Breakfast with Buddha

  “Breakfast with Buddha” by Roland Merullo was the topic of several conversations with my friend Allen from work and the subject of my 3rd book review.

This is a very funny, but also thought provoking road trip story about a man who’s sister tricks him into transporting a guru friend of hers across the country to their family home in North Dakota after the death of their parents.

The death of Otto’s parents rocks his otherwise “normal”, “successful”, ‘hardworking” and generally happy existence and brings the question of the “meaning of life’ into a more prominent place in his everyday existence. With this state of mind he was more ready for this ride with the stranger Rinpoche that he realized.

During one of their discussions on the road where Otto is getting upset with the guru because he thinks he is preaching to him or being presumptuous, because the guru offers to answer a question for him. Otto pops off with “What is the meaning of life”  The guru laughs and proceeds to put some dirt in his water glass while dining in a restaurant and stirs it up and declares “meaning of life”.

Dirt in Glass?”

“He held up his own water-glass, dirt-free, and peered at me through it, then set it down. ” The mind,” he said, pointing at the clear glass. I was glad, at least that he hadn’t pointed at the glass of what was now becoming mud and said “your mind.” By then the dirt was settling, the top part of the glass was somewhat clear again. “Watch,” he instructed. And as we watched, the dirt in my glass settled slowly to the bottom so that the top two-thirds of the water grew translucent, then transparent. “Your mind,” he said, pointing at the glass in front of me. He picked up his spoon. “When you – when some person – does things he shouldn’t do. “Watch.”He put that spoon in the glass and stirred energetically again, took the spoon, out, sat back with a look of complete satisfaction on his face. “Then you can’t see.”

“When someone does what bad things?”

“Kill person. Kill animal for no reason. Drugs, Anger, Eat too much…. like that.”

“Kill someone and eat too much in the same category?”

“He laughed as if at himself and pointed at me. “Smart.” …… Killing someone means more dirt. Glass filled with dirt for killing someone. Little bit of dirt for eating too much.” 

“I see. That’s today’s lesson.”

“Yes, It is good lesson. If you want to see the life as it is in a true way, then you have to make the water very pure, very clean. This is not easy in this world but it is what you have to. You cannot upset the mind.“”

There are several stories that are funny, self-conscious, true and enlightening. The Chippewa Lanes in South Bend was another favorite.

I am not much for religion and that was much of Allen and my conversations at work and this book several times mirrored our conversations. Allen trying to crack open my door to faith of any kind and me resisting at every turn.

If you are of a faith or an atheist or agnostic resigned to no faith you will still love this book and the different, nonjudgmental ways it looks at life.

I am going to make this book my second BookCrossing release. Wanderlust is out and about in West Olympia, but I’m not sure where this one will be left. Let me know if you find it though.

What are your feelings on faith and religion?