UNITED STATES, August 30, 2013 (Huffington Post by Murali Balaji): This week, the University of South Carolina hosted a conference celebrating the launch of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism. To be sure, it's more than just an encyclopedia -- it's an effort to tell the life story of the world's oldest active major religion.
In an age where we can "wiki" just about anything, an encyclopedia of this magnitude might seem dated, but in reality, that's far from the truth. That's because many Hindus in the United States, especially second, third, and fourth generation Americans, need a resource such as this to understand the diverse and expansive nature of the religion. Eleven volumes might not even come close to covering all the intricacies of a religion that has evolved over 5,000 years. This is an important step in preserving the philosophies and practices of Hinduism that meets both community needs and academic standards.
Hal French, a longtime professor of religion at the University of South Carolina and an associate editor of the project, emphasized the diversity of voices incorporated in the project. He noted that the India Heritage Research Foundation, which compiled the encyclopedia, welcomed different perspectives and did not limit its focus to Hinduism. Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism and even Abrahamic religions are given space in the encyclopedia.
"Hinduism has been a fertile seedbed from which many ideas have emanated," French said, referring to the rise of traditions such as Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. "I think that's true of India as a whole."
What makes the Encyclopedia even more significant is that it combines both Eastern and Western scholarly perspectives, an important step in reconciling some of the long-held tensions between the two. "They've recognized the validity of insider and outsider voices," he said. "It's an interfaith effort."
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