This book, which I originally stumbled across quite by accident, couldn't be further in theme and temperament from that lot -- this is aboslutely the gentlest, most respectful, most loving book that I could imagine on the subject. It makes no attempts at conversion, but in a very scholarly -- yet very readable -- way, takes Christ's Sermon on the Mount (paying special attention to the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer) and makes line-by-line comparisons to the ancient teachings of Hinduism.
Prabhavananda was a monk of the Ramakrishna Order -- and one of Sri Ramakrishna's most fundamental teachings was the 'oneness of all religions', that, when sincerely believed and practiced, 'all paths lead to the same goal'. This incredible, tender book shows how deeply true his teachings were. Ramakrishna -- a Hindu saint of the 19th century who worshiped God in the form of the Divine Mother, and who experienced ecstatic visions of Christ, Mohammed and Buddha as well -- was one of the most unique, unpretentious, all-encompassing figures in any religion. He embraced them all. Would that we had, in this 'modern, civilized era', when people are still killing each other over the way they each worship God, a teacher so unifying, so true of heart, that could shine the light of wisdom on our folly.
Prabhavananda's book brings Ramakrishna's unifying word to modern readers in a wonderful way. I was touched to the core of my soul by this book -- I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who honestly, in their heart, practices ANY faith. It was written to unify, not to divide -- it could be treasured for that alone.
For anyone interested in further readings on Sri Ramakrishna, I can recommend THE GOSPEL OF SRI RAMAKRISHNA, or (if this 1000+ page volume is too 'heavy' for you) Lex Hixon's stunning book GREAT SWAN -- MEETINGS WITH RAMAKRISHNA.
The book is a masterpiece and it is beautifully done. Check it out.
List price: $10.95 (that's 20% off!)
List price: $15.95 (that's 30% off!)
Is neither elated by the pleasant
Nor saddened by the unpleasant"
Every few years I read this extraordinary book...I've read other translations, but seem mostly to be drawn back to this one. Partly prose and partly verse, more interpretive than literal, it's in a flowing style, easy to understand, and with great clarity in its spiritual instruction.
"Shutting off sense
From what is outward,
Fixing the gaze
At the root of the eyebrows,
Checking the breath-stream
In and outgoing
Within the nostrils,
Holding the senses,
Holding the intellect,
Holding the mind fast,
He who seeks freedom,
Thrusts fear aside,
Thrusts aside anger
And puts off desire:
Truly that man
Is made free forever".
Written between the 5th and 2nd centuries B.C., this dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna is an inspiring sacred text, and a must read for anyone interested in the great religions of the world.
This edition comes with an introduction by Aldous Huxley, a background history of the Gita and Mahabharata, 2 appendices, and the text has footnotes to aid in the meaning of certain words and personages.
"He who is free from delusion, and knows the supreme Reality, knows all that can be known. Therefore he adores me with his whole heart.
This is the most sacred of all the truths I have taught you. He who has realized it becomes truly wise. The purpose of his life is fulfilled".
For an explanation of these principles in prose by my favorite author, I strongly recommend "Maya", a short story that appears in the back of Hermann Hesse's Nobel prize winning novel, "The Glass Bead Game."
The 7th century scholar, Shankara, describes the Upanishads as "the knowledge of Brahman, the knowledge that destroys the bond of ignorance and leads to the supreme goal of freedom." Each Upanishad illustrates the path towards discovering this inner knowledge, thus achieving escape from samsara, or this world of suffering.
This translation contains the twelve standard Upanishads, including one of the most famous, the Brihad-aranyaka, which is the oldest and largest of these ancient scriptures.
This work embodies the mystical and esoteric aspects of ancient Hindu philosophy, and serves as an interesting and enlightening guide to knowledge of Self.
Of course if you truly understand these oldest of mystical scriptures then you could condense them down still further to:
Brahma is true, the world is false,
The soul is Brahma and nothing else.
Or if that is a bit wordy for you, then you can sum up the Upanishads, and all the Vedas, with: "Tat tvam asi" (Thou art that.)
Most people need to work up to the true understanding of these statements with a bit more commentary, however....
Patanjali's Sutras are dated sometime between the fourth century B.C. and the fourth century A.D. (p. 7), and they offer methods for gaining insights through our own experience into "the Godhead, the Reality which underlies this apparent, ephemeral universe" (p. 15). He observes that in order to know God, one must first cease identifying himself with the mind (p. 213). Our liberation, he tells us, is "retarded" by our past karmas, our fears and desires, our lack of energy (p. 52), our egotism, ignorance, and blind clinging (p. 55), and by such obstacles as sickness, mental laziness, sloth, doubts and despair (p. 64). However, the good news is that no effort to know God, however small, is wasted (p. 52), for God draws us to himself (p. 54). With a little exploration, it is possible to know God everywhere, "both within and without, instantly present and infinitely elsewhere, the dweller in the atom and the abode of all things" (p. 33).
Although I am not qualified to comment on their translation of Patanjali, Christopher Isherwood and Swami Prabhavananda's Vendantist commentary offers worthwhile insights into Patanjali's Sutras.