I love the way Eknath writes. Very clear. I like how all his ideas seem to grow out of this vast body of religious literature. What Joe Campbell did wI love the way Eknath writes. Very clear. I like how all his ideas seem to grow out of this vast body of religious literature. What Joe Campbell did with finding thematic connections within wide expanses of mythological and philosophical material, Eknath does with a much narrower, albeit still varied body of material, primarily ancient eastern texts, sufi poets and Christian mystics. As with any wide ranging comparative approach it can be criticised as being too subjective, too based on one's own conclusions, but for me, I have to say I like pretty much everything he has to say, it all makes a lot of sense to me.
I guess the way that we live our lives and the way that we know we ought to live our lives are two different things. We have moments of sobriety, where we view things with a reasonably clear lens and see how we should proceed. After such moments, we either fail to implement these approaches because we doubt that we have the willpower to stick with them, or we leap back into life with the best intentions and end up getting swept off down the currents of life and forgetting all our resolutions. This analogy of presenting the average human being as a figure lost in a tumultuous ocean, trying to deal with the crashing waves is one of which Eknath is particularly fond. The mantram as presented here is one of a number of methods he suggests to help us steady ourselves on the ocean, to learn to ride the waves instead of getting swept this way and that. It is a way of constantly connecting ourselves with, reminding ourselves of our principles, our good intentions, a wider perspective that can allow us to hover above our trials rather than being trapped beneath them. It is a way of saying to ourselves "wait a minute, I said I wasn't going to do this any more..."
I like his ideas and am already trying some of them out.
Eknath seems to have written numerous books each detailing individual elements of his overall method whilst still briefly mentioning all the other parts of his method. This is not an ideal way to present your life's work. It means that readers are faced with the problem of either reading one of his books about one of his methods and largely missing out on the other methods, or reading several of his books and consequently having to repeatedly re-read the elements that are included in all of them. I don't know if I could recommend any one book by Eknath but I will say that he is a fascinating and very readable writer and well worth checking out for anyone who is into this whole "spirituality" thing....more
I read the Juan Mascaro version a couple of years ago and came away with the impression that I had read something very lovely but that I didn't reallyI read the Juan Mascaro version a couple of years ago and came away with the impression that I had read something very lovely but that I didn't really understand much of it. Coming away from Eknath Easwaran's translation, this time I feel that I have a pretty good understanding of the text.
Easwaran precedes each of the 18 chapters with their own brief introduction which explains exactly what is said in the chapter along with any broader cultural context that is necessary to understand the often obscure concepts. In this manner the text becomes reassuringly clear and unambiguous. Easwaran also translates the actual passages in a way that is very simple and seemingly concerned with the reader's ability to digest the material. Take the following passage, 18:61:
"The Lord dwells in the hearts of all creatures and whirls them round upon the wheel of maya."
One short and fairly straightforward sentence, especially given that this concept of "Maya" has already been thoroughly explained by this point in the book and that this passage in particular has just been explained in the chapter intro. Now observe Mascaro's handling of the same passage:
"God dwells in the heart of all beings, Arjuna: thy God dwells in thy heart. And his power of wonder moves all things - puppets in a play of shadows - whirling them onwards on the stream of time."
A much longer interpretation, somewhat pointlessly extended with the extra dialogue about Arjuna (the character receiving this lecture). His interpretation of "Maya" as "puppets", "Shadows" and "the stream of time" is very beautiful and stirring but gives the reader no indication that "Maya" is the specific concept that is being referred to. Whilst Mascaro's version has the same meaning and is far more enjoyable to read it fails to relate this passage to the rest of the text and the broader philosophy. It gives the reader the feel of the text but does nothing to develop their understanding of the text as a whole.
So this is how I would regard these two texts. Easwaran's version is very clear and unambiguous and is suitable for any reader. Mascaro's translation offers a far more delicious reading experience but is more suited to the reader who is already very familiar with the text and wishes to re-experience the text without worrying too much about clarity of meaning.
I would strongly recommend Eknath Easwaran's translation of The Baghavad Gita to anyone with an interest in religious texts, Eastern Philosophy or ancient literature....more
I read this after reading the synopsis of the myth on Wikipedia. I liked the story so much that I was eager to read a proper version of it. UnfortunatI read this after reading the synopsis of the myth on Wikipedia. I liked the story so much that I was eager to read a proper version of it. Unfortunately the original story is just about the strongest aspect of this volume. Emerson, although eloquent and erudite, is not a particularly good story-teller and frequently breaks up the flow of the story with extensive footnotes and traditional songs (presented in both English and the original dialect). Although I knew the basic story I didn't come away from this book knowing anything new about the narrative or characters. It's just a poor piece of fiction by a writer who clearly would much rather be writing an in depth piece of non-fiction.
