We witness the heartbreak of death, for instance – what does that mean for us? What is love? How does karma work? How do we follow the spiritual life in the midst of work and family? Does nirvana really exist, and if so, what is it like to be illumined?
Easwaran presents the Dhammapada as a perfect map for the
spiritual journey. This ancient text reveals a world that is remarkably like
ours – less populated and polluted, but facing the same violence, greed, and
suffering that we read in our media headlines. The Buddha’s own life was
fraught with challenges, and his timeless appeal lies not just in his deep
warmth and wisdom but also in his realism and emphasis on self-reliance.
The Dhammapada verses are brief and often elusive, but Easwaran teases out the themes and highlights the Buddha’s often startling insights, illustrating them, as a master story-teller, with vivid episodes from the Buddha’s life. Easwaran also shares his own experiences, pointing out the joys and pitfalls on the spiritual journey, giving the advice that only a gifted spiritual writer can offer, and urging us, over and over, to answer for ourselves the Buddha’s call to nirvana –that mysterious and enduring state of wisdom, joy, and peace.
In his last editorial planning meeting, in 1998, Easwaran gave instructions about the books in progress that he wanted completed from his unpublished transcripts, outlines, and notes. Essence of the Dhammapada is part of the legacy of a gifted teacher sharing his immersion in a sacred text, conveyed in his talks and informal sessions with some of his closest students.