A fascinating indepth examination of spirituality in America, and a close look at the fine line between religion and cult.


The unique story of an American woman whose life was launched on an ``extraordinary trajectory'' after she was identified as the reincarnation of a16th-century Tibetan saint.

In 1984, Catherine Borroughs was leading a spiritual group in Maryland when a visiting Buddhist leader recognized her to be a tulka—an enlightened creature who returns to earth to help ``sentient beings,'' or all living things. She had taught her students something incredibly close to Tibetan Buddhism without ever having learned it, as if remembered from a previous life. She takes the name Jetsunma, and Washington Post reporter Sherrill casts both a critical and a sympathetic eye on this powerful, inspiring, and rather bizarre woman. Jetsunma founds the largest Tibetan monastery in America, telling her students that ``the future of Dharma in the west'' depends on their example. The Tibetan practice, offering a quick path to enlightenment, has a particularly American appeal, explains Sherrill, and the nexus of eastern and western cultures that she documents is stunning. Faced with the task of performing the 100,000 prostrations required in a Buddhist purification rite, students dress as if for aerobics class and keep count on ``plastic clickercounters.'' Even after her recognition, Jetsunma wears red acrylic fingernails and works out at Bally's in thongs and tank tops to lure a student into her group. Jetsunma's constant fight with obesity, her fourth divorce, and her love affairs with students are all parts of this puzzling story. Immersed the world of Jetsunma and her students, Sherrill's journalism captures the humor of the culture clash as well as the subtle emotional and social influences of the Tibetan practice on members of the group.

A fascinating indepth examination of spirituality in America, and a close look at the fine line between religion and cult.

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-679-45275-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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