Friday, September 2, 2011

3 Lives, In search of bliss

I love reading a book or seeing a movie where I know almost nothing about it. When you get a free copy of a book for review, you never know if it will be a gem or a dud.  Most are somewhere in between.  The author, Srini Chandra,  of 3 Lives, In search of bliss contacted me because of my review of one of Deepak Chopra's books.  I had never heard of the author or the book.  But, the premise of the melding of Eastern and Western religion/philosophy was intriguing to me as was the idea of spiritual progression through reincarnation.  All I had to risk was the time to read the book and the time to review it.  I went into the book with pretty low expectations based on the fact I hadn't heard of the author, this was his first book and anyone can "publish" anything on the Kindle platform now and call it a book.  Boy, was I wrong.  This book blew my socks off.  I don't read a lot of fiction.  But, this is the best fictional book I've read since "The Shack".  Don't let the $0.99 price fool you (if Srini's smart, he might have raised it by the time you read this). This book is worth your money and your time. 

A quick summary of the book (taken from the Amazon page)

When Ray is murdered on his forty second birthday, he cries out in anguish - Why me?. In what lies after death, Ray meets the Voice, who he believes to be God. The Voice offers him three lives, each designed of his own choices, in pursuit of happiness. In a strange turn of events, Ray, a Catholic, is born as Anwer Al Safi, son of a devout Muslim, a self made billionaire and the most famous Arab in the world. In his second life, he takes the form of Dr. Jill Clayton, a scientist and teacher at Cal Tech in Pasadena, whose husband is gunned down in a terrorist attack in Mumbai. In his third life, Ray comes back as Tenzin Lhamo, a boy monk who flees his mountain homeland to exile in India.

The author told me that he had distilled the book down from twice its original size to focus on the essence of the characters.  I appreciated that.  The book grabbed me right from the beginning.   I could instantly relate to the character of Ray who is full of questions about the injustices of life, lives a very guarded life not allowing himself to fully risk emotional vulnerability and who dies suddenly and tragically and confronts  what he assumes to be G-d full of anger and questions.  The questions that Srini puts into the mouths of his characters are the big ones we all have.  Why are we here?  Why doesn't G-d make Himself more evident?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  But, Srini does not provide us with pat answers.

As a person who was raised Christian but sees wisdom in other philosophies/religions and has studied (some) Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Reincarnation, Near Death Experiences, etc., I enjoyed the easy way Srini melded wisdom from several different traditions. I've had several Christian friends question me about the wisdom of reincarnation or why it would make sense.  I think this story shows how reincarnation makes sense.  

Without being "preachy" or overly academic, the book covers such topics as samsara- the cycle of birth death and rebirth, maya- the illusion that what we perceive with the senses is all there is, karma, nirvana or bliss, letting go, the fact that we cannot live for another- we have to all find our own path and more.  As I read the book and now that I have finished it, I find myself continuing to think about it as life circumstances arise.  Near the end of the book there is maybe the best example I have seen of Nirvana or bliss.  Nirvana is a difficult concept (at least for me).  As I was thinking about the book in bed last night, something came to me.  "Everything matters.  Nothing matters."  Every moment is precious.  Every emotion is important.  But, ultimately, it all passes. We should enjoy it while it's here because it's important. But, we should not cling to it because we cannot hold on.

There is a concept in the book that was not explained and might not be familiar to some- I read about it in "Memories of the Afterlife" by Dr. Michael Newton. That is soul groups.  The idea is that we are incarnated again and again with people who we have an affinity with. They might be our daughter in this life, our husband in the next life and our mother in another life.

3 Lives is a novella rather than a novel.  It's short in terms of length.  But, I didn't feel that it needed to be longer.  It's condensed- concentrating the action and wisdom into fewer words than a novel.

As I read the book, I was highlighting passage after passage.  I was wondering where Srini had copied these pearls of wisdom from.  Being a first time author, surely he didn't come up with them on his own.  Here are few examples (I have lots more stuff highlighted in my copy).  My favorite is the last one.

Life is short. Indeed, it is life’s way of reminding us to grasp the moments that it places within our reach. A moment arises out of the fathomless future, and subsides irretrievably into the silent river of the past that flows endlessly into oblivion. Indeed, the fleeting nature is that which defines a moment. Its beauty is wrapped in its elusiveness. In this truth lies the sweetness of life.
Indeed, it was in this remembrance that Anwer found what had eluded him for a lifetime. Death did not frighten him any longer. Nor did it abhor him. Rather, it consoled him, as the beckoning sight of a rest house soothes a weary traveler.
There is something sacred about tears. They fill a void that words find impossible to fill. They bring forth the joy, the suffering and the contrition of a thousand lives. Tears are spontaneous eruptions of emotion that this benevolent universe is unwilling to hold back any longer, knowing that their time has come. They are the silent workmen that come to carry away the burden of the soul.
Love for God is the greatest of our romances. As we grow older, the more we struggle with belief, scarred by knowledge and embittered by experience. Faith is lost in faith itself. Romance itself becomes unloved. Bliss lies inexorably intertwined with the romantic spirit of this great universe. It is indeed a universe filled with beauty and pregnant with possibilities, and held in place by its impersonal and misunderstood laws. There are some who choose to call this God. 
I rarely give a book (or anything) five stars.  After seeing every review on Amazon so far for this book has been five stars, I was looking for a reason to take a star away.  If all the review are five stars, people might think something funny is going on.  But, this book deserves every one of those stars. Pick it up.

p.s.- no Kindle? No problem.  You can get a Kindle reader app for just about every platform out there, PC, Mac, Android, iPhone- Kindle Application  Lots of Kindle books are cheap.  Some are even free.
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Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Can't beat the $0.99 Kindle price either!

kc bob said...

Thanks for the review Brian!