This book begins very well and no doubt the author is a scholar of immense learning and integrity, but eventually the book flounders in poorly explained speculations.
The opening is very well done, featuring a concise and insightful history of early India, speculation on who exactly were the famed 'Aryans' who allegedly wrote the Vedas, including state of the art linguistic techniques for tracing the historical movements of peoples which I found really fascinating. He them summarizes, in a chapter each, the four Vedas traditionally recognized as genuine (which I take to mean: considered "revealed" or of divine origin in some capacity, anyway). Up to this point the book is a great introduction the ancient India in general and the Vedas in particular.
From here it starts to get more and more scattered, and the bizarre language used becomes more and more apparent. Staal boasts early on in the book of being fluent in 5 or 6 languages (if memory serves me the author...
Frits Staal is not only a reliable Vedic scholar, but a revolutionary one as well. Mantras are meaningless (try that on for size). Civilization will move forward now through developments in knowledge and technology in India and China. 'Om' is the same as 'hum'—never thought of that (in fact 'hum' is a Sanskrit word). A book for both scholar and layperson alike. Very readable and yet in depth on the 4 (not just 3) Vedas, history of the spoked wheel, Hinduism, Buddhism, rituals and mythology. Staal died in 2012, and what a gift he left us—a lifetime of knowledge in accessible, personal, and human terms.
The most original and insightful living scholar of the vedas condenses a lifetime of scholarship into 500 eye opening and readable pages. The best introduction to India's sacred heritage recommended for new comers and experts alike. YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK!!!! (and we are all lucky to have the opportunity to do so!) thanks Frits Staal
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