Buddha Boy by Kathe Koja
Recently read a fiction young-adult book “Buddha Boy” by Kathe Koja. It was a quick good read.
Amazon’s intro pretty much summarizes the plot well.
The kids at Edward Rucher High School call Jinsen "Buddha Boy" - he wears oversize tie-dyed dragon t-shirts, shaves his head and always seems to be smiling. Jinsen certainly doesn't help matters when he starts begging for lunch money in the cafeteria. Then Justin is paired with him for a class project. All Justin wants to do is get it over with and go back to hanging out with his friends...until he discovers Jinsen's incredible artistic talent. And the more he gets to know Jinsen, the more Justin questions his own beliefs. But being friends with Buddha Boy isn't simple, especially when Justin realizes he's going to have to take sides. What matters more: the high school social order or getting to know someone extraordinary?
It is not an intro to Buddhism or anything. While it does epitomizes some core principles. Some times the narration gets confusing. As Justin is the one narrating the whole story and it involves dialogues as spoken by Justin with friends and Jinsen and it also includes Justin thinking out aloud during the dialogue and his narration - I wish it had been edited better for clarity.
Interesting Quotes and Notes
A few interesting notes from the book (no spoilers).
The ideogram for mindfulness.
The meaning for the ideogram for mindfulness: "is a symbol for ‘mindfulness.’ The top part, the little roof, means ‘now.’ The lower element means ‘heart’ and ‘mind’ together. It could be translated as ‘being full-hearted, open-minded, right now.’”
But it wasn't so much the money as the way the money made them act: like if you can buy pretty much anything you want, you start thinking you can do pretty much anything you want.
“They're called pretas,” he said. “Hungry ghosts. Big big bodies and little tiny mouths, they eat all the time but they never get full. Like when you have a lot of stuff, you have everything, but all you want is more.”
“A lot of bad things,” he said, “have been done in God's name. And most of the greatest good, too. It's like I keep telling you, kiddo—use your eyes.”
“Don't you see,” he said, “if I tried to get even I'd be worse than he is, I'd be more wrong than he is. Because he doesn't know. But I do.”
But the movies and the history books never tell you how they felt, those heroes, if they were angry or uncertain or afraid, if they had to think a long time before they did the right thing, if they even knew what the right thing was or just made a headlong guess, just leaped and hoped they landed instead of falling. Because you know what else the books never say? Nobody, hero or not, really wants to rush into a fire. Because fire burns.
“Jinsen,” meaning “the fountain of God, the place where God springs up in the world”
... It wasn't shaving his head, you know, or chanting that made him a Buddhist: it was who he was.
Memory, I think, is like a drawing. Sometimes it's a blur, the shadow of a shadow, one form blending and fading into the next until no matter how you try you can't see the picture whole, you can't tell what really happened from what you think you saw.
Interesting take on Karma.
Karma means that what you do today, and why you do it, makes you who you are forever: as if you were clay, and every thought and action left a mark in that clay, bent it, shaped it, even ruined it . . . but with karma there are no excuses, no explanations, no l-didn't-really-mean-it-so-can-l-have-some-more-clay. Karma takes everything you do very, very seriously.
So explain this, now: You wish, want, work for one thing, but instead something else happens, the thing you most dreaded, the thing you tried your best to stop. And then it turns out that what you wanted, all you wanted and more, stood hidden behind exactly what you didn't, and to get to one you had to take the other first.