This is a book by Professor A.K. Saran based on a lecture he gave in 1981 at Takamori, a small village in Japan, to assembled religious and spiritual leaders from all over the world. Professor Saran’s lecture was very well received and was later expanded and rewritten as a book. Professor Saran started his lecture with two stories which he said represented in seed form all that he wanted to say in the lecture. The first story is from ‘Out of Africa’ by Isak Dinesen and it illustrates a central problem of modernity and its novelty seeking ways. It goes like this…
Once, when Denys and I had been up, and were landing on the plain of the farm, a very old Kikuyu came up and talked to us: “You were up very high today,” he said, “we could not see you, only hear the aeroplane sing like a bee.”
I agreed that we had been up high.
“Did you see God?” he asked.
“No, Ndwetti,” I said, “we did not see God.”
“Aha, then you were not up high enough,” he said, “but now tell me: do you think that you will be able to get up high enough to see him?”
“I do not know, Ndwetti,” I said.
“And you, Bedâr,” he said, turning to Denys, “what do you think? Will you get up high enough in your aeroplane to see God?”
“Really I do not know,” said Denys.
“Then,” said Ndwetti, “I do not know at all why you two go on flying.”
Everything Professor Saran writes seems to be difficult to read and understand. But I think we must make a sincere effort because his work has the power to let us see through the fog of modernity. Here are three excerpts that I hope provide you an incentive to read the book.
Excerpt 1: (From the ‘Publisher’s note’ by Samdhong Rinpoche)
“The lecture presents the vital question concerning the real nature of the enormity of Hiroshima, Nagasaki: it shows, in an unparalleled decisive manner that Hiroshima and Nagasaki are by no means the results of an aberration, but—shocking and hideous as it is—only the culmination of the normal natural working of the inherent ‘principles’ on which our whole modern civilization is founded.”
Excerpt 2: (From chapter 1)
“The self-grounding project (of modernity) is based on what may be called the Postulate of Self mediated Universal Knowability. . . . the faith that whatever there is in the universe can be fully known and man shall, in course of time, know all; for modern man has the required equipment for achieving this universal knowledge; that though at any given stage in the history of human knowledge there are vast areas that have remained outside man’s knowledge, they are not unknowable and one day they will—shall—be “conquered” and that there must come a day—in any case, in principle if not in history!—when nothing remains unknown to man. The word ‘self mediated’, it is obvious, does not refer to immediate, intuitive or Revelatory knowledge. Such knowledge, in fact, is not admitted by modern man as ‘scientific’ knowledge: that is, as knowledge at all.”
Excerpt 3: (From chapter 1)
Traditional man realises, just as Socrates did, that the lighted area between the abysses of birth and death, however vast and bright, stands constantly undermined by man’s ignorance of his origin and end. Modern man has yet to achieve this awareness. Being aware of the precariousness of all humanly acquired knowledge and gifted with Faith, traditional man depends on Revelation for his knowledge of his origin and destiny; and on divine grace for transcending the tremendous, infinite gap between his finite human faculties and his eternal, divine destiny. Modern man, for the first time in history, postulating self-mediated universal knowability himself sets his destiny.