"Money was maliciously introduced in ancient times as a tool of enslavement" -
Michael Tellinger

"The present belongs to the future and future generations, and all old laws, religious and other, should be abrogated immediately. Free us!" - Vinay Gupta on Twitter

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - R. Buckminster Fuller

"You find the strangest ways to be positive!" - Diane Duane, Wizards Abroad

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Teachings of Rumi, Ethics for the New Millennium, and Ten Questions for the Dalai Lama (book and film reviews)

For some reason I'm thinking of books that came out at the turn of our current century, books that looked at pressing spiritual issues and dilemmas as seen at that time. It wasn't really that long ago, but events are moving fast. These two, that I reviewed in 1999, were ones I kept in my personal collection because I really loved them. I pulled them off the shelf and found they're as fresh now as then. Some spiritual issues, of course, are perennial - as are some of the techniques for addressing them.

The first review is my recommendation in the "Adult Books for Young Adults" column of SLJ, focusing on its appeal and usefulness for older teens reading at the adult level but of course the recommendation goes for adults as well.

The Teachings of Rumi by Andrew Harvey
A 13th-century Islamic mystic might seem an unlikely figure to be enjoying celebrity in the modern West, but Jelalludin Rumi has been receiving a good deal of attention lately. In his introduction, Harvey explains that "Rumi's work has an uncanny direct force of illumination; anyone approaching it with an open heart and mind, at whatever stage of his or her evolution, will derive from it inspiration, excitement, and help of the highest kind."

Working from original sources as well as a variety of translations, Harvey has gleaned from the vast body of Rumi's work an elegantly honed collection of poetry and prose, which he organizes into four sections ("The Call," "Be a Lover," "Ordeal," and "Union"). The result is a guide to the disciplines necessary to achieve, in a continuing process throughout life, an ever-evolving consciousness. As Harvey sees it, Rumi's path to ecstasy requires a "rigorous, even ferocious austerity" that can yield for the seeker a unique perspective on modern problems.

For teens venturing outside the lines of religious dogma, this book is a lucid and accessible introduction to Rumi's writings, while for those already somewhat familiar with Rumi through other sources, it offers a challenging method for deeper exploration.

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The second is by the Dalai Lama; this is my review for the same column and publication:

Ethics for the New Millennium (2000)
The Dalai Lama examines the world, its ills, and its coming changes in a disarmingly conversational style that engages readers. With a perspective that should appeal to teens weary of negativity, he offers an encouraging view of the future, arguing convincingly that we humans are better than we tend to believe.

Avoiding technical terms and dogma, he presents Buddhist values and ethics, chiefly the dynamic of compassion and a recognition of the "complex interlinking of relationships," in such a way that individuals from a variety of cultural or religious backgrounds can understand their application to modern dilemmas and personal choices. Chapters focus on concepts such as restraint, discernment, non-harming, and responsibility as they apply to far-ranging subjects including the environment, disarmament, religion, science, and education.

In a world in which many historical boundaries are becoming irrelevant, the Dalai Lama focuses upon the essential qualities of humanity that we all share and from which new forms of social organization can evolve. An important book for thoughtful teens to muse over now, and return to in the future.

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Ten Questions for the Dalai Lama (2006)

Which in turn led my thoughts to this documentary film. I first saw it at the Ashland Independent Film Festival, and again when we screened it for neighbors here at Mountain Meadows as a year-end holiday program. It was very well liked by all.

It kind of fits in here because it, too, is about a fellow seeking a path for living in a very perplexing world.

Netflix has it, or you can buy the dvd from the website linked above.

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