The Bottom Line: Few people can speak so respectfully and intelligently about different belief systems as well as Ravi Zacharias. A small book, it is creative, enjoyable, and interesting.
It is my 200th review. I have been saving this review to be something special. Something dynamic, interesting, celebrational ..
You know, I find that special occasions are rarely what we expect them to be. A person can spend a whole year preparing for that special day only to be met with disappointment and heartache.
A dear relative gets sick or dies.
Disaster steals the limelight.
Knowing this, I have learned to keep a very light touch on all special occasions. I would prefer to take the special moments when they surprise us, rather than to try in vain to control them.
Today is such a day.
WHY DID I DECIDE TO REVIEW THIS BOOK
This year has been a very difficult one for me and my family. We have been met with many challenges, disappointments, and frustrations. Limitations of all kinds have been making life quite intense, and sometimes worthy of trying to avoid.
Amidst the different limitations I have suffered, I have had the added frustration of receiving opportunities to debate difficult topics on reviews I wrote a long time ago. Years ago when computers and internet were more on the elite side and definitely not common in most households, I used to enjoy days on end of lively debates and interchanges on topics that are usually considered hot buttons in the US.
I miss those days when I could devoted hours on end to research, thought, and discussion on deep levels. However, it has been time to move on to our growing family.
Despite the frustration of having opportunities to enter debate that I can not meet to my satisfaction, I have had one thing come out of this that has been a diamond among the coal dust.
I have found a man whom we have not heard anything from in almost a decade, who embraces the same kind of thought processes and open minded discussions that I love to partake in.
WHO IS RAVI ZACHARIAS?
Some years ago, we had the fabulous opportunity to listen to occasional guest speeches by a man from India named Ravi Zacharias. Ravi is one of those rare people who has a mind that thinks deeply about things. He has the uncanny ability to understand situations, people, and religions in ways that few people do. I have had the delightful opportunity of locating Ravi once again through the amazing internet, and I am thrilled to be able to review one of his books for you on Epinions.
Ravi was born in India. He lived in a tiny house in a neighborhood that would most likely be classified as slum by US standards of most people. As an adult, he emigrated to Canada, and now lives in the US in Georgia.
Ravi Zacharias is a deep thinker. He has been referred to as a Christian apologist (a title that tends to make me run the other way), but I do not see him that way. Ravi has had the unique perspective of growing up among the Eastern mindset and religions and living among the Western mindset and religions. He has insights and understanding of people from both sides of life that few people are privileged to have.
A frequent speaker at Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, and many other intellectually heralded universities and centers, Ravi has a way of provoking you to think, reason, and understand people, schools of thought , and religion in ways you may not have done so before.
THE LOTUS AND THE CROSS
Over the years, I have gotten to know people from all walks of life. I tend to enjoy people no matter what their belief system, and whether or not they agree with me. I have seen and experienced many things in my life. Eastern and Western religious thought is a part of that.
One thing that I have not seen is a true portrayal of Buddhism that shows respect, yet lays out its shortcomings and pitfalls. Either it is heralded in an ethereal elevated manner, or has a finger pointed at it of disdain and cultic accusation.
Because of his deep roots in Eastern culture, Ravi has had many respectful and decent conversations with people of all Eastern religions. In preparation for this book,THE LOTUS AND THE CROSS, Ravi had hours of cordial and delightful conversation with Buddhist monks of many orders.
(Please Note: The title for this book is listed incorrectly by Epinions. The correct title is THE LOTUS AND THE CROSS: JESUS TALKS WITH BUDDHA).
His questions were always met with civil and sincere replies and he has the utmost respect for the people who became his friends. It is Ravis philosophy that even though some of lifes questions can bring radically different results depending on a persons school of thought, that we dare not shrink form asking the hard questions just to avoid discomfort.
In the introduction, Ravi states that Jesus and Buddha can not both be right. He states that both religions are diametrically opposed belief systems. He invites the reader to examine both messages with both heart and mind, as he feels that the resulting personal decision will determining the reader's destiny. He states that truth demands investigation and commitment, and that someday, we will find that being respectful and sincere does not give us license to be wrong.
Ravi begins his book with a statement that captured my attention. I quote it here for you: To be handcuffed by a lie is the worst of all imprisonments.
WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT?
THE LOTUS AND THE CROSS opens up with a description of a boat ride that Ravi was taking along the River of Kings. I believe from the description that is Thailand, but he also traveled through Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and India.
While traveling on this boat ride, Ravi goes into animated descriptions of the boat driver, the aromas, people of the land, sounds by the time he is finished with the descriptions, I found myself feeling like I was there too.
Ravi thinks back to an article about Priya, a girl who met the fate of many young women in this part of the world. In pursuing survival, she ended up being taken advantage of and then living in prostitution. She was dying of AIDS, and so cold were the people around her that she died alone, with no one to care for her.
As this story haunts Ravi, he begins to imagine what Jesus would say to this young woman. Then he began to imagine what Buddha would say, knowing the belief system intimately. At last, he begins to imagine a conversation between Jesus, Buddha (whose real name is Gautama), Priya and the Boatman.
He recalled on scholar referring to Jesus and Buddha as brothers but wanted to explore that statement. Was it true? What would each of these well known people say to Priya?
Thus begins the meat of the book.
A MOST UNUSUAL LOOK AT CONVERSATION
This book is written in the manner of a play, without the italics notes describing movements and stage instructions. In other words, the entire conversational form of the book is written like this:
"JESUS:Whatever else people may say of your teaching, Gautama, they cannot accuse you of not thinking about lifes problems. Youve talked about our ignorance in thinking we have a self, and youve also said you were reluctant to teach it at first, until your audience prevailed. I agreed with at least one of the reasons. You cannot pour new wine into old wineskins.
BUDDHA: Frankly, Im a little uncomfortable with that metaphor, because my followers are prohibited from consuming alcohol.
JESUS: Would you prefer that I say, You cannot take a patch of new cloth and sew it onto an old garment?
BUDDHA: I really like that.
BOAT DRIVER: My clothes prove that.
PRIYA: Yes, I noticed."
(the preceding section was taken from page 43 and 44 of the book).
Throughout the book, Jesus and Gautama both address the personal issues of Priya, the life she led, choices she made, and her condition which was leading to eminent death.
MY COMMENTS ON THE BOOK
This little hardcover book is pretty small. It is about 5x6 inches in size. There are only 94 pages in it. Throughout the book, there are pages with illustrations, highlighting a quote from the conversation found in the text near that page. It costs about $10 or so.
The layout is easy to read. The fonts are clear, and each page is uncluttered, allowing the reader to give thought to the words that are being read, without feeling overwhelmed.
THE LOTUS AND THE CROSS is a most unusual approach to a usually volatile or at least difficult subject. Ravi, however, lays out the foundational beliefs from both leaders with the utmost of respect and clarity. It is enjoyable as well.
THE LOTUS AND THE CROSS is a thoughtful book, which makes me appreciate things about both belief systems I have not thought about before. There is no preaching here. This is not one of those thinly veiled religious assault books that I have come across all too often.
Instead, I found Ravis approach to the topic to be entertaining, refreshing, and deeply thought-provoking. This book can easily be read in one night, but I found it more refreshing to digest it a little bit at a time.
If you are a person set in your own mind looking for a boxing match about doctrines and religions, you probably do not enjoy too many books on the topic, and most likely this will be no exception. I imagine you would find something to get all bent out of shape about.
If you are a person who enjoys intellectual, and thoughtful discussion, and are unthreatened by topics of religious nature, you will probably like this book. It is not accusatory or condemning, but merely presents some facts in a creative fashion of imaginary conversation to allow you to think about it for yourself.
IF YOU LIKE RAVI ZACHARIAS OR WANT TO HEAR HIM
Ravi has a radio show called LET MY PEOPLE THINK. He also has a web site where you can read about his books, CDs, tapes, DVDs, and videos more in depth.
I have found the radio show to have one of the best quality of media feeds via the internet of any I have heard it usually seems to run smoothly. The program segments are about 20 minutes long, and so far I have enjoyed what I have heard immensely.
Dont be put off by the Chrisitan apologist title that someone has place upon him. I really feel that Ravi is so much more than that, and has so much valuable insight to offer ANYONE who likes to think that I think the title is way short of who he is.
Here is the address where you can find links to the different aspects of his messages and materials: