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

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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.

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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!

Kwik Review: The Christmas Mystery (Jostein Gaarder)

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Goodreads Link

What!?

TL;DR – A sort of backwards look at the history of Christianity…also a kidnapping…

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RAGDOLL RATING: 1/5 BUTTONS

What I thought:

As far as I’m concerned I am being exceedingly generous in giving this book a 1 Button rating. In fact the only reason I’m giving it a rating AT ALL is because it kept me interested enough to read it all in one sitting. It was that kind of a book. I don’t even know where to begin.

A boy finds an old advent calendar in a book shop and decides he wants it. He takes it home, opens the door and out falls a sheet of paper. On it is the first chapter of a story about a girl called Elisabet, who chases a lamb (formerly a toy lamb) out of a toy shop, runs back in time somehow and bumps into an angel, who conveniently enough is also going back in time to visit Jesus on the occasion of his birth.

Each chapter of this book is a single day of advent, and each day a door is opened and a further chapter of this bizarre story is told. As the days move on, the group of pilgrims increases inside until they have a bunch of sheep, shepherds, angels, kings (who the book made a point of describing as ‘black like an African’) and so on and they all go back in time to visit Jesus.

Thing is, as they travel across the world from Norway where the tale begins, to Bethlehem were it’s supposed to end (or begin if you prefer) they ALMOST touch upon some really interesting theological, philosophical and historical points of interest. Only every time any character got more than 2 sentences into one of these potentially interesting moments, the shepherd turns around, bangs his crook on something and screams “To Bethlehem! To Bethlehem!” as if somehow they were going to miss the big event…as a consequence it turned what could have been an interesting theological history into a frustrating and pointless walk from nowhere in particular to nowhere special.

To make matters worse, the ‘mystery’ which the books title alludes to comes in the form of a real world kidnapping. Which – I know it’s supposed to give the readers a sort of “what really happened” vibe but it just makes no sense to include. It feels WRONG. This poor old woman who loses her child in the 40’s and has to wait another 45 years to hear from her and we’re supposed to believe that all went down smoothly. I don’t know. Oh and she may or may not have been kidnapped by the people of Palestine to prove a point or leverage a journalist.

Basically what I’m trying to say is, if for any reason you STILL feel like reading this book then do yourself a favour and stop when you finish chapter 23. Or better yet, just pick up the bible and read it the right way round without the haphazardly included kidnapping.

I’m now going to leave you with some alternate entries for the quote box at the start of this review:

“From now on I’m ending every conversation I don’t like by screaming ‘To Bethlehem’ and whacking something with a stick”

“This could have been a really interesting story – then it wasn’t…”

“I have to hope something was lost in translation…”

“I have to assume I’m not the target audience for this book.”

“I finished it in the hopes that the end would pull it all together and be amazing. It wasn’t.”

On the plus side, I finally get to use THIS:

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!