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Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.




Saturday, December 3, 2011

Original Goodness: Book Review

 



Drawing from the deep spiritual well of the world's Christian mystics, author and spiritual leader Eknath Easwaran (1910-1999), carves out a pathway to inner peace for his readers in his transforming book "Original Goodness".  Easwaran uses the Beautitudes of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount to provide a framework in which he introduces the themes of  purity, humility, simplicity, patience, love, mercy, peacemaking, and desire.  Inspiring passages from mystics like Meister Eckhart, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Teresa of Avila, and John Ruysbroeck fill each page with insight and wisdom adding beautifully to Easwaran's rich reflections.

"We do not have to figure out how to make ourselves good; all we need do is remove what covers the goodness that is already there...The spark that burns in you, in me, is lit by the fires of heaven."  p. 12/229

Easwaran's idea of original goodness comes from the truth that within each one of us there lies a core of goodness, buried and hidden, waiting to be discovered. "...before original sin was original innocence...that is our real nature." This core of goodness is the very essence of God and has been experienced the world over by mystics throughout all religions. Once discovered, the fruit of pure love is born, having encountered the Divine.  "...all the treasures and pleasures of this world are worth nothing if one has not found the uncreated light at the center of the soul.", Easwaran reflects.


This transforming reality can only be accessed and spurred onwards to flourish and grow by developing an awareness of what lies within.  An awareness that can be achieved through the training of our minds; namely the repetition of a mantram (or mantra) ,the practice of meditation and acts of love and kindness. As our practices deepen and we begin to unravel the layers of consciousness that cover up and dim the light emanating from the eternal spark buried beneath layers and layers of conditioned ego, our encounters with others then become transformed, now centered in love. Easwaran urges that to change the world, we must first change ourselves.

" As our desire to draw closer to the Lord within us deepens, it draws self-centered desires into it like tributaries into a great river. The power of that love swells until it becomes cataclysmic; we begin to inspire other people through the transformation we have wrought in ourselves." p. 166


Within "Original Goodness" are reminders of the hurried lifestyle that permeates much of our largely ego-centered modern life today. Called to the reader's attention  is the fact that we are being  consumed and destroyed by the very tools of technology and industry whose purposes were originally intended to create an increased quality of existence.  Easwaran emphasizes  our need to realize the interconnectedness that we share with all living things, human and non-human and to consider and be mindful of how our choices as consumers effects the lives and welfare of others.  Such an awareness of the unity that we share with all that is around us is realized through our spiritual disciplines. This sense of unity fills us with a deep empathy and compassion, allowing us to be troubled when others are troubled around us, and spurring us to put others before ourselves in acts of love to relieve the pain we sense in them.


"For those who love God, when anyone dies, a part of them dies too. In the highest sense, this is the meaning of the Passion, the reason why the Messiah was called "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." Living in all, you suffer whatever they suffer. But this awareness of unity is also the source of the greatest joy, because it brings the love, compassion, and creativity to relieve suffering wherever you go." p. 153


Easwaran has a very positive view of humanity. The rare kind of hope that is fueled only be experiencing the tangible results of the principles of which he speaks.  There is no doubt the profound impact Mahatma Gandhi had in the shaping of his spiritual path. Easwaran first met him while in college and had the privilege of listening to him teach as well as see him in action. Through his interactions with Gandhi, Easwaran shares how he witnessed firsthand how the humble power of one man could transform violence into peace, hatred into reconciliation, all by the power of love. Easwaran's inspiring message is that  in discovering our original goodness we too, can have a transforming impact on the world around us.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found writing a review for it increasingly difficult as there were large volumes of passages that lifted themselves up from the pages that I would have liked to have shared with all of you! It was difficult to choose just a few.  I will undoubtedly use some of the themes and passages I was unable to include in this review in future posts, including describing more in depth the technique of passage meditation that Easwaran introduces to his readers and I, myself, have implemented into my own practices.

I couldn't recommend this book enough. It has personally catapulted itself on the top of my list of favorites. The words of Easwaran and the mystics flow into a seamless symphony of truths and insights that absorb into the mind and heart of the reader as edifying drops of living water, springing up a new sense of awareness of the Divine that awaits to be encountered within, and stirring the heart to set sail on a spiritual journey of personal transformation. 

 
Thoughts? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments section. Thank you!



33 comments:

  1. Thanks a lot Jessica..for sharing this with us..will surely check it out.

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  2. Thanks for stopping by Alpana :)

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  3. Sounds like a definite must-read! Harmonizes beautifully with my own ancient Celtic spiritual worldview. Thank you for another excellent review!

