Reviews written by Sheila Trask
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When you open Rashmi Khilnani’s latest book, Buddha Speaks, the first thing you realize is that Khilnani received these messages by channeling the Buddha. You’ll almost certainly begin to debate whether Khilnani’s intense meditation experiences emanate from the historical Buddha or from her own mind. The second thing you realize, however, is that it doesn’t really matter where the messages originated. The experienced author knows this and addresses it up front, saying “such a question comes from the mind which seeks division, separation, and definition. In unity consciousness … I become my Buddha Self which is one with the All, and thus this becomes a dialogue with my own Buddha nature.”
With the question of source largely taken off the table, Khilnani lets readers delve into the content of her meditation sessions, which are surprisingly conversational and down-to-earth. In fact, one of Khilnani’s recurring themes is how to bring sacred teachings into the sphere of everyday life. One of the most intriguing aspects of the book is the ongoing conversation about how this bridging of the sacred and the profane might look different today than it did when the Buddha attained enlightenment.
Even when taking on the largest philosophical questions, Khilnani’s Buddha remains accessible to the average reader, especially with the gentle humor mixed into the conversation throughout. Among the responses to questions about the meaning of life, for instance, the Buddha replies with a snippet of the children’s song, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” This playfulness brings a delightful balance to discussions that might otherwise feel overwhelming.
Previous study of Buddhist literature might enhance a reader’s experience, but newcomers are more than welcome here as well.
A self-described workaholic with the mind and training of an engineer, David Bennett seems more likely to talk about Navy submarines than “light beings” from beyond. It takes a diving accident and an overwhelming Near Death Experience (NDE) to change his perspective.
Initially shocked and confused by his NDE, David waits many years to speak about it. Not until he meets his second wife, Cindy, does he talk openly of meeting his Soul Family and the all-encompassing love he felt in his time between worlds. Cindy understands him and partners with him as he learns to use his NDE transformation to guide him through a Stage IV lung cancer diagnosis that no doctor predicted he would survive. Together, the couple has written a moving memoir about an ordinary guy who lives an extraordinary life.
David’s story may seem hard to swallow at first. Death by drowning, envelopment in a bright light filled with loving souls, and a return to his earthly body? It is easy to doubt the dramatic, clichéd story at first. David’s own skepticism and investigative approach, however, lend credibility to an otherwise controversial story. He hardly believes it himself, and so the reader is privy to his thought process as he comes to terms with his experience.
It also helps that David is not a fame-seeking guru looking for adoration. Instead, he is quite humble. For instance, David doesn’t claim superiority for his newfound understanding of the interconnectedness of all beings. He never claims his experience is exclusive, or even wholly positive. Instead, he describes things like a “life review” of his own bad behavior, in which he directly experiences the perspective of his friends, family, and even a few temporary enemies.
Alongside his personal narrative, David offers suggestions for readers looking for spiritual transformation. Through this “quiet ministry” David leads others to meditation and visualization techniques that might help them be more open to the Spirit he now communicates with freely. Again, he does not proselytize, but rather shares his own experience of things from pre-dawn chats with Spirit, to the healing power of holy relics. He never asks others to follow his example blindly, but encourages people to become fellow explorers of the spiritual world.
When author Darrin Drda uses the word “global” he means it. Virtually no stone is left unturned in this call for a new perspective using age-old methods. A practicing Buddhist with a Master of Arts degree in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness, Drda takes a wide-angle look at the world, its troubles, and its promise. The all-inclusive approach threatens to create a disordered assortment of ideas, but Drda borrows structures from Buddhist philosophy to provide a framework for his thoughts.
At its core, The Four Global Truths applies the personal wisdom of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths to the world as a whole. Drda’s extensive knowledge is apparent when he discusses the truth of suffering through a variety of lenses, from Greek history to space exploration. He works his way through the truth of the cause of suffering, including the growing awareness of self, and predicts that the end of suffering is possible. Drda extends his Buddhist framework with an Eight-Fold Path that will take us toward the end of suffering, focusing on “wise relation” with self, others, other species, the Earth, the feminine, space, time, and the divine.
Drda’s vast knowledge of science, history, religion, and philosophy support his argument that all things are connected and that we, as humans, can be a positive force in this system we call life. The book is best taken in small doses, as he covers so much territory in each chapter. It takes some contemplation to make the connections between topics that flow from Jainism to Stoicism to polyamory all in a few pages. Sometimes sacrificing depth for breadth, Drda offers capsule explanations of concepts like mindfulness meditation, which many have devoted lifetimes to studying. In this way, The Four Global Truths is a great jumping-off point for studying any of its topics in detail, and then coming back to the connections Drda has made here. There is a lot to learn.
“It is essential to make room for new life. Holding on, you cannot hear the truth.”
Sometimes the Universe just pushes you into a new way of being. That’s exactly what happened to Inette Miller. A respected journalist, single mother, and confirmed city-dweller, Miller couldn’t have guessed that a last-minute Hawaiian vacation would prompt her to leave it all behind, forever. She certainly never expected to find herself sleeping in her car on the beach and transcribing messages from supernatural sources. She was an educated Jewish professional from Portland. What was she doing here?
Miller’s memoir captures the intuitions and connections that led her on this journey, as well as the self-doubt and heartbreak she would encounter along the way. On the face of it, Grandmothers Whisper is the tale of a woman who falls in love with a charismatic prophet, named ‘Iokepa, on the island of Kaua’i. To join him, however, is not as simple as becoming his lover. ‘Iokepa’s mission in life is to reclaim the culture of native peoples and their land, and he has renounced all connections to modern life as part of his quest. Miller must travel with ‘Iokepa, which means living the life that many native islanders are forced to live, fenced in by government and corporate regulations that have nothing to do with their history, their ways. Through these trials, Miller comes to comprehend the interconnectedness of all things and her unique gift as a storyteller who can convey her understanding to others.
To her credit, Miller lets us doubt her choices right along with her. If this beautiful brown man with the flowing white hair was truly a prophet, able to receive messages from his ancestors on a regular basis, surely he would have more control over his life. Did he seduce Inette for her money? Her physical resources certainly outweigh his, and together they go through all of her money and even some of her son’s college fund. It’s easy to be skeptical, especially when the beach bum lifestyle leads to serious illness. You’re left wondering, along with Inette, if it is truly worth the struggle.
Miller’s willingness to share the whole story, warts and all, makes this memoir a compelling read. You come to respect her choices, and to trust ‘Iokepa, even when he makes the most unexpected moves.
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