Wake Up – A Life of the Buddha by Jack Kerouac

24 03 2010

kerouac_wakeup As with so many books recently, I listened to Wake Up – A Life of the Buddha as an audio book.  It comes from Penguin Audio as 5 cds read by Danny Campbell, who in my opinion didn’t do the book justice with his monotone voice that hardly gave the story the life it needed.  Still the story is very interesting and a fundamental story in the lives so many people around the world so I tried to looked past this fault in the production.

This book tells the story of the Buddha or to be correct it tells the story of XXXXX that later in life becomes the Buddha or the Enlighten One.  The story begins when XXX is still a little prince growing up in Hindu India. XXX becomes disillusioned with the life of riches that he lives and leaves the palace to search for answers on life it self – on deaths and rebirths or reincarnation, one of the cornerstones of the Hindu religion.  To my understanding the prince discovered the secrets of life and becomes the Buddha and the book follows the Buddha to the end of his human life or until he enters Nirvana.  The book also goes through some of Buddha’s teachings as he is preaching to his disciples.  To create a coherent story the author both cites old scriptures from different Buddhist traditions and uses his own words to bind the scriptures together.

Before I read the book I had heard some stories of how the prince became the Buddha but is was very interesting to read it again as a coherent story from beginning to end.  Reading the book at this point in time, while traveling through South East Asia, gives it a good and solid context and makes the reading (listening) even more enjoyable. 

About three fifths of the book follow the life story of the Buddha and about two fifths are from the Buddha teaching or preaching to his disciples.  The former I liked immensely The latter part I didn’t get so well and I have to admit is went a bit over my head.  The Buddha talks about the self, the true self, the mind, the essence of mind, the conscious mind, the brain mind, the essential mind and so forth and it was a bit too complex for me to make any sense of it. 

To summarize, I really likes the story of how the prince became the Buddha and how he spent his life after becoming the Enlightened One.  I didn’t like the teachings since I didn’t fully understand them – maybe I’ll have to give that part another try later. 

I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to learn about the Buddha and Buddhism but at the same time, I would recommend going quickly through the teachings unless you are very enthusiastic about the subject.

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