An End To Suffering - The Buddha In The World

Review by Willard Manus

"For many years now I had read and thought about the Buddha's life and teachings. I was far from calling myself a Buddhist--I hadn't even attempted the hard and continuous self-scrutiny required of serious Buddhists. But I had got over many of my initial difficulties with the more metaphysical aspects of Buddhist teachings. I had come to understand that the Buddha had offered an internally coherent set of ideas, in which abstruse-sounding theories were never far apart from practice, and I had given up much of my scepticism about them."

Thus writes Pankaj Mishra in his fascinating book, AN END TO SUFFERING--THE BUDDHA IN THE WORLD (Picador). Mishra, an Indian novelist and journalist, weaves a multi-layered text. One strand deals with the history and meaning of Buddhism; another with the relevance of Buddhism today; a third with his own spiritual quest to live ethically and sanely in a world "powered mostly by greed, hatred and delusion."

Mishra tackles complex metaphysical issues in AN END TO SUFFERING, but his erudition and intellect are up to the task. He also writes a deft, clear prose and he is able to bring to life his own and Buddha's travels in search of enlightenment.

"This is what I began to see more clearly," he explains finally. "What the Buddha had stressed to the helpless people caught in the chaos of his own time: how the mind, where desire, hatred and delusion run rampant, creating the glories and defeats of the past as well as the hopes for the future, and the possibility for endless suffering, is also the place--the only one--where human beings can have full control over their lives."