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  4. Interesting, I will have to consider this book. Great review thanks for sharing with us. <3

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  5. I'm so glad you enjoyed it Bill..I definitely thought of certain people when I was reading it, you being in that category. I know you'd really love it! :) Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. Jan, I think you'd really find this book a refreshing read! It leaves the reader with a sense of hope...and we could all use some of that :)

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  7. Jessica - I will read it. "We do not have to figure out how to make ourselves good; all we need do is remove what covers the goodness that is already there"...I love this. As an artist I was told once from a mentor, "To sculpt what you want, simply chip away what you do not need."

    Good post,
    Ron

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  8. Thank you so much for your comment Ron, I appreciate that you took the time to stop by. You will definitely not regret reading this book! I love that quote that you shared! Thanks :)

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  9. This certainly peaks my interest, Jessica! I love the idea of "original goodness" as opposed to "original sin". Jesus came to show us how to reclaim our goodness and to wipe away the burden of sin which keeps us separated from God's presence and the holiness within us.
    Great review and recommendation!
    Blessings!

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  10. Love your review...would enjoy reading this book...i review books too...i will join your site...Gods Peace :O)

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  11. Darn, my long detailed comment from this morning did not get on! I must be doing something wrong. This is Sigrun, but I am posting as anonymous because that has worked in past, but my name has not.

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  12. My main point is that do much "sin" is due to ignorance, and/or lack of awareness of consequences of actions. For example, flawed but well-meaning mothering can be improved by becoming more knowlegable about nutrition, and becoming aware of the psychological effects on kids of unreliability or angry outbursts, as well as by spiritual progress. Books sounds very worthwhile. Jessica. Thanks for taking the time to write the review.

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  13. LyonsLady, Thanks so much for following. I went over to your blog and am following now, I look forward to reading your reviews as well! Glad you enjoyed this one :)

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  14. Martha, thanks so much for stopping by! I agree...the idea of original goodness is a lot more appealing that original sin :) A lot more positive! ~many blessings

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  15. Thank you Sigrun for your thoughts! You make some good points...ignorance can definitely lead us into sin.
    ~blessings

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  16. Thank you for sharing this Jessica. I too beleive we are all born good and it is up to us to reminding ourselves that we have an inner goodness in all of us.

    http://rimlybezbaruah.blogspot.com/2011/02/our-journey-someone-said-love-happens.html

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  17. Seems interesting, will check it out.

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  18. You are right, this book is very rich and to have them put in a blog for details would be impossible. You have considered the most important aspects of Ekwarth's spirituality ~ this is a wonderful book review Jessica.

    I love that part of Ghandi... His very life was an epitome of original goodness. Making peace and love tangible and easier to reach if only ... ;)

    I hope you could share more your personal experiences and feelings while reading this book.

    I loved it sis :)

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  19. Thank you Rimly, I'm glad you could identify with what Easwaran had to say in his book. Thanks for stopping by :)

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  20. Janu..thanks for stopping by. I think, if you end up giving it a read you won't only find it interesting but very inspiring as well :) ~blessings

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  21. Thank you so much Melissa for stopping by, I always love it when you do :)

    "I hope you could share more your personal experiences and feelings while reading this book."

    I would have loved to put in more of my personal reflections regarding my own experiences and the material in the book. I plan to do this in upcoming posts! :)

    ~many blessings sis

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  22. Sounds like a life transforming book. I love all your thoughtful posts and I look forward to hearing more about this book especially the meditation practices.

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  23. "For those who love God, when anyone dies, a part of them dies too…” Having lost so many loved ones, this speaks to my heart.
    Who said, “Live simply, so that others may simply live?” Was it Gandhi or Mother Teresa?
    Our choices do affect the welfare of others.
    Enjoyed your review Jess; thanks!

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  24. Enjoyed the reviewed. You do have talent in giving or writing reviews.
    What we do or how we interact with another creates a domino effect... "what goes around comes around" Every little action reflects our emotions or thoughts so therefore an awareness of what ... how we say or do is important..

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  25. Thank you for sharing this with us, interesting review. Will check it out.

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  26. Thanks Jessica for the great review! It may be one that I add to my list of 'reads' :)

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  27. Jessica, it sounds like a very interesting book! Thank you for taking the time to review it and share it with us.

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  28. Lynn, thanks so much, I'm glad you enjoyed it! I definitely plan on sharing more regarding what I learned from this book as well as what I've experienced and have learned through Easwaran's method of passage meditation. I look forward to sharing it with you :)

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  29. Debra, I'm not sure who that quote was from, but I love it! Thanks for sharing and glad you enjoyed the review :)

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  30. Thank you Savira, for your kind compliment :)

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  31. Sulekkha, if you check it out, I know you won't be dissapointed :) Thanks for stopping by.

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  32. Anna, I hope you do add it to your list! :) Thanks for stopping by.

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  33. Sounds like a great book! I look forward to reading more excerpts when you share them. :)

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