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Newsletter Number 42 • April 8, 2008

Books

When A Crocodile Eats the Sun, by Peter Godwin, is a memoir of Africa. Godwin grew up in Zimbabwe (once Rhodesia) which is now best known for the horrible dismemberment of a once great nation under the rule of Robert Mugabe, who has destroyed productivity and created inflation the likes of which has not been seen since the hyperinflation in Germany in the late 1920’s.

I loved this book! It combined a fascinating study or insight into modern Africa to which I had never been exposed; with a very personal memoir of what it was like to grow up there and then discover a “shocking secret” about his father and his father’s background.

Godwin is an excellent writer and he had great material with which to work. Having read this book I can now understand the wisdom of the following statement: “It is sometimes said that the worst thing to happen to Africa was the arrival of the white man. And the second worst thing was his departure.”

I never understood the indigenous culture, mostly tribal and why it was appropriate to Africa. Because Africa did not have any native animals that were capable of being domesticated, large scale farming never evolved. As a result, there was no agricultural surplus, and this in turn meant there were never any cities.

Furthermore, because of so much disease from insects and other causes, it was necessary for an African wife to bear 10 or more children to enable 2 or 3 to survive. These and other factors (which were certainly unknown to me) allowed Colonialism to flourish and destroy native cultures and traditions. When the Colonists left there remained a void because durable institutions and a cultural metamorphosis had not been achieved.

While all of the above may sound like this book was a historical or sociological tome, dull and plodding, nothing could be further from the truth. The book attracts and enthralls like a novel. The characters are multi-faceted and fascinating. The writing is topnotch. This is a story that had to be told and in the telling much is revealed about the individuals and the broad society.

I rate this book a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 and a “must read”. It is fun to read, entertaining and very informative. It deserves to be a best-seller.

I don’t remember who recommended When Nietzsche Wept, a novel by Irvin D. Yalom, but I want to thank her or him because it was a fascinating and most enjoyable book.

The setting is Vienna, 1882, and Yalom blends fact and fiction to totally captivate and educate the reader about the roots of psychoanalysis, about one of the world’s greatest philosophers, and the powers of obsession and redemption.

The book is a real page-turner and the characters are fascinating. I would never have imagined what the young Sigmund Freud might have been like, how his career took root, what his friendships were like and more.

This is a book that is hard to put down, a classic story that one can’t get enough of. Additionally, it is thought provoking, psychological, and philosophical.

First published more than 15 years ago, and a national bestseller, I am amazed I had never heard of it before. I hope many of you will find it nearly as enjoyable as I did.

About two weeks ago Dena and I drove up to Sedona (less than 2 hours from our house in Cave Creek) and spent an afternoon with Wayne Liquorman. Wayne’s Guru is Ramesh Balsekar, who, in turn, was taught by Nisargadatta. (Nisargadatta’s teachings are embodied in the compilation/translation I Am That, which is one of 21st Century’s all-time best sellers.) I Am That is considered by many serious seekers to be one of the greatest spiritual works ever published. There are many who consider this work to be the “bible of Advaita”. Personally I found it to be something I could appreciate, but not a book that really “resonated” with me.

We thoroughly enjoyed the four hours we spent with Wayne and about 14 other people. Wayne is considered to “awakened” or a “sage”, like his Guru, Ramesh. Wayne has a most interesting background, and as a Westerner I find I can relate very strongly to his experiences along the path and his personal evolution. Two of my favorite books were written by Wayne. Both Acceptance of What Is, and Never Mind have been reviewed on this site and if you have not read them I urge you to check out the reviews and then buy and read one or both. I doubt that you will be disappointed.

And if you get the chance to see Wayne, especially in an intimate setting by all means do so! Wayne’s Website, www.advaita.org , is worth a visit and you can keep up with Wayne and his travels.

Wishing everyone all the best in terms of re-birth and rejuvenation in the Spring Season,

Len

If you enjoyed The Power of Now then you will definitely enjoy The Power of Then: The Path of Mindlessness by Dr.Kudu Wooda Shuda.

“The past is Then. The future is also Then. There is no Now.”

