Category: favbooks

Excerpt from Hermit in the Himalayas

I take Nature’s gift thankfully. The Gods who made
this land must have been beauty-drunk. The wild
beauty of the scene outsteps imagination. It inspires
the mind and uplifts the soul. Were I a Shelley I
Would quickly become lyrical over this region, but
alas ! I am not. For the lordly Himalayas exist with
an aura of complete solitude which is ineffably
peaceful and inspiringly grand. In these Himalayan
highlands, there arises the true charm of mountaineering ; civilization is so remote, towns so distant and
serenity so prevalent. They carry the suggestion of
eternity, although there are hill ranges in the south
which, geologically, are far older. The tremendous
heights are, perhaps, chiefly responsible for this
suggestion. Here one is face to face with the universal
mystery itself, hiding behind no man-made facade of gregariously-built cities but revealing its calm challenging face directly and assuming it,s wildest form..
Himalaya embodies the grand forces of Nature.
destiny has truly prepared a special place for my
meditations and when I search the long rugged line.
of the Himalayas on the map and let my finger rest
on the kingdoin of Tehri-Garhwal, where India’s
sacred river, the Ganges, takes its rise, I feel, as by
inspiration, that here must be my substitute for Mount

Moreover the most sacred
shrines of India are here. Many stories of the deities,
sages and Yogis who have lived in this secluded king-
dom have come down from the mists of tradition.
Here, if anywhere, I may find a fit spot for my meditations, for it is set amid the world’s grandest scenery.

Dawn has spread over the East
like a pinkish pearl. When the music of twittering,
chirruping, singing and jubilant birds, excited over
the event, has somewhat subsided, I get the bags
Mount Arunachala, in South India,
where my Master dwells and where I have taken up
-my temporary abode, is called in very ancient Hindu
books, ” the southern Kailash.” It possesses a strong
spiritual affinity with its Tibetan confrere, as well as
striking historical ties.
The sacred peaks of Badrinath,
Kedarnath , continue the jagged sky-line
and glitter against a cloudless sky.
It is a curious and startling thought that a visitor
from another planet who was approaching our earth,
would notice first of all this serried Himalayan range.
Par, with hundreds of peaks, at least, more than
twenty-thousand feet in height, the Himalayas become
the most outstanding object on the surface of our own
planet !

What luck ! To have an entire forest of
Christmas trees at one’s door ! And each tree carries a load of gifts upon its needled branches-gifts intangible and invisible, maybe ; gifts of serenity and
quietude ! The tops of these towering trees reach
almost to my very door, but their roots are about
fifty feet down the mountain-side. What the firs lack 
in girth, they make up for in height. They are lordly 
and grand in their vivid green garments

. The ground is thick 
with fallen brown fir-needles. , snow-white blossoms of 
faintly-scented little flowers which brighten the 
shadowed scene. They spangle the dark foliage like a 
firmament of shining stars. Among these silent tree-
shadows I may find, doubtless, what the towns cannot 
give- peace, depth and healing.

We continue climbing the narrow track. The-
steep paths of Himalaya are akin to the steep paths
of life itself. But I adventure up the rugged trail
with music sounding in my ears. God is luring me-
on. I am riding, not merely into Himalaya, but into
heaven. I have forsaken one world only in order to
find a better.
The air is sweet and The mountains are flushed with
beauty that belongs, not to them, but to God.

A secret nook in a pleasant land,
Whose groves the frolic fairies planned ;
Where arches green, the livelong day,
Echo the blackbird’s roundelay,
A spot that is sacred to thought and God
, when I am safe in my sylvan home,
And when I am stretched beneath the pines,
Where the evening star holy shines.

A Yogi who meditates on
mysterious forces , while he sits upon the Ganges
bank beyond Rishikesh, that unique town where
recluses, monks and pilgrims make their permanent or
temporary abode ; with great calmness he tells me
how he separated the spirit from the body and found
himself witnessing scenes in far-off Calcutta or even
hearing the noise of London as he looked down
upon it ! Then there is a young Bengali lady who has
achieved an exceptional height of spiritual realization,
and whose face reminds one of the beatitude-filled face
of St. Teresa, while she sits with half-closed eyes
surrounded by a large group of devotees ; a lean, bent
old muhammedan grey-beard who takes me through
clingy Delhi alleys and bazaars to the Jumma Masjid,
India’s largest mosque, where he discourses to me
of his youthful adventures upoil the Mecca pilgrimage,
and then tells me how he is preparing himself for
another kind of pilgrimage, to wit, his exit from this

I had no
desire to meet the leading men of any town. Besides,
why all the bother ? I had done a bit of journalism,.
a bit of editing, and a bit, I hope, of finer writing in a
few books.
Time to give a party when I shall have accomplished
something worthwhile, when I shall have climbed the-
Himalaya of the soul and reached its white summit,.

