By Dr Usha Bande
Title: The Perennial Journey
Author: Mamta Sehgal
Publisher: Rubric Publishers (in association with Blackspine and Times Group), 2017
Price: Rs. 325/-
Mamta Sehgal’s The Perennial Journey is a collection of short write-ups. These pieces purport to demonstrate that you do not need to be defeated by anything; that you can have peace of mind and a never-ceasing flow of energy if you place your trust in God. Though the blurb on the book claims to take the readers on a spiritual journey, the author does not define or theorize spirituality. Written in a direct and straightforward style, these simple pieces guide the readers on the path of everyday life by invoking Krishna Consciousness. Mamta Sehgal knows that spirituality is not simply the opposite of materialism and also that no single definition of the spiritual way of life could suffice to convey its deep meaning. Spirituality is an active process and its objective is growth and transcendence. We, who are standing at the crossroads of material and spiritual realities, need to make a choice, to focus on our capacities to know, to love, and to trust justice, truth and peace. If we are able to do that, we have chosen a spiritual way of life. With narratives, stories and anecdotes from mythology and quotes from the Gita, the author tries to channelize our thought process. Each tiny piece that runs into a page and a half reflects on life, soul, spirit and the journey towards self-realization. Each page is a quest for Truth and the journey is ever-lasting — that is the ‘perennial journey’ of the title.
The book is divided in four sections: God, Soul, Life and Introspection. The sections are not mutually exclusive and together they create the conceptual reality of Krishna Consciousness where fear, expectations, greed, domination, violence and other aberrations of the phenomenal world vanish. Krishna Consciousness becomes the tool to help you carry on with your difficult journey. Consciousness refers to a state of being in which the mind is functioning in its clear, rational and inquisitive state. Consciousness begets change.
The first write-up exhorts the readers to understand Krishna Consciousness, while the next two pieces advise us to know the ways of God and thank Him for the life He has given us. In ‘Experiencing God,’ the author recounts her visit to Ananda in the Himalayas where she experienced the mesmerizing beauty of nature and complete harmony with God’s creation. She affirms that though none of us has seen God, we can yet reach the Consciousness of His presence and achieve a state of contentment through realizing Him in every object that surrounds us. Faith is power. Faith can lead us to understand the positivity of every situation we are placed in, instead of its negativity. The most important factor is to be grateful to God, she says in the fourth easy entitled ‘Gratitude.’ When we are grateful, we accept His ways and yearn for Him. The essential factor in this process is that we develop higher level of self-knowledge.
In the second section, Mamta Sehgal dwells on the soul, its immortality and the power of the inner voice. In the chapter ‘There’s a Voice that Doesn’t Use Words, Listen’ she quotes Rumi and weaves her ideas around the significance of the inner voice that is the eternal guiding force. In the section ‘Life’, she talks of life as a gift of God, the importance of leading a selfless life, life’s vagaries, the lessons that life teaches, Karma, and the significance of people who are associated with us in this life. Within the framework of a spiritual approach to life, the search for “real” happiness ends when we realize the dictum that says, Ishwaram Idam Sarvam, everything belongs to God.
The other articles dwell on themes like righteous understanding, the law of impermanence, the law of attraction, karma and many such ideas that we often debate in our daily living. Whatever be her theme, the author’s purpose is to lead us to an ideal life of contentment, peace and faith. Dissatisfaction, inability to understand God’s ways, expectations, material attachment and ignorance are some of the hindrances in our path. Once we steer clear of them, the journey becomes smooth.
Mamta Sehgal is immersed in Krishna-bhakti and is given to “relentless self-introspection”. The pieces, therefore, have the authenticity of introspection and retrospection. The mind is ignited, ideas float from within and writing takes shape. These pieces were subsequently published in ‘Inner Voice’, Hindustan Times. Though the book is didactic in tone, its appeal lies in its simplicity and comprehensibility; it makes no pretence to literary excellence and is a practical guide to personal self-discovery. At its basis is the philosophy of the Gita.
The publishers have done a commendable job with quality paper, a pleasing cover page and good printing. But the book could have benefitted with vigorous editing; there are avoidable spelling mistakes here and there and a couple of weak constructions. However, with its straightforward and direct style, Mamta Sehgal’s book can be fairly engaging.
Dr Usha Bande is retired Principal and former Fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla.