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Showing posts from 2007

An End to Suffering

Mishra, Pankaj. An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World. Picador, 422 p.

Part travelogue, part autobiography, and part philosophical meditation, Mishra takes the reader on a spiritual journey into the heart of Buddhism. He wants to know whether Buddhism still speaks to the modern world. After years of wandering around India, visiting towns large and small, and seeking out western adherents as well, Mishra finds that Buddhism indeed is relevant. He finds the philosophy to be internally consistent and intellectually sound. Visiting Buddhist temples in California, he muses about the changes Buddhism has undergone as it becomes westernized. America has a way of transforming everything it touches and eastern religions are no exception.

As one who has practiced yoga for many years, I can say it too has been transformed by its encounter with America. Most folks who say they study yoga refer only to the physical postures, with little, if any, awareness that there is a huge body of philoso…
Perez-Reverte, Arturo. The Club Dumas. Harvest Books, 1993, 362 p.

Lucas Corso is asked to verify the authenticity of a previously unknown manuscript that seems to have been written by Alexander Dumas. The manuscript is a chapter for the serialization of The Three Musketeers, which appeared in a French magazine in the 18th century. Soon enough Corso is given another job. This time he is given one of three extant copies of book condemned by the Inquisition in the 16th century and whose author was burned at the stake. After several assault attempts, Corso wonders how the books are tied together and who is out to do him in.

Perez-Reverte took me on a ride full of unexpected twists and turns. He explores the darker corners of the rare book world, taking the reader along to meet the wealthy and the obsessed who inhabit this world. Full of sly references to many other authors and books, this book will keep you guessing until the end. Then it doesn't so much tie up all the loose ends as l…

Distraction

Sterling, Bruce. Distraction. Bantam Books, 1998, 439 p.

This book was enough to drive me to distraction. I picked it up after I saw in a list at CNET or Wired or someplace like that and it was lauded as one of the most influential SF books of the last decade. Or something like that. Hard to understand why. It's not that Sterling didn't have a good idea for the plot. He did. Imagine a near-future USA where the political establishment is all but impotent, where regional authority has by and large replaced national cohesion. Global warming has seriously altered the world's climate. Genetic engineering is careening out of control. Privacy has all but disappeared. But politicians still pretend they matter and campaigns are still run. Into this world steps Oscar Valparaiso, the handler for newly elected senator, Alcott Bambakia. It's a nice set-up. Unfortunately Sterling doesn't do much with it. Or rather he doesn't let his story unfold. Instead we are treated to pag…

Over Sea, Under Stone

Cooper, Susan. Over Sea, Under Stone, Aladdin Paperbacks, 1965, 196 p.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Three young people, two boys and a girl, are on a quest to find a mysterious object before it falls into the hands of an evil, almost indestructable man. Along the way, they are befriended by a mysterious, bearded old man who mutters wise things and protects them from bad things. Yes, it's a quest store and no, it has nothing to do with Harry Potter, Ron Weasley or Hermione Granger. Rather this book was written more than 40 years ago, long before J. K. Rowling had her flash of inspiration about a school for wizards and the adventures it held for the students there.

Of course, the quest story is old, going back hundreds of years and the one archetype that continues to inspire authors like Cooper and Rowling is King Arthur. And like Arthur, most of the time we find a Merlin character around to keep the hero out of trouble or at least alive. In Rowling's books, the Me…

The final day of Aadil's workshop

The final day in Aadil’s weekend workshop had two sessions. The first was a pranayama class and the second focused on maintaining a healthy back.Pranayama is the fourth limb of Patanjali’s system of yoga and is all about the breath. The word “pranayama” is composed of two other Sanskrit words: prana, which means breath of life or energy flow and yama, which means control or to hold. Thus pranayama is the control of the breath of life. Aadil said there is another way to interpret the word. It could also be seen as “pran” and “ayama.” Pran is “to breathe”, while ayama means “to free.” So pranayama could also be seen as “freedom of the breath force.”Pranayama requires the use of focused, unswerving intelligence. By doing this it also cultivates a focused mind. Aadil said that by requiring focus, pranayama cultivates focus. The first step in learning pranayama is to learn ujaiyi breathing. To breathe in this way, you breathe in through your nose, mouth closed and make an “s” sound deep in…

Aadil, day 2

We had two asana sessions today, well, more like one and a half. The first session began at 9:30 this morning. As is his wont, Aadil began with a lecture. Much of it covered ground that he went over last night. He focused especially on the importance of dharma, one's life purpose and mission. Dharma is the reason why we're on the earth; it's what brings us joy in life. To be successful, we each need to figure out what our dharma is. Aadil had us do an exercise to try to get in touch with our dharma. We sat in Baddha Konasana, with our gaze fixed a few inches in front of our legs and let our minds range over our dharma and the things that bring us joy.

Aadil encouraged us to treat today's practice as a time to explore and discover more about ourselves. That is what yoga is all about. It's not learning how to do a pose perfectly because fulfillment of purpose is far more important than a perfect pose. LIfe should be a joyous exploration of the spirit and yoga helps us…

Yoga weekend with Aadil

Aadil Palkhivala is in East Lansing this weekend for a 3-day yoga workshop. It started at noon today with a three hour asana practice and concluded with a 2.5 hour talk and discussion about yoga philosophy.

Aadil began the afternoon session with a short introduction. He talked about the necessity of finding joy in the practice. The best way to do that is to stop focusing on achieving perfection in the pose. Forget about thinking it all through and just feel the actions in the pose. Aadil said too many people take asana way too seriously. Asana is a necessity to learn yoga but it's not important. Asana is best used to train the body for yoga. At one point in the middle of the practice, Aadil commented that there are three requirements for growth to happen: joy, health, and wealth. Without them, it's impossible to progress in yoga or life.

The practice we did started out with Aadil's morning sequence then moved into Surya Namaskar, which we did 3 times. Here are the rest of th…