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Thursday, September 28, 2006 - Editor: Jerry Katz
The Nondual Highlights
This issue features extracts from a new novel, The Sublime Homecoming, by Mukesh Eswaran. It's page on Amazon.com is http://snipurl.com/xl4e, where you may order the book.
The book description reads,
"An American scientist struggles to reconcile the theory of
evolution with the claims of spirituality. The novel traces his
arduous odyssey to self-discovery in a secular life, ending in a
crisis that decidedly resolves his doubts about the compatibility
of spirituality and evolution."
Mukesh Eswaran lives in British Columbia, Canada.
I have read this entire book and it has strong points. The book features a fictional Swami in India, whose teaching is well presented. We have to remember that the main character's encounter with the Swami takes place in the 1960s when people weren't so nondually hip as they are today.
In this book I also like the descriptions of places and certain activities. The structure of the book is very sound and not unpredictable. The rigidity of structure allows the teaching of nonduality and the lessons in how to approach life to be conveyed straightforwardly. That's a good thing for people who want the teaching of nonduality delivered as a linear, well-manicured novel. Hesse did the same in Siddhartha. I believe that Maugham in The Razor's Edge and Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance similarly structured their stories in a way that was intended to carry a specific teaching. In such a sense, Mukesh is in good company and his book is well written.
For those who wish to hear the teaching of nonduality incorporated into a story about moment to moment, wild, unmeasured lives, consider Desolation Angels, by Jack Kerouac. The Sublime Homecoming is measured and told calmly. What Siddartha or The Sublime Homecoming see in a lifetime, Desolation Angels -- like a good haiku or photograph -- sees in every moment. What is it that is seen? The truth about reality.
Hence there are at least two ways to present in fictional form the teaching of nonduality. One is the structured, manicured way. The other is the immediate, non-linear, here and now way. The two ways are in some degree combined in Kerouac's books, but you never get the sense you're being instructed in Kerouac's books.
Let's take a look at the measured story telling of Mukesh and the more 'in the moment' perception of Kerouac. First Mukesh. In this extract the Swami is speaking and Michael, the main character is responding:
~ ~ ~
"True mastery lies in the spontaneous acceptance of whatever comes your way, good as well as bad, without desiring anything else. It is embodied in the attitude of Job, who said, 'If I accept good from the hand of God, shall I not also accept evil?' But that degree of perfection comes at the end of a long and drawn out struggle -- and only when, one way or another, the ego surrenders. For only then can you be free from desire."
"Then why not cut the process short and surrender right away?" Michael asked.
Swami seem enormously amused. "And save yourself all the trouble?"
Swami chuckled and then started laughing -- so hard, in fact, that he was shaking. "In theory, that may be possible," he said when his mirth had subsided, "but in practice, you will discover, the self does not give up without a fight -- a fight to the death, actually. I'm reminded of a remark made by a medieval mystic, Meister Eckart. He said there is no battle that requires greater valor than the one in which a man tries to overcome himself. That is very true. The only thing I would add is that this is not merely a battle; it is a war, and one that requires your sustained vigilance."
"A weird war, where the self is fighting the self. I still don't see the point of it all."
"The ego surrenders only when it has exhausted all its resources and is completely persuaded that no other recourse is open to it. Until it is brought to that extremity, the war will go on and surrender is quite out of the question. The actual moment of surrender is the crucial thing."
"It is hard to even know what the best strategy is in this civil war, as you call it."
"Any direct engagement with the self is not a good idea. Waging a war on the ego by using the ego is rather like setting a thief to catch a thief, as Ramana Maharshi used to say. He suggested that the best way to undermine the self is by laying a siege."
"Yes. His point was that the ego stays alive by attaching to the thoughts in your mind and by manipulating them. It survives by using thoughts for food, as it were. If you cut off this supply line by refusing to take the bait of thoughts -- refusing to identify with them for a sufficiently long time -- then, faced with starvation, the ego sooner or later surrenders."
~ ~ ~
Later in the same
chapter Michael has absorbed Swami's words and is recalling his
home on the
When it rains, the
Since the fortress in
The river rolls past the Crescent City without looking back, as if it now fathoms that its deliverance is not to be found in its own creations. A mere hundred miles southeast of the city lies the mouth of the Mississippi. The river fragments into about a dozen separate channels at a junction called 'Head of Passes'. Old Man River finally finds its rest by surrendering itself to the Gulf of Mexico.
~ ~ ~
So that's a taste of The Sublime Homecoming. The book tells a very good story of a man named Michael who is learning about his fundamental nature. The book tells about how the Mississippi River of life lays siege to what Michael had constructed and so much believed in on its banks.
Now for a taste of the Desolation Angels and its sense of grit and confessional immediacy, here is an excerpt:
All the saints have gone to the grave with the same pout as the murderer and the hater, the dirt doesn't discriminate, it'll eat all lips no matter what they did and that's because nothing matters and we all know it--
But what we gonna do?
Pretty soon there'll be a new kind of murderer, who will kill without any reason at all, just to prove that it doesn't matter, and his accomplishment will be worth no more and no less than Beethoven's last quartets and Boito's Requiem -- Churches will fall, Mongolian hordes will piss on the map of the West, idiot kings will burp at bones, nobody'll care then the earth itself'll disintegrate into atomic dust (as it was in the beginning) and the void still the void wont care, the void'll just go on with that maddening little smile of its that I see everywhere, I look at a tree, a rock, a house, a street, I see that little smile-- That "secret God-grin" but what a God is this who didn't invent justice?--So they'll light candles and make speeches and the angels rage. Ah but "I don't know, I don't care, and it doesn't matter" will be the final human prayer...
The candle burns
And when that's done
The wax lies in cold artistic piles
--s about all I know
~ ~ ~
This Highlights has been about the new novel, The Sublime Homecoming, which may be ordered through Amazon.com at http://snipurl.com/xl4e.
I also took the opportunity to give an example of another kind of "nondual novel", if I may use that term: Desolation Angels. They are novels that bring us the teaching of nonduality.
If you haven't read a nondual novel in a while and you like to be led into the ordered unfolding of Michael, read The Sublime Homecoming. Or consider Kerouac's "in your face", messy, poetic confession of what reality is. Also considered nondual novels are the books by Jed McKenna, which are kinda in between. Kriben Pillay can also write fiction very effectively. Few can.
Because I'm telling you, a novel is a hell of lot harder to write than a book of teachings. Just because someone is recognized as a spiritual teacher and has written successful nonfiction books, doesn't mean for one second that they can write a work of fiction. Writing a good novel is like building an elaborate house from the ground up. Harder than that, actually. It ain't easy at all. Congratulations to Mukesh Eswaran on writing a good novel that communicates the teaching of nonduality. We should all be supporting his effort!
The Sublime Homecoming
by Mukesh Eswaran
Amazon.com link: http://snipurl.com/xl4e
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