Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review (Sort Of): The Science of Self-Realization

Namaste readers! Today I'm going to do something sort of useful with this blog, and review a book. This is a book I've had for a while and even though I've read it a long time ago I've only gotten around to writing this review now. Go figure. Anyway, the book I shall review is none other than The Science of Self-Realization by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (whew!). However, as I'm no expert on Hinduism, I can't really judge the worth of this book to those practicing Hinduism, and I can't really comment on the organization that published it, ISKCON (acronym for the International Society for Krishna CONsciousness). Therefore I put "Sort Of" in the title of this blog post to indicate that I'm not trying to be any sort of authority figure on this book or the subjects it covers.

However, I do feel I have some insights into this book that I think are worth sharing. For instance, the format of the book is a very good one - it's a compilation of articles, letters, and other writings either written by or about Swami Prabhupada that have been collected over the years before the first printing of the book. It actually makes it easier to read, contrary to what you might think, as even though the articles are grouped according to topic, you can go back and forth to whichever articles you want to read, in any order, and since they're all self-contained (after a fashion) you won't miss anything by jumping between them. It's like the perfect setup for those with short attention spans. I don't know if that says more about us readers in the USA or the authors of the book, but it still works.

Even though the book is set up this way, it still tells a cohesive story, at least in my view. Most of the articles in the book have something to do with Swami Prabhupada's attempts to spread the views of ISKCON in the United States. Many of the writings he pens in this regard express...deep reservations about even coming to the United States, and in one entry he even asks Lord Krishna, "why have You brought me to this terrible place?" In a later entry, though, he says in all the Western countries he's visited, ISKCON has been most successful in the United States. Take that as you will...personally, I like to think of this occurrence as proof that Sanatana Dharma is for everyone (i.e. for everyone who wants it), and anyone can have his or her heart opened to it. It's certainly a good takeaway message if there ever was one!

Lastly, even though I personally don't follow ISKCON, this book is still worth reading in that it espouses truths that are universal to every religion, not just Hinduism and ISKCON. The methods to find and realize God are different for every religion, but the end result is the same. I know Swami Prabhupada is one of the more controversial figures in Hinduism (or so I've heard...he's said some controversial things), but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Not saying Swami Prabhupada is a stopped clock, mind you - just saying despite his more controversial statements, he still says some things that are correct. Kind of like me and this blog. :-)

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