Mystery of Life


Book Review

Life is a mystery to be lived and not a riddle to be solved. One of the fundamental differences between spirituality and philosophy is in this approach to life. Spirituality teaches us to embrace life with faith while philosophy analyses it with reason.

Faith is a gift. Catholic theologian Hans Kung goes to the extent of associating religious faith with Erik Erikson’s psychological concept of ‘basic trust’. Erikson postulates basic trust as the first component of a healthy personality. What is this basic trust? “An attitude toward oneself and the world derived from the experiences of the first year of life.” It is a reasonable trustfulness as far as others are concerned and simple sense of trustworthiness as far as oneself is concerned.

This attitude is established first of all in a healthy mother-child relationship. The mother gives the most fundamental sense of security to a child from which sense develops the child’s attitudes to the realities that it will experience eventually. Accepting the realities with a positive feeling of security and confidence depends on the basic trust developed in the infant.

No one can grow up into adulthood learning to love an invisible God without having a trustful, positive attitude towards one’s fellow beings. All that positivity and trust begin when you are a helpless infant and that is why we say it is a gift. A gift given to you when you can’t get anything by yourself.

Ravish Mani’s short book, See Through Words, is about the gift and mystery of life. It relies mostly on Zen Buddhism for probing the mystery of life. Probing is not quite the right word. Experience is the word. We should experience the mystery.

One of the many examples cited by the author is that of the young Kamal (mystic poet Kabir’s son) who became one with the grass that was swaying in the wind. Kamal who had gone to cut the grass for cattle forgot himself and dissolved into the grass. It is a mystical experience. It is that sort of experience that makes life blissful.

Ravish Mani’s entire enterprise is to guide the reader to that kind of an experience. He uses religious stories and examples of mystics to achieve his purpose. His approach is the ideal for those who look for deeper spiritual experiences.

Most people are content with superficial religion. That is my understanding and not Mani’s. The author is never judgmental. He is quite like the Buddha. My understanding is that religion is just a tool in the hands of most people; a tool for getting political power, a tool for adding comforting illusions and delusions to life, a tool for making miracles happen… It stops far short of being an ennobling experience, let alone mystical experience. This is also the reason why mankind went through a lot of hells created in the names of religions.

Ravish Mani’s efforts to make religion or spirituality more meaningful and effective are appreciable. I understand that he does much more than just write about it. That is the chief reason why I decided to showcase him here.

I am not religious at all. A lot of religious people I came across made me look at religion with suspicion. I belong to the thinking category, to those who philosophise rather than experience much as I would like to belong to the latter class. I too long to merge into the swaying grass in the mountainsides.

PS. Ravish Mani’s book can be downloaded here.

My contribution to the same series – a book titled Great Books for Great Thoughts – can also be downloaded here.

Comments

  1. Love the thought of life being a mystery to be lived rather than a riddle to be solved. Will check out the book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mystics always experience the mystery of life with awe. Ravish has a mystic streak in him.

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  2. I just read the book and then your review. I'm yet to discover more about the Zen way of life. I would like to believe it's philosophical spirituality and yet may discover its different facets along the way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Zen is mystical more than philosophical, I'd say. It's an insight that is required for practising Zen. Not intellectual understanding.

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