This is a raw and honest book about a Buddhist practitioner with a strong intellectual understanding of the Buddhist teachings reflecting on them as he grieves for his wife. He asks himself just how are some of these teachings supposed to help, because when in the grip of the intense pain of losing a loved one, the answer to that question is not always obvious. He particularly looks at the teachings on karma and how the common oversimplifications of these teachings can be not at all helpful to someone in pain. It is said that only an enlightened being is capable of fully understanding the workings of karma and this book gives us some idea of why this is so. Is also warns us away from using teachings that we have limited understanding of to form platitudes that, rather than help a suffering person, are really only a way of saving us from having to fully engage with an uncomfortable situation. To truly be with another in their grief requires something much more genuine.
When reading this book I was reminded of the Buddha when he said that one should not take the Buddhist teachings on faith alone, but that we should test them for ourselves. What the author is doing here is testing them in light of his grief. Though some may find the author’s honesty disturbing, he is modelling right behaviour for a Buddhist practitioner, for one cannot progress towards enlightenment if one cannot be honest with oneself.
The book also gives insight into the grieving process, such as that one does not necessarily go through all the stages of grief that are commonly spoken of – perhaps especially if you are a Buddhist practitioner. I think this would be a helpful book for anyone grieving, even if just to know how it was for another.
It will be published on the 9th of August.