It’s only Sunday but I already feel as though this weekend has been the kind of one I’ve been waiting months for. The weather is finally behaving itself – which is good since we’re pretty much in June now! And with no deadlines I’ve had a chance to sit outside, enjoy my breakfast in the sunshine, (restart my health kick in preparation for my holiday), and lose myself in a good book.
I’ve been a little inconsistent with my blogging lately, but it’s not through a conscious decision. I’ve reached a point where a lot of change is happening – mostly good, but change is still disruptive and unsettling. With so much happening I’ve felt drained over the last couple of weeks. Everything seemed to just make my to do list more and more unachievable.
It’s strange though because I feel more productive than I have in weeks – I have more idea for posts, more to say, and yet when I finish work, I lose my motivation. I have all these posts in my head and no desire left to sit and write them out. Instead what I’ve wanted to do more and more is read. This weekend I want to get back on track and enjoy the sunshine, (since it probably won’t last). With no tight deadlines to hit, I’ve felt the need to take a couple of days away from everyone, lose myself in a good book and get back to my writing. This weekend I’ve read Buddhaland Brooklyn, a novel sent to me by Alama Books. Following the life of Seido Oda, the book follows his journey as a child to becoming a priest and rather reluctantly taking an assignment which leads him to establishing a temple in New York. The novel traces his experience through Western culture and offers an endearing portrait of how he touches the people he encounters along the way.
When it comes to Buddhism, I know very little about the faith. Or about the different Buddhist sects for that matter. So when I first picked up the book I was expecting a story about a ‘holier than thou’ protagonist, who was difficult to relate to and only interested in changing the ways of anyone who he encountered. Which in fact, is the opposite. Seido Oda comes from a sect which has no behavioural precepts to follow because they believe enlightenment is found in our imperfect state of humanity. So he can eat meat, have sex and pretty much just go about life as everyone else does. Not that this is a Mills and Boon style romp – but he does have relationships with characters along the way. And I find that because his vulnerability is revealed a little more – and because he is just a normal guy, he is much easier to identify with.
Seido Oda is a character surrounded by tragedy though. I don’t want to spoil the story too much for anyone, but he suffers a great loss at a young age, and the description of the trauma of leaving his family to join become a Buddhist priest, is very poignant. What I liked most about this book though was that he was such a flawed character. As a monk, he doesn’t really seem to like any of the Believers. He’s quite abrupt and arrogant, and it is in this that he shows his humanity. Reluctantly agreeing to helping to establish the temple in New York, he leaves Japan with strong prejudices against the Western Believers – and while some are proved to be justified, he does learn a lot from them along the way. Not only about himself, but also about his own faith.
With characters that are very human in all their flaws and faults, Buddhaland Brooklyn is a moving story not only about religion and its ability to unite, but also about the importance of community.