Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Novice

The Novice: Why I Became a Buddhist Monk, Why I Quit & What I Learned by Stephen Schettini is a well-written memoir that almost seems like a version of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, but overseas, and with a more religious theme.

Schettini's religious road began at a young age, when he was attending a Catholic school. Even then, he was questioning the philosophy of Christianity, and was able to expose some of the hypocrisy contained within, and the problem of rote memorization of doctrine without thinking of how to apply it to daily situations.

When a little older, at the age of 11, he developed a knack for shoplifting various items from stores. At his preparatory school, he was considered to be lazy, untidy, careless, and erratic. Being a teenager of the 60s, he grew his hair long, listened to Bob Dylan and the Beatles, drank a lot, and had deep discussions about what really mattered.

When someone finally gave him a copy of the I Ching for his 21st birthday, the foundation was laid for a life-changing trip to Asia, in search of the lesser known Eastern philosophies, usually ignored by those in the West.

Leaving Gloucester to Dover, then continuing to hitchhike across Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, counting on the I Ching to help him make his decisions. Along the way, he tries different drugs that don't agree with him, meets many people who do, and has amazing black-and-white photographs to document the places. He describes these people and places, so often almost demonized on the recent news, in a vivid fashion that puts you right there with him. The behaviors of the people seem to be on par with other memoirs of the area, such as Greg Mortensen's Three Cups of Tea.

Following an almost fatal illness, Schettini finally makes his way to India and Tibet, and is inducted into the practices of Buddhism. He finds a new peace in his new perspective, and order in his previously cluttered mind and manners. He then spends the majority of the next couple of decades as a leader and instructor, before finally deciding to leave to apply what he has learned elsewhere.

This memoir is well-written and easy to read. It is filled with a great deal of honesty, which is the best way to portray emotion in its purest form. It is inspirational, as the reader cannot help but question her own ideals in comparison to Schettini's. And it's simply a good story.

Purchase The Novice: Why I Became a Buddhist Monk, Why I Quit, and What I Learned

I received this book to review as a part of my association with

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