I neither want nor expect enlightment in a paperback but can anyone recommend a good primer to The Teachings of Buddha?
rick green 15th December 2006 02:45 AM
Yes! Pankaj Mishra wrote an excellent book on Buddhism called An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World . I think it came out in 2004. The book is a hybrid: part memoir, part travelougue, part intellectual history, part polemic, and most definitley part Buddhist primer. If this sort of miscellany appeals to you do yourself a favor and get a copy.
In addition to describing the life of Sakyamuni, the origin of the sangha, and the fascinating intellectual climate that gave rise to Buddhism, , Mishra describes his own encounter with Buddhism. Luckily this is more on the theoretical rather than the mystical level, so we get a very good idea of the philosophy of Buddhism without getting into it's many esoteric ramifications. Throughout the book Buddhist philosophy is compared with the Western philosophic tradition. Mishra dwells on Nietzche in particular, contrasting his nihilism with the more amenable Buddist concept of emptiness. The whole thing is very well. I recommend it heartily.
Adrian 15th December 2006 04:13 AM
Thanks for the recommendation, rick green (or may we call you rick?). I'll check it out.
Originally posted in Central Library but recovered to here as slightly more relevant?
Sunrise 23rd October 2006 11:06 PM
I am looking for book recommendations on books about mysticism (particularly Christian Mysticism).
I would like to be informed about works of fiction that have an element of mysticism in a character, plot, etc. I am also interested in non-fiction books that you have read on the topic.
I am very interested in exploring God or "the idea of God" through works of fiction and your help would be greatly appreciated!
woofwoof 24th October 2006 10:58 AM
A good introduction to this subject is "celebration of discipline" by Richard Foster (especially the chapters on meditation and study). If you look at the references you'll find he quotes from all the well known Christian mystical writers and draws on the great mystical traditions, but presents them in an accessible way. The main authors are people like Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, Julian of Norwich, St Ignatius of Loyola, and the author of the "cloud of unknowing". Of these I've only myself read, "the practise of the presence of God" by Brother Lawrence which is very good but maybe not mystical enough. There are some 20th century writers who have written in the mystical tradition - Thomas Merton, Evelyn Underhill and Henri Nouwen. The latter's "return of the prodigal son", a reflection on Rembrandt's painting is a marvellous book.
As far as fiction is concerned, I can't think of anything I've read which is overtly mystical, though obviously almost any novel can be interpreted in a mystical way - Silas Marner is almost like a parable, The Mill on the Floss also I am sure has spiritual undertones to the whole story. The Return of the Native, also. If you're looking for fiction that explores the idea of God, where do you start? Pilgrim's Progress obviously comes to mind. C.S. Lewis wrote a number of works of adult fiction - eg The Great Divorce is an excellent exploration of the idea of heaven and hell, his science fiction trilogy - macalandra, perelandra, and "that hideous strength" are also very interesting - Perelandra (about the beginning of life on Venus), especially is quite mystical in its approach. "That Hideous Strength" is a brilliant book - both comic and profound. If you're looking for something more "populist", "This Present darkness" by Frank Peretti is as good as anything that John Grisham ever wrote. Finally if you want a very complex, sometimes cynical, exploration of especially the Roman Catholic faith and the way it interacts with ideas of human freedom and morality, Graham Greene is worth looking at (especially The Heart of the Matter, and The End of The Affair (just finishing it at the moment))
Sunrise 24th October 2006 12:48 PM
Wow! Thanks, you have given me a long list to start with! Do you, or anyone, know of any works of historical fiction that centre on the lives of saints...mystics?
