Tag Archives: spirituality

Life of Pi

I read Life of Pi by Yann Martel because (a) my friend JP told me about it a few years ago and (b) ever since then I see it in book stores and I think God, what a great and intriguing cover! And (c) just the other day JP mentioned it to me again because I recently read Siddhartha. Honestly, I started reading without knowing what it would be about – I had never even read a synopsis! So I had no idea that Pi (whose full name is Piscine Molitor Patel) was an Indian boy whose father was a zookeeper. And I was even further surprised to read that Pi is the lone survivor of a massive shipwreck as his family was sailing to move to Canada, and he is subsequently stuck drifting in the Pacific Ocean with a Begal tiger as a shipmate.

It sounds quite ridiculous, but it’s also so serious and at many times so disheartening that you actually want to cry. Martel has this way of bringing you into the actual events so that you nearly feel as parched and desperate as Pi, but his religiosity is also so inspiring that you know you can’t lose hope.

For the record, JP said he hated Siddhartha and loved Life of Pi. While I didn’t hate Siddhartha, I absolutely fell in love with Pi.

I have nothing to say of my working life, only that a tie is a noose, and inverted though it is, it will hang a man nonetheless if he’s not careful.
(Locations 115-116)

I love Canada. I miss the heat of India, the food, the house lizards on the walls, the musicals on the silver screen, the cows wandering the streets, the crows cawing, even the talk of cricket matches, but I love Canada. It is a great country much too cold for good sense, inhabited by compassionate, intelligent people with bad hairdos.
(Locations 116-119)

Siddhartha

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (free at Feedbooks) is a beautiful novel (originally written in German) about an Indian boy named Siddhartha, who seeks enlightenment. It follows him as he leaves his father, a Brahman, to join ascetics. He later meets Buddha, goes on to the city and learns the secrets of love-making with a courtesan who loves him, then leaves her only to find she gave birth to his son.

While I really don’t know too much about Buddhism, I loved the idea of the totality of your experiences being the true nirvana, rather than separate, distinct events. It was all written very beautifully:

And this is now a teaching you will laugh about: love, oh Govinda, seems to me to be the most important thing of all. To thoroughly understand the world, to explain it, to despise it, may be the thing great thinkers do. But I’m only interested in being able to love the world, not to despise it, not to hate it and me, to be able to look upon it and me and all beings with love and admiration and great respect.
(Location 1586)

The Prophet

The Prophet by Khalil Gibran (free at Feedbooks) is a beautiful, short piece consisting of 26 poems about various subjects. The prophet al-Mustafa is about to board a ship to return to his homeland after twelve years. But it seems he has had a great effect on the people of Orphalese, as they ask him for one last time to speak to them of life. It’s all very beautifully told:

Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;For love is sufficient unto love. When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.” And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself. But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving; To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy; To return home at eventide with gratitude; And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.
(Locations 94-106)

You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
(Locations 136-137)

For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live.
(Locations 451-452)

You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts; And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime. And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered. For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.
(Locations 457-460)

Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing. Yet the timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness, And knows that yesterday is but to-day’s memory and to-morrow is to-day’s dream.
(Locations 473-475)