So here is another iteration of my newsletter covering bits and pieces from my library. I really enjoyed writing the last one as it gave me a chance to revisit some of these books and highlight key phrases and quotes that I feel really strike a chord and pierce through. An odd phenomenon of the path is retuning to books months and years after reading them. Progress and perception can shift so much within that time that it seems like you are reading a completely different piece of literature. Understanding deeps, perception broadens, and things are generally cognised at a much deeper level. As with the first newsletter, I hope this one inspires you, piques your interest or spurs you on to further your own path of development and discovery.
The Sermon on the Mount According to Vedanta – Swami Prabhavananda – Advaita Vedanta / Christianity
This crossover book is not too dissimilar to the Zen take on the resurrection which I devoted an entire newsletter to here. The difference in this book (as the title suggests) is that it deals with the Sermon on the Mount as read through a Vedantic lens. I think these small books are real gems to those dissuaded and repelled from Western spirituality (especially Christianity). These books highlight the rich vastness of spiritual wealth and knowledge that exist within the Christian tradition, which has been well buried beneath the veneer of fundamentalist sensationalism and posturing.
Vedanta is a school of philosophy that falls under the Hindu religion. A major tenant of Vedanta (and what it is often referred to in the West) is that of non-duality, or to be more specific one without a second. This is an idea spread through a lot of the spiritual world – unity, oneness, god-consciousness etc.
What makes this book special is the marriage of the concepts of Vedanta with the Christian language and symbolism. Below is a few quotes that highlight this idea:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In this first beatitude, Christ speaks of the chief characteristic which the disciple must have before he is ready to accept what the illumined teacher has to offer him. He must be poor in spirit; in other words, he must be humble. If a man has pride in learning, wealth, beauty, or lineage, or has preconceived ideas of what spiritual life is and how he should be taught, his mind is not receptive to higher teachings.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
In every religion we find two basic principles: the ideal to be realized and the method of realization. Every scripture of the world has proclaimed the truth that God exists and that the purpose of man’s fife is to know him. Every great spiritual teacher has taught that man must realize God and be reborn in Spirit. In the Sermon on the Mount the attainment of this ideal is expressed as perfection in God: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” And the method of realization which Christ teaches is the purification of the heart which leads to that perfection.
The Book – Alan Watts - Philosophy
British Theologian and Philosopher Alan Watts’ book on “the taboo against knowing who you are” reads as poetic and eloquent as the man’s beautiful lectures and speeches. That is to say th
at it is at time dense, and may takes a few reads for it to really sink in. Once it does however, it presents a very stimulating approach to development and understanding; specifically regarding the ego and who it is we take ourselves to be. Watts’ lectures can easily be found on YouTube and are incredibly engaging and insightful. Here are a few quotes from The Book that I find highly motivating and insightful: “Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way.” “How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experie
nce itself anything less than a god.” “For unless one is able to live fully in the present, the future is a hoax. There is no point whatever in making plans for a future which you will never be able to enjoy. When your plans mature, you will still be living for some other future beyond. You will never, never be able to sit back with full contentment and say, “Now, I’ve arrived!” Your entire education has deprived you of this capacity because it was preparing you for the future, instead of showing you how to be alive now.”
In the Heart of the Desert – John Chryssavgis – Orthodox Christianity
Orthodox Christianity was one of the hidden gems of spiritual insight and wisdom that had I not blindly run into it, I would have shun it from my existence completely. This book details life of the members of the old Church, and teachings of some of the very early Christian teachers, referred to as the Desert Mothers and Fathers. It explores topics such as solitude, struggle against our inner demons, detachment and purity of the heart. Below is a few quotes from the book: Abba Zomias always liked to say: “It is not possessing something that is harmful, but being attached to it”. Detachment…is the spiritual capacity to focus on all things, material and other, without attachment. “Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate. Just as trees cannot bear fruit if they have not stood before the winter’s storms, so it is with us.”
The Wisdom of Lao Tse – Lin Yutang – Taoism
This book contains the complete writings of Lao Tse – the man credited for having authored the Tao Te Ching. The translation by Dr Lin Yutang is also complete with notes and interpretations, which provides tremendous insights and understanding to the Wester reader. Below is a short excerpt: The sage uses his mind like a mirror. Be not representative of fame. Make not your mind a clearing-house of plans and strategy. Let things take their natural course, and do not presume to preside over the wise. The sage uses his mind like a mirror. It remains in its place passively, and it gives back what it receives without concealment. Therefore it can overcome things without distorting them.
The four selections for this newsletter.
These books are a small part of my collection, and I hope to, over time, release more newsletters 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: