THE BUDDHA: Writings on the Enlightened One

Tom Morgan, Editor, Lama Surya Das, Foreword by . New World Library $29.95 (144p) ISBN 978-1-57731-227-7

Morgan, who edited A Simple Monk: Writings on His Holiness the Dalai Lama last year, returns with the same successful formula of carefully selected writings, beautiful full-color art and a 10"x10" coffee-table format with this lovely art book. It is a biography of sorts, but it begins with fiction; the first major literary selection is an early chapter from Herman Hesse's novel Siddhartha. This imaginative choice feels appropriate, since readers are thereby allowed to enter viscerally into a life we know so little about. Morgan's collection is not a straightforward telling of a life (though an excerpt from Karen Armstrong's biography of the Buddha is included) so much as an impressionistic hodgepodge of primary and secondary sources. The primary materials include a sensitive sermon attributed to the Buddha concerning the Middle Way, selections from the Dhammapada and parables about enlightenment. The highlight of the secondary selections is a reprint of Kevin Sack's 1996 New York Times article called "Awaiting Execution, and Finding Buddha," about the only practicing Buddhist in the Arkansas prison system. It is through the story of this prisoner, who murdered his parents-in-law in 1984 and converted to Buddhism while on death row, that readers see most clearly the dynamism of the Buddha and his legacy. In addition to the book's rich textual offerings, it glories in Buddhist art, with full pages devoted to temples, shrines and depictions of seated and reclining Buddhas. Morgan's book is a feast for the eyes and the mind. (Oct. 22)

Reviewed on: 08/26/2002
Release date: 07/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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