I hear the cuckoo. Its call makes me think
of spring’s sure recurrence in Europe.
Sundown brings a rapid change of colours. The
peaks and crags of ethereal white which rise to the
sky are now warmed by the waning beams into masses
of coral and pink ; but this is only temporary. The
descent of the dying sun transforms the frosted silver
of the snows from colour to colour, while suffusing the
lower forest-covered ridges with saffron. The red drifts
into gold and the gold returns once again to yellow.
And when the final rays take their leave, the warm
colourings also abandon the range and the snows
assume a chalky whiteness. The pallor becomes more
pronounced and ends in greyish-white.

We ride 
through a monstrous yet beautiful ghost-world. 
Leaves turn to silver in the moon beams and tree-
trunks seem to be carved out of frosted stone. There 
is something indescribably weird in the picture of pale 
moonlight on the world’s giants. I

Each is now a wraith-like titan, 
grand, grim, yet undeniably beautiful. For the Himalayas, in this 
weird light, has become the fabled land of the giants. 

Overhead, the sky scintillates with its wealth of 
beauty. Planets wander through the firmament with 
unnatural brilliancy. The stars, in their high heaven, 
are like clusters of diamonds upon the crowned hair 
of night

And of what shall my activities consist ? The
principal one is just sitting still ! I am quite serious.
It is indeed, I must admit, a queer kind of work, the
queerest which I have yet undertaken ever since my
ship weighed anchor and turned its bow from the
British shore ;

. Yet that is the absolute truth, the sole purpose
of my cutting adrift from the generality of men and
settling for a while in this unfrequented Himalayan
kingdom. I expect no excitements, no hair-raising
situations, no perils, in this new adventure of mine.

I am not even to continue my ancient
labours of self-conscious meditation, he counsels, but
just to be still !
I am to seek no outer adventures, nor even any
inner ones. I am to take Nature as my tutor, to merge
my spirit into the absolute silence of her surrounings, and to let every thought lapse away into mere
nothingness. I am to become a living paradox, seek-
ing attainment of a higher order of being by the
curious method of making no effort ! In short, the
Psalmist’s saying, which my Master quotes again at
the end of our sitting, is to be taken in its literal
So, in my hunger for the divine presence, I set
out on my journey northwards, hardly knowing, where
my feet will come to rest.
In this undertaking I am simply obeying the injunction laid upon me by my revered spiritual Master
two days before I parted from him. The scene sticks
adhesively to memory. We sit in utter silence during
the eventide hour.

review –

This is not a book of formal philosophy; more of introspection. Of course Russel introspected with the same brilliant and critical mind that he used to contribute to mathematics and philosophy. But this is not rigorous, apologetic or systematic. Actually, it’s more like gentle advice. And quite reasonable.

I’d like to quote a few passages that I found thought-provoking, to give a reader a sense of what to expect if you purchase and read this book:

p. 27, “[T]o be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.”

p. 29, “The habit of looking to the future and thinking that the whole meaning of the present lies in what it will bring forth is a pernicious one. There can be no value in the whole unless there is value in the parts.”

p. 43, “I do not deny that the feeling of success makes it easier to enjoy life…. Nor do I deny that money, up to a certain point, is very capable of increasing happiness. What I do maintain is that success can only be one ingredient in happiness, and is too dearly purchased if all the other ingredients have been sacrificed to obtain it.”

p. 74, “The essentials of human happiness are simple, so simple that sophisticated people cannot bring themselves to what it is that they really lack.”

p. 94, “[R]emember that your motives are not always as altruistic as they seem to yourself… don’t overestimate your own merits… don’t expect others to take as much interest in you as you do in yourself.”

p. 99, “No satisfaction based upon self-deception is solid, and however unpleasant the truth may be, it is better to face it once and for all, to get used to it, and to proceed to build your life in accordance with it.”

p. 107, “One should respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways.”

p. 109, “Happiness is promoted by associations of persons with similar tastes and similar opinions.”

p. 123, “The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.”

p. 142, “In the best kind of affection a man hopes for a new happiness rather than for an escape from an old unhappiness.”

p. 175, “To ignore our opportunities for knowledge, imperfect as they are, is like going to the theater and and not listening to the play.”

