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What shall I say about Joseph Campbell? I consider him my spiritual guru. He was the one who gave a proper direction to my creative side, my right-brain, when it was wandering lost in the forest. His outlook on myth and the human psyche has informed my viewpoints ever since I discovered him in my early twenties.
But of late, I have been disturbed – because I found myself more and more in disagreement with Joe, and I didn’t like it at all! But deep down, I felt that this disagreement was somehow essential to our relationship.
Then came the pandemic and the lockdown, and all of us were left with a chance to reassess our life – and I suddenly found myself writing again. In the terms of Campbell’s Hero Journey, I had finally “heeded the call to adventure”. I was “following my bliss”.
Then, a fortnight back, I was diagnosed with hernia and needed a surgery. This made my withdrawal even more acute. In a world going to hell on a handcart, I needed some spiritual solace, and I came back to Joe. From across the gulf of years, my guru told me:
“When we talk about settling the world’s problems, we’re barking up the wrong tree. The world is perfect. It’s a mess. It has always been a mess. We’re not going to change it. Our job is to straighten out our own lives.”
No, he is not advocating callous indifference – he is just telling us the only way to set the world right is to take that journey inward and find our own still centre, the place of Nirvana, where the Buddhahood awaits each and every one of us.
This book is a collection of his essential thoughts from across many books and lectures. For anyone not familiar with the person, it is good introduction. For a Campbell aficionado, it something to be dipped into at leisure, reading a bit here, a bit there.
And the biggest takeaway was – though I now disagreed with a lot of what he said, the creative flame lit in my mind was still by him. He was still my guru, because it is not the function of the teacher to pour things into the student, but draw his essence out.
“From the darkness of ignorance,
With the lodestone of truth,
He who has opened my eyes:
To him, my guru, I bow.”
Joe says – “Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.”
Yes. I suddenly realised that over the years, I had lost the joy. Now to bring it back!
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