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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"In God's Name." A Book Review.

I was recently invited by the National Geographic Society publishing department to read the book, "In God's Name" and do a review of the work. I found the title intreaging and agreed. I was provided a copy of the book and just finished it. It is by Jules Naudet and Gedeon Naudet. The photos are taken by Stephan Crasneanscki and the interviews by Virginie Luc.

The design of the cover was obviously the first thing that I noticed. It has a nice gold colored cover with a complimenting black binding and lovely white script. The mixture of these three colors lends itself well to the noble topic within as gold, black and white are all colors associated with spirituality in many religions.

Then I opened the book and was rewarded with a stunning, brilliant and artistic photo of a trio of Buddhist monks wrapped up in their robes with one monk peering out from around his shroud at the camera. The pictures in this book live up to the standard of photography that the world has come to expect from National Geographic. There is also a wonderful picture of Buddhist nun peering over glasses while reading as well as young Tibetan Buddhist monks playing soccer. The wisdom in her face and eyes is endearing and captivating.

And so this book is worth buying for the pictures alone but the wisdom from diverse religions within is just as worthwhile. The various religions include: Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Shinto and Hinduism. I hope I named them all. So the wisdom is simple but like most simple messages of spirituality that are deeply profound. I will touch on a few of the quotes from other religions but being a Buddhist I will focus more on those.

The Dalai Lama was introduced in this book with him describing the balance between being seen by Tibetan Buddhists as Avalokiteshvara (Kwan Yin) and a sentient being like everyone else. He has such disarming honesty when he says, "I am also ridden with a bit of laziness. So, while talking to other people, I do not give airs to myself. I speak the real fact. That is why people love me. For me too, I have no uneasiness. It is troublesome if I think I am smart and higher." This kind of humility is exactly what makes him such an enlightened being. He is truly living and epitomizing the middle way.

Another spiritual leader in the book that I found fascinating is the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church of England. His answer to the question, "How do you feel the presence of God?" sounded very similar to Buddhism and reminded me how similar we are all despite our different spiritual beliefs. He says, "I am aware of the presence of God every time I'm aware of my own breathing, my own heartbeat. (James: That's very Buddhist to talk of finding peace in one's breath and heartbeat).

Then when asked, "What is the meaning of death" the Dalai Lama said, "If you think that a natural thing has come, tranquility shall prevail. For example, fruits fall down when ripened. There is no reason to be surprised. That is what it is. But if you think that something catastrophic has happened, then a lot of unhappiness shall follow.

When asked, "Can different religions coexist" the Dali Lama responded, "In early times, in each place, people lived in isolation from the rest. It was right for them to abide within a solitary religious milieu. In their isolated milieus, it was right for them to promote their particular religion. We can't decree that this or that particular religion is the most important. I can not say that Buddhism is the best for each one of us." This kind of acceptance is a big reason that I became a Buddhist.

All in all I was enthralled with this book and pleased to have had the chance to read and review it. I would highly recommend this piece of art and would be a great gift. It would be a great coffee table book.

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3 comments:

Pete Hoge said...

I like your content fellow
dharma brother.

I didn't realize all this could
be done with a blog page.

Pete.

www.dharmabrother.blogspot.com

They call him James Ure said...

Pete:

Why thank-you very much. I'm glad that you enjoy it. I never knew that my blog would grow into what it has.

It has kind of taken on a life of it's own. I just kind of turn the steering wheel but the engine is within my readers.

I couldn't have built this blog into what it is without my extended network of friends and readers that I've not yet met. You all have helped turned this space into a real, global sangha/community and that was my goal.

I'm going to keep on going and hope that I can keep helping others as they have helped me.

Anonymous said...

I really love reading your blog posts, I am always learning something new. Just one little "criticism", intreaging should be spelled intriguing.

Keep up the great writing.

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