Well, that’s a reasonable sample. It’s not a philosophical masterpiece, but it is mature, wise and edifying. I think most people who read books would do well to read this one too, so I give it a hearty endorsement.

The Causes of Unhappiness

1. What Makes People Unhappy?

“My purpose is to suggest a cure for the ordinary day-to-day unhappiness from which most people in civilized countries suffer, and which is all the more unbearable because, having no obvious external cause, it appears inescapable. I believe this unhappiness to be largely due to mistaken views of the world, mistaken ethics, mistaken habits of life, leading to the destruction of that natural zest and appetite for possible things upon which all happiness, whether of men or of animals, ultimately depends.” [page 17]

2. Byronic Unhappiness

“It is common in our day, as it has been in so many other periods of the world’s history, to suppose that those among us who are wise enough have seen through all the enthusiasms of earlier times and have become aware that there is nothing left to live for. … I do not myself believe that there is any superior rationality in being unhappy. The wise man will be as happy as circumstances permit, and if he finds the contemplation of the universe painful beyond a point, he will contemplate something else instead. … I wish to persuade the reader that, whatever the arguments may be, reason lays no embargo upon happiness.” [page 24]

3. Competition

Russell paints a bleak picture of the businessman so obsessed by competing with other businessmen for success that the rest of life passes him by. “Success can only be one ingredient in happiness, and is too dearly purchased if all other ingredients have been sacrificed to obtain it.” [page 43]

4. Boredom and Excitement

We have come to associate boredom with unhappiness and excitement with happiness, but Russell argues that boredom and excitement form a separate axis entirely, having little relationship with happiness. “Running away from enemies who are trying to take one’s life is, I imagine, unpleasant, but certainly not boring. … The opposite of boredom, in a word, is not pleasure, but excitement.” [pages 48-49] The confusion of excitement and happiness, and the flight from boredom that it entails, is a chief cause of unhappiness. The cure is to teach oneself to endure boredom without running from it.

5. Fatigue

This chapter is actually about worry. Russell believes that such physical fatigue as people feel in the industrialized world is mostly healthy, and that only “nervous fatigue”, caused largely by worry, is really destructive to happiness. Russell believes most worry could be avoided by learning good thinking habits, by refusing to over-estimate the significance of possible failures, by taking a larger perspective, and by facing fears squarely.

6. Envy

“If you desire glory, you may envy Napoleon. But Napoleon envied Caesar, Caesar envied Alexander, and Alexander, I dare say, envied Hercules, who never existed. You cannot therefore get away from envy by means of success alone. … You can get away from envy by enjoying the pleasures that come your way, by doing the work that you have to do, and by avoiding comparisons with those whom you imagine, perhaps quite falsely, to be more fortunate than yourself.” [pages 71-72]

7. The Sense of Sin

Traditional religion, in Russell’s view, has saddled us with an ascetic moral code that will make us unhappy if we keep it (by denying us joy in life) and also if we break it (by causing us guilt). The only solution is to root this moral code out of our unconscious, and replace it with a code less inimical to human happiness.

8. Persecution Mania

This is probably the most amusing chapter of the book, as Russell uses his droll wit to puncture human self-importance. “My purpose in this chapter is to suggest some general reflections by means of which each individual can detect in himself the elements of persecution mania (from which almost everybody suffers in a greater or less degree), and having detected them, can eliminate them. This is an important part of the conquest of happiness, since it is quite impossible to be happy if we feel that everybody ill-treats us.” [page 90]

9. Fear of Public Opinion

“Very few people can be happy unless on the whole their way of life and their outlook on the world is approved by those with whom they have social relations, and more especially by those with whom they live.” [page 100] Fortunately the modern world gives us some choice about where we live and who our friends will be.

The Causes of Happiness

In general, the second half of Conquest is not as impressive as the first. Not only is this section shorter than the first, but Russell has more of a tendency to ramble. These rambles can be entertaining, but they are usually not very informative. I am left with the impression that the causes of happiness remain mysterious to Russell. Once the obstacles to happiness are removed, happiness just happens — somehow.

