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An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World

Reviews of An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World by Pankaj Mishra

by Pankaj Mishra

An accomplished history of the Buddha, An End to Suffering is also a deeply personal story -- the story of Pankaj Mishra's search for meaning, for truth and peace in the modern world and, specifically, in post-colonial, independent India. As he describes his travels to unearth the origins of the Buddha, Mishra offers glimpses into his own quest for enlightenment, from childhood to September 11, from family background to friends met and made, from lessons learned to achievements as a writer. Through this, Mishra reveals the ...

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Customer Reviews of An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World

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A Young Writer's Spiritual Journey, Dec 5, 2017
by Gissinglover

"In "An End to Suffering", (2004) Pankaj Mishra, has written a personal and eloquent account about the history and basic teachings of Buddhism and about his own life. Mishra, (b. 1969,) a young Indian author, has written a novel, "The Romantics" and a recent collection of essays, "Temptations of the West" (2006) following-up his book about his search to understand Buddhism.

For those new to Buddhism, Mishra offers an excellent, informed introduction. He describes well the Indian society into which the Buddha was born with its moves towards centralization and urbanization with the attendant religious change and skepticism. He discusses what Buddhists texts and legends have to say about the Buddha's life, and he presents a good overview of the Buddha's teachings, with close attention to specific suttas such as the Fire Sermon and the Parinibanna Sutta (which recounts the death of the Buddha.) Mishra also gives a brief and lucid information about how Buddhism was rediscovered in the West as a result of the efforts of a number of European travelers and British colonial officials during the 19th Century. Most importantly, Mishra explains well the appeal Buddhism, a religion without a God, has to him. This discussion will resonate with many contemporary readers who are fascinated with Buddhist teachings.

But what makes this book work is not merely the factual treatment of basic Buddhism which can be learned from many sources. Rather, Mishra relates his interest in Buddhism (not the religion of his birth) to his own life and ambition. The book comes alive as Mishra learns to understand Buddhism through his own experiences. In this book, we meet a young man born into a poor family in rural India with a driving urge to become a writer. Mishra takes the reader through his childhood and college days. We meet his family and companions and share in his travels. At the outset of the book, the reader joins Mishra as he moves to a small hut in a north Indian village called Mashobra where he studies, wanders, and reads in the process of becoming a writer. We meet his landlord, Mr. Sharma, and many of Mishra's friends in the course of the book. I got the feel, in reading this account, of the life of a struggling young author, who is committed to his chosen path in life, and who achieves a degree of success and fame and still finds the need to ask spiritual questions.

Mishra's book alternates chapters dealing with autobiographical matters with chapters dealing with the Buddha. This juxtaposition is convincing for showing his growing understanding and appreciation of Buddhism. The book also displays an impressive degree of learning and reading, as Mishra discusses and relates his interest in Buddha to Plato, Thoreau, Emerson, de Tocqueville, Schopenhauer, and, in particular, Nietzsche, among others.

I found some of the portions of this book that deal with world politics rather short, free-wheeling and superficial. Perhaps Mishra was overly-ambitious in his aims. But in discussing the teachings of Buddhism and in showing the author's reflection on these teachings, Mishra's book is moving and successful. It struck deep chords with me.

Robin Friedman"

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Customer Rating: 5 out of 5 5 out of 5
Oct 9, 2008
by Barrie

"Stunning piece of writing combining deep knowledge of Western philosophical thought with experience and curoisity about one of the most fascinating discoveries of all times. Reads better than fiction. Absolutely a page turner. The writer is a must read for anyone looking for a contemporary Indian writer who has travelled extensively and has deep sensitiviites towards all cultures. Pankaj is also a gifted writer of political commentary."

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