Top Three: Samrat Upadhyay

December 19, 2010

We asked Samrat Upadhyay (author of Buddha’s Orphans): What books have you continued to revisit throughout your life?

Stephen Karcher, Total I Ching: Myths for Change
(Piatkus Books)
I have been practicing the Chinese divination system of I Ching for about 20 years, and it never ceases to amaze me what a work of poetry it is in its accuracy, beauty and empathy. It can, by turns, be a spiritual counselor, a listening ear, a pontificating parent, a soothing voice, or a har-har-laugh-inducing friend. This particular version of the ancient classic by scholar and translator Karcher does away with the rigid, doom-and-gloom language of some of the other versions, offering the I Ching as a dance of life.

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Out of India
I remember reading these stories over and over in my late 20s, when I was a graduate student in a rented room in a house in small-town Ohio: This was one of the first books that taught me how to write a short story. A German Jew married to a Parsi man, Jhabvala offers a cynical yet compassionate view of her Indian characters and their Western counterparts in India. She is at once distant and intimate with the landscape of India, which I love about this collection.

Tarthang Tulku, Milking the Painted Cow
(Dharma Publishing)
Tulku is a highly accomplished lama with a stunning range of beautifully written books on meditation, Buddhist thought and mind transformation. Milking the Painted Cow remains my favorite, one that I turn to constantly for inspiration, both in life and for writing. The suffering we experience in our lives is a direct result of “fictions” that our mind creates. Tulku reminds us that a deep understanding of our mind can lead us to powerful realizations, such as those enjoyed by the great Chandrakirti, who, with his mind, could shape reality into any form he wished: He is said to have fed the monks of his monastery during a famine by milking the painting of a cow.

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