An adequate explanation of suffering is perhaps the most intractable issue in the study of religion and philosophy, and the answer to the question “Why me?” has eluded not only those who are the victims of suffering, but those who sympathize with them and try to understand and explain their suffering. In this highly personal account, Arvind Sharma shares his story of becoming the victim of a severe road accident and his gradual recovery from a fractured knee, which included a hospital stay, surgeries, unexpected setbacks, and a lengthy process of rehabilitation. In the second and most substantial part of the book, Sharma attempts to intellectually come to terms with his experience and to reflect on how the experience of suffering in one form or another is a universal condition of human existence.
“This book reads like a spiritual handbook on the problems of suffering and evil, which can be overwhelming. It is filled with wisdom of various traditions on the viscous question of theodicy, but is balanced by sprightly humor. The difficult subject is made accessible through personal reflections and philosophical and religious insights. Once I started reading, I had to finish it—it was captivating and inspiring.” — Veena R. Howard, author of Gandhi’s Ascetic Activism: Renunciation and Social Action
“This fascinating and highly personal book offers a rare window into how events in the lives of scholars can shape their work and worldview. It is a valuable contribution to the wider discourse on the embodied and embedded nature of scholarly work: that it does not occur in a vacuum or from some imagined ‘objective’ Archimedean standpoint.” — Jeffery D. Long, author of A Vision for Hinduism: Beyond Hindu Nationalism
Arvind Sharma is Birks Professor of Comparative Religion at McGill University. He is the author of many books, including One Religion Too Many: The Religiously Comparative Reflections of a Comparatively Religious Hindu and Hinduism as a Missionary Religion, and the coeditor (with Ellen Bradshaw Aitken) of The Legacy of Wilfred Cantwell Smith, all published by SUNY Press.
In his Autobiography, Gandhi wrote, “What I want to achieve—what I have been striving and pining to achieve these thirty years—is self-realization, to see God face to face. . . . All that I do by way of speaking and writing, and all my ventures in the political field, are directed to this same end.” While hundreds of biographies and histories have been written about Gandhi (1869–1948), nearly all of them have focused on the political, social, or familial dimensions of his life. Very few, in recounting how Gandhi led his country to political freedom, have viewed his struggle primarily as a search for spiritual liberation.
Shifting the focus to the understudied subject of Gandhi’s spiritual life, Arvind Sharma retells the story of Gandhi’s life through this lens. Illuminating unsuspected dimensions of Gandhi’s inner world and uncovering their surprising connections with his outward actions, Sharma explores the eclectic religious atmosphere in which Gandhi was raised, his belief in reincarnation, his conviction that morality and religion are synonymous, his attitudes toward tyranny and freedom, and, perhaps most important, the mysterious source of his power to establish new norms of human conduct. This book enlarges our understanding of one of history’s most profoundly influential figures, a man whose trust in the power of the soul helped liberate millions./div