Tag Archives: religion

Review: Bhagavad Gita

Recap: It’s one of the most ancient and revered religious texts, and yet I had never heard of it until I started my 500-hour yoga teacher training course. Some of the other trainees were familiar with it from college classes, etc. But somehow it had been overlooked in my literary education, and it’s a shame because Gita is a GEM.

The book is really a long poem, detailing a journey a la The Iliad or The Odyssey. It tells the story of a man, Arjuna, about to lead his men in battle. Right before it all goes down, however, Arjuna has a moment of internal crisis. Is fighting and winning this battle everything he stands for it or does it stand for everything he’s against? Are violence, death, destruction and power really the most important things to him? With these questions, he turns to the man driving his chariot, Krishna. But Krishna isn’t just some lowly chariot driver. He’s actually God — the universe/the almighty force/whatever synonym you want to use — reincarnate.

The rest of the tale is Krishna explaining to Arjuna the meaning of life and the best ways to live that life. These are the questions — and answers — all humans have and seek. These are the crises of mankind, and that hasn’t changed in thousands of years. So what does Arjuna do in the end? Does he fight? Does he back down in an effort to emulate a life of nonviolence? The beauty of Gita is that’s almost not even the point.

Analysis: There are many interpretations, translations and iterations of Bhagavad Gita that have been written over the years. (Just how many years, no one really knows. It’s estimated the story was originally written as early as the fifth century B.C.E. or as late as the first century C.E.) I just so happened to pick up a copy of Stephen Mitchell’s translation, and I’m glad I did. Mitchell also translated Tao Te Chang: A New English Version so he clearly has an affinity for this type of thing.

The beauty of this version is his introduction that lays out the story. It’s incredibly helpful so have this classic poem explained in layman’s terms so you’re not flying blind as you read. Otherwise, I could see it being very possible to overlook the God-ness of Krishna and the deeper interpretations of what he’s saying. This translation also includes an Appendix written by Ghandi!

Please take my use of “God” and “religious text” with a grain of salt. This is not the Bible. It is not forcing religion upon anyone. It’s explaining human thinking. You can replace “God” with other words like “the universe,” “a powerful force,” “destiny,” “the divine,” or even just “ME.” Because part of the point of the text is that unlike what many Judeo-Christian religions preach about there being an almighty God to whom we should pray and “be good” for, Gita emphasizes a more Western philosophy that God exists in all of us. There is no big man in the sky that we need to proclaim our love to. We need to recognize there is a godliness within each being on the planet, ourselves included, and proclaim our love to everyone – even ourselves. Take this section said by Krishna to Arjuna, for example:

I am the beginning and the end,

origin and dissolution,

refuge, home, true lover,

womb and imperishable seed.

I am the heat of the sun,

I hold back the rain and release it;

I am death and the deathless,

and all that is or is not.

The moment you replace each “I” with “you,” you recognize the universality of the writing. We are all everything. That’s the thing to understand about the Gita. It’s not just about a man’s dilemma on the battlefield. It’s about all people’s internal dilemma in the world. Eye-opening, mind-blowing and highly recommended.

Get Bhagavad Gita in paperback for $13.49.

Or on your Kindle for $11.99.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

New Dan Brown ‘Robert Langdon’ Novel Coming

originWhether or not you saw or read Inferno — which you absolutely should have — have no fear; Dan Brown is blessing us all with another ‘Robert Langdon’ novel. Yes, I said blessing because yes, I truly love his books.

According to his web site, Dan Brown’s next book in the series is Origin, due to be released September 26, 2017.

Little is known about the  novel. It was only recently announced, and there isn’t even cover art yet. What we do know is that it will once again involve Brown’s character Robert Langdon, the Harvard symbologist and will “thrust” him “into the dangerous intersection of humankind’s two most enduring questions, and the earth-shaking discovery that will answer them,” according to the press release.

I, for one, am all in, but I hope Brown’s books continue to sell. Inferno, the movie, did…well…less than stellar in theaters, so hopefully people aren’t starting to get sick of this character and format. They truly are fun, adventurous, dark and thought-provoking books.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author News, News Articles

Review: Unorthodox

Recap: As a young girl in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the life of an Orthodox Hasidic Jew is the only one Deborah Feldman knows. She’s raised by her Bubby and Zeidy (Yiddish for Grandma and Grandpa) since mother left the Orthodox lifestyle — and was thereafter banished from it — and since her father was considered incapable of raising a child alone. As an Orthodox child, Debra dresses in long skirts, is mostly kept separate from boys and eats strictly kosher food. But she also spends time sneaking classic novels written by American authors into her bedroom and reading them, practicing English more than Hebrew and Yiddish, and dreaming of a life away from the Orthodox.

