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Newsletter Number 36 • October 9, 2007

Books

Ramesh Balsekar has written about 30 books, and he gives daily Satsang in his apartment in Mumbai. His guru was Nisargadatta. Ramesh is considered one of the leading teachers in the tradition of Advaita (non-duality). That is a huge amount of teaching and a prodigious amount of intellectual output for a man who has basically taught that becoming a sage or gaining what he calls “The Ultimate Knowledge” is a product of fate or grace rather than something that can be taught or attained through effort or discipline. In essence this paradox is very similar to the paradox of Lao-tzu, who begins the Tao Te Ching by saying that the “Tao that can spoken is not the true Tao” and then follows that up with verses and pages all about the Tao.

One of Ramesh’s earliest works, Pointers, conveyed his approach which is that while no one can be taught and no one can learn to become a sage, it is possible that certain “pointers” may be useful in the process. Over the last 20 years or so, Ramesh’s teachings have slowly been evolving towards a more pragmatic or practical approach. The Only Way to Live, his latest book, is, as the title implies, more of a practical manual than a philosophical text.

Ramesh’s basic teaching, which he claims is the same as that taught by the Buddha, is that while deeds are done and things happen, there is no personal doer. In other words only God, or “Source”, or “Consciousness” is moving this whole happening we call life. Therefore, since we are merely products of our nature (genes) and our nurture we have no reason to be proud or guilty or sinful. He claims that if this “ultimate understanding” is realized on a very deep and fundamental level, beyond the level of a “concept” then one can be a sage and live life in peace, harmony, and fulfillment.

The Only Way to Live is a book that could be very helpful in attaining this wisdom. Additionally there is very practical and useful insight into love, relationships, religion, values and many more topics of utmost importance. I have read about 20 of his books, attended Satsang in Mumbai, watched numerous videos of him, and listened to countless CD’s. As a thinker, philosopher, and observer of human nature and psychology I think Ramesh Balsekar is right up there with Kant, Bertram Russell, Freud and all of the best of breed. Since this is definitely one of his best books, and since it incorporates his most current thinking, I very highly recommend this book.

I don’t often read biographies, but I have a great fondness for and interest in Albert Einstein, and I have a strong interest in modern physics. Einstein: His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson is one of those rare books that I can say is almost perfect. I have read many books about Einstein and his theories but none compare to this one. Isaacson has done a complete job of revealing the man, his life, his thinking, his emotions, and his scientific insights. Most importantly the book is readable and fascinating and very difficult to put down. The fact that the author is not a scientist or a scientific writer but is a skilled biographer is probably what makes this book perfect. He communicates the special qualities of Einstein’s life and at the same time integrates the science in a very understandable and enjoyable manner.

Einstein was a very special human being. This book reveals his psyche, his emotional and psychological make-up and ties together the events in a very unique life that changed the way the world views reality.

What really was amazing to me, in terms of coincidences, is that I started reading this book after I had finished the Balsekar book reviewed above and after I had written the review. I was literally floored when I read the chapter Einstein’s God and discovered that Einstein’s view of God and determinism was exactly in line with the views of Balsekar. I guess it proves the old adage that “great minds think alike”.

I would like to conclude with a paragraph from the concluding chapter of this book which I believe indicates why this is such a “must-read”:

The world has seen a lot of impudent geniuses. What made Einstein special was that his mind and soul were tempered by this humility. He could be serenely self-confident in his lonely course yet also humbly awed by the beauty of nature’s handiwork. “A spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe—a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble,” he wrote. “In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort.”

Einstein was an incredible human being, and Isaacson has more than done him justice.

A few days ago I ran into a friend at the golf driving range. We began to chat and ended up talking about books. He had recommended a book to me and asked me if I had read it. I told him I had started it but did not like it enough to finish it. He reminded me that he did recommend a book I did like. The book, A Search in Secret India, by Paul Brunton was not only a book I “liked” but it is one of the five or ten best books I have ever read. It is reviewed on this site. If you have never read it, no matter what your background, beliefs, or interests are, I think you will find it remarkable and enjoyable.

Dena and I will be leaving soon for Arizona and the next reviews will be coming from the desert. I hope everyone has a wonderful autumn.

