Book Review: Ten Sutras for a Great Life

Book: Ten Sutras for a Great Life
Author: R.A. Krishna

 

Krishna is a friend. No, let me rephrase that. Krishna is a dear old friend. Dear, as in affection and old, as in an association of substantial vintage and not merely someone on the other side of sixty. Now, Krish has written a charming little book. Little, as in all of 116 pages in double spacing – which for the more voracious amongst us, makes for a breezy hour on the rocking chair. Charming, as in an uplifting belief in the goodness of all things good. So when you are asked to review a charming little book written by a dear old friend, you invariably run the risk of befriending a book but losing a friend. More so, if you cannot escape the nagging impression that the protagonist in the book and the author share the same pair of shoes (Pgs 19-20). Therefore, if the man and the author crisscross each other’s path in this review, I have made my disclaimer – and hopefully, forever made my peace.

The story line revolves around Vishal, an over ambitious corporate type living the good life. And in an all too familiar fate of corporate types living the good life, he finds himself minus a job from one day to the next – albeit with a three months’ severance cheque and a parting ’c’est la vie’ as cold comfort. Despondence follows dejection as a futile job search yields nothing – till destiny decides to delicately step in and take charge. He manages to attract the kindly gaze of Vishnu Sharma – a Guru of HW&H (Health, Wealth & Happiness –for the uninitiated); Telephone # 22552234, Cell # 9899922331 (in case any of you corporate types living the good life find yourself in a similar predicament ever)! What follows is a series of discourse where Vishnu draws upon the scriptures and his life experiences (and those of his friend, the good Colonel Ganeshan) to deliver pithy lessons on life and our attitudes and in shaping our coping mechanisms against its fell blows.

The Vishnu – Vishal relationship draws upon the Guru – Shishya parampara so rich in Hindu tradition. Underlining the importance of this tradition, the author avers in the preface, “With the help of the guru one can transcend worldliness and attain Moksha or freedom from Maya”. While the Gurukulam tradition was sought to be made irrelevant by the British in their attempt to align the educational system to the needs of the Empire, the Hindu psyche has always retained the Krishna – Arjun dialogue on the battlefield of Kurukshetra as a living embodiment of the Sanathan Dharma and as enunciated in the Bhagavad Gita. This tradition has been very cleverly woven into the narrative by the author in very simple frames of reference drawing upon the scriptures and interweaving them with present day issues. This makes it highly relevant in the current context as we seek answers to life issues by drawing upon the all-encompassing concepts of Dhrama, Arth and Moksha.

If you were to view this book as yet another self-help guide, you probably would not be way off mark. But there is a subtle difference. The compilation of the ten sutras are essentially homilies designed to equip the ‘Vishal’ in you to deal with the vagaries of life with greater equanimity. These are not prescriptions for instant success but the building blocks in accumulating good karma. Buying or selling your Ferrari would be incidental to playing your part well. The first two sutras matter-of-factly deal with living in the here and now, and that outward appearances are immaterial. The next two sutras deal with the body and the mind. A healthy mind in a healthy body rests on the virtues of a vegetarian diet for the body and meditation as soup for the soul. Both need exercising, of course. Building on this, the fifth, sixth and seventh sutras delve into the metaphysical aspects of life and the more esoteric concepts surrounding the transient nature of our existence and the transmigration and evolution of the soul. The eighth sutra talks of the futility of railing against life as it unfolds and the power of positive visualisation in setting life’s agendas. The ninth sutra speaks of the significance of mantras as means to removing obstacles in our path to progress. The tenth and final sutra rounds off the Guru’s teaching with an appreciation of the karmic law of cause and effect and the need to direct the power of good karma in all present and future action.

As an aside, the more discerning amongst the readers will find an interesting sub-text running through the entire book.  It clearly brings out the ‘Bangalore Boy’ in the author. As the Vishal/Vishnu  journey of discovery traverses Bangalore (or Bengaluru, in the interest of political correctness), it gives a refreshing insight into some of Bangalore’s fabled landmarks – Koshys (a fitting locale for chewing over the virtues of vegetarianism and PYTs); Bowring Institute on St Mark’s Road (classy and meditative); the Bangalore Club with its hoary traditions (and hence, apt for out-of-body experiences); The Century Club off Cubbon Park and an ode to the legendary M. Visvesvariah; and finally, The Karnataka Cricket Association Club (given the current state of Indian cricket, a fitting locale for confabulations on the ‘Deterministic Theory of Chaos’). That, you might say, is a lot of club hopping for one little book! Those of you who might be furiously taking notes with a view to firming up the itinerary for your next Bangalore trip are warned. There is a devious twist to the list. But I leave it to you to make your own way till the end of the book to find out – this book is all about self discovery, remember?  All in all, makes for an enticing take on Bangalore and its watering holes for the rich and famous. Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation might want to sit up and take notice.

So what does the book leave you with? Other than leaving you minus ₹160/- (nicely priced and money well spent, I might say), it leaves you with a warm after glow. It has something for everyone – even diehard romantics looking for the mandatory potion of breathless courting and passionate liaison, may be gratified to note that our hero gets to marry his co-worker. The presentation is simple and straight forward and you might be tempted to nudge even your grandchildren into partaking of its wisdom. (Tell them to go ahead and open it – no password required)! Some details might strike one as being somewhat superfluous – though at times intriguing. For example, the precise timings for every meeting. Other than inculcating a habit for punctuality in the errant Vishal, you are tempted to wonder if it all has a higher purpose – maybe a discourse on Brahma Muhurata/ rahukalam will ensue. But no, it’s just that – superfluous detail; and these are scattered all over the book. Slicker editing might have kept the focus – but for a book this brief- why complain. Pragmatism triumphs pretentiousness in the presentation and makes for an uncomplicated narrative.

Net, net, (as the corporate types living the good life are wont to say) – an interesting maiden effort. The fact that it has been penned by an old friend – one with an ever ready smile and a twinkle in his eye – makes for an even more satisfying read.

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Ranjan Bakshi
Ranjan Bakshi is an ex investment banker and fund manager who spent his early and formative years in Jabalpur. He enjoys writing and the arts - his travel writing on the LivingWise Project has been particularly popular.

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