Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
The Light of Asia
Sir Edwin Arnold (1832–1904)
Light of Asia, The, by Edwin Arnold (1878). ‘The Light of Asia’ is a poetic exposition in eight books of the Hindoo theology. “It was,” the author says, “inspired by an abiding desire to aid in the better mutual knowledge of East and West.” Through the medium of a devout Buddhist, Arnold presents the life of the young Gautama, living in princely joy, shielded from every care and pain. He develops the wistfully dreamy character of the young prince into the loftiness of the noble, loving Buddha, who “cast away the world to save the world.” The religious teaching is merely indicated, because of the limitations of the laws of poetry and the sacrifice of philosophical details to dramatic effect.  1
  The Buddha of Arnold teaches that the way to attain Nirvana, the highest desire of every soul, is through four truths. The first truth is Sorrow: “Life which ye prize is long-drawn agony.” The second truth is Sorrow’s Cause: “Grief springs of desire.” The third truth is Sorrow’s Ceasing. The fourth truth is the way, by an eightfold path, “To peace and refuge”; to Nirvana, the reward of him who vanquishes the ten great sins. Nirvana, according to the poet, is not annihilation. It is the calm sinless state reached, by the suppression of all fond desires, through an existence continually renewed according to the law of Karma. The poem, which was published in 1878, is rich in sensuous Oriental pictures and imagery. It has been translated into many languages, both European and Asiatic; and has done much to create an interest in the religion of Buddha.  2
  In 1890 appeared ‘The Light of the World,’ written, it was said, to silence the criticism that Buddha was Christ under another name, and to show the essential differences in the teachings of the two. The story follows the historical life of Jesus. It is divided into five sections, each of which sets forth a special aspect of the divine life. Despite its Oriental setting, the character of Christ remains simple and dignified. Like its predecessor, the book has become a popular favorite.  3

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