Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines

René Guénon

Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2002.
276 pages
ISBN: 0-900588-73-X
Price: $19.75 US
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ISBN: 0-900588-74-8
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René Guénon’s first book, Introduction to the Study of Hindu Doctrines, came (in the words of the eminent scholar S.H. Nasr) ‘like a sudden burst of lightning, an abrupt intrusion into the modern world of a body of knowledge and a perspective utterly alien to the prevalent climate and world view.’ In this book Guénon establishes the criteria which formed the basis of his later works and set the tone for the Traditionalist School that came after him: the meaning of Tradition, the relationship between ‘religion’, ‘theology’, ‘metaphysics’, etc.—all leading up to an exhaustive definition and comprehensive overview of Hinduism, which Guénon saw as the most ancient and most complete spiritual tradition on earth, embracing the most profound and explicit metaphysics. The West is now overrun with many brands of compromised Hinduism, whose ‘gurus’ are considered charlatans by traditional Hindu authorities. For anyone drawn to the Hindu tradition, searching for a way to separate the wheat from the chaff and dedicated to gaining an understanding of the universe that is Hinduism in its own terms and not those imposed by modernist Western assumptions, this book is indispensable.

In Part I, Guénon clears away certain ingrained prejudices inherited from the ‘Renaissance’, with its adulation of the Greco-Roman culture and its compensating depreciation—both deliberate and instinctive—of other civilizations. In Part II he establishes the fundamental distinctions between various modes of thought and brings out the real nature of metaphysical or universal knowledge—an understanding of which is the first condition for the personal realization of that ‘Knowledge’ which partakes of the Absolute. Part III presents a more detailed examination of the Hindu doctrine and its applications at different levels, leading up to the Vedanta, which constitutes its metaphysical essence. Lastly, Part IV resumes the task of clearing away current misconceptions, but is this time concerned not with the West itself, but with distortions of the Hindu doctrines that have arisen as a result of attempts to read into them, or to graft onto them, modern Western conceptions. The concluding chapter lays down the essential conditions for any genuine understanding between East and West, which can only come through the work of those who have attained, at least in some degree, to the realization of ‘wisdom uncreate’—that intellective, suprarational knowledge called in the East jñana, and in the West gnosis.

Table of Contents


East and West—The Divergence—The Classical Prejudice—Relations between the Peoples of Antiquity—Questions of Chronology—Linguistic Difficulties


Main Divisions of the Eastern World—Principles of Unity of the Eastern Civilizations—What is Meant by Tradition?—Tradition and Religion—Essential Characteristics of Metaphysics—Relations between Metaphysics and Theology—Symbolism and Anthropomorphism—Metaphysical Thought and Philosophical Thought—Esoterism and Exoterism—Metaphysical Realization


On the Exact Meaning of the Word 'Hindu'—Perpetuity of the Veda—Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy—Concerning Buddhism—The Law of Manu—Principles Governing the Institution of Caste—Shaivism and Vaishnavism—Points of View within the Doctrine—Nyaya—Vaisheshika—Sankhya—Yoga—Mimansa—Vedanta—Supplementary Remarks on the Doctrine as a Whole—The Traditional Teaching


Official Orientalism—The Science of Religions—Theosophism—Vedanta Westernized—Additional Remarks—Conclusion


The Collected Works of René Guénon brings together the writings of one of the greatest prophets of our time, whose voice is even more important today than when he was alive.
Huston Smith, author of The World's Religions

Guénon established the language of sacred metaphysics with a rigor, a breadth, and an intrinsic certainty such that he compels recognition as a standard of comparison for the twentieth century.
Jean BorellaModern Esoteric Spirituality

In the exercise of the central function of restoring the great principles of traditional metaphysic to Western awareness this true jñanin gave proof of a universality of understanding that for centuries had had no parallel in the Western world.
Frithjof SchuonLanguage of the Self

About the Author

René Guénon (1886–1951) was one of the great luminaries of the twentieth century, whose critique of the modern world has stood fast against the shifting sands of intellectual fashion. His extensive writings, now finally available in English, are a providential treasure-trove for the modern seeker: while pointing ceaselessly to the perennial wisdom found in past cultures ranging from the Shamanistic to the Indian and Chinese, the Hellenic and Judaic, the Christian and Islamic, and including also Alchemy, Hermeticism, and other esoteric currents, they direct the reader also to the deepest level of religious praxis, emphasizing the need for affiliation with a revealed tradition even while acknowledging the final identity of all spiritual paths as they approach the summit of spiritual realization. His greatest contributions are a blindingly lucid exposition of the principles of orthodoxy and traditional metaphysics, an uncompromising critique of the deviation of modernism, and a breath-taking view of the polyvalence of traditional symbols. Implicit in these three genres, as in all Guénon's writing, is the need for personal affiliation with an orthodox tradition as a precondition for a bona fide spiritual practice that might lead, at least in principle, to the intellectual intuition of which he speaks. Little known in the English-speaking world till the recent appearance of his Collected Works in translation, Guénon has nevertheless long been recognized as a veritable criterion of truth by a vanguard of remarkable writers who evince that rare combination: intellectuality and spirituality. Regarded by leading scholars as the first truly authentic interpreter of many Eastern doctrines in the West, Guénon never tired, in face of the seemingly inexorable process of dissolution in the twentieth century, of pointing to the transcendent unity of all religious faiths and the abiding Truth that contains them all.