Buddhaland Brooklyn by Richard C Morais
|Buddhaland Brooklyn by Richard C Morais|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Margaret Young|
|Summary: A novel so breathtakingly beautiful, and profoundly inspirational, you will wish it had really happened. This is the story of one man's reluctant journey towards enlightenment, from his beautiful mountain home in rural Japan to the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 284||Date: January 2014|
|Publisher: Alma Books Ltd|
|External links: Author's website|
Seido Oda has lived all of his life in the shadow of the Head Temple of the Clearwater Sect of Mahayana Buddhism. His family home was an inn which catered to the pilgrims who flocked to the temple, and his mother a devout member of the sect. He seemed marked for the priesthood from an early age, and at age 11 was handed over to the guardianship of the priests to begin his apprenticeship. Seido's young life is blighted by tragedy, and a promise he could not keep, and although a devout follower of the Buddha, he seemed unable to achieve true peace, even in the beautiful tranquil surroundings of Mount Nagata. He was unable to relate to other humans and sought solace in poetry, art, 'the prayers' of the river and the beauty of his rural home. At age 42, he has spent almost all of his life in or near the temple, and expects to spend the remainder of it there when a very unwelcome appointment to America is offered to him. Seido accepts with a heavy heart, but only on the agreement that it must be temporary.
Seido dreads going to American and imagines it as very terrible place indeed. But no matter how horrible his preconceived notion of America may be - the reality is worse. Seido finds the Americans loud, abrasive, shallow, malodourous, and completely lacking in any of the virtues required to reach enlightenment. While some parts of this book may seem offensive to Americans in general, one has to take into consideration that these feelings would very normal for such a quiet reclusive soul uprooted from a tranquil and peaceful environment and thrust into such a place with almost no preparation other than the fact that he had learned English, in large part due to his interest in poetry. A basic grasp of the language however does nothing to prepare Seido for a culture completely alien to him, and the role of spiritual advisor to people he can not understand at all. Brooklyn will force Seido to re-examine everything about himself, as well as those around him.
Richard Morais describes the landscape of Mount Nagata so beautifully, it almost makes the reader homesick for a place they have never been. His description of the sound of the river as the river praying is something that will stay with me always, and as he described the beautiful scenery of Devil's Gate Gorge and the views from the temple, my mid envisioned not only the living landscape as he described it, but also the beautiful suiboku monochrome landscapes of Japan I been captivated by since childhood. When the author actually mentioned these paintings my jaw dropped in shock. It is as if this book was written just for me. Morais has been able to paint with his words a landscape as beautiful as any of the ink wash paintings of the masters. The work of the great suiboku master Taiko Josetsu has been described as koan within painting. The work of Morais could be described as a painting within a koan.
But, the idyllic Japanese setting is only part of the story. Morais describes the sights sounds and smells of New York equally well. More importantly though, he describes the depth of humanity's longing for enlightenment, the need for peace, and the path one man takes to find this. This book could easily be enjoyed, just as a good story, as it certainly is that, but for me it was much more. It was a deeply thought provoking story with the tone of Koan or parable. The author makes very clear that this book is not an introduction to Buddhism. This book does not teach Buddhism, nor is meant to. It is just a story, but it is a beautiful story which very well may teach something of enlightenment and spirituality which can apply to any faith. The headwater sect is fictional, although Mahayana Buddhism is not. Mahayana Buddhism includes the Zen, Tibetian and Pure Land sects. My knowledge of Buddhism is limited but even I was able to pick up many clear threads of Tibetian and Zen Buddhism. In particular, I can see a very clear tie in between the Bodhisattva Vow, taken by all Mahayana Buddhists if my understanding of this doctrine is correct, and the fictional priest Morais has created. If you enjoy books of a spiritual or thought-provoking nature, this book should certainly be high on your to-read list. But even if you don't have any interest in religion at all, this book is still worth reading. If you enjoy reading about other places and cultures, and perhaps having a wicked laugh at some very serious culture clashes, this book is also for you.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Buddhaland Brooklyn by Richard C Morais at Amazon.com.
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