A review by Dhiren of Veena’s latest book.
Farewell to Song Mountain
A journey from the mundane to the sacred
by Veena Schlegel – veenaschlegel.com
Independently published (May 25, 2022)
ISBN-13 : 979-8807464590
Paperback: 265 pages, 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
Available as Paperback and Kindle from Amazon in your country
Many coloured photos to further illustrate the book can be found on Veena’s Instagram and Facebook pages. (Photos are arranged to correspond with each chapter.)
Imagine watching a fascinating documentary which beautifully weaves several narratives – all of them close to a seeker’s heart – into a unique and beautiful visual tapestry. Picture yourself in the landscape where Zen was first birthed into the world, or roaming through remote parts of China on a quest which may surprisingly resonate with your own longing. As you lean in, it gets even better: you realise the narrator is your companion, a friendly voice inviting you to delight in the sense of wonder, fun and beauty which she brings to your journey.
Veena‘s new book, Farewell to Song Mountain, transfers something of that experience into a page-turning, sensory adventure. It is captivating – informative but never pedantic, revealing but never over the top. On almost every page a beautiful photo complements the lilting account as it bounces along – a friend of mine told me that while reading it he felt as if he was sitting with Veena, enthralled as she gave a colourful account of her inner and outer travels, of her insights into what for many Osho lovers was Osho’s last gift – an immersion into the meaning of Zen.
This is not a travel book nor another sannyas memoir nor an elegy – although it is perhaps all of those at times – but is written with such a light, lyrical touch that even if you know almost nothing of Zen, by the end you may feel you have touched upon its heart. The book sits easily in your hands… the cover beautifully designed by Krishna Gopa and Veetam, a joy to look at as well as to read.
(Zen) does not want you to create
a certain kind of spirituality, a certain kind of holiness.
All that it asks is that you live your life with immediacy, spontaneity.
And then the mundane becomes the sacred.
The great miracle of Zen
is in the transformation of the mundane into the sacred.
This quote* of Osho‘s (one of many beautiful quotes and poems by sage poets and masters) shines from the page and is central to Veena‘s book. In fact she has borrowed the last line as the subtitle: A journey from the mundane to the sacred. The apparently mundane is glimpsed in descriptions of life in a small village in rural China. She describes how the rapid social changes she observes affect the local villagers – and her own life there – as modern China transforms itself into one of the major economies of the twenty-first century. But the mundane also has something of a magical element, familiar to many travellers: the sense of the ‘spirit of place’ – especially in the energy field of the sacred Song Mountain.
Chapter title pages of Farewell to Song Mountain
We also travel with Veena to other areas of spiritual significance such as the ancient Buddhist temples in Wutai Shan in Shanxi Province, and the magnificent Mogao Caves in Dunhuang on the border of the Gobi Desert, where she explores aspects of the enigma of Osho’s often repeated phrase ‘the ten thousand Buddhas’ which many readers will be familiar with.
For the more factually-minded, there is a short interlude where she explains the significance and lives of the first Zen ‘patriarchs’ – the founders of Zen and the heirs of Bodhidharma. I also found it fascinating to discover how this spirit of Zen was so palpable for her in her meetings and work with the kungfu master, Master Wu Nanfang, to whose kungfu school on the slopes of the mountain she was first drawn.
Finally she shares her poignant reflections as her travels necessarily come to a natural conclusion: they are a touching tribute to the primordial mystery of Song Mountain, and her love for the place and its people are transparent.
Veena has managed to show how the lessons from sitting at the feet of her own Zen master, Osho, can be lived and felt and loved with deep gratitude.
* Osho, Ah This! Ch 1
- Osho and Bodhidharma – Osho speaks on two occasions during discourse about meeting with Bodhidharma in an incarnation about 1400 years ago
- A Discovery in Luoyang – An excerpt from Veena’s book, ‘A Mountain in China’
- Three Temples in China – Veena writes about her visit and experiences at three very special temples: Shaolin, Zhongyue Miao and Rinzai’s temple
- An intriguing image of Zen – An unusual rare stele she saw at the Shaolin Temple on Song Mountain in China
- Song Mountain Revisited – Veena talks about a stay in China
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