Monday, September 03, 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 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.


Powered by ScribeFire.

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 leave you the opportunity to create your own ending.

Picking this up at a local bookstore, I was expecting a literate kind of DaVinci Code. Boy, was I wrong. I guarantee you'll be taken by surprise as Perez-Reverte tosses out all the rules of writing a mystery story.


Powered by ScribeFire.