Book Review: The Challenge of the Mind (Ryuho Okawa)

I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Link

Ragdoll Rating: NO!

Recommended For: NO!

About the Book…

“The Challenge of the Mind is an excellent guide to exploring the infinite potential of our mind from Buddha’s perspective. In this book, author Ryuho Okawa shows how we can apply the essential teachings of Buddha to our lives and cultivate deep wisdom and promote a happy, peaceful everyday life.”

This is the first section of the description of this book provided on Netgalley. Please be aware that I cannot speak for the entirety of this book, as I stopped reading after the first section (6 chapters). However, from what I did manage to get through, was most definitely not an excellent guide to anything, let alone Buddhism as I understand it.

I read for a while, getting increasingly confused and irritated, and found myself thinking “This sounds like a cult handbook” and then I looked up the author and the Happy Science movement, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s a cult handbook…allegedly.

What I thought…

The first thing that set me off in this book was the authors constant need to differentiate between Buddhism and I suppose every other religion, although it specifically mentions Christianity, and boy does it keep going on about it. It starts off by saying that there are 2 types of religion, one type treats god and man as separate things. Man cannot become god no matter what they do. The other type doesn’t, apparently.

Now I have to point out, I know there are some esoteric forms of Buddhism out there and I don’t for a minute pretend I understand them all but then the book starts saying things like this.

“Buddhism teaches the integration of human beings with God.”

‘A “buddha” is someone who has experienced a human life on Earth and returned to the other world to live there as a high spirit with divine powers.’

“Just as diamonds are graded, people settle in different dimensions in the other world depending on how polished their souls are.’

‘A person who has attained a seventh-dimension level of enlightenment in this world will return to the world in the seventh-dimension…’

‘…some souls have evolved while others have not.’

“Buddha let this universe unfold under a single law.’

‘…human beings are surrounded by two worlds, this three-dimensional world and the other world. This latter world is the original home of human beings and so is also called “the real world.”

“Who is the one who can save herself? She is a god.”

‘By learning and mastering the laws, we can save ourselves; in other words, we can become divine spirits.”

And my personal favourite:

“Today, there are numerous sects that call themselves Buddhist, but their teachings are a long way from the true teachings of the Buddha.”

All this is mixed together with words like ’cause and effect’, ‘reincarnation’, ‘causality’ and ‘spirituality’ to give it an air of respectability. The chapters are short and repetitive, repeating the same basic theme, which for part 1 was cause and effect and blends it with weird vaguely spiritual buzzwords and feel-good “you could be a magic Buddha wizard if you buy my book” kind of vibes. Oh, and the author continues to constantly point out how ‘different’ Buddhism (or whatever this is) is from other religions, especially the Abrahamic ones.

The preface to the book also includes some particularly unsettling red flags:

“This book will serve as an excellent guide for those who are long for the mystical world of religion…”

“…reading this book is proof that you are…a real intellectual.”

“True religion teaches…”

“…reached a higher perspective…”

To be honest, I should have stopped reading as soon as I finished that page, but I thought I’d give it a chance. I think pretty much everyone will understand why these statements and others like them set off alarm bells in my head.

Final Thoughts…

Usually I would give book a rating from 1/2 a button to 5 buttons depending on how much I liked it (or not).

I have never give a ‘NO!‘ before. It’s not for me to tell you to not buy a book, you buy what you want – usually – but this book just set off alarm bells in my head, and considering it’s supposed to be a factual, religious book (if you feel the need to debate my use of the word factual in relation to religion, do it somewhere else please) and quite frankly that is a problem. I would hate somebody to go away with this book and think this is what Buddhism is. I’m not saying none of it is, but it most certainly isn’t like any Buddhism I’ve ever come across.

Frankly, all this book needed was a mention of Orgones (Youtube: Peep Show – Jez Joins a Cult) for me to set my kindle on fire to remove the taint.

Ultimately, you read it if you like. Call it research, or maybe it just appeals to you, it’s not my place to judge. But personally it sets my teeth on edge.

Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Gray Hawk of Terrapin (Moss Whelan)

Goodreads Link

The fever dream of a madman.

