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Synopsis

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 combined.

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.


From the Hardcover edition.

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