Pankaj Mishra. An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World. New York: Picador, 2004. Paperback, 422 pp.
Born in 1969, Mishra wrote his first novel at the age of seventeen. After studying English literature at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, he dedicated himself to the art of writing and has authored several fiction and nonfiction works and is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and Times Literary Supplement. He established an international reputation for himself in 1999 with the publication of his novel The Romantics.
The present work, which is a mixture of autobiography, travelogue, and thoughtful commentary, chronicles his encounter with Buddhism. It evinces his great gift for lucid observation and brilliant, poignant writing.
His approach is sweeping, which probably goes back to his great love for the Mahābhārata, and his deeply searching mind is well equipped to deal with the Buddha’s sophisticated teachings. Skillfully switching from modernity to antiquity, secularism to metaphysics, Mishra has painted a colorful, lively mural of the Buddha’s life and teachings. He writes as a modern, restless Indian, brought up on Western thought but steeped in India’s age-old and ageing culture and trying to make sense of the contradictions within and around him.
Because he is not satisfied with novelistic sound bytes but obliges himself and his readers to pose real questions and excavate the past for real answers, Mishra has hit on a universal note that communicates not only to his countrymen but intelligent readers everywhere.
As the Buddha correctly recognized 2500 years ago, suffering is a constant in human experience. His message, Mishra concludes almost to his own surprise, is valid even today.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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