Sunday, December 21, 2014

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo

After his parents' untimely death Otto has to go to North Dakota to settle their estate.  Since his sister doesn't like to fly, Otto plans a road trip for the two of them where they can stop at nice restaurants and points of interest on the way.  When he gets to his flaky sister's house, he finds a robed monk his sister introduces as her guru, Volya Rinpoche.  Cecelia wants Otto to take the Rinpoche on the trip instead of her and she plans to give her share of the valuable farmland to him for his new teaching center in the United States.  Otto views the entire proposition as just another of his sister's crazy plans but is eventually strong-armed into agreeing and sets off on a cross country trip with the guru, determined to show him some of "real" America.  Despite his cynicism and resistance, Otto begins to listen to what Rinpoche has to say.

I picked this book up at a very small bookstore/coffeehouse while on vacation.  A member of the staff had put a sign there saying that when asked to list the ten books that had changed her life, this was one of them.  Then, a woman at the checkout saw what I was buying and said that the book had moved her so much she was buying a second copy to give to a friend.  I was pretty excited! 

Now that I've read it, I can say that I liked the book.  But did I find it life-changing?  Not really.  Although the Rinpoche is officially not any specific religion, he is obviously mostly espousing Buddhist principles such as impermanence and mindfulness.  In discussing the book with others, I think that it might be life-changing for those who aren't familiar with those ideas to start with but maybe not as much to someone who already has some background in them.  None of that is a condemnation of the book which is still an enjoyable road story with some touching moments.  Furthermore, it's always good to be reminded of some things which tend to slip from the forefront of your brain.  Soooooo, good book, possibly life-altering.