I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who has access to Wikipedia. I look forward to watching the inevitable Disney adaptation....more
One of the better collections of folk tales. Red indian stories have an earthy, mundane style often with a vein of wry humour. There weren't many realOne of the better collections of folk tales. Red indian stories have an earthy, mundane style often with a vein of wry humour. There weren't many really strong stories here but the perspective was very refreshing compared to the usual fairy tales and things.
I'd recommend it to fans of folklore but the quality of storytelling is probably not high enough for the average reader....more
Bosch's work is bursting with invention and barmy ideas. It's fascinating to see such surreal work coming out of the middle ages, in fact I think I prBosch's work is bursting with invention and barmy ideas. It's fascinating to see such surreal work coming out of the middle ages, in fact I think I prefer his work to that of any surrealist that springs to mind. His work is fascinating but it's hard to imagine anyone having a really emotional reaction to Bosch. I think an admiration of creative madness is the primary level on which to appreciate his work. If that's enough for you then Bosch is a pretty cool painter.
Sigh, yet another art book from the library that has had several pages torn out. People seem to regard nice pictures in Library books as being their oSigh, yet another art book from the library that has had several pages torn out. People seem to regard nice pictures in Library books as being their own private property to do with as they please.
I have no particular interest in Goya. I'm not even sure he's that great a painter. The aspect i liked most was the idiosyncratic, lifelike expressions in his portraits. You look at them and you don't necessarily feel you are seeing a very accurate likeness of a real person but you get the uncanny feeling that you have caught a glimpse of their true character, a flash of something that their friends and family would recognise. He has a funny knack of painting people as they really are, not how he wants to see them or how they would like to be perceived. Sadly this is an aspect of his work that only really stands out in a few of his earlier paintings. As he got older, he made more personal art, more humane, political, more weird and imaginative and oddly i found that stuff far less interesting than his portrait commissions.
He's not one of my ten favourite painters or anything......more
This was pretty charming. As it was for kids it had more of the quaint, rhythmic elements of Eliot's idiom and not so much of the detached, Eastern feThis was pretty charming. As it was for kids it had more of the quaint, rhythmic elements of Eliot's idiom and not so much of the detached, Eastern feel, although there was still a little of that.
I love the way he portrays these cats in such an anthropomorphic, children's sort of way and at the same time does so in a way that genuinely reminds you of a lot of cats that you've met in real life. These cats are fantastical and yet somehow still well observed and true to life. Ted Hughes wrote about how poets capture the essence of their subject by whatever means necessary and this is what Eliot has done with Cats in this book. He has written something silly and entertaining and yet the true essence of his subject has been captured brilliantly.
Strongly recommended to anyone who likes cats or TS Eliot. I think it probably gains a lot with good illustrations so I'd like to read the Edward Gorey illustrated version soon....more
Hughes brings his typical style to these myths; an intense, peering, pondering vision - resonant, soaked in blood and perhaps a little lugubrious.
It'Hughes brings his typical style to these myths; an intense, peering, pondering vision - resonant, soaked in blood and perhaps a little lugubrious.
It's better written, more insightful, more immersive and more readable than perhaps any other volume of mythology i've read.
I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been written with a lighter tone. On the other hand, as it was a transcription of Greek Myths by a poet known for his seriousness who happened to be dying of cancer at the time, I guess a light tone is the most unreasonable thing I could possibly ask of this book.
Recommended to anyone interested in Greek/Roman Myths....more
It took me about 5 months of on and off reading to finish this. As a piece of journalism you couldn't really fault it. The research, particularly theIt took me about 5 months of on and off reading to finish this. As a piece of journalism you couldn't really fault it. The research, particularly the hands on research was excellent. The problem was simply that there was too much of it. If you're like me, ignorant of Neo-paganism and wanting to know a little more, then this book isn't for you. This book is really for the initiates who find the subject to be absolutely fascinating and can't get enough of all the details about these silly, made-up religions. For anyone without a fervent interest in the subject you'll find your patience tested by the endless pages of nonsense spewed by these nobodies with silly names about their preposterous belief systems. Don't get me wrong, neo-paganism is a fascinating topic, but only when we are talking about the general themes, how it works etc. and fleshing it out with a few examples. The theory is interesting. The practice is not. When you get a book about religion filled with 70% practical examples and only 30% theory (the bit that explains why you should give a shit) it makes for a very boring reading experience.
I was totally up for reading this but lost patience towards the end. I skim-read the last 3rd and didn't read the appendices.