It’s all this, a molestation and the pride of telling a good lie that set her on a path away from Orthodox Judaism. As she gets older and prepares for marriage at the ripe, young age of 17, she finally learns about her body — all of its “holes” and all of its abilities. She comes to have sexual problems — both physically and emotionally — with her equally-as-young husband. Eventually they consummate their marriage and produce a son. I say “produce” because that’s very much what it feels like to Debra — a person that is produced, not one who is born out of love.

Her desire to leave remains. But the question is how. And if Debra does manage to get out unscathed, what will it mean for her son? (Orthodox children usually remain within the Orthodox sect, even if their mothers or fathers leave.) It seems an impossible feat, but for Debra, so does staying Orthodox.

AnalysisUnorthodox is eye-opening. It’s hard to believe these ancient beliefs remain and are carried out in this day and age and modern world. Learning about the world of Orthodox Judaism is fascinating, and with her descriptions, it’s darker and more limiting than one might think. The fact that she made it out unscathed and with her young son in tow is incredible.

But here’s the issue — the one glaring issue — with the book. As much as Feldman explains why she no longer wants to lead an Orthodox life is as little detailed as she gets about how she went about doing it. She makes it clear that a few friends helped, and what she did to get her first lump sum of cash. But where did she live when her family disowned her? How did she make enough money to land an apartment in New York City on her own? What kind of struggle did she endure when she finally got out? The story was amazing until the end, when so much was left out. Maybe it was too personal for her to write about, but for me, that struggle was what I most looked forward to, and I never quite got it.

Get Unorthodox in paperback for $12.02.

Or on your Kindle for $10.99.

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews

Controversy Over Book Using ‘Modern Family’ Photo

When you think of the TV show Modern Family, you don’t typically think of the show’s families as an accurate portrayal for religious Christian people. Modern Family, of course, portrays families with gay couples and adopted children.

So when Christian preacher and author Doug Sehone used a photo of the cast for the cover of his e-book Bible Principles of Child Discipline, it caused quite an uproar. According to TV Guide, Doug Sehorne used the photo, featuring actors Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen, not knowing that they were, in fact, actors from a television show. His friends pointed out to him that the family on the cover was from a TV show that didn’t necessarily emphasize strictly religious Christian values. He took to Facebook to explain exactly what happened:

“1. I do not even have a TV and have not for 35 years.

2. I never heard of the TV show.

3. I got the image from a search on Google Images, which I assumed were not copyrighted, etc.

4. Anyone who knows me, knows I would never condone such wickedness as sodomy or even TV.”

Sehorne is now removing the book and changing its cover.

Would love to hear your comments on this one!



Filed under News Articles

Review: Have A Little Faith

Recap: The lives of two clergyman are juxtaposed against each other in this true story, written by bestselling author Mitch Albom. Have A Little Faith weaves together the stories of Rabbi Albert Lewis and Pastor Henry Covington.

Rabbi Lewis — or the Reb — is Albom’s childhood Rabbi, a Man of God, who asks Albom to write his eulogy. As one would assume, Albom immediately thinks that the Reb is close to dying. But he’s not. In fact, he lives for another 8 years. It’s during this time that Albom spends much of his free time flying from his Detroit home to his hometown in New Jersey to meet with the elderly Rabbi and learn about his life both in and outside the Temple.

Albom was never particularly close to the Reb. In fact, Albom is not very religious at all. He married out of faith. He only attends synagogue on the high holidays, and yet here he is, researching a man he barely knows so he can write his eulogy. It’s not your average task, but it’s one that Albom takes on and begins to enjoy, as he gets to know this wonderful, spiritual man and restore some of his own faith as well.

It’s during this time that Albom also meets Pastor Henry Covington, a Pastor at an old Church that’s falling apart at the seams in downtown Detroit. When Albom decides he wants to donate money to a charity, he comes across the disheveled Church and offers to help out with a gaping hole in its ceiling. Henry suggests that Albom learn more about him before he gives him money. In doing so, Albom comes to find that Henry is a former criminal, drug dealer, and alcoholic who went through a religious rebirth until he found himself literally preaching to a choir. Of course, Henry’s background makes Albom skeptical. But in meeting with Henry and the Reb, he learns that sometimes you just have to have a little faith.

