The Island: A Mirror for the Soul by David Beatty
by DAVID BEATTY
Part memoir, part travel narrative, and part philosophical inquiry, this is a book on memory, solitude, and spiritual quest. In 1981 the author is permitted to stay on a small Buddhist hermitage island on a lagoon in the far south of Sri Lanka. The country is basking in a tenuous peace that would later erupt into a brutal civil conflict. The island has no electricity or modern conveniences, is inhabited by only three monks, monitor lizards, snakes, and myriad birds. He is welcomed by the monks, taught the basic steps of Theravada meditation practice, rescues an injured owl, who becomes a feathered companion, and alone in his hut begins a diary that becomes a healing journey into the past. Recalling his emotionally unstable childhood, a tragic family history, an education tarnished by the myth of empire, a fractured marriage, and his searching travels through post-colonial worlds, he traces the path that brought him to the island.
This is a story of journeys, both outward through the beauty and tragedy of the landscapes of Africa and India, and an inward journey through the nihilism of post-war Europe and Britain's decline. Drawing on Eastern philosophies and modern Western writers who inspired his dissent from the values of a world broken by corporate greed, social injustice, and ecological destruction, this is a very personal, but also universal, story that explores the complex relationship between the Dhamma and modernity in seeking to answer the question Who Am I?
At the heart of this exploration of the Indian mind, on an island then barely touched by the modern world, he finds something true, authentic, and serene in the Buddha's path to end suffering. Wide-ranging, evocative, full of incident and deep insight into our cultural predicament, this is a passionate and honest engagement with teaching that perhaps can help cure us of the delusions and violent excesses of our age.
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