I have read this book last month (here in italian, here in French, both affiliate links; could not find it in english, dudes) pretty much randomly, as I am mildly interested with the topic. We went to Ladakh few years ago (ah, the little Tibet) and I was so unpleasantly surprised by this grand exposition of “enlightened” bodhisattva on walls, nothing different from the saints in the catholic/christian tradition. There was a siddhartha for everything. It looked all so superstitious; it did not look so “different” after all.
So, I was curious. Am I missing the big picture here? Am I looking at the finger rather than the moon?
Well, that’s for sure with any religion, I guess: different layers of interpretation, from the “simplest of them all” to the Jesuit.
So, I read this book to compensate, to understand better. Did it help? Did it make me understand better?
Worth to read? Yes, after all, I would say so. Am I incredibly more knowledgeable? Did I understand everything, is it solved? No, of course, but my vision is clearer.
What’s to love about it? It is not deductive or logical book. It doesn’t try to convince you, and that’s good, because it would not make it. It is well written, though. It is part, I suppose, of this new of way of writing where you confuse your life with the story and/or something else’s life. A lot, then, it is about on how you really style yourself, if you can manage to keep the reader’s attention all along. Herve makes it. It makes it by jumping from concept to concept, explaining his vision of Buddhism or, better, how he sees Buddhism.
Then: did he help me clearing all the clouds I mention above? Well, let it put it like that: it is like asking something to somebody and being answered something completely unrelated. A wonderful politician’s answer. One of those things they teach you at communication’s company. So, there is nothing about it in the book. There is nothing about these enlighted souls that look like cheap saints. But’ that’s ok, that’s my question, not his. By explaining all the learning he got, the book is still educational, as it slowly makes you soak (like a bath) in their mindset and in their view of the world. In that sense it is almost convincing.
I also loved that it connects with pre-Christian thought, with Socrates, Parmenides, and all the likes. It switched on my interest again for comparative religion, and the realization that many of these people lived on the same planet. Even at the same age, possibly (there are some chances for Socrates and Siddartha).
What’s to loathe about it? The jargon, the sanskrit psychobabble (la supercazzola, as it is called in Italia). If something is not logic, good chances it is confusing (even if styled up). I almost dropped the book a couple of times, after the nth use of a Sanskrit term that it is eventually impossible to translate. Or some contradictory concept that, I guess, will make sense if you repeat long enough, just like a lie (“The being is not”; I am not even sure how to translate it). This was a downer, and a clear reminder of how this still share something with a cult, after all (like all religions). You must switch to their vocabulary. What’s wrong to learn that Metta means love? Well, nothing, until few books later you are completely absorbed in the language and convinced 100% by their thinking. And that there is no love, only metta (which means more than love, I believe).
So, one must be always vigilant (but it helps that you are constantly annoyed by the Sanskrit words).
Open questions? What new book can keep me going on in understanding? What of this could I apply to my life? Is Buddhism all about apathy? Is that so? Maybe there is answer on Quora (well, there is something for sure)