By Richard C. Morais
(Scribner Book Company, Hardcover, 9781451669220, 244pp.)
Publication Date: July 17, 2012
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“The life of a man is like a ball in the river— no matter what our will wants or desires, we are swept along by an invisible current that finally delivers us to the limitless expanse of the black sea.”
So reflects the elderly Buddhist priest Seido Oda as he considers the life that brought him from an idyllic mountainside village in Japan to the bustling streets of Brooklyn, New York— a touching and humorous journey richly depicted in Buddhaland Brooklyn.
Oda’s boyhood is spent fishing in clear mountain streams, picking plums, and helping his parents run the family’s village inn on the slopes of Mount Nagata. But at age eleven, his parents hand him over to the monks at the nearby Buddhist monastery. Separated from his family and deeply lonely, the acolyte adjusts to monastic life by devoting himself to painting, poetry, and prayer—and avoiding human contact. This safe and quiet existence is unexpectedly upended, however, when he reaches middle age and is ordered by his superior to open a temple in Brooklyn.
New York is a shock to the introverted Oda. A shy, socially inept Japanese priest who hides his true feelings behind a severe manner, Reverend Oda must spiritually lead the ragtag army of eccentric New Yorkers who make up the local Buddhist community. This motley crew and their misguided practices provide for a host of hilarious cultural misunderstandings and mishaps. But when tragedy strikes, Oda’s rigid worldview is shattered and his eyes are finally opened to the long-buried sadness and personal shortcomings in his own life. It is only when he comes to appreciate the Americans, flaws and all, that Oda finds in Brooklyn the home he has always sought.
A lively, vivid novel, Buddhaland Brooklyn stirs from the very first page. This is an entertaining and edifying meditation on the meaning and rewards of true acceptance.