Spiritual, psychological, religious and philosophical literature has always been a big part of my journey and path. I would actually go so far as to say that it has been the one medium that provided me the impetus and motivation that pushed me over the threshold of the ordinary, robotic life into one of internal depth and beauty. In this post (and in future posts), I will be going over four books that have provided some worth to me on my journey.
Books have played an integral role in my growth and development.
Tao Te Ching - Lao Tzu - Taoism
The Tao Te Ching is a central piece of the ancient philosophy of Taoism. It’s origin is still not completely known, though it is credited to the 6th century BC Chinese Taoist sage Laozi (though it is argued to have been dated back to the 4th century BC). The text is written in a style of small aphorisms: succinct musings that are deeply profound and weighted with beauty and wisdom. The book is concerned with the Way (Tao) and how it is expressed through virtue (Te) In modern terms, the Tao is often described as the way: many liken it to consciousness, the God Force and even the Brahmanic unity described in Vedic texts such as the Gitas and the Upanishads (we will visit this later). Wikipedia describes it as such: “Tao is the natural order of the universe whose character one's human intuition must discern in order to realize the potential for individual wisdom.” Below is a few lines form the Tao Te Ching: “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” “Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.” “Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.”
I Am That – Nisargadatta Maharaj - Advaita Vedanta
This is a true powerhouse of spirituality – a modern spiritual classic. Scribed from talks from the great Indian sage Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That traverses an enormous amount of the spiritual spectrum in relation to problems and enquiries seekers face in the search for truth and their individual realization. The book is in a question and answer format, with seekers asking the sage a variety of questions spanning an array of topics including practices, disciplines, insights and even diet. Maharaj’s answers are sharp, and cut through the illusions and delusions the seekers are so desperately trying to dispel. Like most spiritual classics, I Am That continually provides on every revisit – especially when some form of progress has been made. Below is a few excerpts from the book: “It is always the false that makes you suffer, the false desires and fears, the false values and ideas, the false relationships between people. Abandon the false and you are free of pain; truth makes happy, truth liberates.” “Wisdom is knowing I am nothing, Love is knowing I am everything, and between the two my life moves.” “Whatever happens, happens to you by you, through you; you are the creator, enjoyer and destroyer of all you perceive.”
The Imitation of Christ – Thomas À Kempis – Mystical Christianity
Kempis, whose deep knowledge of human nature was born from his rich understanding of Christian Scriptures and classical philosophy. The text implores focus on a rich, internal and spiritual life coupled with movement away from the ‘World”(Christianity often refers to the World as the mind-made world crafted from man – the world of the desires of the flesh and ego). Though some may be turned away from its frequent use of Christian terminology, those that have the eyes to see and the ears to hear are left with a beautifully presented work that provides the reader with a rich resource of spiritual instruction. Below are a few selections from the book: “Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.” “If God were our one and only desire we would not be so easily upset when our opinions do not find outside acceptance.” “As long as you live, you will be subject to change, whether you will it or not - now glad, now sorrowful; now pleased, now displeased; now devout, now undevout; now vigorous, now slothful; now gloomy, now merry. But a wise man who is well taught in spiritual labor stands unshaken in all such things, and heeds little what he feels, or from what side the wind of instability blows.” “The cross is always ready and waits for you everywhere. You cannot escape it no matter where you run, for wherever you go you are burdened with yourself. Wherever you go, there you are.”
Uddhava Gita – Hinduism/Advaita Vedanta
The Uddhava Gita belongs to rich line of Vedic texts within the Hindu lexicon. Much like the more known Bhagavad Gita – The Uddhava Gita (Song of Gita) is a dialogue given between lord Krishna and his dear devotee and friend Uddhava, before Krishna’s timely departure from the world. The dialogue explores the troubles and queries of a devoted seeker whose journey is that toward the realisation of his/her true self. The Uddhava Gita also explores different themes of mind, spiritual practice, devotion and enlightenment. Below are a few quotes from the Gita: "An enlightened person fixed in detachment engages his body in lying down, sitting, walking, bathing, seeing, touching, smelling, eating, hearing and so on, but is never entangled by such activities. Indeed, remaining as a witness to all bodily functions, he merely engages his bodily senses with their objects and does not become entangled like an unintelligent person." "Happiness derived from the self is in the mode of goodness, happiness based on sense gratification is in the mode of passion, and happiness based on delusion and degradation is in the mode of ignorance."
The four selections for this newsletter.
These books are a small part of my collection, and I hope to, over time, release more posts in this vein, in the hopes that it may spur someone down a certain path that may render their life a little more peaceful and joyful.
If you haven’t yet, I invite you to join the Notes From My Journal Facebook Group so you can share any ideas, insights or discoveries you have had, and perhaps even drop a recommendation for books that have been of benefit on your journey. The group can be found at: