April 20, 2003
The memoirs of Hiouen-Thsang
by J. Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire. Translated from French by Laura
Ensor. Rupa & Co.
Pages 124. Rs 150.
Buddhism goes the credit of bringing ancient India and China close
to each other. Asoka’s emissaries took Buddhism to China and set
the pace for a succession of pilgrims and scholars who travelled
between the two countries using the overland as well as the sea
route. Among the best-known Chinese scholars who visited India
nearly 1,000 years after Asoka were Fa Hein, Hiouen-Thsang and Yi-Tsing.
But the most famous of these Chinese travellers was Hiouen-Thsang
who came in the seventh century. He travelled across the Himalayas
and has recorded his adventures with accounts of Buddhist rulers and
monasteries in Central Asia and people and places, making
observations some of which are delightful, and others that are
fantastic. He makes a record of Buddhism as it existed in India
1,200 years after Buddha and about 400 years before the advent of
If Buddhism travelled
to China from India, the Chinese, over the next six centuries took
the initiative to travel to India in search of a purer dogma. The
author takes pains to point out how the Chinese appropriated
Buddhism to themselves in this manner which he describes as
proselytism in reverse. Instead of waiting for the faith to be
brought to them, they set out to seek it in foreign lands.
The book recounts how
this Chinese scholar was honoured and shown respect in India, and
his stay in Nalanda University where he took the degree of Master of
Laws and where he also taught for some years. There is also an
account of his itinerary in Magadha, his general views about India,
and Indian kings of his days.
On his return to his
homeland, he was warmly welcomed by his emperor and his people and
he got down to translating the many manuscripts he had carried with
him from India. He also remained in touch with his friends in India,
exchanging with them letters and manuscripts.
This book is a part of
the author’s longer work, "Buddhism in India," and
describes the state of Buddhism in this country in the mid-seventh
century. Relations of Buddhism with Brahmanism in that period and
the division of Buddhism into two sects, Hiouen-Thsang’s
intercourse with the learned men of this country and a summary of
Indian Buddhism also form part of this small volume. People
interested in the history of religions will find it considerably
Proverbs (192 pages) and 100 Pretentious Nursery Rhymes (191 Pages)
by Michael Powell, Rupa and Co. Rs 70 each.
There are people who can quote a
proverb, or a rhyme or a couplet to suit every occasion. Here in
these two booklets is an exercise to turn simple proverbs and
nursery rhymes into statements of such pompous to verbosity that can
leave you gaping. When you read "If Jack is subjected to
exclusively operose stimuli that precludes any recreational
pursuits, he will exhibit oscitant behaviour," it surely will
take you an effort to make out that all that it tries to convey is
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."
Thus, in the scheme of
Michael Powell, a bat is a "nocturnal flying mammal of the
order of Chiroptera," a buckle becomes "a ductile,
malleable metallic fastening," the moon is "the orb of
night," a horse is a "solid-hoofed plant eating equine
quadruped" and the heart is "the chambered muscular organ
that maintains the flow of blood through a person’s entire
If you can master some
of these linguistic acrobatics, you can astonish a gathering of
grown-ups with tongue-twisting versions of simple proverbs and
children with verbose rendering of familiar nursery rhymes.
The Process, Potential and Ability
by K. Prabhavathi. Prakash Book Depot, Bareilly.
Pages 182. Rs 150.
From the title of the
book one expected to have a glimpse on some eminent creative writers
such as poets, novelists and short story writers and an account of
how they came to give their creations to the world. Instead, you
find a somewhat clinical dissection of creativity, how it is defined
and how a person can acquire this quality. So you come across
statements such as "Creativity is luck or chance. Luck favours
some people, so they come out with discoveries and some invent by
abnormality is a prerequisite for a creative artist."
"... A sort of
emotional purgative that helps a person to maintain his mental
"Man’s urge to
grow and develop himself fully is responsible for his creative
These statements are
attributed to different authorities, which the author quotes to shed
light on the nature and source of creativity. But in the process of
analysing the mental processes of a creative person, she gets
entangled in web of statistical data, percentages, male-female
comparisons—a whole lot of uncreative scales to measure
Being a teacher
herself, she proposes creativity to be taught as a subject at the
higher level of education. She would like universities to devise
courses in creative education to be made part their curricula. A lay
reader may find the book somewhat confusing, but social researchers
may find it of some utility.