The book, in short, is an exercise in stimulating self-awareness of man's place and purpose in the overall scheme of things - a scheme in which he plays a small but a significant part. Once this enlightment comes to an individual, action cannot remain far behind. Shri Chopra feels that the individual then learns to do all things with the perspective of the eternal in the background. I congratulate Shri Chopra for his great effort and wish him all success.
Shri R.N. Chopra worked with me when I was Minister of State for Home Affairs in the early 70s. I found him an honest, reliable, thorough and painstaking officer. He retired as Chairman, Food Corporation of India and Special Secretary to the Government of India in 1977 and took to writing books on subjects he had dealt with over a period exceeding three decades during his distinguished career in the country's civil service.
I was somewhat surprised to learn that he had written a book on "Spiritual Peregrinations" - a subject far removed from his earlier preoccupations. I was even more surprised when he asked me to write a FOREWORD to his book. I am hardly qualified to do justice to the task. But his persuasion overcame my resistance and I had a look at the summary of the book and the table of its contents. He also gave me a vivid account of his deep forays into the basics of human life on this Earth - man's place, purpose and pursuit, or a "Triple P. Project" as he likes to call it.
The basic questions covered by this project are bound to arise in the mind of every thinking person. Many have sought connected answers to these questions in their own way and in their own time. Shri Chopra too has worked hard on this problem, delving into religion, science and other disciplines, and reached certain conclusions. He has fully described his experience, which had given him immense joy. This book is the response to an urge to share this joy with others.
He says -
"I need not recall all the steps I took and the stages of mental and psychological upsurge cum deflation I passed through. Suffice it to say, in retrospect, that inspite of the numerous hurdles, even doubts, I relished the self-imposed task immensely - really a labour of love-ending up with a feeling that my own awareness of spiritual things in the total picture of man's life certainly required improvement. It did improve in my case, hopefully".
This book - "Spiritual Peregrinations" or The Triple P. Project' purports to explore and depict man's place, purpose and pursuit on this earth and has been prepared in pursuance of a study over the last seven years, drawing its original inspiration from the author's long and varied practical experience of life, aided and abetted by other people's expert thoughts and observations on the theme, all with a view to finding some answers to a few basic questions relating to man's brief sojourn on this planet. These thoughts, including their elaborations and interconnections, have been culled, collected, coordinated and summarised by me, primarily to satisfy my own desire to understand the subject in a rational manner. In the process, I have gained in my overall vision of human life and purpose.
Far be it for me to claim that the book, in anyway, is a piece of original writing on an abstruse subject such as the title indicates. I am neither trained in religious, metaphysical or even philosophical disciplines nor have I had the occasion of mixing with any known protagonists of these disciplines. And yet I have ventured out as a layman to enter on this study, to follow up an idea seriously conceived in 1985 during an after dinner conversation in Washington, U.S.A. in the company of some friends and relations as explained in Chapter I that follows. This self-imposed task courageously undertaken in the first instance, looked frightening to me as I studied it unguided, for the first couple of years. The field of it went on widening as I poured over the relevant (I thought) books one after the other in that period. It seemed all so confusing, so vague, so incoherent and so painfully unending that I thought of giving it all up, time and again.
But I persisted in my quest somehow. The subject doubtlessly had human dimensions, so I argued myself into carrying on with my efforts, with whatever result. I was not very confident of my coming up with any fresh ideas or concepts in the evening of my busy life which comprised academic studies, followed by five years soldiering in the Army (1942-47), ending up as an administrator at the level of the state and central governments for 30 years. This background of life had trained me to find a workable solution to the problems confronting me from time to time, through hardwork, genuine intelligent effort and sheer persistence. Here was another problem for me, so I argued, and went ahead with the task -hopefully.
I visited a few libraries, consulted good friends, bought some new relevant books and used up many old ones I had collected over the years, concerning the subject. This was not a design or coincidence - the old purchases just happened to be related to the problem. Maybe, somewhere in my psyche the idea was vaguely accumulating or forming up that one day I would embark on a Project of the type I had now taken in hand. The scope of the study expanded as I went along and that was natural since I had no overall or particular scheme of things in mind at the outset. No wonder, I had to grasp things the hard way through physics, astronomy, philosophy (perennial and other), history, tenets of various religions, some upanishads, some poetry and some literature - apart from my own impressions, conjectures, some set ideas and conclusions.
The contents of the book may appear a little rambling in style, sometimes incoherent, even unnecessarily expansive, but there is a running thread throughout, with beads of coordination, culled from a varied reading of the findings of numerous writers, thinkers, philosophers, scientists, physicists and environmentalists - the selection being entirely mine, all ostensibly with a view to finding the necessary answers to the questions posed by the Project in the overall. Considering my own initial trepidation I well-nigh wonder whether I have been able to do full justice to the task I had entered upon with eyes open. That is for the reader to judge of course but I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise - a labour of love as it were - and never for a moment lost interest in the subject. I treat the effort as a mere initiation into the spiritual domain which I wish I had been made aware of earlier in my life, somehow.
The question arises: Why am I keen to inflict the result of my efforts on the reader? Is it fair on my part to do so? I have thought over the matter and find, in all humility, that the uppermost idea in my mind has all along been to share my joy with the reader who would, by and large, be as ignorant of the subject as I have been -and still am-- except that I would feel a little more familiar with it now when wisemen talk about it and provoke a brief discussion over it. Learning from own experience I would be safe in saying that the reader, busy with living a mundane day-to-day life and having no time to indulge in inconclusive, vague abstractions, conceptual or philosophical, even conjectural sometimes, would enjoy reading about the first-hand exploratory "escapades" of a spiritual novice who one morning/evening decides to embark on a vague though arduous mission, as if to prove that there is always a workable solution to every problem in life! The book, however, does not indicate a clear-cut solution, nor give final answers to the questions posed at the outset; but it is better to strive than to arrive, perhaps. But I am not dismayed. The facts, thoughts, conjectures and concepts, philosophical or scientific, which I have chosen to include in the narrative are all worth being aware of so that one comes to know where one stands, the environment one is surrounded by and in what world of thought-mental, philosophical or spiritual-one is living in and what possibly is man's purpose or role, if any, in life, having been brought here willy-nilly. The possibilities of the latter are numerous, varied, quite contradictory to each other and even confusing to contemplate. But an inquisitive mind cannot stop at that. At the same time, one must know what efforts have been made hitherto and what conclusions have been reached so far on this and the connected problems. The last message of the Buddha gives one a shake-up as well :
"Therefore, O Ananda - be ye lamps unto yourselves, rely on yourselves and do not rely on any external help! Hold fast to the Truth as a lamp! Seek salvation alone in the Truth. Look not for assistance to anyone besides yourselves.
"Be steadfast in resolve, keep watch over your own hearts. Who wearies not, but holds fast to his Truth, shall cross this ocean of life."
J. Krishnamurthi followed the same line in our own days.
To become independent in thought one must first gather what has been thought before and in what context and circumstances. What follows is precisely in pursuance of that exercise, just a step towards it and not the final exercise.
To make the narrative more realistic and life-like, I have brought in some autobiographical details in the earlier part of the book. It may be appreciated that the entire effort behind this work has a subjective basis, conceptually as well as in treatment; it is not a scientific treatise on a set theme, or themes, by any means. It is at best an experience of life being shared with the reader-an experience, of which the main aim has been self-awareness and some idealism.
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