Saturday, June 8, 2013


A Philosophical Approach
The Classic Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness: Epictetus
Book Review

I have got a wonderful book in my bookcase.

It’s called The Art of Living: The Classic Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness, a new interpretation by Sharon Lebell, published by HarperCollins in 1994, ISBN 0-06-251346-X. 

This compact book encapsulates in a nutshell the salient teachings of Epictetus, the great Stoic philosopher. 

Whenever I buy a book I write my name, the date and place of purchase on the first page. I bought this book from one of my favorite bookstores Gangaram’s Bangalore on 18 August 1999.

Those were the glorious days, in the nineties, when I used to visit Bangalore very often. 

I ensured I stayed somewhere near MG Road, and spend the evenings strolling in the delightful area around MG Road and Brigade Road. 

A delightful meal of the scrumptious Kerala delicacies like Stew, Appams, Parotta and the Ghee Rice at Imperial on Residency Road, baked delights at Nilgiri, Rosogullas at KC Das and Book Browsing at Gangarams Book Bureau were an absolute must. 

It’s been 14 long years now, I cherish those memories and hope I get a chance to visit Bangalore soon and enjoy strolling, eating and browsing in my favourite places.

Now let’s have a look at a few gems from this witty and wise book which delves on two basic questions pertaining to the art of living :

How do I live a happy, meaningful, fulfilling life?

How can I be a good person?

"Approach life as a banquet," Epictetus advises.

Think of your life as if were a banquet where you would behave graciously. 

When dishes are passed to you, extend your hand and help yourself to a moderate portion. 

If a dish should pass you by, enjoy what is already on your plate. 

Or if a dish hasn’t been passed to you yet, patiently wait your turn.

There is no need to yearn, envy, and grab. 

You will get your rightful portion when it is your time.

Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: 

Some things are within our control, and some things are not in our control

And once you learn to distinguish between the two (what is in your control and what is not in your control) then inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.

Events don’t hurt us, only our attitude towards them does.

Don’t demand or expect that events happen as you would wish them to. 

Accept events as they actually happen. 

That way peace is possible.

Create your own merit.

Never depend on the admiration of others. 

Personal merit cannot be derived from an external source. 

Remember, there is no such thing as vicarious merit.

These are a few gems from the book - every page radiates simple implementable wisdom.

Whereas society regards professional achievement, wealth, power, and fame as desirable and admirable, Epictetus views these as incidental and irrelevant to true happiness.

What matters most is what sort of life you are living... a life of virtue...a life celebrating and caretaking the present moment. 

Authentic happiness is always independent of external conditions…your happiness can be found within.

This captivating book has had a profound effect on me and my way of thinking and living and motivated me to delve into the life and works of Epictetus in more detail and it was heartening to see the congruence and harmony of the teachings of Epictetus with Eastern philosophical wisdom and precepts.

I am glad I bought this splendid book. 

It cost me only 95 rupees. 

Go down to your neighborhood bookstore and browse through it. 

I am sure you will love to have a copy in your bookcase. 

I am sure you will enrich your inner self every time your read this delightful book.

Dear Reader, do get a copy of this book and tell me if you like this breathtakingly simple philosophy of life which is so easy to implement in daily life.

Wishing you authentic happiness and good health.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this book review. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright. 
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013 all rights reserved

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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