Only recommended to initiates of groups mentioned inside this book. Even those will want to skim over large sections of it....more
At first Hitchens' cerebral, superior tone left me cold, but after a while, after all the clever arguments and extensive historical examples, you haveAt first Hitchens' cerebral, superior tone left me cold, but after a while, after all the clever arguments and extensive historical examples, you have to concede that the man makes a valid point. I don't consider myself to be anti-religious but after Hitchens' incessant and eloquent tirade I'd be forced to admit that, on balance, humanity would surely be better off if religion had never existed.
On the other hand an agressive piece of polemic like this is the type of text that will surely only be preaching to the choir. It's hard to imagine the devoutly religious even picking up a copy of a book entitled "God is not great", which perhaps makes you wonder as to the value of writing such a book at all. I'd be inclined to say that more moderate figures like Carl Sagan who preach their case in a more subtle way and do so within the context of broader subject matter are more likely to be genuinely persuasive in furthering the humanist cause. It's this that makes me suspect that this book will not stand the test of time in the same way that Cosmos has.
I'd recommend this to non-believers who want to read an excellent essay that supports their viewpoint. If you do believe in God then you almost certainly aren't reading this review....more
I wasn't especially impressed with this. I suppose it was a lot more readable than a lot of what I read these days. It's typical terry pratchett; TheI wasn't especially impressed with this. I suppose it was a lot more readable than a lot of what I read these days. It's typical terry pratchett; The content is likeable, the intent is laudable and the execution is questionable.
Not really worth reading but not an unpleasant reading experience either....more
Pretty boring all in all. This is the typical story of my journey through ancient and mythological texts. The mindblowing, magical, profound moments aPretty boring all in all. This is the typical story of my journey through ancient and mythological texts. The mindblowing, magical, profound moments are few and far between and the tedious recounting of boring battles and exaggerated degrees of scale (how incredibly strong someone is, how incredibly noble another character is etc) fill most of the pages.
This was a version where the translator chose to present many, non-essential parts in abbreviated form. The problem here was that the book still clocks in at 790 pages (the main text) and the bits that he considers to be important are not necessarily the bits that are of interest to me. The side stories and philosophical discussions that he skimmed over intrigued me far more than the dreary battles which dominate the narrative.
I came to greatly regret reading this penguin version instead of the Rajagopalachari version which is highly acclaimed and roughly half the length. His version of the Ramayana was so informal and charming, entertaining and concise. It was one of the most enjoyable mythological texts I've ever read. I'm actually tempted to buy his version of the Mahabharata and try again. Maybe the source material is just not as strong as the Ramayana but I suspect that it was the long-winded and overly respectful translation that made it so boring.
I wouldn't recommend this version of the Mahabharata, or any version of this length (I'm not convinced that there is enough interesting material here to warrant any more than 500 pages) but I wouldn't dissuade you from reading any version. I would think that there must be one or two worthwhile versions out there somewhere. Read Rajaji's version and let me know if it's any good....more
Cezanne definitely fits more into the category of "worthwhile" or "interesting" than ultimately "artistically successful". He never could draw very weCezanne definitely fits more into the category of "worthwhile" or "interesting" than ultimately "artistically successful". He never could draw very well. His real influence seems to have been to initiate a stream in art that derived its aesthetic choices from personal, internal principles, rather than academic ones. The impressionists could explain the theory behind their approach and you could see what they were getting at but it seems that Cezanne is the only person who ever truly understood the logic behind his own idiom.
He's one of these artists who was perhaps never very good at what he did but gets along on the strength of what he is trying to say. You can look at his paintings and read an analysis and say "yes, that is interesting" but for me, I was never convinced by the painting itself. A critic might say "this arrangement of elements increases the overall harmony of the composition" but i can only reply "ok, if you say so, I guess I'll have to take your word for it".
I like some of his paintings... a little bit... I wonder about artists attempting something interesting but failing in their execution. Is it enough simply to have tried? I'm not sure....more
I enjoyed this one a lot. Besides the sort of stuff you would expect, Maugham also offers some interesting insights and speculations into the lives ofI enjoyed this one a lot. Besides the sort of stuff you would expect, Maugham also offers some interesting insights and speculations into the lives of his subjects. I especially like his contention that numerous men proposed to the plain and penniless Charlotte Bronte on the grounds that she was clearly "highly sexed". It's a nice little mix of biography and criticism but the fact that it is the work of a good Novelist means that the personalities of these authors really do come across in a very rich sort of way.
I'd recommend this to any reader of classic novels....more
This was OK. I've already forgotten what happened in it. It's pretty insubstantial but then so are an awful lot of graphic novels. I guess the main thThis was OK. I've already forgotten what happened in it. It's pretty insubstantial but then so are an awful lot of graphic novels. I guess the main thing you want from a graphic novel is to have one or two bits that make you go "ah, yeah that's cool" and this had that so I wasn't disappointed.
I'd recommend this to any fan of Supherhero graphic novels who has already read the big ones....more