I don’t think I could ever be a Hindu. The idea of caste bothers me too much. Plus, I don’t know how anyone could be one who isn’t born one (I suppose its ironic that a Jewish convert comments on this). Yet I have always admired the Hindu imagination. I remember when I took History of India learning that the longest epic poem, the Mahabharata, was Hindu. I swore I would read the whole thing some day. I have read three abridged versions, and have the 10 volume entire epic on my shelf. Yet I have never read the whole thing–the 10 volumes. Of course, Hindus claim it is unlucky to read the whole thing. Nonetheless, I hope to read it before I die.
In the meantime I have read other books, Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas; a similar version of the Upanishads; three redactions of the Mahabharata; and two versions of the Ramayana. I have a copy of the Rig Veda I plan to read and I am curious about Hindu Philosophy. I also read Folktales from India edited by A. K. Ramanujan. The stories in this book are not very moralistic (in contrast to the folklore of many cultures). Yet I thoroughly enjoyed them.
The following one is one of my favorite of these stories:
There once was a prince who whenever he laughed, he smelled like the beautiful scent of Jasmine. Eventually even the king of his province heard of it and ordered him to come to his court, demanding that the Prince laugh, but he could not laugh on demand. So the king threw the Prince into the dungeon of the castle.
Now as the Prince lay there in his bed, a dullard was searching for his lost donkey. Besides that, the Queen, the King’s wife, was carrying on an affair with a humpback who began to beat her. The Prince started listening, “I have no choice but to hear,” but was not going to tell the King “because it really is none of my business.”
Finally the humpback began to cry, “I don’t know why I abuse you so.”
“Oh no,” said the Queen. “When you beat me I feel like I am in Seventh Heaven!”
Then the dullard said, “While you are up there would you tell me if you see my donkey?”
The Prince laughed.
The King came, and after much coercion, the Prince told all.
So the Prince went home with a Bag Full of Gold and the Queen was thrown in the kiln.