your appetite to read closer to the original epics, philosophy, and religious writings.
Thomas J Gilmartin, PhD
Senior Fellow Center for Global Security Research
University of California
Hinduism—Scriptures and Practices, Prabha Duneja’s newest book, provides a comprehensive and very readable guide to Hinduism. With great skill and sensitivity, Prabha Duneja weaves together a concise, yet thorough, description of all of the major Hindu scriptures with a comprehensive guide to Hindu deities, rituals, and practices. This is an excellent resource guide for scholars, students, and those seeking a deeper understanding of the many facets of Indian religion and culture.
In addition, Prabha’s writing is clear and direct and she makes a difficult subject very accessible to the average reader. At the same time, her in-depth knowledge of Sanskrit makes this a valuable key for scholars in the field in Eastern religions. No other book combines the extensive depth of scholarship that Prabha Duneja demonstrates so easily with the spirit of bhakti, or devotion. This book reveals the true heart and soul of Hinduism, not just from an academic level, but also from the insight of one who is an accomplished spiritual teacher and master of the practice of yoga. I think it is this quality that makes this book so appealing and accessible. She makes a very serious study a delight to read in a volume relevant to the modern world.
Nowhere has so much relevant and interesting scholarship on Hinduism been compiled so concisely and beautifully in one volume. Prabha combines information on all stages of Hinduism, from the earliest Vedas, through the major epics and stories of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, including guidance on the practice of meditation, pranayama, and ritual. There is no other book like this, which integrates so expertly Hindu wisdom and practice. It deserves a place in all libraries.
Sujan Burgeson, Ph.D.,
Professor of Religious Studies,
Yuba College, CA
Prabha Duneja presented a class on the scriptures and practices of Hinduism as part of a comparative interfaith education series at Spiritual Life Center in Sacramento, California. Her presentation received the highest reviews from the ninety students for her informal yet vibrant teaching style, and her ability to clearly communicate the heart and soul of Hinduism to a class of mostly western minds. Duneja embodies her subject and makes the timeless wisdom of the Hindu scriptures come alive and relevant. She left us wanting more and now we have it in her latest book. Hinduism—Scriptures and Practices beautifully bridges the gap between the east and west, and the ancient and contemporary. I enthusiastically recommend this text for those seeking a clearer understanding of the oldest practiced religion in the world.
Rev. Michael Moran
Senior Founding Minister
Spiritual Life Center,
The book Hinduism—Scriptures and Practice by Shrimati Prabha Duneja is a wonderful introduction to the world of Hinduism and its philosophy. Known originally as “Sanatana Dharma,” roughly translated as “The Eternal Religion,” Hinduism is like a fathomless ocean, full of priceless pearls of wisdom, fed from all sides by the rivers and rivulets of the inspiring words and revelations of the great seers and masters. Smt. Prabha's poetic and elaborate translations of quotes from the scriptures helps one's soul resonate with their deeper meaning, the conviction she portrays sweeps you into higher realms, and her direct language gives one has the feeling of being addressed personally as in an intimate conversation. Highly recommended for getting a glimpse of the roots of Hinduism.
Vishnu-devananda Yoga Vedanta Center
It has been a joy and privilege to know and serve with Prabha Duneja in our Tri-Valley Interfaith ministries and in the Tri-Valley Coalition for Peace. I have been deeply enriched by our conversations, by her generous sharing of her writings and meditation recordings, as well as her presentations in a variety of settings.
Reading Prabha’s newest book on Hinduism has been a wonderful gift, offering knowledge and bringing a deeper appreciation for the depth and richness of the Hindu religion. Spending time with this book has provided a spiritual “retreat” as these rich spiritual truths offered nourishment for my own spiritual journey. I have been reminded of the universal truths that reside in all faiths and the call of the Divine to work for peace, harmony, and well-being for all of Creation.
Prabha’s book will serve as an excellent textbook for college students and a rich resource for adult education classes in the community. Prabha has an ability to make the complexity and richness of the Hindu philosophy, sacred writings, faith stories, theology, and festivals accessible to a wide audience. Whether one is just beginning the journey of exploring the vastness of the Hindu faith or is seeking a deeper understanding and knowledge, this book will be an important companion and guide.
This book is a vital and well-written resource containing a wealth of information. But it is much more. What shines through each page is the author’s deep and abiding knowledge, understanding and practice of her faith. She writes as one with not only a profound grasp of her topic, but as one who lives and breathes and practices her faith in who she is and all she does. Her embodiment of peace, harmony, and enlightenment is evident and inspiring. She is indeed one who “experiences the presence of the indwelling-soul at the shrine of heart and exhilarates in joy. . .”
Rev. Dr. Martha Williams
United Christian Church,
This engaging introduction to Hinduism radiates affection and reverence for the texts and practices that have guided its author’s spiritual life and her love of God. With an expert’s knowledge, Prabha Duneja reviews the greatest Hindu scriptures, introduces us to the Gods and Goddesses as if they were family, teaches us about the One great spiritual reality (Parabrahman) from which everything derives, and explicates the major Hindu spiritual practices of yoga, meditation, mantra-chanting and devotional worship, all the while conveying Hinduism’s unique ways of accomplishing the work that is common to all authentic spiritual traditions – transforming self-centered life toward life centered in the Real.
Dept. Of Philosophy and Religion
Dominican University of California
Prabha Duneja’s book is a remarkable treasure, unlocking the timeless wisdom of ancient Hindu scriptures in easy-to-understand language. As a learned Hindu priest, she explains how modern practitioners can celebrate the Samskaras, the sixteen lifelong rites of passage, which infuse deep spiritual meaning into our lives. As a teacher and a non-Hindu, I can use the fascinating chapters on the Ramayana (the life story of Sri Rama) and the Bhagawad Geeta as teaching tools for character education for my students. Ms. Duneja’s deep love for all people, Hindu and non-Hindu, shines out from every page.
Kristina M. Seher
Head of School
The Principled Academy
San Leandro, CA
In this book, Prabha Duneja brings it all together, giving a complete tour of the brimful and profound world of Hinduism with the tone of a loving and patient teacher. She is uniquely suited for this task. But Duneja is not just a scholar; she is also a living, breathing spiritual practitioner. Her chapters are infused with the real joy of religious commitment.
Contra Costa County
In this engaging and extensive study of Hinduism, Prabha Duneja offers the reader a literary feast of insight and information. Written with scholarly detail and passion for the subject, Hinduism—Scripture and Practice, collects the many and varied features of this faith tradition into a study which is both thorough and moving. As a novice in my understanding of the richness and variety of Hindu practices, scriptures and figures I was, nevertheless, captivated and engaged in the explications Ms. Duneja offers the reader. For those deeply experienced with the Hindu faith – as practitioners on the inside or scholars and students from the outside – one cannot fail to appreciate the encyclopedic quality of this work. All of that information is undergirded by the obvious delight of the author in plumbing the depths of the tradition and by using extensive quotes in Sanskrit, which are translated for an English-reading audience. From a brilliant scholar and teacher, whose deep passion for her faith resonates from every page, this is a work that beginners and the initiated will find an essential resource for study and reference.
Rev. Chuck Johnstone
Asbury United Methodist Church
Whenever I teach world religion I always invite Prabha Duneja to give a guest lecture. Her vast knowledge, deep inner peace, and enthusiasm for the Hindu way radiate when she speaks. This book embodies those same qualities. All who want a detailed introduction to Hinduism from someone who loves and follows that spiritual path will profit from this work.
Dr. Scott Sinclair
Assistant Prof. of Religion
Dominican University of CA
Prabha Duneja has written a guide to Hinduism that fully encompasses this beautiful tradition from her viewpoint inside a life built on devotional practice. It is an accessible explication of the scriptures, the methods of worship, and the cultural historical through line to Hindu practices today. Prabha's love shines through as she brings her readers on a pilgrim's journey into the powerful learning that comes with encounters with Divinity. Duneja is a straightforward storyteller whose wisdom shines through her simple, joyful exaltation in the humor and depth of the teachings.
Unity of Berkeley
Prabha Duneja is to be commended for her tireless efforts to shine the glorious light of Vedic teachings into today’s world, especially through her books, classes, and lectures for interfaith groups. In her latest work, Hinduism—Scriptures and Practices, she has provided an introduction to Hinduism that is warmly welcoming to those who are newly exploring this religions’ principles and practices. Drawing from her teaching experience, she has anticipated and responded to many questions readers may have about Hinduism. This book also gives us a divine glimpse into the highest Vedic ideals, so needed in our world today.
Rev. Ellen Grace O’ Brian
Founder and Spiritual Director
Center for Spiritual Enlightenment