Does He Know a Mother’s Heart

I casually walked into a bookstore and this book caught my eye. Arun Shourie, the author, is a famous name and i have read his book and even attended his lecture long ago.  His lecture was simple but scholarly just as this book, honest, direct and humble. I picked it up wondering who the HE was in the title Does He Know A MOther’s Heart. I read the back cover but was not totally sure that he literally meant GOD. And if so do i want to read it. And it is more than 400 pages! I opened the book to do some random reading and I found Ramana Maharshi being quoted! I am well aware of Ramana Maharshi literature. This book had to be philosophical to quote him. I was hooked. I went to the library and borrowed it.

Shourie’s son cannot walk or stand. He can only see to his left. He can speak but only syllable by syllable. There is no cure. It can only get worse. When a school for spastic children is opened they get him admitted. When his mom is driving him to school they meet with an accident. Both are unhurt but she starts getting tremors and is diagnosed of Parkinson’s disease. Struck by calamities one after another  it is natural to ask ‘why is all this happening to me?’ We resort to God; more so when the situation is entirely helpless like in Shourie’s case. Some look for answers in religious scriptures, become philosophical. Arun Shourie goes through all the scriptures and teachings of saints, philosophers, poets and even scientists and everything that he can lay hands on and looks for answers. Asks more questions; all the questions that any one of us is despair would ask questions like: is God just? If he is then why is there so much suffering? Why has God created wicked people? If Ramana Maharshi and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa were indeed great yogi’s then why didn’t they cure themselves? and so on…

Shourie finds the ‘answers’  and translates them in plain language for the ordinary reader without compromising on the depth.  Through the teachings of the scriptures and of Ramana Maharshi and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, whom he interestingly calls saints who are so unlike-God, he points out how both of them endorsed Prarabdha Karma and Rebirth. But ascribing suffering to the deeds in previous life is an argument difficult to digest. Ironically, both Ramana Maharshi and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa went through excruciating pain prior to their death. Ramana because of skin cancer and Ramakrishan because of throat cancer. They suffered but did not let their pain affect their work and continued to attend to devotees. They were evolved beings who had stopped identifying theirselves with the body. However, how about ordinary human beings what should we do. Let alone continuing the work we cant get over the pain.

Suffering is real. To urge anything that dismisses it as ‘unreal’ is to mock the pain of another. But it was The Buddha, as Shourie’s notes, who did not get into theorising about rebirth, finite or infinite nature of the universe….but taught how to deal with pain.

‘Whether the world is finite or infinite or both; whether it is with beginning and end or not; whether the Tathagtha survives after death or not…’there is birth, there is ageing, there is death, there are sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair.’They have to be dealt with, and it is the way to dealt with them that i have set out, the Buddha says.’

Shourie find’s the Buddha’s position the most helpful.  However, he does not discount others. ‘We do not have to take a final conclusive position on the matter’.  He recounts the two times that he met Satya Sai Baba. Once for his son, when his mother pleaded Sai Baba to cure him. The second time when he himself went to Puttaparti and earnestly asked Satya Sai Baba to do something special for Mita Nundy. Mita Nundy had set up the school for spastic children in Delhi. She had been diagnosed of a heart disease (cardiac amyloidosis) and the doctors had given her very little time. She was a devotee of Baba.  Sai Baba gave a shivalinga and said that it will be good for her if she poured water on it and drank the water. It is 25 years now (i.e. until the book was written) and where the doctors had given her little time, she is here. And her spirit is firm as ever.

After reading through the book I read back through parts of it by looking up the index. The index carries names with the context in which they appear. For instance:
Gandhi, Mahatma: on Bihar earthquake being Divine chastisement for sin of untouchability:135-52; on Hitler’s persecution of jews and counsel for jews: 159-86 ….
I liked doing the re-read. As a scientist, I liked the fact that whenever he was quoting be it from the bible or quran or Ramana or Gandhi he gave the appropriate reference.  This book is really one for reference; for your home collection.

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One Response to “Does He Know a Mother’s Heart”

  1. kartikasays Says:

    The proverbial question – why suffering? I think the book sounds very interesting – I will look for it. I don’t know anything. I have no final position on the matter. I’ve been drawn to Eastern philosophy for many years as well as the theosophy, but I do not claim to know anything. I think the earth is a harsh and beautiful place. Best, Kartika

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