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Customer Review

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful and insightful book, May 1, 2009
This review is from: Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer's Quest to Find Zen on the Sea (Paperback)
I started surfing about 3 months ago. That was also around the same time I started seriously looking at Buddhism. It is amazing that I discovered Jamail Yogis's book while going through a vaguely parallel experience.

Coming from this perspective, Saltwater Buddha is an amazing book that blends personal memoir with spiritual insight. It is thoughtful, well-written, and an entertaining read. The last point is worth emphasizing - a spiritual journey may be very interesting to the person going through it, but it will not necessarily resonate with others. Yogis has accomplished the task of translating his inner journey into a narrative that holds the reader's attention and can speak to people from varied spiritual backgrounds.

From a purely descriptive perspective, the book is about a man's intellectual, emotional, and spiritual maturation. Yogis lived a life that many of us dream of. Several times during his life he followed his impulses and went to Hawai'i to pursue his passion for surfing. However, these excursions to Hawai'i were bracketed by emotional growth and learning to take responsibility. As easy as it would be to lose oneself in a tropical paradise, Yogis realized that he needed to balance his passion with the more mundane aspects of life. The book traces his journey back and forth between these twin forces.

At the same time, Yogis is going through significant spiritual growth. Whether it is through private meditation or a stint in a monastery, his spiritual education moved through both formal and informal channels. More significantly, much of his spiritual growth came out of his movement between passion and responsibility. Life is often the greatest spiritual guide. For him, it was surfing that had one of the largest impacts on his journey. Not only did it serve as a metaphor for many of the formal principles in Buddhism, but it also served as spiritual practice.

Most of the surfers that I know acknowledge the spiritual impact surfing has. While they may not recognize it inside a specific dogmatic framework, they are certainly aware of the connection between surfing and some larger cosmic mystery. One reason that Yogis's book is so fascinating is that he looks at surfing through the lens of a particular spirituality. This helps to give structure to thoughts about how surfing impacts people.

Looking at surfing through the lens of Buddhism is not, obviously, just a literary device used by Yogis. However, this particular perspective is what makes Saltwater Buddha unique and engaging. Buddhism is capable of embracing so many different paths of spirituality and surfing was one of the paths for Yogis. The structure of the book reflects this interconnection - spiritual insight is interwoven with the narrative of his life. Each piece serves to illuminate the other.

This is, of course, how life is actually experienced. We do not experience inner and outer experience as separate things. Instead, our spiritual/emotional/intellectual life is completely intertwined with our experiences in the world. We find meaning in the events of our lives and those same events give validation (or challenge) our worldview. It is difficult to capture this in an effective way and even more difficult to convey this to another person in a structured and coherent way. Again, this is a task that Yogis has admirably accomplished.

I have purchased several copies of the book because I plan to give them to friends; to both surfers and nonsurfers. I have found that Saltwater Buddha gives expression to many of the experiences I am having myself. I have found it so difficult to explain my experiences to people that don't surf - which makes Saltwater Buddha even more impressive. Yogis has found an effective way to give voice to the deeply emotional and spiritual aspects of an activity that many dismiss as idle fancy. We should all be thankful for this gift.

I am confident that this book will open your eyes to a different world; even if you have no interest in surfing or Buddhism.
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