10. Is Happiness Still Possible?

“Fundamental happiness depends more than anything else upon what may be called a friendly interest in persons and things. … The kind [of interest in persons] that makes for happiness is the kind that likes to observe people and finds pleasure in their individual traits, that wishes to afford scope for the interests and pleasures of those with whom it is brought into contact without desiring to acquire power over them or to secure their enthusiastic admiration. The person whose attitude towards others is genuinely of this kind will be a source of happiness and a recipient of reciprocal kindness. … To like many people spontaneously and without effort is perhaps the greatest of all sources of personal happiness.” [pages 121-122]

11. Zest

Zest is the x-factor that causes us to be interested in life. Russell has little to say about what zest is or how to obtain it. He does argue against those who would devalue zest by claiming that it is a mark of superior taste not to be interested in vulgar or lowbrow subjects. “All disenchantment is to me a malady which … is to be cured as soon as possible, not to be regarded as a higher form of wisdom. Suppose one man likes strawberries and another does not; in what respect is the latter superior? There is no abstract and impersonal proof that strawberries are good or that they are not good. To the man who likes them they are good, to the man who dislikes them they are not. But the man who likes them has a pleasure which the other does not have; to that extent his life is more enjoyable and he is better adapted to the world in which both must live.” [page 125]

12. Affection

“One of the chief causes of lack of zest is the feeling that one is unloved, whereas conversely the feeling of being loved promotes zest more than anything else does.” [page 137] Unfortunately, considering the importance of affection to happiness, this chapter is almost completely descriptive rather than prescriptive. Russell describes the types of affection and evaluates their effects, but gives little advice about how to either give or get higher quality affection.

13. The Family

“Of all the institutions that have come down to us from the past none is in the present day so disorganized and derailed as the family. Affection of parents for children and of children for parents is capable of being one of the greatest sources of happiness, but in fact at the present day the relations of parents and children are, in nine cases out of ten, a source of unhappiness to both parties, and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred a source of unhappiness to at least one of the two parties. This failure of the family to provide the fundamental satisfactions which in principle it is capable of yielding is one of the most deep-seated causes of the discontent which is prevalent in our age.” [page 145]

14. Work

“Whether work should be placed among the causes of happiness or the causes of unhappiness may perhaps be regarded as a doubtful question.” [page 162] Russell places it among the causes of happiness for a number of reasons:
1. It passes time.
2. It provides an opportunity for success.
3. The work itself may be interesting.

15. Impersonal Interests

Certain interests are central to a person’s conception of his/her life: career, family, and so forth. In this chapter Russell asserts the value of having interests that are not central, that have no effect on the major issues of life. Such hobbies and pastimes serve two purposes: (1) They provide an escape from larger worries, and distract the conscious mind so that the unconscious can work productively toward a solution. (2) They provide a reserve pool of interest in life, so that if disaster or a series of disasters destroy the pillars that support our central interests, we will have the possibility of growing new central interests.

This chapter contains an important tangential discussion of “greatness of soul” which I discuss under the Transcending Personal Hopes and Interests theme.

16. Effort and Resignation

What Russell calls resignation is more popularly referred to these days as acceptance. The question discussed in this chapter is basically: Should we try to change the world or accept it the way it is? Russell takes a middle position, roughly equivalent to the Serenity Prayer.

17. The Happy Man

In the final chapter Russell comes back to his main point: attention should be focused outward, not inward. “It is not the nature of most men to be happy in a prison, and the passions which shut us up in ourselves constitute one of the worst kinds of prisons. Among such passions some of the commonest are fear, envy, the sense of sin, self-pity and self-admiration. In all these our desires are centered upon ourselves: there is no genuine interest in the outer world, but only a concern lest it should in some way injure us or fail to feed our ego.” [page 187]


Want to read – lovely bones, who am I , eat pray love , me talk pretty one day , poisonwood bible , on the road-kerouac , secret life bees , veronica decides to die , whr the sidewalk ends, shopaholic , 5 pplheaven , curious incident of dog in ,p and p


books read thus far :Bridges   of mc, misalliance , memory box , sher ,and then there were   , autobio yogi , parallel lies ,far from,razor’s,   geisha ,   alchemist , oliver twist ,fountainhead ,  atlas shrugged  ,to kill mock.,  100 yrs -solitude  , anna Karenina , pic dorian,         jane eyre,   scarlet letter,   tale of 2 cit ,   alchemist , david copper , gr8 expect ,  wuthering hts  etc.         etc…………..

