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A River Sutra Essay



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    A River Sutra Gaits Mehta’s A river Sutra is an accumulation of stories connected by the theme of love, the holy Narmada River and the narrators inability to comprehend various stories involving the human heart—which are provided by the quick encounters of different characters throughout the novel. By the end of the book the narrator comes to an increasingly better understanding about the spiritual journeys one must go through to understand the world and the secrete of the human heart.

    This paper will explore the thoughts and feelings of the narrator as he undergoes his own journey of understanding the human heart. When the book beings the narrator shows a peaceful state of mind that seems to have a grip on the world around him. Sure of his journey of head of him the narrator is a Vana prashti and is determined to be detached from the rest of the world, “The government still pays my wages but I no longer think of myself as a bureaucrat… I have fulfilled my worldly obligations. I am now a Vana parasthi”.

    However at the end of the novel his older friend, Tariq Mia tells him: “Destiny is playing tricks on you. Don’t you realize you were brought here to gain the world, not forsake it? ” The retired bureaucrat is annoyed and claims that he knows and experienced the world well enough. Moreover, towards the end of the novel the narrator realizes that still doesn’t fully understand the secrets of the human heart and that this journey of spiritual enlightment has just begun: “I stared at the flashes of illumination, wondering for the first time what I would do if I ever left the Bungalow”.

    During his isolation the narrator becomes an observer collecting stories of human love and suffering, but not really understanding those feelings himself. With every story he hears of family love, religious love, internal love, and sexual love he realizes his own incapacity to connect with the world through love. Watching the Narmada River (the holiest river in India) said to be daughter of the Hindu God Shiva, the Narrator watches his life go by but seems powerless to become a part of it, as Tariq Mia states: “You still know so little of the world little brother, but you have chose a hard path to knowledge.

    You learn from Hearsay, not experience…Don’t you realize you were brought here to gain the world, not forsake it”. Tariq Mia’s insight about the narrator seeking to learn about life by vicariously is very significant due to the fact that the narrator is seeking to escape from the world but in reality he doesn’t truly know what he’s escaping from. At the end of the book the famous ascetic Naga Baga expresses the same insight about the narrator and implies that maybe the narrator journey has just begun: “Is this your enlightenment? Is this why you endured all these penances? . . . Don’t you know the soul must travel through eighty four thousand births in order to be a man? Only then can it re-enter the world”. Perhaps, he should be learning about life through his own tails and tribulations. The characters of A River Sutra literally cannot understand each other. Throughout the Book the narrator must find translators to make sense of the world and the stories that surround him. From beginning to end the Narrator is constantly seeking guides who can explain the confusion surrounding the stories that seem to affect his state of being.

    For instance, the narrator patiently listens to the Jain Monks story, however he fails to understand the reasons why the monk chose to renounce the world, later he realizes he was so absorbed in the details of the ceremony he missed the point the Jain monk was trying to make: “The fault was mine I suppose. I was so fascinated by his lavish renunciation ceremonies that I never asked his to explain his first words. Now he is gone without telling me what it was. ” Even as he listened to the monks story of religious love and renunciations the narrator cannot get inside or relate to the monks spiritual thought.

    Rather he imagines the starvation, the hurdles he will face, and his likely fate, “At this time I have sometimes seen the dull glow of something being swept down the Narmada… I cannot stop myself from wondering if some day while I am sitting her in the dark I will see the monk’s body floating beneath the terrace”. The narrator is truly in the dark. Focusing on the possibilities of seeing the young monks wasted corpse floating down the Narmada River, he misses the larger meaning of the monk’s story.

    To understand the monk’s story he must seek guidance from an old mullah friend named Tariq Mia. At this point in time the narrator whom has never found the capacity to love for himself isn’t fully able to unravel the secrets of the human heart. As the book progresses readers learn from other stories that the narrator’s journey to spiritual enlightment won’t be successful unless he understands suffering, “How could one give up the world they know so little of. How can one give up love if he does not know what it is? Seeking enlightment may require that one gives up the ways of the world, but if one has never experiences life, how can he learn anything from giving it up. “The jeep doors slammed shut and headlights pierced the jungle, throwing strange shadows across the bamboo groves. Sudden arcs of light raked the darkness as the jeep roared down the twisting path that led to Rudra. I stared at the flashes of illumination. ” It is only at this moment that the narrator looks inward, trying to find the secrets in his own heart, as he’s left “wondering for the first time what I would do if I ever left the bungalow. Instead of finding illumination in the teachings of a religious man, the narrator finds it in the headlights of a jeep. The light that pierces the jungle finally pierces his heart. Looking back to the beginning, the narrators inability to understand the sorties of love throughout the book laid a foundation of curiosity within his own life, questioning himself on whether or not he truly understands the secrets of the human heart. With help from others he was able to understand the deeper meaning of each story and what the holy Namadra river stood for.

    A River Sutra Essay. (2018, Feb 08). Retrieved from

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