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 philosophy behind and underpinning the postures. Yoga, like Buddhism, is much vaster than many realize.

Mishra is an excellent guide. If the books suffers it is in the sometimes jarring juxtaposition of autobiography and philosophy. I was disappointed, too, that we didn't get greater glimpses into American Buddism. These are quibbles though. Mishra left me wanting to know more about Buddhist teachings from the actual voice of the Buddha.

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