I am looking forward to compiling my list of books to read tonight after work
woofwoof 24th October 2006 01:22 PM
The only historical novels of that kind I can think of are "The Apostle" by John Pollock (about St Paul), "The Master" also by John Pollock (about Christ), both very good, but both, especially the latter, suffering from the paucity of information to go on. There is also a whole category of fiction, the Christian novel, written mainly by Americans, and (not wishing to be rude) targetted at "readers of romantic fiction". These are mainly about Bible characters - one that springs to mind is "Joseph" by Joyce Landorf which I read many years ago, and is actually very good (but don't expect a literary masterpiece!). There is also a novel about St Bernadette of Lourdes fame, "The Song of Bernadette" written by a German Jewish man who was kept hidden from the Nazis by villagers in Lourdes and as a mark of gratitude wrote the novel about St Bernadette. I haven't read the book but have seen the film which is not bad (one of those black and white films they used to show on Sunday afternoons on BBC2!). I think the film is available on DVD from Amazon. Interesting article on the novel on wikipedia.
Also, I forgot to mention that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is a great authority on mystical Christianity. If you go to Amazon and do a search on his name, you'll see several titles eg on the desert fathers, St Teresa of Avila etc. I haven't read any of them myself.
Flingo 24th October 2006 09:30 PM
The first thing that came to mind was CS Lewis, but woofwoof has beaten me to it.
George MacDonald was a contemporary of Lewis (they co-authored some books) and might also be a good starting point. See this Amazon Search for some of his titles.
Claire 28th October 2006 09:05 AM
I'm very vague on what mysticism actually is, to be honest, but I did have a lecture on the desert fathers last week. Rowan Williams book, "Silence and Honey Cakes" was mentionned as his best and most accessible book about them, and according to the lecturer, if you're only going to read one book about the desert fathers, that's the one to go for. I can't help with fiction ideas, though.
Did anyone see The Power of Art with Simon Schama last night? That had a bit about St Teresa of Avila, in statue form, and read out some of her visions - "seriously strange" was my strongest reaction, though I'm vaguely curious to understand a little more of what she wrote and why.
megustaleer 28th October 2006 07:37 PM
I watched most of that (missed a bit at the beginning).
I was blown away by the things Bernini could do with marble. How come the naughty boys are the most talented?
I thought Scharma's commentary was very interesting, managing to discuss the similarities between spiritual ecstacy and the height of human physical ecstacy, but with no hint of "nudge nudge wink wink". I think that must have been quite difficult, especially in view of the extract read from her writings.
Claire 29th October 2006 08:23 PM
Bernini wasn't nearly so naughty as Carravagio, last week!
Some of the statues were utterly entrancing, weren't they - the flesh looked so natural and soft and warm. And I agree, Schama got the perfect line. He didn't sound like a silly, smutty, school boy, but neither did he go all po-faced and solemn and cut out every notion of sensuality from what he said. Looking forward to the rest of the series very much.
katrina 12th June 2006, 05:36 PM
I'm not quite sure if this thread belongs in this forum - sorry if it doesn't.
I've just started reading The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, Atwood have taken the Odysseus myth and retold it from Penelope's view point. I discovered that this book is part of a series by Canongate called The Myths Series they have commisioned a number of well known and international writers to retell the myths.
Published so far:
The Penelopiad - Atwood
A Short History of Myth - Armstrong
The Helmet of Horror - Pelevin
Weight - Winterson
Published later this year:
Dream Again - Alexander McCall Smith
Lion's Honey -Grossman
Books are also due from:
Tomas Eloy Martinez
Seems an interesting and exciting series especially as they are including a broad range of authors. Just wondered if anyone else had read any of these books, or what people thought about such a venture. (The books also have nice covers so good for those people who like collecting covers in a series)
Stewart 13th June 2006, 07:56 PM
The only one I've read, which you have neglected from your list, is Weight by Jeanette Winterson. While being well written like Winterson's other stuff, I found it lacking in substance and felt that it could have been so much more.
katrina 13th June 2006, 08:06 PM
Have now added 'Weight' to the list I did know about that one so not sure how I managed to miss it. Good to get somebodies opinion though. I've only read 4 chapters of The Penelopiad so far as I've been really busy, but I have really enjoyed it and I'm intrigued to read more.