Len Oppenheim

An excellent read for anyone interested in matters of spiritual thought with sex thrown in as an added bonus is 11 Minutes by Paulo Coelho (author of The Alchemist). Len reviewed this book on an earlier newsletter and gave it an excellent recommendation. I second the recommendation. Brazilian author Coelho’s novels are some of the best selling of our generation. With 11 Minutes he takes his common theme of spirituality and adds sacred sex to the mixture... Thought provoking … 11 Minutes is an adult fairy tale. It tells the story of a poor yet beautiful woman from Brazil who travels to Switzerland and finds her spiritual and sexual liberation. It was the top selling fiction book of 2003.--outselling even Harry Potter.

Coelho’s writings are life affirming and filled with deep spiritual insights.

My feeling is that his novels are a modern version of Shakespearian truths about the human condition written in modern prose. If you enjoyed The Alchemist, you will enjoy 11 Minutes.

Are you traveling to India soon? Or would you like to visit vicariously? Let me recommend a wonderful spiritual travel guide to that country… 101 Pilgrimages by Outlook Traveller Getaways.

A wonderful guide to the major pilgrimage sites of India, with detailed information on vegetarian food and affordable lodging,

Some of the areas covered:

  • Sites of some of India’s foremost saints.
  • Insights into the mythology, history and architecture all over India.
  • Reviews of hotels with focus on affordable housing--where to find clean rooms, linens and bathrooms both in major cities and small villages.
  • What to pack and how to prepare for your trip. Festival calendars, temple telephone numbers and route guides.

A wonderful resource for anyone planning to travel to India, or just wanting the Indian experience without leaving your armchair.

We have just received a beautiful rendition of The Tao Te Ching in hardcover… The Legend of Lao Tzu, illustrated by Demi. The illustrations are magnificent and the text alluring. Published for and as a children’s book, it therefore would make a great gift for a child. But this is a book an adult would find much pleasure with as well-- wonderful gift both for a child or an adult not to mention for oneself. There is a space in your spiritual library that is just waiting to be filled by this lovely book.

Fairfield is thriving with creativity and I think you would be hard pressed to find another small town of 10,000 with so many talented souls. The current movie release of 3:10 to Yuma starring Oscar winner Russell Crowe co stars former Fairfield resident and MSAE graduate Ben Foster. All the reviews commented on Ben’s talent... See the movie and be blown away by this young man’s abilities. I loved this film and Ben Foster’s part (he plays Russell Crowe’s right hand evil doer). It is violent, so be forewarned.

Speaking of Fairfield talent…
2 new books just released by Fairfield writers are headed for the national best seller lists.

Life Lessons for Loving the Way You Live by local New York Times best selling author Jennifer Read Hawthorne. Inspiring as well as practical stories on the meaning of happiness.--a wonderful therapeutic book. This will make a great gift this holiday season. It is filled with stories that illustrate how one can…

Feel more at home in the world
Create Happiness from the inside out
Turn fear into courage
Transform your life through honesty
Letting go of judgments
Leading with the heart.

Jennifer travels throughout the world giving keynote speeches... She inspires everyone she meets.

The Passion Test by former Fairfield residents Janet Attwood and Chris Attwood. Filled with inspiring stories on living one’s life fully and passionately, it helps you identify what your passions are and teaches you how to create the circumstances that will bring you a life filled with passion surrounded by people you love. Take the Passion Test and discover hidden secrets about yourself that will lead you to a place of greater fulfillment and happiness. The Passion Test will also make a great holiday gift for everyone on your list. Janet and Chris completely personify the passionate life and their energy exudes from this book.

Sitting here at the computer and writing... I sometimes wonder what the purpose of this scribbling is.

I have written quite a few of these monthly personal statements and it has occurred to me that most of this is for selfish reasons. They are ideas that I personally need to learn and understand... they come to me from??? I seem to be writing to??? But the reality is it is me writing to me. I feel a therapeutic value to my monthly writings and I thank you for being there and creating an excuse. “Me”, being the lazy person I am, would not on my own write what I need to write. And I would never hear what I have to say.

Thank you for being there.

Love
Tony

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