Do You Know Who You Are? is a unique study of the earliest recorded "discourses" of the Buddha, taking an approach that is at once psychological, philosophical, and literary. In a market abundant with how-to books for spiritual practitioners and advice for achieving a happy life by Buddhist masters, this book offers original readings of some of the most powerful of the Buddha's teachings, which take the form of conversations with a wide range of people: disciples, wandering Hindu philosophers, Brahmin white supremacists, ordinary householders, and even a tyrant. It is a book for all literate, thoughtful people who want to read for themselves what the Buddha really said and to understand their own condition better.
The book is a series of essays on specific passages from the Buddha's original Discourses, which blossom and buzz when read with careful thought and sensitivity. It is an introduction to the Buddha's radical empiricism for all people who like to read, think, and investigate; and in it the reader will find texts of great literary beauty and philosophical profundity. It is a book for people who might have no interest in becoming Buddhists as well as for advanced practitioners, who will find these readings fresh and invigorating.
Readers will come away from this book with a deepened understanding of their own lives, an intimacy with the Buddha's penetrating mind, and a desire for further study of these wonderful texts and, above all, of themselves.
Do You Know Who You Are?, Krishnan Venkatesh, Mercer University Press, Paperback, 227 pages, $18.00
Krishnan Venkatesh has taught Eastern and Western philosophy for three decades at St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Born in Malaysia to a Hakka Chinese mother and Brahmin Indian father, he was raised and educated in England, and worked at universities in Germany and China. He exercises principled opposition to the certainties of all kinds of fundamentalisms and rigid traditionalisms, and believes that genuine respect for other people and peoples, as opposed to a mere posture of respect, has to be rooted in rigorous, nuanced understanding of their ways and thoughts.