Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Open-Eyed Meditations - Review


Book Review

This book is a compilation of 64 inspiring meditation pieces.  Each piece, brief and to the point, deals with a specific topic, a very common human problem.  ‘How do I enhance my happiness quotient?’, ‘7 secrets of innovation’, and ‘Jealousy – a terrorist attack on self’ are three of the 64 titles.  Each piece gives eminently practical counsel on the topic.  Each piece is meant to be read and meditated on.  We have to absorb the lessons slowly, not just read and understand.

‘Valentine’s Day Secret Tips’ begins with a question: “Are you sure that your first valentine will remain your last valentine?”  The secret of maintaining a good relationship is acceptance rather than expectation, the piece goes on to counsel.  It gives us the example of Dasaratha and Kaikeyi from Ramayana.  Their love grew stronger when they set aside personal needs and focused on the other’s needs.  Kaikeyi was ready to risk her life for her husband.  But then conditions and expectations entered that relationship ruining it as well as ruining other people’s happiness. 

Each meditation piece in the book is founded on examples from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.  Rama and Ravana, Krishna and Arjuna all come to teach us certain fundamental lessons of life and happiness.  The author has combined psychology with religion successfully.  However, one who does not believe in the divinity of Rama or Krishna can also find succour in the book provided they are familiar enough with the great Indian epics and their characters. 

Those who take the epics as divinely inspired books will find Shubha Vilas’s meditation book a source of spiritual strength too.  In fact, spirituality achieves far more than psychology when it comes to transforming the psyche.  This could be one reason why the author chose to mix psychology with spirituality in this book and call the chapters meditations. 

In the chapter, ‘Can your talent be your enemy?’, we are told that “While talent is useful in handling things and projects, good attitude is useful in handling people and relations.  While talent moulds our actions, attitudes mould our reactions.”  Then it presents Karna and Arjuna as examples.  Both were great warriors, equally talented.  But Krishna chose the latter because he had a good attitude.  Suffering from inferiority complexes, Karna boasted a lot; he used his talent as a means to shield his deep insecurities.  “Exhibition of talent is an expose of one’s weakness when the attitude behind it is negative,” we are told.

This is the way each chapter in the book proceeds.  It is a method that Thomas a Kempis employed in his classical meditation book, The Imitation of Christ.  Shubha Vilas has written a contemporary Indian version of that classic, I dare say. 

Each chapter is very brief and yet each is followed by a condensed summary which makes it easy to recapitulate.  It will be highly rewarding to begin each morning by reading a chapter of this book and spending a few minutes in contemplation.


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