Some of the chapters in this enlightening little gem …

Unconscious. The Way out of pain.
The Power of Selective Memory: The past is what you make it.
Beyond happiness and unhappiness: There is more of the same.
The Perfect state of elsewhere.

“Remember: When you live in the Then you are out of your mind.”

I have just received copies of Geeta For Children from India. Each chapter from the Bhagavad Gita is translated into words that a child can understand. A wonderful way to introduce a young child to the powerful teachings in this sacred book. At the end of the child’s interpretation follows the actual verses with original Sanskrit.

Living the Wisdom of the Tao: The Complete Tao Te Ching and Affirmations by Dr Wayne W. Dyer is a small paperback packed with the essential teachings of the Tao Te Ching, considered by many to be the wisest book ever written. Its 81 short verses offers guidance to all aspects of life. Each page contains a verse from the Tao as well as an affirmation that captures the essence of that particular verse. A wonderful uplifting nurturing book that brings a deep sense of peace when read.

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is The Mahabharata as told from a woman’s point of view. This novel is narrated by Panchaali the wife of the legendary Pandavas brothers creating a new interpretation of this sacred text. Married to 5 husbands who have been cheated out of their inheritance, Panchaali with the spiritual help of her friend Krishna helps to reclaim her husband’s birthrights.

Some review of this very creative retelling of the Mahabharata

The Palace of Illusions is a woman's look at crime and punishment, loyalty, promises and love and vengeance. With The Palace of Illusions, along with her other bestselling novels, Divakaruni has proven that her storytelling talents put her right up there with the best.” —The Miami Herald

”Divakaruni’s historic and transporting variation adds new and truly revelatory psychological and social dimensions to the great epic’s indelible story of sacrifice and spiritual awakening. Divakaruni has triumphantly fulfilled a profound mission.”— Donna Seaman, Booklist, Starred

"The Palace of Illusions is unique, amongst Divakaruni's very best. It is particularly refreshing to read an author who breaks the mold as clearly as Divakaruni does.. . . A creative, illuminating feminist work that compels us to re-examine the original text. . . . As in all great cathartic tales, Divakaruni's novel grasps our attention from beginning to end and is a healing, aesthetic experience." —India Currents

If you enjoyed Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure you will enjoy City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi. By William Dalrymple

A fascinating travel essay book about Delhi and its many faces. The author and his artist wife spent a year in Delhi. The basis of his quest being the legends of the Djinns, these are fire formed spirits that supposedly assure the cities resurrection no matter how many times it is destroyed. The book discusses both Delhi present and Delhi past. It is full of humor as well as a colorful menagerie of characters... Including Healers, dervishes, transvestites as well as descendents of the great moguls. If you ever spent time in Delhi. plan to visit or would like to experience it vicariously then you will enjoy this book.

If you had to put your memoir into 6 words what would you say?

That is the remarkable idea behind Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure

Smith Magazine asked their readers to submit a six-word memoir... this book is a collection of the many responses they received from both the famous and not so famous.

Here are some the examples…

“Followed rule, not dreams. Never Again”

“No future no past. Not Lost.

“No words can describe my life”

“Act two curtain brought dramatic improvements”

“For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Just open to the first page and you are hooked.

In case you are wondering what my 6 word memoir would be…

My lifelong fear was letting go.

Thinking about all the reading of spiritual /Advaita books I have done... I feel that one tenet is that you are That now and all you need to do is realize it.

As I think more about it I feel that self awareness is much like a child learning to walk.

In order for a child to take that first step... the inner physical structure must be developed for the child to do so... You cannot tell a child before the inner structure is in the ready state that they can walk. There is a line in time when they could not walk and when it becomes a physical reality for the child to be able to so. The child himself does not make a conscious decision to learn to walk. It is not desired or forced, it happens naturally when the time is ripe for it to occur. Of course when the child begins to walk... he or she may feel they have always had the ability to do so and tell their younger siblings that all they need to do to walk is to get up and walk. I feel that such is also the path to truth realization… a divine line is crossed, a pathway opened. Forgive me if this may be just a poor analysis but my thoughts tend to have minds of their own.

Love
Tony

“O Lord, give me a state of mind so filled with your Being that I would not need anything from anybody, anymore. Not even from you.” Ramesh Balsekar

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