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.