Saturday, 26 August 2017

Book conversations: Between the Serpent and the Rope


Between the Serpent and the Rope
Mukunda Rao
Harper Element, 2014









For those of us who are spiritual aspirants, it is common practice to familiarize ourselves with the various spiritual folds and tenets, especially in the early exploratory phase.  

This, in essence, is the subject matter of this book.  Mukunda Rao records his own experiences from his peregrinations of famous spiritually important places of South India.  

Rao moves from Kalady (birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya), to Arunachalam (Ramana Maharshi's place), to Auroville in Pondicherry (home of the Aurobindo movement), to Puttaparthi (the Satya Sai Baba stronghold), to Mata Amritanandamayi's ashram, to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living campus, to Adyar (Jiddu Krishnumurti's main place of work in India), to finally finish with U G Krishnamurti's timeless, dogma-less, disciple-less and ashram-less concept of spirituality.

In so doing, Rao combines the details of his stay at and encounter with the people of these places, the rise and fall of the prominent religious/spiritual figureheads of some of these places, and his own take on the philosophies expounded by each of these gurus.  The result is a book that is at once a travelogue, a series of biographies, and an elucidation of the different spiritual theories of South India. 

Intriguingly, Rao comments on the failure/modification/misinterpretation/inadequacy of some of these philosophies, and the blind hero-worship that persists even after the founder-philosopher is no more.  Thus the idea behind the movement assumes gigantic proportions, and subsumes and supersedes even the founder-philosopher (for example - and this is my own take - the two Abrahamic religions; Christianity and Islam). 

In many ways, the preceding chapters are a build up to U G Krishnamurti's simple yet radical and difficult-to-grasp take on enlightenment; or Natural State, as he called it.  The added advantage Rao has is that he has met and interacted with the great man himself.

For the sake of completion, Rao (though I understand that he did not visit these places) could have included the accounts of Swami Nityananda's palaver and Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev's simple yet profound spiritual messages.  

To me, this work also goes to show the richness and variety of spiritual thoughts and practices that exist in this great land of ours for a spiritual aspirant explore and select from - and we are only talking South India here.

Eminently readable!






Image source: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51uixCEmUsL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg






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