Unlike the majority of Western religious writers, Easwaran believes everyone is innately good and has within herself "the light in the soul that is uncreated and uncreatable." In his book, he proposes to help his reader discover her hidden spiritual resources through meditation on spiritual writings and practical advice on how to incorporate the knowledge gained through meditation into everyday life. While the overall content of the book is good, readers may encounter a few stumbling blocks in trying to access it.
First off, while Easwaran emphasizes the use of daily meditation, his directions on how to meditate are sketchy, and the reader is referred to his book, Meditation, for full instructions. The same is true for the use of the mantram (a short prayer invoking the deity), which Easwaran recommends using to help in purifying the consciousness. Personally, I find this kind of self-promotion and withholding of information annoying in the extreme.
Secondly, meditation material presented is from Christian sources, primarily the writings of Christian mystics. Easwaran suggests that if words like "Lord" bother us, we should remember that we are addressing the divine spark within, and not an outside agency. While that may be a fine idea in theory, I think that readers raised in a Christian tradition will find implementing his suggestion a bit more difficult in practice.
The bulk of the text is a series of meditations/discussions on the beatitudes. A chapter is devoted to each virtue (purity, humility, simplicity, patience, love, mercy, peacemaking and desire), discussing its qualities, how the general lack of that virtue is reflected in modern society, and suggestions for incorporating the practice of that virtue into daily life. No one would argue about the desirability of these qualities either in society as a whole or in one's personal life, but again, the sometime heavy-handed Christian commentary may present a problem for some readers.
Overall, there is good information in this book, if the reader can get past the largely Christian presentation and simply concentrate on the desirability of studying the qualities discussed in the beatitudes to further her own spiritual development.
~reviewed by Jackie Gorman
Author: Eknath Easwaran
Nilgiri Press, 1989
pp. 240, $12.00