December 11, 2007

"Breakfast with Buddha"

A novel
By Roland Merullo

For the most part, I don't review the books I present on these pages. I let the words of the author tell you all you might want to know. But with Merullo's book, I just couldn't resist. It seemed that every page, from the very first, kept putting a smile on my face. That is a precious gift in these times.

Book Description:
The only thing certain about a journey is that it has a beginning and an end—for you never know what may happen along the way. And so it is with this journey into the minds and souls of two very different men—one of them in search of the truth, the other a man who may have already found it.
____When Otto Ringling, a husband, father, and editor, departs on a cross-country drive from his home in a New York City suburb to the North Dakota farmhouse in which he grew up, he is a man on a no-nonsense mission: to settle the estate of his recently deceased parents. However, when his flaky sister convinces him to give a ride to her guru, a crimson-robed Skovordinian monk, Otto knows there will be a few bumps in the road.
____As they venture across America, Otto and the affable, wise, irritating, and inscrutible holy man engage in a battle of wits and wisdom. Otto, a born skeptic, sees his unwanted passenger as a challenge: a man who assumes the knowledge of the ages yet walks a mortal's path. But he also sees their unexpected pairing as an opportunity to take Volya Rinpoche on a journey of cultural discovery, with visits to quintessentially American landmarks (the Hershey's factory, Wrigley Field) and forays into some favorite American pastimes (bowling, miniature golf, dining out).
____It is Otto, however, who has embarked on the real journey, that of self-discovery, led by his strange and remarkable passenger. By the time they reach North Dakota, Otto's head is reeling with the understanding that so much of what he had believed—as well as so much of what he had doubted—must be rethought before his journey can truly begin.
____Witty and inventive, Breakfast with Buddha takes readers into the heart of America and in the process shows us a man about to discover his own true heart.

Memorable Quotes:

Everyone going, always going, always hurrying, but headed where?

I think sometimes that our national obsession with sex is really nothing more than a profound spiritual longing in desguise: the desire to exhaust all other desires and feel loved and sated, at peace with our fragmented modern selves, linked to those around us. At peace, at rest.

When you are a crank, you put yourself on the top of the list of people you make miserable.

It's not about religion, it's about relationship.

...if Christ's message could be distilled down to one line, that line would have to do with kindness and inclusiveness, not rules and divisiveness.

"Work out your own salvation with diligence." Buddha

You change your spiritual condition - by prayer, by meditation, by the way you live, the way you decide to think, by the lessons you learn in living this life with good intentions - and then, when this happens, after a long time or a short time, the way you see the world changes.

What difference makes what you believe? What happens will happen anyway, exactly the same, no matter what you believe. What you do makes the important part, what you do.

"How does one get one's mind that clean?" That is the very best question... The answer is a simple answer, but very hard also: Life a good life. Help people. Meditate. Live another good life. Meditate some more. Don't hurt. Don't hurt.

When your mind is more clear, you see the true way the world is made. When you see the true way the world is made, you feel at peace inside. You see how you make your own world, so then you can make a difference if you want.

...I was in control of my spiritual situation, not God; that we had been given the tools for an expanded consciousness and it was up to us to use them, not simply wait around for death and salvation.

People make their armor from their smartness, their anger, or their quiet, or their fear, or their being busy, or their being nice. Some people make it from a big show, always talking. Some make it by being very important. Many people do not make it, though, and those people can begin to see the world as it is.

There are people who are past being hurt, beyond being hurt. You should know this is true. You should try to become one of these people, to make an understanding with yourself that you are not your body, that you are something bigger. That is your work on this earth, do you see? Every experience here is to teach you to do that. Living, dying, every experience.

Every day, many times every day, you can go one way or the other way. You can go with anger or not go. Go with greed or not go. Go with hate or not go. Go with eating too much or sexing too much, or not go. Two ways. These feel like small things, small choices, but every day, across one life, across many, many lives, if you choose the good way, again and again and again, in what you are thinking and what you are doing, if you choose to go away from anger not toward, away from hate, not toward, away from armor, not toward, away from falseness, not toward...then you become this person like you - good, not stealing, not hurting. Some people make good choices in their past lives and so, like you, they are given maybe an easy life for this time. Not the perfect life, not the life with no trouble or pain in it at all, but a life where it easier to turn the mind to the spiritual part... So you have a small quiet space in your mind from that. And that quiet space gives you a chance to see deep, deep into the world if you want to. Another choice, yes? You can take that choice and look deep, or no. But if a person goes the other way, little choice and little choice toward the bad and the selfish, life after life, hour after hour, then this spirit does not have the good incarnation, so does not have the quiet space. Sometimes that person becomes the one who kills, who rapes, who hurts. Other times, in this life, they maybe make a big change to the good. Do you see?

...God is just giving out love and giving out love and giving out love, like a very nice music is always playing. If you hurt people you make yourself deaf to this music, that's all. Not God's fault, your fault. Not God's judgement, your choice, you see? Life and life you make yourself no chance, and then one life maybe you start to change, and be a little quiet inside, and listen to this music that is always there - for you, for the bad people, always there. Even the most bad people live in their trouble for thousands of lives, and then, one moment, they chose a different way. They go this way and not that way. One choice, another choice. They start to come on the long trip home.

At some point you had to risk the ridicule of the mob, of your own internalized voices, and try to see clearly what had been set in front of you in this life, and try to act on that as bravely and honestly as you could, no matter what kind of rules you'd previously been living by.

Other books by Roland Merullo:
Leaving Losapas
Revere Beach Boulevard
In Revere, In Those Days
A Little Love Story
Golfing with God: A Novel of Heaven and Earth