The paperback edition of my book Rabbi on the Ganges: A Jewish-Hindu Encounter (Lexington Books) came out two weeks ago. Now is the time to buy it for yourself or as a gift. It will interest all those who want to know about the Jewish-Hindu Encounter including the Hin-Jews, Bu-Jews, and the Jewish Yoga practitioners that you know in your life. You can read it over the holidays. Or buy it now and bring it with you when you plan on hiking in India.
Rabbi on the Ganges: A Jewish-Hindu Encounter as described by Rabbi Yakov Nagen, Otniel Yeshiva
Rabbi, professor, traveler, storyteller, spiritual seeker, all of these roles have woven together to enable an outstanding achievement: Alan Brill’s Rabbi on the Ganges. This book serves both as an introduction to Hinduism and also as a comparative study of Hinduism and Judaism. Brill has an ability to sift between the essential and the trivial that allows this introduction to be significant and meaningful, exploring the history of Hinduism and its variety of denominations and philosophies.
Despite the enormous amount of information, the book doesn’t feel dense but rather very readable. In terms of the comparison to Judaism, there are insights both relating to the rituals and practices of these religions but also the deep spiritual teaching. Brill also shows parallel developments in both religions, such as regarding the status of women and responses to modernity.
One of the most significant messages of the book is showing how the contemporary Jewish view of Hinduism is based on a Hinduism of antiquity rather than the Hinduism of today. For me, this book has been transformative, and I believe that it will form a basis for a fruitful relationship between Judaism and Hinduism.
You can read a review here in Chava Bahle, The Journal of Interreligious Studies 30 (August 2020)
Jewish anxiety about the allure of the so-called “Eastern” religions reached a fever pitch in the 1960s and 1970s, when American ashrams and meditation centers were filled disproportionally with Jews as both adherents and teachers. (I myself was sent hurriedly to our rabbi’s esteemed wife, who had learned about cult “deprogramming.” My misstep? Having read and praised Bhagavad Gita: As It Is, a gift to my twelve-year-old self from Hare Krishnas at the local shopping mall.) Brill’s serious, respectful treatment of the Jewish-Hindu encounter in Rabbi on the Gangesprovides much needed breathing room for Jewish lay readers to think about Hinduism with a respected Modern Orthodox Jewish writer who clearly cherishes his experience
And for those who prefer podcasts for their reviews, here is a podcast at New Books in Religion with Raj Balkaran
Amazon – Rabbi on the Ganges
Lexingtom Books – Rabbi on the Ganges
Indiebound – Rabbi on the Ganges