An engaging and novel approach to spiritual universalism.



A memoir/spiritual work examines common religious questions from a combined Eastern and Western perspective.

Born to a Muslim family that lived in both Guyana and Canada, Ramsaran represents a mélange of cultures. As a teenager, he found a book about yoga and has since spent a lifetime exploring Eastern spirituality, which included a pilgrimage to India and eventually a discipleship in Paramahansa Yogananda’s Los Angeles–based Self-Realization Fellowship. This book is both a memoir of the author’s own spiritual journey and a rumination on religious questions, such as the purpose of life and what happens after death, asked by humans throughout time. Given his background, many of Ramsaran’s beliefs center on Eastern spirituality, in particular from Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi (1946). But like his guru, Ramsaran has a dual affinity, to Eastern spiritualism and the teachings of Jesus. He does not see a tension between the religions of East and West. Thus, chakras, karma, and reincarnation are not treated as an Eastern alternative to Christianity but instead as part of the Bible’s message. Similarly, Christian ideas like the Seven Deadly Sins are reinterpreted through an Eastern lens as “the seven inner serpents.” The repetitive reciting of the Hail Mary, a Roman Catholic prayer, serves the same purpose, according to the author, as the chants of Tibetan Buddhists. Ultimately, regardless of whether one worships Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, or Sathya Sai Baba, these different faiths point to the same “Divine.” Curiously absent from this list is Allah. Indeed, despite the author’s Muslim upbringing and emphasis on spiritual universality, Islam plays only a small role in the work. While Ramsaran includes a section on the Christian Bible in nearly every chapter, the Quran is mentioned only twice in passing. Despite this surprising omission, the book is a welcome addition to the canon of East meets West spiritual dialogues that combine thoughtful meditations on spiritual questions with memoirs. This work also features poetry and an analysis of pop music.

An engaging and novel approach to spiritual universalism. (bibliography)

Pub Date: July 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5255-6868-8

Page Count: 234

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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