An engaging, informative, occasionally enigmatic guide to the world's most complex major religion. Chaudhuri is an extraordinary character, an 81-year-old Bengali scholar, journalist, and radio man, with a matchless grasp of Indian culture and an easy familiarity with Western thought and literature. Who else could have elucidated a passage from Kalidasa's epic Kumana-Sambhava with a reference (in the original French) to Casanova?. Chaudhuri begins rather dryly with an erudite survey of the origins of Hinduism and the maddening problem of establishing a reliable chronology on the basis of all but undatable texts. He then gives a broad descriptive account of Hinduism, not in the corrupt (to Chaudhuri's mind) and weakened form practiced in today's increasingly secular Indian society, but in a composite ""classic"" form, pieced together from the author's own memories and the best accounts by 18th- and 19th-century observers, both Indian and European. Finally, he discusses some ""special features"" of Hinduism, which turn out to be mostly one feature, namely its intense eroticism. Chaudhuri accuses Hindu apologists of dodging or allegorizing this vivid celebration of sex (e.g., in the Krishna cult), and to set the record straight he cites numerous scenes from Hindu ""scriptures"" in striking detail (but in the most proper, unsmiling prose). He also attacks ""Hinduizing Occidentals"" for etherealizing a religion which is essentially concerned with the humble, earthy round of ordinary life. But if Hinduism is a religion (or family of religions) to live by, Chaudhuri keeps his rational distance from it, displaying neither missionary zeal nor personal enthusiasm. Nowadays, it seems, only the Indian masses can really live by Hinduism. A fascinating study.