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Book Review: Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho

August 28, 2013

Warning:  Please don’t take this book on a holiday.  Its a disaster that way 🙂  ‘Aaraamse’ (meaning leisurely) we can sit back and read it when nothing else can interest us like tv or whatever on a typically boring, lazy sunday.  But its a very quick read and once engrossed in this fictional yet non-fictional work of Paulo Coelho, it gets impossible to put it down unless and until you are finished with it. This is only my second book of his and already the writing style is familiarly simple.  One can guess the author’s mother tongue is not English and this book in all possibility is the best translation of the original.

Without delving into much details i am merely including in this blog some golden nuggets that we do not  take time to pause and think about  in everyday life.  The book opens with a scene in Jerusalem where three major faiths of the world Judaism, Christianity and Islam had their roots.   The Copt whose religious affiliation is unclear addresses the gathering and his words are what make this book. Since I am a Hindu by birth i guess i may take a different perspective of everything that unfolds in the city there some thousand years before.  I consider myself neutral that way but nothing said in the book sounds strange or new to me.  (Why, it must be so for everyone!  Such a mundane thing! But what makes the manuscript special is it reminds us of what we have totally forgotten in our busy daily lives).  This is what our Vedas and Upanishads and the Bhagwad Gita have been telling us for over four thousand years from pretty much before the middle-eastern religions came into existence.   Preachings, preachings and more preachings!  Come Coelho i will show a sea of these things in India!  But i don’t want to get into this kind of discussion now.  Pearls of wisdom are worth collecting or rather recollecting wherever they are from.

The manuscripts seem to be real and existing and its not that the author has penned anything on his own as it turns out.  He has merely come out with a compilation of some nice and wise home-truths that could have become the gospels if not for certain reasons.  And now I am to have a string of my own collection (after all I am following Coelho’s style) in this blog!

After finishing the book, frankly i am wondering why no Indian author has come up so far with a compilation of thoughts from our own scriptures (!)  Easiest way to make money.  Though authenticity matters.  And antiquity.  There is no dearth of both in ancient Hindu manuscripts (supposedly) which were mostly penned in Sanskrit and Tamil.  ‘Manu Needhi’ – Manu’s code used to be the manual of tenets followed by Hindu kings who ruled for thousands of years when it came to administration and dispensing of justice.

The definition of zero was inscribed in our Vedas.  Even the two thousand year old tamil literature ‘Thirukkuaral’ has similarly been translated into many foreign languages.  ‘Thirukkural’ consists of some 1330 coupletss penned by the tamil sage ‘Thiruvalluvar’ atleast 2050 years before.  So I have had an opportunity to study all this in school so nothing said in this fiction impresses me.  Its like i have heard it all before and comfortingly in my own ancient Hindu scriptures, manuscripts and literature and believe me i have only skimmed through the surface.  The ocean of knowledge and wisdom to be gained from our vast and rich heritage is immense and cannot be mastered by an individual in his/her lifetime.  I wonder what Coelho will do if he is to come across the Vedas and Bhagwad Gita.  ‘Do your duty and leave the rest to the God’ says the Gita.  ‘Karma’ is what Bhagwad Gita defines that way.  ‘Avatar’ another sanskrit word is now world famous.  It means a mere incarnation.  Its wrong to interpret that there are 33,000 Hindu gods.  The truth is One Supreme is manifest in various avatars reflecting the plurality of everything and every aspect found on earth.

Here are the gems now from ‘Manuscripts found in Accra’:  (EXCERPTS ONLY)

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ON ‘DEFEAT’

* Only he who gives up is defeated. Everyone else is victorious.

* Scars speak more loudly than the sword that caused them.

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ON ‘THE DEFEATED ONES’

* Defeat ends when we launch into another battle.  Failure has no end: it is a lifetime choice.

* Defeat is for the valiant.  Only they will know the honour of losing and the joy of winning.

* ….. there are people who have never been defeated.

They are the ones who never fought.

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ON ‘SOLITUDE’

* Solitude is not the absence of love but its complement.

* ….saying ‘No’ does not always show a lack of generosity and … saying ‘Yes’ is not always a virtue.

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ON ‘FEELING OF USELESSNESS’

* That feeling of uselessness is no respecter of age and never asks permission, but instead corrodes people’s souls…..

* Don’t try to be useful. Try to be yourself: that is enough, and that makes all the difference.

