Why does an idea that's 2,500 years old seem more relevant today than
ever before? How can the Buddha's teachings help us solve many of the
world's problems? Journalist Perry Garfinkel circumnavigated the globe
to discover the heart of Buddhism and the reasons for its growing
popularity--and ended up discovering himself in the process.
The assignment from National Geographic
couldn't have come at a better time for Garfinkel. Burned out, laid up
with back problems, disillusioned by relationships and religion itself,
he was still hoping for that big journalistic break--and the answers to
life's biggest riddles as well. So he set out on a geographic,
historical and personal expedition that would lead him around the world
in search of those answers, and then some.
First, to better
understand the man who was born Prince Siddhartha Gautama, he followed
the time-honored pilgrimage "in the footsteps of the Buddha" in India.
From there, he tracked the historical course of Buddhism: to Sri Lanka,
Thailand, China, Tibet, Japan and on to San Francisco and Europe. He
found that the Buddha"s teachings have spawned a worldwide movement of "engaged Buddhism," the application of Buddhist principles to resolve
social, environmental, health, political and other contemporary
problems. From East to West and back to the East again, this movement
has caused a Buddhism Boom.
Along the way he met a diverse
array of Buddhist practitioners--Thai artists, Indian nuns, Sri Lankan
school children, Zen archers in Japan, kung fu monks in China and the
world's first Buddhist comic (only in America). Among dozens of
Buddhist scholars and leaders, Garfinkel interviewed His Holiness the
Dalai Lama, an experience that left him speechless--almost. As just
reward for his efforts, toward the end of his journey Garfinkel fell in
love in the south of France at the retreat center of a leader of the
engaged movement, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh--a
romance that taught him as much about Buddhism as all the masters
In this original, entertaining book, Garfinkel
separates Buddhist fact from fiction, sharing his humorous insights and
keen perceptions about everything from spiritual tourism to Asian
traffic jams to the endless road to enlightenment.
Buddha or Bust, Perry Garfinkel, Harmony Books, Paperback, 2006, 319 Pages, $15.00