A dark winter night, in Tibet of the 9th Century CE.
For Yonten, the most disciplined student in the Buddhist Monastery, the passing of his beloved Master Yoshi was an unprecedented turning point in his life. Yonten had never doubted that his master was an incarnation of Buddha himself. Unlike the other weeping monks surrounding him, Yonten was in complete control of his emotions, like he had been taught to be. He did not sob; he only listened to his Master’s dying words. His master whispered with his last labouring breaths how all the manuscripts and all the knowledge of the monastery could not awaken the Buddha in a man’s heart. Buddhahood can only be achieved by pursuing and understanding a long-lost lore.
TAT TVAM ASI blessed the Master, before departing this life forever.
Tarana’s book, Samsara: The Lore of Saraha follows the dangerous path that Yonten follows, to fully understand the last words of his Master. It is only in fulfilling our destiny that we become truly whatever we are capable of becoming. A man may choose to either fulfill his destiny and choose the path of atonement, or he may choose to walk the path of doubt and regret. Our choices define who we are.
In Tarana’s novel, the world of light meets the world of darkness, creating a path full of uncertainties and impossible choices. Soon after Master Yoshi’s death, Yonten finds a strange book among his personal possessions. It was a manuscript, in which every single page was covered with illustrations which Yonten could never even picture. Each page displayed the bodies of men and women, caught up in explicit sexual indulgences: images which were bizarre to the dutiful, celibate monk.
Having lived all his years surrounded by celibate monks who were seeking enlightenment, coming across something so alien was sacrilege. Yonten’s world was meant to be pure and detached, devoid of the touch of the rest of the world. Yet, in his possessions lay a book which was forbidden to him.
In Buddhist lore, Samsara is the world of indulgence. It is the world caught up in the eternal circle of life and death. The aim of one who wishes to achieve true Buddhahood is to break away from this very world of dark indulgences, and to seek enlightenment. Yonten knew that the women who stared at him from the illustrated pages of the manuscript were known as Maya- they were responsible for leading men astray from the path of enlightenment.
Horrified with his new possession, Yonten seeks the advice of Master Kusang, certain that someone had tried to deceive him. To his surprise he realizes that Master Kusang was the one who had bestowed the book upon him. The Master goes on to explain that there are many paths in one’s life. The real Buddha is the one who finds light even in darkness, for he knows that there is none. If the heart was pure, then nothing in the world- no manuscript at all, could make one go astray and choose indulgence. Yonten was destined to fulfill an ancient lore: the lore of Saraha.
Thus, began Yonten’s perilous journey into the unknown. He was to find the man who awaited him in the shadows of solitude.
After crossing several hurdles, Yonten meets a monk, who teaches him one of the most important lessons, towards attaining Buddhahood.
“I do not know.” The greatest confession a disciple and make to his Master-the first step towards gaining true knowledge. Complete surrender of the senses is the beginning of gaining knowledge.
After this, Yonten is taken into a room containing the most magnificent and ancient manuscripts. Manuscripts within whose pages centuries of history and knowledge lay buried. Before he has time to drink in the knowledge he is surrounded by, Yonten is dismayed when his Master orders him to burn those very manuscripts. Despite his initial unwillingness to do so, Yonten eventually submits to his Master’s will. Through this, the Master helps Yonten to realize that the lore which he is destined to fulfill burns with a silent voice, and just like the holy, unprejudiced fire, nothing is sacred before it. Through several encounters, Yonten continues his quest. He is dragged into the world of Samsara: caught up in a world which he could never have pictured before.
Eventually, Yonten realizes that only in darkness does one find his true self: light is only an illusion. One walks the path of darkness, in order to realize their own light. One seeks a master, only to become his own master. TAT TVAM ASI- “You are that”. You are your own master, your own light. This is where enlightenment lies. Subtly delving into philosophy and magical realism, the author brings to life a surreal tale, talking about the ancient Saraha. The novel is intriguing, and raises many questions within one