Here I briefly introduce the books that I read. The main purpose is to keep notes for myself. I would be happy if readers of this blog find these books interesting. I also hope that other readers would share “their” books for my benefit.
1. Vhaya, Mee Savitribai (Marathi): “Yes, I am Savitri”: Sushama Deshpande. (pages 57)
For the last twenty five years Ms. Sushama Deshpande has been performing this “one character” presentation. The book is the script of this performance. It gives an idea about the environment in which Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule carried out their mission. It also throws light on the history of the evolution of the work, which I had forgotten over the years. The language of the old days is interesting and is appealing.
2. A Tale of Two Cities: Charles Dickens (pages 237)
I don't need to introduce this well known book. For me it is one of the "all times great". On the background of French Revolution, the story moves on narrating various dimensions of human emotions; thoughts and personalities. Till the end, one gets completely engrossed in the story.
Here is one of the paragraphs at the beginning of the novel, which I like very much.
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
It was the age of wisdom; it was the age of foolishness.
It was the epoch of belief; it was the epoch of incredulity.
It was the season of the Light; it was the season of Darkness.
It was the spring of hope; it was the winter of despair.
We had everything before us, we had nothing before us.
We were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way –
In short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
3. Gospel of Sri Ramkrishna: Mahendranath Gupta (pages 322)
This is one of the books, I like to re-read.
Mahendranath Gupta (M) was a disciple of SriRamkrishna Paramhamsa. The book was originally written in Bangla. These are the conversations of Sri Ramkrishna with his disciples – witnessed by M. These conversations tell us the philosophy of Sri Ramkrishan and more than that how his behavior was influenced by the philosophy and how there was never a gap between his preaching and practice.
I always used to wonder why Swami Vivekananda is so grateful to Sri Ramkrishna; the first time I read these conversations, I understood. The simplicity in expression of complex thoughts; the everyday real life examples; the clarity of thoughts; tolerance and flexibility without compromising with the values; innocence and wisdom …. these facets of Sri Ramkrishna surprise me every time I read these conversations.
Here are two examples:
Once Sri Ramkrishna asks his disciples to discuss whether God is with attributes (Form) or without. They discuss. Then Ramkrishna remarks, "There is no harm in looking at Him from this point or that point of view. Yes, yes, to think of Him as Formless Being is quite right. But take care you do not run away with the idea that that view alone is right and all others are false." Alas, if we all follow this rule!
We should carry on our duties with full dedication, but that does not mean we should forget the purpose of life. God should be always in our heart. While explaining this thought, Sri Ramkrishna says, "A rich man's maid-servant will do all her duties, but her thoughts are always set upon her own home. Her master's house is not hers. She will, indeed, nurse her master's children as if they were her own, saying often "My own Rama", "My own Hari". But all the time she knows fully well the children are not hers."
This book reminds me to understand the difference between wisdom and scholarship; information and experience; art of giving speeches and conversation.
If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it to you.
4. Life Beyond Death: Swami Abhedananda (pages 240)
I don’t remember when and how this book came to my collection – whether I purchased it or whether someone gave it to me as a gift. Looking at the title of the book, I had never felt the necessity of reading it. I have enjoyed reading “Lecture on Geeta” by the same author and so could not throw away the book without reading it. Finally I decided to take a decision about – whether to throw it away of keep it with me.
The book starts with a comparative review of Modern Science and Spiritualism. It introduces us to ancient belief that “there is life after death” (Egypt, Hindu, Bible, Zoroastrian etc.) and the author elaborates “scientific” views on “life after death”. The author shares his experiences of “talking to souls (of the dead) through a medium” – his own experiences and experiences of others. While reading this section I was doubtful about reading the remaining book, but somehow I went on.
Swamiji then takes the reference of Vedanta philosophy and explains that: soul never dies, it is without beginning and without end; body is destroyed but sour never is. He is against recalling souls to the earth as that hampers the journey of the soul.
Frankly speaking, I was caught in two minds while reading the book. I did not accept all the ideas the author has presented; but some of them I could not reject whole heartedly. So, presently I have decided to continue keeping this book in my collection. Maybe, during the next reading, I will get another perspective.
And who is Swami Abhedananda? He was disciple of Sri Ramkrishna Paramhamsa. For years he was in USA, Canada and Great Britain to spread message of Vedanta. In 1901 (o2?) California University offered him honorary doctorate. He was born in 1866 and passed away in 1921.