Monthly Archives: June 2017

Shivani Ahuja

June 8, 2017

The Book of Buddha_Book Review

Author : Arundhathi Subramaniam

Publisher : Penguin India

Published in : 2005

The Book of Buddha is an account of the journey of Gautam Buddha and his teachings over the past 2500 years, from being a seeker, to gaining enlightenment under a peepul tree in Bodhgaya, to having 300 million people across the world considering themselves beneficiaries of his insights. But it is no cliched account. It highlights the teachings of Buddha in a very impactful manner that will often have you stop and ponder.

This book gives a lucid portrait of Buddha as a sage with an ‘air of untroubled interiority’, who neither patronises nor needs weak-kneed veneration. He even offers unsettling home truths, and ‘articulated the human predicament with…lucidity, psychological acuity and unsentimental precision.’ He says that life is dukkha, suffering, but at the same time he gives a solution, and charts an exit path from dukkha, a way to find the truth, that is available to all who care to reach for it.

The books takes us through various life stages of Siddhartha, who from a seeker becomes Shakyamuni the Sage upon arriving at the realisation that ‘suffering alone exists, but one who suffer; the deed there is, but no doer thereof; Nirvana there is, but no one seeking it; the Path there is, but none who travels it’ The book goes on to trace his journey when he attained supremacy as Tathagata the Master, and finally went from death to immortality as Jina the Victor, the Buddha.

Arundhathi Subramaniam, while writing this book, took a leaf from Buddhas’s book, and gave a clear portrait of him and his role in offering searing insight and astringent clarity about the human life. She very rightly states that we are attracted to him and his teachings because Buddha lives through all of us, as he seems to ask the same questions that we ask—about the human suffering and impermanence of life—and he, from his own wisdom, tells us that there is a way for transferring adversity into freedom, brokenness into wholeness, the chaos of our mind into flawless peace.

She explores the transcendence of his teaching, and affirms that Buddhism constantly inspires all that are ready to learn to be free from suffering. Before this book, I read about Buddhism through Harman Hesse, but Arundhathi’s is a book that spoke of Buddhism in a language that I understood, a language clear and bold, which is what makes her writing so impactful. Her seventeen-year self thought that she could be friends with Buddha, and with that confident  tone of familiarity of a friend, she goes on to describing his quest to enlightenment and beyond.

Like Arundhathi, I turn to Buddha time and again and look for answers to life-related questions, and this book, a carrier of the words of the enlightened one, brought me solace, and reminded me, too, like the writer, of his generous invitation to all humanity: ’Look within you, you are the Buddha.’

A must read for people who’d like to read about the philosophy of Buddhism, and get answers to many of their existential questions, and be inspired to be ‘light onto themselves’.

Happy reading!

Shivani

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The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho – Book Review

The Alchemist - Book Review

Publisher: HarperOne

Published in 1993

The Alchemist is a story about a boy named Santiago who goes out on a quest to find a treasure that keeps calling to him in his dreams, a boy to whom ‘knowing the world was more important than knowing God’, so he gives up being a priest, as his parents desired, and becomes a shepherd who travels the world. He lets his dreams, which speak the language of his soul, guide him on his journey from his home in Spain to many mystical experiences in far away lands.

He meets mysterious people who guide him on the way, like a Gypsie in Tarifa, who interprets his dream, and a mysterious old king in a North African market who tells him that ‘the soul of the universe is nourished by people’s happiness…And when you want something, the whole of the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’ Ultimately in the deserts of Egypt he meets an Alchemist who helps him find spiritual enlightenment, and shows him that his soul and that of the world is the same, and when one follows one’s heart with persistence and without being distracted by the comforts of the world or fears of the mind, is when one finds his destiny, his treasure.

Paulo Coelho, in a very mystical way, talks about the common thread of energy running through various beings and things, like the surreal connection between Santiago and his sheep. Paulo often uses simple metaphors to describe complex human conditions and struggles, and with the same simplicity of his writing, he moves on to tell tales of how the universe gives everyone signs and omens, and how paying the The Language of the World its due heed makes all the difference in how well you know yourself and the universe, which in turn decides how happy you are. Such writing makes one stop and ponder about the reality of one’s life.

To me this book is a source of inspiration to rise beyond accustomed grounds, and follow my heart’s desire. It tells that even though our attachments tug at our heart to ‘make us forget the joys of carefree wandering’, we ought to wander and follow our heart and our dreams. For it’s the possibility of a dream coming true that makes life interesting.’

A lovely read to be inspired, or to get familiar with the mystical concept of how every element of the universe is connected, and hence every sign in the universe is decipherable if one has the clarity and belief. A must read for those who believe in or are intrigued by the driving power of love and the language of the heart.

Happy reading!

Shivani