The young American who leaves his lucrative computer career in Connecticut to become a Buddhist monk in Asia is roughly the same age of Cassia in my novel "What's Left," and his training likely parallels what her father would have practiced a generation earlier. No wonder Bhikkhu S. has my attention.
Related in letters home, the travelogue is charming, innocent, and unpresumptuous, a delightful read.
The opening chapters are a wide-eyed account of his adventures in Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia before settling in to his strict monastic discipline. It gives us a good sense of what he's about to give up, and what he will gain in contrast.
His journey then turns to Hong Kong, India, Nepal, and Indochina. While dwelling in a monastery in Thailand, he explains his reasons for committing to a five- or six-year training in Theravada Buddhism, which differs from Tibetan or Zen. As he details, hard chores and community are big components in the daily routine.
There are additional twists, of course, in the steps leading him to see with a new clarity and focus. He does a fine job of humbly trying to explain what's ultimately inexplainable and why he finds it so rewarding.
Steve Scena's editing deserves kudos for keeping the first-hand feel of the on-the-fly material.
(review of free book)