By Manju Gupta
Guiding Souls: Dialogues on the Purpose of Life by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam & Arun K. Tiwari, Ocean Books Pvt Ltd, 164 pp, Rs 150.00
This is the second book that A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Arun K. Tiwari have co-authored. The first book was Ignited Minds that went on to become one of the bestsellers. In Ignited Minds, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is shown to meet in his dream five eminent personalities?Asoka, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Caliph Umar and Einstein, who engage in a discussion on the madness of mankind in a moonlit desert. The current book which is being reviewed takes off from the dream to provide answers to questions, like ?What is to become of me? How can I set out on my own into a world that seems filled with conflict and strife? How do I cope with day-to-day pressures? How can my life be useful and happy? Why is man driven by self-destructive impulses which cause incalculable harm and suffering to humanity??
As we already know, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is President of the Republic of India while Arun K. Tiwari is a professor of biomedical engineering and Director of CARE Foundation in Hyderabad.
Guiding Souls is based upon A.P.J. Abdul Kalam'stravels throughout the Indian Republic and his experiences which served as spiritual guideposts showing him the right path. To quote him, ?Human awareness and experience is taken beyond blind faith and toil to a higher plane of spiritual certainty and purposeful effort. From a scientific perspective, the inner being of a person can be seen as an amorphous collection of thoughts, images, emotions, sensations, dreams insights and inspiration. Add a little sensitivity to the relation between metaphor and reality and you can see them as products of the soul'scontinuous morphing.?
The book actually comprises of outpourings of thoughts on topics of mutual interest to both the co-authors. Structured as dialogues between A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Prof. Arun K. Tiwari, the book outlines the spiritual approach to life. Appealing to the innocent creativity of youth, the book rejects both extremes ? hype and hoop-la of globalisation and the pessimism of seeing the world as a theatre of conflict? and describes the ultimate goal and mission of humanity as constituting the test of helping evolution on the planet, Earth.
Organised into three parts, the first part of the book deals with the concept of inner experience ? thoughts, images, emotions, feelings, sensations, perceptions, insights and knowledge among other things. Take the following excerpt where the thought is voiced and answer is provided:
?Tiwari says: But I, a human being, can think that which no other living creature in the know Universe can.
A.P.J.: And what do you think? Are not all our thoughts subjective? Examine your thoughts closely and you will see that they are either desires or fears. Then there is the polarisation of me and not-me. What else?
Tiwari: That is true. But we do create, invent and develop new concepts.
A.P.J.: Only when the mind is still. Creation comes only when there is no anticipation. As long as you are looking forward to an experience, you are pursuing an achievement, the mind is in the saddle, the ego is in command, and nothing new can occur.?
A.P.J. firmly believes that when there is no vision, man cannot move. Humankind needs dreams and a goal in order to live ?fully and satisfactorily?. The vision comes from within or tajjali-e-ruh for which one needs to have a mirror-like purity of observation, tazkiya-e-qalb and freedom from distortions of perception, taqliyya-e-sirr.
In the second part, the essence of some great souls is presented ? people who lived in different eras and who would offer to mankind a movement forward in the most selfless manner. Some luminaries from contemporary times that are listed among the greats include the legendary Asoka, who began as a ruthless and cruel king but after the Kalinga war turned to ahimsa Dharma to establish a religion of virtue; Thiruvalluvar'sKural, which is called poyyamozhi or the ?book that never lies? as it promotes a code of conduct and ethics for humanity; Aryabhata'sbook Aryabhatiya, written in 118 verses to cover time and planetary models and the sphere of eclipses; Caliph Umar ibn-al-Khattab under whom Islam'shuman face is presented as ordained by the Prophet; Guru Nanak Dev who said, ?Truth is high, higher still is truthful living? if lived by discipline ? a way of life, a force which connects one human being to another, as well with the Guru; Thomas Alva Edison for creating the modern world and who blended audio and silent moving mages to produce The Great Train Robbery and thus was born the film industry; Srinivasa Ramanujan whose work reflects true genius while his life highlights the miseries associated with the rural middle class and the poor in this country; Nelson Mandela and others.
In the third and concluding part of the book, the co-authors describe the journey of the soul and its various manifestations in the unfolding of the eternal essence. A.P.J. has to say the following on becoming the President of India: ?I learnt that the unfoldment of my soul was supported by the real Universe itself, that it was not in my own hands, and that it was infinitely better that it was in the hands of a loving divinity. Such basic trust and unfoldment of the soul spurns you on the journey forward, accelerating the unfoldment of the soul and the revelations of essence and its wisdom.?
Here is a book that enlightens you through every sentence and metaphor, makes you think and then act while covering a wide spectrum of history and human activity. The best part is its ability to evoke the presence of great and eminent human beings who came to this Universe and lived as exemplars for the ideals to which both the co-authors subscribe.
(Ocean Books Pvt Ltd, 4/19 Asaf Ali Road, New Delhi-110001.)