Pankaj Mishra has a new book titled An End to Suffering : The Buddha in the World. This book is about understanding the life and time of Buddha.
Mishra presents these concepts simply and clearly. He also lends them dramatic immediacy, tying them closely to specific events and places in the Buddha’s life, highlighting the arguments and counter-arguments that they provoked at the time. At every turn, he draws parallels between the social problems of the Buddha’s era and the social and political torments of today.
He remains a skeptical Buddhist, though, if he is a Buddhist at all. He admits to finding the Buddha’s dialogues “long-winded and repetitious,” with “little of the artistry so evident in Plato.” As a political force, Buddhism comes across as, at best, benevolent but ineffectual.
In the end, it’s hard to know exactly where Mishra stands as he circles back on himself and heads off to remote locales. Visiting a Zen meditation center in Northern California, where an old American friend has become a monk, he feels awkward. A prayer is recited. He finds the words incomprehensible. The rituals annoy him. “I couldn’t but feel their irrelevance to the world I was growing up in,” he writes.
Mishra’s journey of a thousand miles leads him back to the beginning. For him, it seems, there is no end to suffering. [Mishra defines Buddhism, but he doesn’t embrace it]
We have been fascinated by Buddha for a while for developing “set of introspective techniques designed to make the suffering individual more self-aware, and through this self-awareness to move systematically beyond the self and its vain strivings toward a state he called nirvana”, and doing all this without any divine intervention. This should be an interesting book to read.
2 thoughts on “An End to Suffering”
Coming from Pankaj Mishra, there’s more to it than meets the eye. I’m in the process of outlining my suspicions in a blog entry (will post in a couple of days). Of course I’m biased *against* the very secular Mishra but you’ll see some of my suspicions are not entirely unfounded.
Sandeep, I read a small piece by him in the book Where the Rain is Born: Writings About Kerala. I have not read anything else and had no idea that he was secular. But since idea for this book is fascinating, I might actually read it.