Unity of Life and Other Essays is a compilation of 35 essays written by late Sahitya Akademi recipient edited by his daughter Tulsi Badrinath. Inspirational references from the Mahabharata are a constant in the book, with a modern connotation applicable in contemporary times. The author of the essays late Chaturvedi Badrinath (1933-2010), a recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2009, for his work The Mahabharata: An Inquiry in the Human Condition, was an ardent scholar of Indian philosophy, who ingeniously used originality in his work. Badrinath was an Indian Administrative Service officer for 31 years and he delivered several lectures on the concept of dharma and its importance in modern times. In 1995, he was invited by The Times of India to contribute essays on Indian philosophy and thought. These essays penned in simple language in fact carried a deeper meaning in each of them. Varying from varied subjects dealing with perceptions of the self and the other; different ways of ordering society in Jainism, Islam, and Christianity; the paradox of sex; the roots of violence; and the quest for truth and peace, these essays have been widely appreciated and acknowledge across the world.
His daughter, Tulsi Badrinath, has complied these insightful essays together to present to readers an interestingly understanding of concepts of Indian philosophy explained in a simple and lucid manner. The book encapsulates ingeniously a series of essays on the concept of dharma and their relevance in present times, are drawn extensively from the Mahabharata.
Initially in the book, one of the most significant issues are addressed in the essay titled, “the right perception of self-interest”, Badrinath says, “what self-interest , truth, and happiness are, is to be known not by any one theory of them but by the innate rhythms of life. this is the very first thing which the Mahabharata suggests. But it is also the one thing that is seldom recognised. The problem with the theory, with theory as such, is that it begins with a conclusion which appears to be a hypothesis but is, in fact, a certainty.” In the third essay in the book State must free the mind from fear, Badrinath beautifully puts it: “Now just as the happiness of others is the essential ground of one’s own happiness, and there is no question that it is so, the undeniable ground of happiness itself, anybody’s happiness, is freedom from fear. Freedom from fear is to be secured politically as much as it is to be achieved in our personal relationships.”
In one of the most interesting reads the essay on Dharma and Islam - I – justice with truth, truth with goodness, Badrinath draws similar parallels which the Quran stresses on with other religions as well with an emphasis on dharma and karma as well. “This is not to day that what is transitory is of no value whatsoever, but only that, in order to achieve true happiness, one must discriminate between the transitory and the abiding. That is what the Koran also teaches. In the second segment on this – Dharma and Islam - II - let there be no compulsion in religion, he elucidates, “There is one great difference between the Dharmic method and Islam, which must be stated clearly. In Islam, the mediations on human life have God, as their absolute centre; it is to His revelation contained in the Koran, that the light of life belongs. That is to say, it is in that light that the human condition is to be seen, for the light of God is the most radiant of all lights.”
Analysing the connect between the spiritual and material aspect , in the essay titled , Unity of Life: The spiritual and the material, the author says, “The relation between the spirit, the atman, and the body; between the body and the mind; between them and emotions and feelings; between emotions and perceptions; between perceptions and acts; and between acts and motives – all these have been central issues in different schools of Indian philosophy.”
In one of the most pertinent passages, in the essay The power of mind - I : invoking the joy of life, Badrinath mentions, “Because there is hurt, there is the need of healing. There is the search of freedom, because there is oppression. There is search of truth, because untruth creates oppression . Because so much of life is without meaning, there is the search of meaning. there is the need of clarity, because most things are wrapped in ambiguity.”
In one of the most significant issues dealing with violence, Badrinath in the essay titled , The love of violence - I : happiness has no literature mentions, “to legislate against an offence, or a crime, presupposes its existence. When a great emphasis is placed upon on ahimsa, or not to do violence, and upon satya, or truth, it can safely be concluded , from the emphasis alone, that both violence and falsehood must be widespread in human behaviour. Advocacy of compassion implies its general absence. Impassioned talk of justice shows that there is so little of it. and when people declare, at every turn, that their aim is to achieve happiness in life, and all that they do is directed towards it, one can be fairly certain that the very reverse is the truth.”
In the essay on The Paradox of Sex- I : foundations of sexual happiness Badrinath writes, “True attentive-ness to the other in sexual relations requires disciplining of the mind as much as it requires the disciplining of the body. In brief, self-control is an expression of sexual energy, not a sexual alibi.”
Each of these essays provides an insightful and meaningful read with a perspective most relevant for contemporary times we live in.