Readers familiar with Merton and Suzuki will know most of this story. For others, though, this is a solid overview.



A leisurely survey of Buddhist encounters with the West, for better or worse.

Much of the literature on that matter has come from Buddhists such as Thich Nhat Hanh and Catholics such as Thomas Merton. Sutin (Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley, 2000, etc.) professes no religious attachment, and his emphasis is historical rather than doctrinal. He begins with the age of Alexander the Great, when Greeks were exposed to Buddhist teachings during the short-lived conquest of northwestern India; Aristotle even asked Alexander to send a “gymnosophist” back to Greece for a conversation, though a Buddhist met a trio of Greek thinkers with the impatient remark, “It is impossible to explain philosophical doctrines through the medium of three interpreters who understand nothing we say any more than the vulgar; it is like asking water to flow through pure mud.” Such incomprehension marked subsequent East-West encounters, though in time, Nestorian Christians would live alongside Buddhists in Asia, giving each a better idea of the other’s beliefs. Sutin examines the controversial view that Buddhist thought influenced the Gnostics (and thus, perhaps, early Christianity), for which there is scant evidence for or against, before moving on to the better-documented travels of Christian missionaries in Asia; his narrative is peopled by memorable characters such as the Japanese Buddhist monk who converted to Catholicism only to denounce it, “making him an apostate, perhaps the first in world history, of both Buddhism and Christianity.” Later, he provides a fine brief on the flim-flam artist who did much to introduce sort-of-Tibetan doctrine to the West, T. Lobsang Rampa. Sutin reaches familiar ground when he turns to the influence of Buddhism on the American transcendentalists and, later, the Beats and their followers, more fluently chronicled in Rick Fields’s How the Swans Came to the Lake (1992).

Readers familiar with Merton and Suzuki will know most of this story. For others, though, this is a solid overview.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2006

ISBN: 0-316-74156-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2006

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.


An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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The name of C.S. Lewis will no doubt attract many readers to this volume, for he has won a splendid reputation by his brilliant writing. These sermons, however, are so abstruse, so involved and so dull that few of those who pick up the volume will finish it. There is none of the satire of the Screw Tape Letters, none of the practicality of some of his later radio addresses, none of the directness of some of his earlier theological books.

Pub Date: June 15, 1949

ISBN: 0060653205

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1949

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