*The people who really help others are not trying to be useful, but are simply leading a useful life.

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ON ‘BEING TOO AFRAID TO CHANGE’

* The correct path is the path of the nature, which is constantly changing, like the dunes in the desert.

* Nature is telling us ‘change!’

And those who do not fear the Angel of Good Fortune understand that they must go forward, despite their fear. Despite their doubts. Despite recriminations.  Despite threats.

Nevertheless. they risk taking a first step – sometimes out of curiosity, sometimes out of ambition – because they generally feel an uncontrollable longing for adventure.

At each bend in the road, they feel more and more afraid, and yet, at the same time, they surprise themselves: they are stronger and happier.

Joy: That is one of the main blessings of the All-Powerful.  If we are happy, we are on the right road.

Fear gradually ebbs away, because it wasn’t given what it was felt was its due importance.

……..   travellers meet other people on the road who are feeling just the same.

……..   one day without warning, the road stops testing the traveller and begins to treat him generously.

Once he has decided to follow his path and has no alternative, he discovers that he has great will power and that events bend to his decisions.

* ‘Difficulty’ is the name of an ancient tool that was created purely to help us define who we are.

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 ON ‘BEAUTY’

* We deny our own  beauty because others can’t or won’t recognize it.

* If we resist the temptation to allow other people to define who we are, then we will gradually be able to let the sun inside our own soul shine forth.

* Beauty exists not in sameness but in difference.

…… The irregularity of the mountain peaks that surround us is what makes them so imposing.

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ON BEING ‘NEVER SURE WHICH DIRECTION TO TAKE’

* ‘Love appears and says: ‘You think you’re heading towards a specific point, but the whole justification for the goal’s existence lies in your love for it.  ….. ‘

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ON ‘LOVE THAT ALWAYS PASSED ONE BY’

* In order to hear Love’s words, you must allow Love to approach.

* They think they can seduce Love through submission, power, beauty, wealth, tears and smiles.

True Love, however, is the love that seduces and will never allow itself to be seduced.

* Love transforms, love heals.

* Love is an act of faith, not an exchange.

* Contradictions are what  make love grow. Conflicts are what allow love to remain by our side.

* Life is too short for us to keep important words, for example, ‘I love you’, locked in our hearts.

* …….. the persons who left us did not take the sun with them or leave darkness in their place. …

* It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

* We learn to say ‘No’ without thinking of that word as somehow cursed.

* We learn to say ‘Yes’ without fearing the consequences.

* ….. when we go home, we find that someone was there waiting for us, looking for the same thing we were looking for and experiencing the same anxieties and longings.

* Love is only a word, until we decide to let it possess us with all its force.

* Love is only a word, until someone arrives to give it meaning.

* Don’t give up.  Remember. it’s always the last key on the key ring that opens the door.

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ON BEING ‘UNABLE TO GO BACK AND RECOVER LOST MOMENTS’

* Since i am heading off into the future, I will be helped by the scuff marks left on my sandals from when I stumbled in the past.

* May everything my hand touches and my eyes see and my mouth tastes be different, but the same.

* Time and life have given me plenty of logical explanations for everything, but my soul feeds on mysteries.

* May I be capable of accepting myself as I am….

* ……… this ‘I’ was not created by my father or my mother or by school, but by everything I have experienced up until now, and which I suddenly forgot in order to discover it all anew.

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 ON ‘SEX’

* Everything is permitted, if everything is accepted.

* What matters is that we have travelled a road with our partner that led us into unknown territory, where we encountered gold and incense and myrrh.

* Give the sacred its full sacred meaning.

* Fearlessly open the secret box of your fantasies.

* True lovers will be able to enter the garden of beauty without the fear of being judged.

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ON ‘WHAT THE SURVIVORS SHOULD TELL THEIR CHILDREN’

*Stay close to those who say : ‘Everything’s fine  as it is, but we still need to move on.’

* …  happiness is contagious and will always manage to find a solution, whereas logic can find only an explanation for the mistake made.

* No matter how you are feeling, get up every morning and prepare to let your light shine forth.

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ON ‘ELEGANCE’

* Elegance is achieved when, having discarded all superfluous things, we discover simplicity and concentration.

* And what is simplicity? It is the coming together of the true values of life.

* The nearer the heart comes to simplicity, the more capable it is of loving freely and without fear.  The more fearlessly it loves, the more capable it is of revealing elegance in its every gesture.

* Elegance is not a matter of good taste.  Every culture has its own idea of beauty, which is often completely different from ours.

* Arrogance attracts hatred and envy.  Elegance arouses respect and love.

* Elegance is accepted and admired because it makes no effort to be elegant.

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ON ‘ HAVING TO WORK TO SUPPORT FAMILIES’ (‘ WITH ‘THE COPT BEING ABLE TO SPEAK (THESE) BEAUTIFUL WORDS’))

* Work is the manifestation of Love that binds people together.

* Fate is never unfair to anyone.  We are all free to love or hate what we do.

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ON ‘WHY SOME PEOPLE ARE LUCKIER THAN OTHERS’

* To him who knocks, the door will open.

* He who asks will receive.

* He who consoles knows that he will be consoled.

* You must always have a goal in mind, but as you go along, it costs nothing to stop now and then to enjoy the view around you.

* Until the wheat is in the oven, it cannot be called bread.

* What is success?

It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace.

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ON ‘MIRACLES’

* Give us this day Lord, our daily miracle.

* Love lasts because it changes and not because it stays the same and never faces any challenges.

* ….. that each time we see the humble exalted and the arrogant humbled, we are witnessing a miracle.

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ON ‘ANXIETY’

* ……… as long as we are intensely connected to the present moment, we will always be waiting anxiously for someone or something.

* Anxiety is part of love, and should not be blamed because of that.

* ‘Excessive caution destroys the soul and the heart, because loving is an act of courage, and an act of courage is always an act of love.’

* It (anxiety) will never disappear, but the great wisdom of life is to realise that we can be the masters of the things that try to enslave us.

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ON ‘WHAT FUTURE HOLDS’

* Loving means being open to miracles, to victories and defeats, to everything that happens each day that is given (to) us to walk upon the face of the Earth.

* Our soul is governed by four invisible forces: love, death, power and time.

* When you are going through difficult times, remember you may have lost some major battles, but you survived and you’re still here.

* Love does not need to be understood.  It needs only to be shown.

* ….. Don’t let others say: “That road is better;” or “That route is easier.”

The greatest gift God gave us is the power to make decisions.

* Only someone capable of honouring each step he takes can comprehend his own worth.

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ON ‘LOYALTY’

* … We are all prisoners of the sands of time, and we have no control over them.

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ON ‘WHAT WEAPONS TO USE WHEN ALL IS LOST’

* The true hero is not the man who was born for great deeds, but the one who has managed to build a shield of loyalty around him out of many small things.

* The most destructive of weapons is not the spear or the siege cannon, which can wound a body and demolish a  wall.  The most terrible of all weapons is the word, which can ruin a life without leaving a trace of blood and whose wounds never heal.

Let us, then, be masters of our tongue and not the slaves of our words.

* Loyalty can never be imposed by force, fear, insecurity or intimidation.

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ON ‘ENEMIES’

* Man is not defined by earthly battles, because just as the wind changes direction, so do luck and victory.  Today’s loser will be tomorrow’s winner, but in order for that to happen, combat must be embraced with honour.

* We will all have to face many adversaries in our lives, but the most difficult to defeat will be the ones we fear.

* The enemy is not the person standing before you, sword in hand.  It is the person standing next to you with a dagger concealed behind his back.

* And beware of the pain you can cause yourself by allowing a vile and cowardly heart to be part of your world.

* The more fragile the slanderer, the more dangerous his actions.

* Never repay hatred with hatred, but with justice.

* The world does not divide up into into enemies and friends, but into the weak and the strong.

* The strong are the generous in victory.

* …. your enemies are not the adversaries who were put there to test your courage.  They are the cowards who were put there to test your weakness.

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…….. SCATTER YOUR SEED WHEREVER YOU GO, BECAUSE WE CAN NEVER KNOW WHICH SEEDS WILL GROW AND FLOURISH AND ENLIGHTEN THE NEXT GENERATION.

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And finally this gem:   (whether this is publisher’s doing i do not know :-))

Life is a Journey

Make sure you don’t miss a thing.

Live it with Paulo Coelho.

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Next Coelho can write on ‘how to do simplistic writing on what everyone knows already and is right there in front of everyone and still earn mega bucks worldwide!’  The mystery Coelho speaks about so much is not his forte!

Anyway man I enjoyed your book and i have it blogged here because I want to keep going through it over and over and over.

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