Moral science for adults

A week ago, I was asked to review this book called 'Back to Basics - Transforming Life' by a first-time author, Murali Nandula (his thoughts have however been penned down by Anuja Surve). Now there are three main genres of self-improvement books: moral science/religious, spiritual/mystical or self-help/transformational. This book tries to draw upon insights from major works and authors in all three genres and present a handbook of kinds, for living one's life well.

The author has identified six 'universal principle's based upon his study and experiences of various theories and writings and according to him, these principles govern every stage of life, and reflecting upon them can provide a solution to any of your problems. These principles are:

  • Design and purpose
  • Order and rhythm
  • Abundance
  • Freedom
  • Oneness
  • Responsibility

Apart from this unique idea that the author has propounded, the book also contains cursory descriptions of known psychological theories such as Maslow's hierarchy of needs and Freudian psychoanalysis. Additionally, one chapter is devoted to rituals and ideas associated with major religions. If you are already well versed with these subjects, then these chapters will not add much to your knowledge base. However, the six principles are an interesting read; whether or not you are familiar with theology and spirituality.

'Back to Basics - Transforming Life' reminds me of the moral science textbooks and workbooks we had in school because many of the chapters ask you to answer numerous questions and fill in boxes. Now, this kind of guided introspection may work for some people but I prefer to reflect on concepts in my own way. However, one is free to ignore the exercise sections of the chapters or perform them mentally if that suits them better. Nevertheless, this technique makes me regard the book as a sort of moral science textbook for adults.

The author has targeted all age groups and segments with this book; with advice pertaining to children, teenagers, adults and senior citizens. This means that you may want to skim over sections that are not entirely relevant to you (such as the child rearing section if you're unmarried and single). I believe the book may come in useful for a reader who is new to the genre of spirituality and self-improvement and does not have the time or inclination for reading several different books and forming conclusions of their own. Basically, the author invites you to benefit from the conclusions he has himself drawn from his studies and research.

According to Nandula, going back to the basics; that is the six universal principles of life can help transform your life easily and effectively. Whether this is true or not can only be known upon long-term application of the principles. If you'd like to try, you should pick up this book. The writing style is conversational and cites the author's personal experiences at times. Incidentally, Nandula is a senior management executive at a financial services conglomerate. Stephen Covey's seven habits of effective people make a frequent appearance in the book as well.

The book offers broad-spectrum advice on a variety of subjects which is both a pro and a con. If you're looking for in-depth advice on one particular subject, you will be disappointed. But if you want generic advice that you can apply in various areas, then this book may be helpful for you. A bonus chapter at the end of the book offers inspirational affirmations that you can repeat during your meditative sessions at the start of each day. The author also narrates stories that may benefit MBA aspirants and working professionals.

The simplistic nature of the writing may appeal to a wide section of readers; especially those who do not prefer verbose tomes. There is also a definite Indian perspective to the ideas; which is refreshing at a time when most of the bestselling self-help titles are by foreign authors. However, the price of the book is a little steep, unless you're buying the Kindle edition.

The citations and quotes are sometimes more inspiring than the ideas in the book itself! For instance the poem 'Crabbit Old Woman', written in 1966 by a nurse named Phyllis McCormack provides a touching perspective into the psyche of an old person who only has memories of a youth well lived. Masculine and feminine characteristics also make an appearance in the book. The author provides examples of how to relate the six universal principles to different scenarios to aid the reader.

The author would have done well to expound further on his own principles and minimise references to existing religions and theories; much of which is common knowledge to those who are fond of reading. Nevertheless, this is a decent first attempt at a motivational guide and I can imagine that writing it must have been a spiritual exercise for the author as well.

Details for purchase:

Title: Back to Basics - Transforming Life
Author: Murali Nandula and Anuja Surve
Publisher: Patridge India
Pages: 212
Price: Rs 414 (paperback) | Rs 873 (hardcover) | Rs 161 (Kindle edition)
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