Book Review: Dhananjay Joshi’s “No Effort Required”  

No Effort Required is the English translation of Dhananjay Joshi’s articles in Marathi, serialized under the title Sahaj in Lokamat, the Marathi daily. The word सहज, taken straight from Sanskrit, means born with, natural, effortless, or congenital. Arun Jatkar, known to our readers, and a cousin of Joshi’s, translated the series into English.

For Marriages and Special Events

The theme of this book is the author’s reflections on his decades-long spiritual quest on the purpose and meaning of life. This takes him from his cultural moorings in his traditional Hindu upbringing and interactions with family elders like his grandmother and several teachers in India. This search continued through his engineering education in Poona. Later, when he came to the US for higher education at the Illinois Institute of Technology in electrical engineering and mathematics, his quest continued. He had long interactions in the US with the monks at the Ramakrishna Math and with Zen masters from Korea and Japan.

As many Hindu/Jain/Buddhist/Sikh teachers in India have repeatedly advised us in each generation, tranquility and freedom (Moksha in Sanskrit) are to be realized here and now when we are alive, and not in Swarga, Heaven or Jannat, post mortem — I use post-mortem in the literal meaning of the phrase, namely, after death. This idea is also central to Buddhist teachings all over Asia.

The author’s spiritual journey continued while he was living in Chicago, starting his career in corporate America, with him organizing meditation retreats in his rented apartment. And later, leading life as a married man, paying taxes and educating his children. He did not run away to the foothills of the Himalayas between career transitions, or out of disillusionment in life in the US. When people are predisposed to these kinds of pursuits, they get — or find — their teachers, even in Chicago, even in the midst of all the regular grinds that overwhelm most of us.

Serious English readers in India — the book’s target audience since it is published there — are in a hurry,  used to rapid reading. The short, easily readable stand-alone stories in the book are suitable for these readers. However, just because the articles are short and readable, it does not mean that readers can absorb their central messages in rapid reading. Several articles in this collection, described as “pointillist” by Margaret McKenzie in her foreword, are cryptic and end abruptly. If readers do not pay attention in their speed reading and do not pause at the end of each story, they may altogether miss their import.

This pointillist style of the short pieces, each standing on its own has a long history in Indian literature. Examples are the one hundred verses in Vedanta Dindima (attributed to Adi Shankara, perhaps incorrectly), or the 1330 couplets in the 2000-year-old Tamil classic Tirukkural. These individual verses are like bananas in a cluster, each complete by itself, independent of others in the bunch.

Many of the lessons the author learns from his Zen masters are the same that the Hindu tradition teaches, namely patience, frugality, simplicity, honesty (to oneself) in one’s life and lifestyle, and diligence, persistence, efforts, and dispassion in one’s pursuits.

On reading the short pieces in the book, spontaneously I recalled  the great line मन एव मनुष्याणां कारणं बन्धमोक्षयोः (Mind and mind alone is the cause for both the bondage and liberation of man) from the Amritabindu Upanishad, or अभ्यास-वैराग्याभ्यां चित्तवृत्ति निरोधः (With practice and detachment, a vacillating mind is quietened.) from Patanjali’s aphorisms.

Another lesson that comes out in Joshi’s writings is what is stressed in traditional Indian teachings, namely, the importance of right motivations in our pursuits. Even if we pursue the right course of action, but with the wrong motivations, we are advised, we will be dissatisfied with the outcome. And even when we pursue seemingly unpopular and unproductive objectives, but with the right motivation, eventually we will come out OK.

The stories are easily digestible, but are difficult to read because of the small font size and tighter line spacings. The publisher could have fixed this since there are wide margins on the left-hand-side pages in the book. And there are random distractions of missing spaces between words, a feature that was easily fixable with today’s editing software. But for these features, the book is worthy of reader’s’ time since it addresses in a contemporary style and context many issues young professionals face.   

No Effort Required  Author: Dhananjay Joshi, Translation:  Arun Jatkar, Publisher: Rohan Prakashan, 155 pages. Pune, India.  INR 300.00

Reviewer:  Kollengode S Venkataraman     


  1. No comments yet.

You must be logged in to post a comment.