"Our supreme purpose in life is not to make a fortune, nor to pursue pleasure, nor to write our name on history, but to discover this spark of the divine that is on our hearts," writes Eknath Easwaran (1911-1999) in this ebullient mystical volume. The author, who taught meditation and wrote more than 25 books, was well-versed in many spiritual traditions. This work taps into the richness of the Christian mystical tradition with quotations from Meister Eckhart, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Teresa of Avila, and John Ruysbroeck. Original Goodness is organized around the themes expressed in the Beatitudes of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: purity, humility, simplicity, patience, love, mercy, peacemaking, and desire.
One of the roadblocks to living in sync with these inspiring qualities is seeing ourselves as separate from others. This can become a habit and a compulsive state of mind that keeps us uneasy and alienated. A much better way is to look upon every person as a son or daughter of God who has something important to convey to us. Or as Thomas a Kempis put it: "If your heart were sincere and upright every creature would be unto you a looking-glass of life and a book of holy doctrine." The challenge here is to see everyone in a positive light rather than as a danger to us.
Easwaran always has a medley of material on the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi. When he was asked if he were free from ambition, he answered. "Oh no! I am the most ambitious man in the world. I want to make myself a zero." The author comes up with another even more striking way of describing the spiritual dynamic at work in this extraordinary man's life: "I like to think of Gandhi as an energy tycoon, constantly drilling for the oil of mercy and pumping it up to allay violence, harnessing anger's fierce power in constructive action." When asked what kept him going, this nonviolent activist usually talked about his habit of putting others before himself.
Easwaran is a master weaver of quotations and personal vignettes to illustrate the richness of the spiritual life. With great élan, he moves from chapter to chapter mining the mystical treasures of the Christian tradition. He throws off one liners with ease and many of these spark deep thought. An example: "Whenever we utter an angry word or raise a hand against our neighbor, we are driving another nail to keep Jesus up on the cross."