Look Inside. No one will read it without reward. What ensues is not an explanation, but an unveiling. Here are the stories of the creation of mind and matter; of the origin of Death, of the first sexual union and the first parricide. A tour de force of scholarship and seduction, Ka is irresistible. Roberto Calasso was born in Florence in

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The sacred literature of Hinduism is traditionally divided into two "families. These books are called shruti "hearing" because they contain the perennial wisdom "heard" by the ancient rishis "seers" in states of heightened awareness. The rishis, though typically represented as human figures with godlike abilities, are really neither human nor divine, but incarnations of cosmic forces that appear at the dawn of each world age to establish its framework of order and truth.

Chief among their creations for our current age are the four collections of hymns and prayers, sacrificial formulas, and chants known together as the Vedas literally, "knowledge". The younger family, in contrast, is called smriti, books "remembered" and so composed by human teachers.

While widely read and admired by the Hindu community, these books have less authority than shruti. Smriti includes various sutra texts, the two great national epics the Mahabharata and the Ramayana , and the encyclopedic Puranas, the "stories of the olden days," which record the creation of the world and the lives and adventures of gods, goddesses, and other supernatural beings.

For the Western student of yoga, these books present a formidable challenge. Consider, for starters, the sheer size of these two families. Just the Rig Veda, the most venerable of the four Vedic collections, contains more than 1, hymns and prayers; the Mahabharata is three times longer than the Bible.

Where do we even begin the study of so much material? Do we need to read all of it, or can we reasonably put some or most of it aside?

Then there's the strangeness of it all. The Rig Veda, for example, is now estimated by some Western scholars to be at least 5, years old, and that's just in its written form; no one knows for sure how far back into prehistory its oral antecedents reach. How are we Westerners to understand these poems and narratives, conceived by people so far removed from us in time and place? More importantly, how should the teachings in these books guide our own practices and lives? The "stories" in Ka are drawn from a variety of both shruti and smriti sources.

Some are familiar, such as the "churning of the ocean" by the gods and demons to extract the elixir of immortality, or the life of Krishna; others, like the romance of King Pururavas and the nymph Urvashi, are less well known. Calasso neatly weaves all of these seemingly disparate elements together, beginning with the "world before the world," the dream-time that precedes the creation of the cosmos, and ending with the life and death of the Buddha.

In the process, he does two things: He shows us that ultimately all these stories are but smaller or larger chapters in a "huge and divine novel," communally written by a thousand and one anonymous sages across many generations; and he provides us with a "map," itself cast in story form, by which we can locate ourselves in and navigate our way through these stories.

At the heart of this story is a question, ka, which in Sanskrit is an interrogative pronoun meaning "Who? This little word becomes a recurring symbol, or mantra, of enormous power, as its meaning subtly shifts and ramifies as the story progresses. At the outset it's one of the three syllables a, ka, ho of creative energy uttered by the progenitor, Prajapati Lord of Creatures , from whom the three worlds Earth; the "space between"; and sky, or Heaven "stormed into existence.

When one of the gods approaches him and begs, "Make me what you are, make me great," Prajapati can only reply, "Then who, ka, am I? Of course, the attempt by the sages over the centuries to answer this question is the inspiration for all shruti and smriti stories, as it is for all the yogas with their manifold practices. The question is undeniably as relevant today as it was five millennia ago. As the great contemporary "knowers" jnanis Ramana Maharishi and Nisargadatta Maharaj taught, "Who am I?

This question is the root of all self-investigation, self-transformation, and self-understanding, and the paradox at the core of our being: The answer to the fundamental question we must inevitably ask ourselves about ourselves is discovered in the asking of the question itself.

Ka is the sound that echoes everlastingly as the "essence of the Vedas," the author and end of all the wisdom in every story ever told. Ka is gradually revealed as divine knowledge veda itself, and "mind" or consciousness as both the seed and container of that knowledge. The stories, as Calasso arranges them, chronicle the awakening of that mind, which is the "raw extension of whoever is awake and knows himself alive.

To illustrate this, Ka is cleverly framed by the stories of two seminal awakenings: the awakening to bare existence of Prajapati, at the very inception of our current world age countless eons ago, and the awakening to the "detachment from the existent world" of the Buddha, the "awakened one," years before the birth of Jesus. Calasso acknowledges that Westerners may have some difficulty comprehending these stories.

We show up now and again in his narrative as shadowy "strangers" or "foreign guests" who are, as the rishi Narada dryly reminds his companions, "attached to habits quite different from our own. While Calasso suggests that our contemporary reality is "sick," that our culture and its mind have gone astray, he also assures us that we can find the way back, by always remembering the pivotal question of the stories and the last words of the Buddha, "Act without inattention.

In this translation, Ka is not always easy to read, but is well worth the effort. Calasso is right near the top of my list as one of the most insightful Western writers on the subject of consciousness. Poses by Anatomy. Poses by Level. The Yoga for You. Types of Poses. Yoga Sequences. Yoga by Benefit. Yoga for Beginners. Intermediate Yoga.

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Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India

In crisply written prose, Calasso The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, seeks depths, and encourages questions, that become a pleasure to ponder. The title sets the tone. The result is a multilayered, engaging composition that entertainingly draws the reader through a sophisticated system of thought. The result, though, isn—t a handbook: Calasso knows that not ideas but characters are what make stories work, and that we understand best when we sympathize most. A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships. A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.


Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India by Roberto Calasso

The third in a planned five-volume work, ''Ka'' -- which the publisher describes as ''stories of the mind and gods of India'' -- follows the high torsion of ''The Ruin of Kasch'' , which evoked the emergence of the modern from the collapse of the past, and the more languorous seductions of ''The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony'' , which subsumed the whole of Greek mythology in a single meditation. To read ''Ka'' is to experience a giddy invasion of stories -- brilliant, enigmatic, troubling, outrageous, erotic, beautiful. Yet ''Ka,'' like the two previous books, is not a novel. Calasso's form-defying works plot ideas, not character.


In Ka Roberto Calasso has taken the sprawling body of classical Sanskrit literature and synthesized it into a kind of novel. Each of its fourteen chapters foregrounds a particular figure, such as Prajapati, Shiva, Krishna, or the Buddha, or a story such as the Mahabharata. And each chapter is made up of vignettes ranging from short paragraphs to several pages in length, which link together to form a coherent stream but to an extent can stand alone. The chapters are ordered — proceeding from the creation of the world to the Buddha, framed by Garuda and Ka — but the weave is loose and Ka doesn't have to be read cover-to-cover to be appreciated. Though the individual passages are often dazzling little gems in their own right, the way they are worked together into a larger mosaic is just as impressive. There are sections of quite fast-moving narrative: Then Garuda looked around.


In Ka, Roberto Calasso delves into the corpus of classical Sanskrit literature recreating and re-imagining the enchanting world of ancient India. Beginning with the Rig-Veda, Ka weaves together myths from the Upanishad, the Mahabharata and the stories of the Buddha, all of which pose questions that have haunted us for millennia. Roberto Calasso. Our Lists. Buy from….

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