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Essay

Hindu holy books

By Kip A. Cates

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When traveling abroad, it's always a good idea to learn about the religion of the country that you'll visit. One good way to do this is by reading its holy books!

This is especially true if you're traveling to a country like India. On my first visit, I made a 13-hour train trip from Delhi to the sacred city of Varanasi. I used this time to read the Ramayana and the Bhagavad Gita — two of the most holy books in Hinduism.

The Bhagavad Gita was written over 2,000 years ago and is part of an epic poem called the Mahabharata. The story opens on a battlefield. Two armies stand facing each other. One is the army of the Kauravas. The other is the army of the Pandavas.

The Pandava leader, Prince Arjuna, is deeply troubled. Why? Because many of the Kauravas that he's about to fight are his relatives. It's a family feud!

Arjuna confides his distress to his chariot driver. Luckily, his chariot driver is Lord Krishna, one of the Hindu gods. Krishna listens patiently, then spends the rest of the book teaching Arjuna about life, death, reality and enlightenment.

On the surface, the Bhagavad Gita is a tale of war. On a deeper level, it's a philosophical discussion of eternal truths that inspired figures such as Gandhi.

The Ramayana is an adventure story full of good guys, bad guys, flying monkeys and more. The story revolves around Prince Rama, his wife Sita and his loyal monkey friend, Hanuman.

The tale begins with a jealous queen who has Rama and Sita exiled to the forest. One day, Sita is kidnapped by the demon king, Ravana, and taken to the island of Lanka (modern Sri Lanka). To rescue her, Rama, Hanuman and their soldiers have to fight Ravana's demon army.

During the battle, Rama's brother, Lakshmana, is badly wounded with a poison arrow. The only thing that can save him is a magic plant from a far-off mountain. Hanuman flies off to fetch this.

However, there are so many plants there that he doesn't know which one is the right one. He solves the problem by picking up the whole mountain and bringing it back to Rama!

Luckily, the story has a happy ending. Rama defeats Ravana, rescues Sita and returns home to be crowned king.

The Ramayana is an exciting story that would make a great Hollywood blockbuster! At the same time, it's a sacred Hindu text that outlines important Indian values and ideals.

Reading holy books is a great way to gain knowledge of the world's religions. Studying the Ramayana, the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, the Bible and the Torah can help deepen your understanding of the world's Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Jews.

So, the next time you travel overseas, take my advice. Bring along some holy books to read!

ヒンズー教の聖典

宗教について学べば、それを信仰する人々についても理解を深められる。筆者はインドを訪れたとき、長い移動時間を利用してヒンズー教の聖典を読んだ。いったいどんな話だったのだろう?

The Japan Times ST: January 20, 2017

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート

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2017年11月24日号    試読・購読   デジタル版
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