Notable Books

Notable Books 25

A book and a rose …quite a combination

Something New…

Ravi Ravindra, The Pilgrim Soul, Wheaton, IL:  Quest Books, 2014.  Paperback, $15.95, 140 pages.

Dr. Ravi Ravindra is Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Back in the late 1970s and most of the 80s, Ravi serves on several Theosophical committees that I also was on. These were very exciting years when Dora Kunz was the president of the TSA and science was becoming very important in lending support to many of the claims that Theosophy had been making for years.

Ravi was in the perfect position to help us connect the various areas since he held positions at Dalhousie in physics, comparative religion, and philosophy departments. I was amazed at Ravi’s breadth of knowledge not only in religion and physics, but he was widely diverse in other spiritual traditions.  Since those early days, I have always stayed up with the latest books he has been producing since I know that I always will learn something new. This book is no exception.   

The origin of the book began in January, 2002. Ravi was invited to deliver the De Nobili Endowment Lectures at the Satya Nilayam Institute of Philosophy and Culture Chennai/Madras. The subtitle of the text encapsulates the theme:  “A Path to the Sacred Transcending World Religions.” To do this Ravi states in the Preface that “to live rightly necessitated education that can bring about a transformation; one needs a discipline, a spiritual path, a yoga.” Then in four chapters he proceeds to provide this type of education.

In some of my past reviews of various Ravi books, I have found it difficult because when he writes, the thoughts flow and it is hard to bridge those thoughts together. So, over the years I have found it better to find those salient points and highlight them for further meditation and study. I will list some of my favorites below, but I’m sure that your list will differ because there is so much to inspire and re-read.  Perhaps you might want to try this and compare your list to mine. Either way, both of us will benefit.


(p. 37)  “In spiritual matters, one sure sign of a counterfeit teaching is that it promises a great deal for very little effort on the aspirant’s part:  no genuine spiritual path is easy or comforting or self-advancing.”

(p. 74)  “As long as we live at the level of our lower nature, the sinful passions work in our bodies to bear fruit for death.”

(p. 86)  “I am convinced that no culture has a monopoly on either stupidity or wisdom. Every culture has had, and will continue to have, great teachers and profound insights.”

(p. 94)  “What is needed is an inter-pilgrim dialogue – in which participants do not assume they already know what God is and what Truth is but are engaged in search – rather than interfaith dialogues based on established creeds and dogmas in which past councils or text have determined that one must ‘believe’, no matter what one’s experience actually reveals.”

(p. 96)  “…, attachment to an exclusive traditional formulation of this vision of Oneness has limited the recognition of the uniqueness of each individual manifestation.”

Something Old…

William Q Judge, The Bhagavad-Gita,The Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, CA, 1971, 133 pages.  There are many editions and prices on the internet.

William Q Judge, The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, The Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, CA, 1973, 74 pages. There are many prices and editions on the internet.

For those of you who practice yoga, you know that is has become a very large business; especially in America. I’ve been practicing for about 10 years and average 4 classes per week. In this time frame, I have noticed one thing in particular; as the business competition for student’s heats up, the spiritual aspects of the class’s decreases as the exercise part increases. Yoga traditionally has 8 limbs with the third limb being the asanas (poses).  It seems that most classes today only do the poses and skip everything else. I consider the first and second limb to be the important starting point.  These are the ethical limbs and are called ‘yamas’ and ‘niyamas’. By carefully selecting your teachers, you still find classes that will include theses limbs along with meditation and breathing (pranayama). Many times these will be studied at a yoga retreat if you are selective.  

In order for this type of yoga to commence, you will do selective reading on some sacred literature and then study the material and presentation from the teacher. The two books that I have found most often given for study are The Gita and the Sutras of Patanjali.        

Based on my experience, I have found that very few modern day students really read these books. Over the years, the most given reason that I have heard is, the length and difficulty of the text with commentary is too much. Interest is lost and the two books remain unread. Last year, the Patanjali book being talked about was 598 pages! I know of no one who read it completely with the exception of one of my retreat teachers. There are similar stories we could tell about The Gita and which version, edition, etc., you should read.  

It seems to me that as Theosophist, we are missing a chance here to promote two wonderful books by William Q Judge. His Gita is presented in a very readable format with a short introduction that Judge wrote.  This is followed by about 130 pages of again very readable material.  I have suggested to some of my fellow yoga classmates this book for study. You can read about 4 pages per day as a devotional and cover it in a month. Then, you can set it aside for a month or two and then repeat the process. In this way you can read the Gita 3 or 4 times per year.

In a similar manner, I have suggested too many of my classmates Judge’s edition of the Sutras. Judge gives a very nice and brief introduction followed by the sutras.  Here the student only has to read and study 74 pages. As with any sacred literature, I would expect many, including Theosophist who do not practice the asanas to find this very useful in there every day lifestyle. For the serious student, there is always I. K. Taimni’s The Science of Yoga which happens to be my favorite. However, I still find for convenience to read and carry both of Judge’s editions when I travel.  

They both come highly recommended. There is an irony in this review in that I purchased both of the Judge books when I was at Olcott (National Headquarters in America) for a Theosophical Research Institute meeting that then president Dora Kunz’s had organized. Another person at that meeting was Ravi Ravindra. This is synchronicity at its best!

Note from the editor:
The category Notable Books on Theosophy Forward is compiled by John Algeo and Ralph Hannon

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