Autobiography of a Yogi.- one of the many books given by Thatha , my beloved grandpa  – read this book if you want to know the real india – yes they exist the yogis – the ones transcending beyond life and death ; joys and miseries , the ONES.

The razor’s edge by somerset maugham — love this book , my compass / inspo for spiritual exploration – reading razor’s edge always makes me happy …………….feel light………some new insight everytime i read it  – the courage of the protagonist to discard all that is superficial , in search of the truth…………….it is neither self-indulgent nor a mark of laziness to pursue the soul……..nor is it a reason to feel one is an advanced being – the simple reason is that people are different – – driven   by an unknown passion in life and one can only be satisfied if she or he (yes she or he…..why always he or she ) is free enough to pursue it , it is not laziness or failure to do so . and i particularly like the last line which is non-judgemental – Maugham ends his narrative by suggesting that all the characters got what they wanted in the end: “Elliott social eminence;  Isabel an assured position; … Sophie death;  and Larry happiness.” . author is not propounding a philosophy – we all are struggling through various stages of spiritual evolution and need to cultivate compassion with each other . Pleasantly surprised when i came to know that maugham was inspired by our very own sri ramana maharishi


far from the madding crowd : The one word that comes to my mind while reading hardy…….. is his “rich ” use of language…….that makes reading  almost like luxury…………and  a self- indulgent pleasure- I felt the way he writes is like ” poetry in prose ” , i mean , especially the way he describes nature and natures (of individuals) so subtly yet so effectively .

Totally mesmerised when you read it the first time – especially when one is young -( you roam around with a  self-important attitude thinking you are the embodiment of roark- high brow- don’t care -attitude and oh so very antisocial thinking it’s the new  cool – realising after many years –  after u get over ur obsession of rand and roark) ….. but don’t agree with the author trying to to propound this philosophy as a way of life…… an individual even though he is antisocial, is nurtured , supported by and bound to his family in a very deep way ; and so i opine that you can’t only follow the work philosophy in isolation…….also applies to atlas shrugged. the bhavadgita is a much superior alternative. but then again , can’t really undermine the importance of this masterpiece ………….,  roark still towers above others – in his solitude and few , but true friends……………especially   in contemporary  culture  …..aptly representative of objectivst+ minimalistic attittude……………..towards life -with minimalism all the rage now ??  roark – anti-social/ anti-social networking then ????…………………the argument inside my head continues but putting an end to this unending monologue………………..NOW.

One Hundred Years of Solitude

the book has sooooooooo many characters , but is never confusing to the reader , and well written.

Crime and Punishment , Fyodor Dostoyevsky-  it’s been quite sometime since i read it…… with the the theme of repentence and starting over.

Les miserables – one of the first recommended by Thatha

PnP , persuasion -Austen – the original chicklit author – well ,  all romances till date are just well-disguised austen spoofs  (Ehle’s the best elizabeth ……hands down )

Jane Eyre– Charlotte Brontë

Wuthering Heights –  bronte haunting  and intense…………read only an abridged version.

the professor– bronte ….      amazing  how   the bronte sisters’  works are sooooo different from each other……

silas marner – George Eliot

few sheldons and the prodigal daughter by archer

own this exact paperback of mocking bird -loved her style of writing – narration , describes the world through a child’s eyes perfectly , explaining integrity and equality through the simple yet strong atticus finch……..played to perfection by gregory peck.  love the film too – peck  …….amazing as usual – one of the few films which does justice to the book

used to own it, lost it .one of the most well written characters……….can’t say whether it is due to the author’s style of writing , but the characters seem so real and alive,  u  feel u know them ……

  • The Mother by Maxim Gorky – communist , marxism – but still a worthwhile read – human relations – Pavel and his   mother
  • J.Krishnamurti: A Biography [Pupul Jayakar] – read- reread only a few chaps in med school but which helped me a lot
  • bridges of madison county
  • far from the madding crowd -from dad –  OAK !!!!!!!!!
  • memoirs of a geisha
  • conquest of happiness – russell
  • all the books in this blog………..have  blogged and will blog  excerpts from –
  • most of  agatha christie and  sherlock holmes and a few chicklits , mary higgins clark etc. – some chicklits – by weiner , jane green ………..etc……….- really witty – about the single woman in contemporary times – while others are so dumb and cliched ..i have to read a christie as rebound to get the crap out of my head
  • Roots –  suggested by shekhar mama !
  • alchemist -Paulo coelho  , burden – a different christie

and……….many i can’t recollect as of now……..