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Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 05/3/09 7:44 AM

Book review: Jesus by Deepak Chopra

The itinerant’s tale

An easy reader on Christ’s early years.

Deepak Chopra follows up his book on Buddha with this account of Jesus Christ’s unknown years. Not quite fiction not quite fact, Chopra’s Jesus wanders about known lands… Nazareth to Jerusalem to Galilee to Damascus. No, he doesn 217;t come to India, at least not in this account, but he does ride a black horse, at one point gets a stabbing headache, and reveals himself to be a being of wry humour.

Good read

The author being Deepak Chopra, the book comes with “advance praise” and that is, to put it mildly, off-putting. However, if you can look past the inevitable hype and hoopla that must accompany any work by this writer,Jesus is a good read, if not particularly illuminating. The other off-putting section comes right at the end, in the form of a Reader’s Guide that (further) simplifies the book for the reader, complete with shoulder heads that lead in to the pertinent points and questions the author presumably wants the reader to ask of him/herself.

After the fleshing out of the Buddha, Chopra follows it up with the fleshing out of Christ. The author lays out a “map of enlightenment”, an ambitious venture and almost pulls it off, too. This is not Scripture anew; it is the old tenets associated with Christ and Christianity, into which Chopra breathes new life.

And so we have Joseph, a hand worker rather than a carpenter. Jesus is Joseph and Mary’s eldest son; an obedient and dutiful son to the father and an unquestionably loving one to the unseen-in-this-book Mary. We have James, Jesus’ hot-headed younger brother. We have “the other Judas”, one of the Zealots, who pragmatically tells Jesus that it will take a miracle worker to lead the Jews, a people locked into their own victimhood. Yet another Judas is mentioned, too, this time Joseph’s younger son.

The first miracle is trickery; so much so, that when the real miracle occurs (Jesus rescuing a woman and her three children from burning house) it is simple, beautiful, effortless in its simplicity. However, the brickbats before the bouquets; Jesus is quite literally thrown into the deep end, he has to aid in the defilement of the Temple, take the help of a whore (yes, we meet the other Mary, not called Magdalene here, though, early enough), shed the ornaments of a devout Jew.

And thereby, Chopra invests Jesus with a reason to disappear for some years, to actually run from the impending importance of becoming Christ.

And as he progresses on the path to realisation, Jesus meets the Adversary (complete with red burning eyes and monster visage). Jesus and Judas keep meeting, of course; both slowly cementing their opinions of the other. Mary, on the way to her own redemption, is buffer at times, foil at others.

And when Jesus reached the point of self- realisation, like all enlightened men, he too feels the compulsion to spread the word. At this point, Judas, baffled, intimidated and not a little rancorous, drops by the wayside, not before sounding a warning replete with irony: “When the Romans come close their nets, you won’t be left out.”

Mary, for whom Jesus feels an indefinable love in his heart, relinquishes all claim to the man in Jesus. Chopra takes us through the temptation of Judas (yes, quite some time before the ultimate temptation); Christ among the Essenes; Lucifer’s offer to Christ; his meeting a mysterious hermit/savant close to India, and then, hey presto, an abrupt jump to the crucifixion, a closure that jars in its jerky and uncoordinated movement.

Reader’s call

Here and there, Deepak Chopra catches the reader’s eye with a firm, keen gaze. A tale of how “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” finds his way through a thicket of doubts. It’s a heart warming story, and indeed, if God does exist in the details, the details herein are filled in pointillist style by Chopra. More a story than a parable? It is the reader’s call.

Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment; Deepak Chopra; Harper Collins; Rs 395.

This ran in THE HINDU`S LITERARY REVIEW on 3 May 2009.

Deepak Chopraearly years of ChristJesus

Sheila Kumar • May 3, 2009

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