REVIEWS

 

Asta  Pederson-Eiservall
Rs. 60
440 pages
5.5 x 8.5 inches
Available in the Ashram

Encountering The Divine

The foreword to this book is most compelling and well thought out. It is an accurate indication of the contents and method of enquiry, which follows:

"a call for an honest examination of the validity of the ideas and beliefs we use to construct our own ‘truth’. What motivates us to adopt one idea and reject another? Are we even aware how and from where we pick up these ideas and to what extent our thinking might be conditioned?"

This is a call to self-awareness, and the need to be self-reflective. We acquire many filters of interpretation as we meander though our lives. These are largely unexamined. The foreword continues:

"Basically religion raises two fundamental questions: What is reality and what is the nature of man? Religious enquiry compels each one of us to investigate, honestly and without complacency, the bits and pieces composing our belief system, most of which have been absorbed directly from our immediate cultural and social environment and accepted without any serious investigation at all."

This declares both direction and tone of this book. It is not primarily story, retelling or miracle of Sai Baba; rather, an investigation into the science of being human. This is done with a rare capacity from the author, who delivers crisp, clear writing that lays out thesis and takes the reader to the nub of enquiry. The author has specified and delineated her readership ... those who take to heart the dictum, 75% of our time should be spent in self-enquiry.

Drawing on sources from Christianity, Sufism, Buddhism, Vedanta, Sathya Sai Baba and modern scientific thinkers the ken of David Bohm with his thesis of implicate wholeness, Frijoth Capra of the Tao of Physics, the exploration commences by examining the reality of the unseen. The seen is too often taken for the whole, boundaries exist, where objects and individuals become neatly separated... we do not everyday experience creation as the dance of Shiva. Is this all there is? What courage is required to ask the question, what further courage is required to explore the unseen answer?

Drawing on teachers indifferent spiritual systems, the experience of the unseen as uncreated light, pure essence, the field of all that exists, darkness manifest as self-knowing is explored.

Ibn-Arabi, al-Ghazzali, and The Prophet are referenced imaging human life as "the treasures of the Universe," the manifestations of the divine itself. Similar citations are taken from Jesus, Chandogya Upanishad, The Kabbalah. The Kingdom of God, Brahma Loka, Paradise, Shambala, Heaven and sat-chit-ananda are often unexamined images of the afterlife, now taken for myth and vain hope of the weak-minded. These realities are not the other world; they are this world, unperceived by the undisciplined, untrained mind.

The value of this book lies in its simplicity, particularly in the way it illustrates the similar goals of religious systems and the comprehensive failure of modern science to answer the question what it means to be human, despite the pinpoint breakthroughs of some brilliant scientists and physicists. Of deep impact is the way in which this book reminds the reader just how thin the veil of maya truly is. There are few books that gather together experiences of oneness and present them in with an impact. Here is one such citation:

"In the midst of a particularly eventful week, I was driving north to meet some friends when I suddenly became aware that I was driving through myself. For years there had been no self at all, yet here on this road, everything was myself, and I was driving through me to arrive where I already was. In essence, I was going nowhere because I was everywhere already. The infinite emptiness I knew myself to be was now apparent as the infinite substance of everything I saw." (Susan Sengal, Collision with the Infinite).

The balms of modern psychology cannot explain the spiritual malaise of modern man. Many who state they have faith and have never experienced the Divine, the "numinous" as Rudolph Otto called it, are the blind leading the blind. Feeding desire starves the spiritual psyche. The true spiritual reality of man is not found ascending Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; rather, one must follow the path of all spiritual masters and transcend getting and forgetting, to giving and forgiving.

An immensely readable book, enchanting in its simplicity and ease of connecting the insights of the scientist with that of the mystic. Not a book to be read in one sitting if one wishes to obtain the most benefit from it. With remarkable ease, the author cites from the mystics of different religions and illustrates the common source of all religions and their common goal. There is also a section on unusual saints.

CP

 

Bhajan CD

 

Vijaya Sai and Sangeeta Katti Kulkarni
Ostara Music
Rs. 100.00
Available at Sai Towers

A Dip in The Divine

This is a lively collection of traditional bhajans with a satisfactory backing with instruments, guitar, sitar, Indian bamboo flute and violin. There is nothing worse than listening to bhajans that are little more than a collation of singers and instrumentalists vying in volume. Hence, I found the strong yet pleasant singing and measured backing with good quality mixing a pleasing listen. So much more, there should be. Really well produced bhajans stay in the mind for years; I can still recall the most enchanting Murali Krishna I only ever heard once, over 5 years ago.

Good bhajan singers go through the verses and leave the repetitions last, building up energy. I certainly felt the energy rise with ‘Govinda Vitala Gopala,’ a most disciplined yet clear and distinct series of vigorous repetitions ‘Panduranga Vittala, Panduri Natha,’ which always cheers me up.

Sometimes music is playing in the background and the harmony of male and female voices singing catches the mind and pulls it away from its duration to listen enchanted. So, I found ‘Krishna Rama Govinda’.

The Arathi is much more agreeable to listen to than the usual youthful voices that hit notes that I lost sight of many years ago, but then I was never a great singer, much to my dismay and the pained hearing of fellow devotees. Love was tested sorely. However, it is pleasant to listen to a well-measured Arathi, which enhances devotion.

Cantata Satana

Bhajan Cassette
 


Singer: Dr Suresh Sharma
Saisonic India, 2000
Rs. 35/-
Available at Sai Towers

Sai Naam Sumiran

This collection of eleven Sai bhajans is a good pick for those searching for a bhajans cassette to take back home. The bhajans have good tempo and are sung by a singer, who during his days as a Sai student, had the good opportunity to sing in Bhagawan’s divine presence.

One can have no complaints in the quality of singing - a good combination of bhava, raga and tala. The bhajans selected for the album are popular ones and their lyrics simple. One could have however expected some variation in the cadence in the selections. The absence of female voices makes the rendering rather prosaic. The singer, here is never in a hurry. The rendering of ‘Jai Jai Sai Maa’ and ‘Hari Hari Bhajomann’ are indeed memorable.

The simple voice and instrumental accompaniments make the bhajans further meditative. The quality of recording is commendable.

SC