Analysis: Like any Mitch Albom book, fiction or nonfiction, Have A Little Faith focuses on life, death, and the afterlife. It’s also a tearjerker. So if you’ve ever read a Mitch Albom book, consider yourself prepared on some level.

That being said, Faith‘s focus on religion is something that stood out to me, something that separated it from his other books. And though I only consider myself to be slightly more religious/spiritual that Albom, it was still consuming and enjoyable. As a Jew, I could relate to Albom’s tales of spending time in a synagogue. But all that aside, Albom does an excellent job of weaving together the two religions, the two clergymen, and two different belief systems, pointing out that ultimately, all religions preach the same core values.

As always, Albom’s writing is succinct — probably from his journalistic background — yet moving. Albom doesn’t write much, but what he does is powerful.

MVP: The Reb and Henry. It’s impossible to choose a favorite among these two prolific men, who have been through so much and overcame their pasts in order to help others in the future.

Get Have a Little Faith on your Kindle for just $6.97, free for Amazon Prime customers.

Or get it in paperback for $10.98.

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews

Making The Hunger Games Your Bible…Literally

In case you haven’t heard or read enough about The Hunger Games in the last two weeks, here’s some out of the ordinary Hunger Games news for you. A Bible study group from North Carolina has been hosting Hunger Games-themed Bible study classes.

That’s right. According to this article by The Huffington Post, two reverends, Andy Langford and Ann Duncan, say they’ve found a number of parallels between The Hunger Games and the Bible, like selfless love and sacrifice. Since January, about 80 people have attended their sessions called “The Gospel According To The Hunger Games Trilogy.” The pastors say they felt this would be a good way to relate to teenagers in their churches, as Duncan explains.

“We’re not trying to make [the series] something that it’s not, but we’re trying to find themes that we as Christians can relate to,”Duncan said in a press release.

The study is available as an e-book on Amazon, as a means to reach people outside of their North Carolina community. So what do you think? Does The Hunger Games have religious undertones? Is this a good way to get people talking about religion?


Filed under News Articles

Review: The Lost Symbol

Recap: The Lost Symbol begins in much the same way all of Dan Brown’s books in the Robert Langdon series do: Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is abruptly interrupted to respond to a symbol emergency. In this particular novel — the third and most recent in the series — Langdon’s mentor, Peter Solomon, requests that he give a speech at the United States Capitol. So Langdon flies to Washington D.C. But he’s in for much more than he imagined. 

He soon learns he’s been tricked. In fact, Peter Solomon has no idea Langdon is in town. And as Langdon attempts to find him, he instead finds his mentor’s severed hand, lying in the middle of the Capitol Rotunda. In a moment of chaos, Langdon learns Solomon has been kidnapped by a man named Mal’akh. Mal’akh tells him the only way Solomon will be spared is if Langdon locates the Lost Word and Mason’s Pyramid.

And so begins a new symbolic saga for Langdon, who must find the Lost Word, the Mason’s Pyramid, Peter Solomon, and deal with the CIA in its attempts to find the kidnapper.

Analysis: It’s apparent that Brown uses a specific guideline for his Robert Langdon stories. They all start the same and take Robert Langdon to another city on a quest to find or decode something. Always, there is an exotic woman involved — in this case, Peter Solomon’s younger sister and brilliant scientist Katherine — and the entire long-winded story takes place in the course of an evening.

Brown not only uses similar formatting in his novels, but common themes as well: religion, symbology, ancient art, architecture, and history. The same holds true in The Lost Symbol, in which the reader is taught about the world of Freemasonry. Also included is information about the architecture in Washington D.C. and the art that adorns it. You know when you’re reading a Dan Brown novel, it’s going to be  heavy. There’s a lot for the readers to wrap their heads around. And as overwhelming and intimidating as it looks, the background information is necessary in the long run.

In The Lost Symbol, Brown also focuses a lot on character development. Learning about Katherine’s Noetic science research and the many transformations of Mal’akh are particularly fascinating.

But there’s nothing like Brown’s pacing and storytelling. The short chapters help the novel move along quickly, and the major twist toward the end is breathtaking.

MVP: Katherine Solomon. Girl power! This woman is brilliant and kicks ass. She works well with Langdon to try to uncover the Ancient Mysteries and the location of her brother. There’s an underlying tone of romance between her and Langdon, but Brown keep its realistic. But most importantly, Katherine’s emotional ties to their work –namely, trying to saving her brother’s life — makes the reader feel for Katherine and the pressure she is under.

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews