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15 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Mystical nonsense, 25 Mar. 2010
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This review is from: The Buddha, Geoff and Me: A Modern Story (Paperback)
I came to this book with high hopes, having read the positive reviews. A modern novel which demystifies Buddhism; what a good idea. I've a little experience of meditation practice and have read a variety of Buddhist literature. Usually I find myself disappointed, as what begins as a discussion of the philosophical truths and the pragmatic benefits of Buddhism degenerates into nonsense about reincarnation and past lives, or visualisation of deities and life forces, with untranslatable Sanskrit terms or Japanese paradoxes scattered about like dust to blind one's eyes.

This book is sadly no different. It begins reasonably well, if predictably; protagonist Ed has a life crisis, loses girl, loses job, asks what it's all about. He meets a down to earth Buddhist who can provide explanations and advice. Ed is reluctant to take to Buddhism but finds that it brings tangible benefits and, after the usual struggles, bows to the inevitable, embraces his new religion and lives happily ever after. He even gets his girl - but not the one he started with. The book is written competently, with nouns, verbs, grammar and spelling in all the right places, but it completely failed to grip this reader. The tone is clearly instructional and the quality of the story is obviously secondary to the author's determination to get his Buddhist message across.

Sadly the message rapidly degenerates into nonsense about the benefits of 'chanting', the effect of one's 'past lives' on one's present 'karma' and other idiocies. Apparently the author was educated at the University of Oxford but obviously not in any school which taught the benefits of rational thinking. This is a great shame, as my understanding of Buddhist philosophy is that one need not believe in gods, pixies or anything else which doesn't exist, in order to live a good and meaningful life. Buddha instructed us to be a light unto ourselves, not to fall at the feet of sages with shallow and obscure messages. Unfortunately this book fails to provide any sensible illumination of his teachings beyond New Age wishful thinking. And the pages in which the author tries to explain why 20th century European Jews suffered the Holocaust ( basically they deserved it because of bad karma in previous lives ) are beyond parody and in very poor taste.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 15 Jun 2011 11:28:10 BDT
Johnny Myo says:
Dr Foley said: "...the pages in which the author tries to explain why 20th century European Jews suffered the Holocaust ( basically they deserved it because of bad karma in previous lives ) are beyond parody and in very poor taste."

I can understand how a cursory reading might lead someone to reach this conclusion, but I respectfully suggest that anyone deterred by this suggestion tries to read and re-read the actual passage to which he refers, to fully appreciate that Eddie Canfor-Dumas' expounding of the principle of karma in Buddhist philosophy is a lot more nuanced than that. Indeed, it's hard for many of us brought up and educated (often to degree level and beyond) within the philosophical framework of an Occidental worldview not to struggle with this quite thorny concept - indeed, I understand that many buddhists of long standing still meditate on the true nature of karma in order to modify or overcome their "life tendencies". I gather it's not something a single reading of a light novel is likely to resolve...

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Dec 2011 08:08:50 GMT
Tw Laporte says:
thank you for this eloquent response. x

Posted on 19 Oct 2012 20:19:00 BDT
Robin Hayter says:
Hello Dr Foley
New Age wishful thinking? Nichiren Buddhism hails from the 13th century and Mahayana buddhism itself a thousand years before. To refer to the teachings as idiocies is such an arrogant position especially as you profess to have some understanding of buddhist philosophy. What is more I don´t remember either the author or the character in the book depicted to be the teacher in this context suggesting that buddhist gods were anything other than protective functions inherent in the environment either in the form of the right thing at the right time or something preventing a course of action because it simply was of no value. simply if you like our environment mirroring how we treat it, hardly a new concept surely ,in this case on the premise that the practitioner of said daily prayer is said to be revitalised each time he sits down to chant. as for pixies? I dont remember reading about pixies.
You mention the benefits of rational thinking. Though not an oxford graduate I too had a good education and I´ve also had a good amount of life experience and I too have practiced the buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin for a good number of years and I find this effort to encapsulate what the benefits are to the individual to be absolutely spot on.
As for falling at the feet of sages shallow or otherwise you´re mistaken. The whole message as you put it of this book is to say that it is within one´s own power to have a very real effect on one´s destiny albeit by employing the strategy of the lotus sutra as taught by Nichiren Daishonin. I notice that in another one of your reviews this time for a book with a scientific bent you say that science can´t always answer everything . Well which is it ? Can you have it both ways?

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Nov 2012 07:11:34 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Nov 2012 07:20:43 GMT
Mike Foley says:
Actually I can have it both ways. Science provides an explanation of life and the universe; philosophy provides a guide on how best to deal with it. I prefer my philosophy to be rational. This book clearly isn't.

Posted on 15 Jan 2013 12:33:49 GMT
K. E. Allen says:
I found this review helpful and thought-provoking as I often don't read reviews of films or books preferring to experience both with an open-mind. This maybe why Mike was disappointed (although that could also be because he says he is usually so?). Buddhism is a religion as Buddhists will tell you and as such has it rituals and disciplines. If I were to choose a religion to practise on my limited experience within the divisions of Christianity and Buddhism , it would probably be this one but I'm still curious, about other religions Judaism, Hinduism, Islam and the Baha'i Faith to name just a few.

Personally, I loved the Buddha, Geoff and Me and think it would make a great film too. I've read it several times and hope that it's messages are changing my life in a positive way because after all, life is messy and suffering, as well as wonderful when we appreciate the balance and blessings. The more wisdom, courage and compassion we can share with each other, the better! Namaste (think that's Hinduism btw?)
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