What is the Nature of the social order that unquestionably produced one of the greatest and longest lasting civilizations known to humankind? Alain Daniélou, distinguished Orientalist, musicologist, and linguist, reveals the foundations of India's culture and the four aims of human life as they are viewed in the traditional Hindu society: virtue on a moral plane; success on the material and social planes; pleasure on a sensual plane; and liberation on a spiritual plane. Coexistent with these aims are the four stages of life: quest for knowledge, family life, retreat into the forest, and renunciation.
A four-fold division can be found in all traditional societies throughout the world, symbolically representing the progression of creative consciousness into physical reality. In India, this division is reflected in the caste system, a social order that differs profoundly from those accepted in the contemporary Western world. Exploring he fundamental concepts of the caste system, the author addresses issues of race, individual rights, sexual mores, martial practices, and spiritual attainments. In this light, he exposes the inherent flaws and hypocrisies of our modern egalitarian governments and shows how the shadow side of the ancient caste system persists, disguised and unacknowledged, beneath contemporary economic regimes. Daniélou explains how Hindu society has served as a model for the realization of human potential on many levels, addressing sociological and human problems that are both timeless and universal.
Alain Daniélou (1907-1994) spent more than 15 years in the traditional society of India, using only the Sanskrit and Hindi languages and studying music and philosophy with eminent scholars. He was duly initiated into esoteric Shaivism, which gave him unusual access to texts transmitted through the oral tradition alone. He is the author of more than 30 books on the religion, history, and arts of India and the Mediterranean.
"This book is important not only for those wanting to understand India and Hinduism as traditional Indians see them, but also for what different assumptions and values reveal by comparison about our own Western culture . . . Highly recommended."
– Library Journal
"Offer[s] us an abundance of excellent advice about how to understand life and to live well."
– Collin Cleary, Tyr, August 2002
"This is one of those books you should give your child when they come of age so that they may understand the natural rhythm of life, their duties, how to find their place, and along with it happiness and freedom in a seemingly chaotic world."