TL;DR – I couldn’t sum this book up for you if you held a gun to my head – I literally have no idea what happened.

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Why I read it…

I was asked by the publisher if I would like to read and review this book, and I wasn’t about to turn that down. It sounded good in the synopsis so it seemed like a safe bet.

The Story…

A girl with an overactive imagination is taken to a fantasy world for some reason and I really don’t know what to tell you after that, so I’m just going to borrow a bit from Goodreads:

Ever since her father’s death, Mool has been talking with an imaginary green lion named Inberl. (…) Inberl is arrested because he’s looking for Gray Hawk. Springing into action, Mool sets out to rescue Inberl.

Mool… (finds) …a secret map, finds a hidden bridge and crosses it (…) On the other side of the bridge, they find a secret city that keeps Terrapin at war.

Since that doesn’t explain much I’m going to paint you a little picture.

Imagine, if you will, that you have been kidnapped by sinister forces. The sinister forces have taken you to a place that looks like Disneyland and they have tied you up on Main Street. Attached to your arm is a large IV bag labelled “Adrenalin”. This strange Disneyland extremely busy, except instead of tourists, every patron is a costumed character. They take it in turns to read to you from Alice in Wonderland. In the background, you hear the theme tune to The Magic Roundabout playing far too loud, on a permanent loop. Every time you close your eyes, a costumed character clouts you round the head with a shovel. Every time you try and sleep, they pump you full of adrenaline. Imagine this continued for a full month – a full 31 days of loud, repetitive music, shovel beatings, adrenaline, sleep deprivation and surrealist literature in a setting that is quite ludicrous. Then, for no apparent reason, it all stops and they untie you.

Then imagine they told you that you could leave, but first you had to write a book. I imagine this is the book you would have written.

I tried to finish this book. I read about 65% of it. But in the end I had to add it to the extremely small list of books I just couldn’t finish.

What I thought…

I really don’t know. It’s trying to be like Alice in Wonderland – it’s surreal, and strange, there’s lots of made-up words and concepts, there’s even a Dodo and a chess theme. Problem is, I don’t like the Alice books very much, and they are pretty classic, so a book in the style of Alice wasn’t necessarily going to go down that well anyway.

Thing is, I kept reading this book because of a couple of throwaway lines and details. First off, Mool’s father has recently died and she’s been seeing a green lion ever since. Second, was a line from Mool’s mother who says Mool doesn’t go to school – they have an arrangement; something to do with her overactive memory. These two things made me think that the explanation for this book lie in Mool’s mental health. This book reads like an explanation of ADHD, autism and maybe some sort of dis-associative disorder (and as someone with the latter 2, that spoke to me) – so I kept reading hoping that at the end I would have some traumatic explanation about grief, mental health and recovery, and for all I know that’s exactly what I would get, I just couldn’t make it that far.

Problem was that I don’t know how to process any of what I read. The plot jumped wildly, to the point that I felt like I was missing pages or even chapters. I could follow it in so far as Mool tries to rescue the green lion, but anything more specific than that was just lost in the relentless tsunami of peculiarity.

There were made up words galore, and many of these were in italics, so you knew they were made up. Problem was, they weren’t all in italics, and there were – possibly – a bunch of spelling errors from time to time. Thing is, I had no way of knowing if it was a made up word or a spelling error due to the inconsistent use of italics. The grammar was also peculiar in many places – words seemed to drop out of sentences and appear elsewhere, and I have no way of understanding if this was intentional or not.

To be honest it all felt excessive. Like a teenage boy telling racist jokes because he thinks the harder he tries to be edgy, the funnier he is, this book just goes so far into the surrealist realms that the story gets lost along the way.

Final thoughts…

I couldn’t follow it, I didn’t have any reason to care about any of the characters and the constant surrealism made it feel like it would never end. So I apologise to the author, but this just wasn’t for me.

Having said that, I have heard from others who have read it, that if you are a fan of the Alice stories, and surrealism in general, then you might really like it. To each their own I suppose.

Please note: I received a free e-book copy of this work from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!