Tuesday, August 19, 2014

THE JOURNEY HOME: A Review

“Matthew Thomas interview: 'I learned how to be a person writing this thing'A schoolteacher by day, the 'new Jonathan Franzen' crafted his million-dollar debut novel by night at his kitchen table.” [Courtesy: the guardian.com]

The above mentioned is the title of one of the article that appeared in The Guardian newspaper’s online edition. An author read it and immediately thought to himself; ‘hmm…that author is older than I am.’ [Meaning, I could still be writing my mega-novel by the time I am his age] Thankfully, the author caught himself thinking this embarrassing thought. He was looking at the image of the author given along with the article. Perhaps, many of us had gone through the same phase of mindset. I don’t think it’s the specific case with writers alone. Taking this demeanor as a sign of jealousy would be yet another way to embarrass ourselves. So let us be frank and put it aside. As writers, we all want to write artistically brilliant and financially successful books.
Image Courtesy: Radhanath Swami

The sight of someone else achieving this before us might frustrate some of us. This, in no way, suggests our grudge or hatred for another writer. Therefore, let us not point the finger at ourselves and question our remaining peace of mind. Self-denial isn’t the best strategy for writers. As a young boy, I always felt that my life has been drawn towards some higher purpose than just living, getting a job, getting married, reproducing, and dying. For me, life has a higher meaning. Even as a child, I felt that deep within me. Later, I realized that every individual has a specific means to achieve this meaning. This means is popularly known in every tradition as The Way. For me, The Way was writing.  

I came across a book that described, quite fascinatingly, what it means to have the sense of purpose in life. The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami by Radhanath Swami is an inspiring story of a man’s search for meaning. Through this journey of self-actualization, a young Richard Slavin gains control over all his doubts regarding existence. He accomplishes this through a journey. The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami is centered on Radhanath Swami’s journey into the spiritual land and culture of India. Even as a child, he describes that he preferred to follow strange customs and traditions in his daily life. One such behavior include sitting on the floor while eating, a distinctly Indian cultural trait. “Having better things than others made me feel embarrassed,” he saying regarding his habits that may appear strange in a young boy from the US.

Radhanath Swami was born to Jewish parents in the US in 1950. As a teenager, Radhanath Swami “had begun to crave a purpose in life beyond wealth, prestige and the fads of society.” As an author, I consider this as a moment of unification, a portal that connects two individuals from seemingly different backgrounds and Faiths. However, The Journey Home provides us with a brighter vision than what we get from a profit centered ‘relativized’ worldview. Perhaps this self-reductionism makes the individual mentioned in the beginning paragraph feel uncomfortable about the publication of some other writer’s latest novel.       
Image Courtesy: Radhanath Swami

“To hate those who hated me was to share the same disease.” An awareness centered on the Divine side of human individual, Radhanath Swami seeks out his wisdom. In the final stage of his quest for wisdom, the monk arrives in Indian and confronts the spiritual tradition that had until that moment fascinated his consciousness. From his narrative, it becomes clear that he must have had an unspoken connection with the Indian culture and its multifarious nuances.

The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami is not just an autobiography. It is also a book that inspires one to set out in the journey of one’s dream. The ‘dream’ here is not just a vague metaphysical idea. The purpose or dream in the life of little Richie was to know about his own inner sense. Call it Nirvana or self-actualization, Radhanath Swami’s autobiography guides the reader through the risks and benefits of a journey in order to gain insight into the same.    

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