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Seven Pillers of Wisdom
a triumph

T.E. Lawrence,
Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1935.

Another book where the outward form is irrelevant to Buddhists but where the substance is rich with possibilities for insight into both the lifestyle and the mental attitude of the Buddha and the bhikkhus of the Buddhas time.

Lawrence paints a vivid picture of the lifestyles of a people who lived and felt nature and the relationships between men in ways easy to associate with the life we see being reported in the suttas. Further the picture of Lawrence himself is, without suggesting that it is based on Buddhist ideals, compelling as a description of the attitude of one who has through contempt for the body.

It is a beautifully written book from a truly superior mind which has more to do with lessons for life than the simple story of a failed Arab struggle for independence. In the sense of the revolt as having brought the Arab people together in a cause that gave them a self-respect beyond their previous experience, it is indeed a triumph. Well worth a read for anyone who wants to think of themselves as well educated ... especially in these times when there is so much negative propaganda against the Arab and Islam. This book presents a striking contrast of the Arab sensibility with that of the English, the Turk, the Egyptian and the Armenian. It would be hard to walk away from this book with the one-sided view of the Arab we encounter on a daily basis these days. For the liberation from the influence of propaganda-inspired bias alone this book is worth a read and can be considered a valuable lesson for the Buddhist.

From a chapter called: "The Last Preaching"

"Feisal brought nationality to their minds in a phrase, which set them thinking of Arab history and language; then he dropped into silence for a moment: for with these illiterate masters of the tongue words were lively, and they liked to savour each, unmingled, on the plate. Another phrase showed them the spirit of Feisal, their fellow and leader, sacrificing everything for the national freedom; and then silence again, while they imagined him day and night in his tent, teaching, preaching, ordering and making friends: and they felt somethhing of the idea behind this pictured man sitting there iconically, drained of desires, ambitions, weakness, faults; so rich a personality enslaved by an abstraction, made one-eyed, one armed, with the one sense and purpose, to live or die in its service."

Envision not Feisal, but Gotama sitting in the discussion hall. One could only hope that this reverance for the word might be kindled in the mind of one reading this book such that it was applied to his studies of the suttas.

Monday, June 22, 2015 8:50 AM

The movie made of this book, Lawrence of Arabia, in spite of it's being hailed as one of the greatest movies ever made (which is perhaps true) is a pile of worthless garbage and should be avoided as a smear of the book. It makes Lawrence out to be an effeminate bumbling idiot, betrays Lawrence's view of the Arab, and is factually inaccurate. The sound track is a hillarious Westerner's intellectual attempt to convey the mood of the Arab desert.

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