“Journey to Mindfulness” by Henepola Gunaratana
Summary Of The Book
This autobiography takes the reader into a Buddhist’s monk life journey. It contains numerous stories from his life. Bhante Gunaratana, the author of the book, is unfolding his life journey and describes the good and the bad parts. His narrative is warm and humorous, and his language is honest and sincere. Even though the book is called “Journey to Mindfulness” this book isn’t about mindfulness as much as it is about a detailed account of the author’s life.
Some stories may be considered failures; some others may be embarrassing. However, all life experiences worth sharing. Readers can learn how this monk evolved to become the person who he is through such stories.
My Personal Experience and Opinion
This book is a solid piece of work that has had a tremendous impact on me. First, it demystifies the life of a Buddhist monk, by portraying their side that is similar to you and me, being fellow humans. The rebelliousness, anger and frustration that appears at times in this book are all part of the human experience. Perhaps some stories in the book may seem as arrogant or too emotional, but all these stories are down to earth and pragmatic. Second, the biggest takeaway for me from this book is that there even though life can be hard or embarrassing or also perhaps containing traumatic experiences, Bhante’s approach on such incidents to accept them, acknowledge them and experience them, gives to life a deep meaning. The best part is that he hasn’t been passive about life misfortunes, instead he kept on going forward. A nice feature of this book is that while there are some pessimistic stories, the overall life story becomes more and optimistic as you keep on reading.
I picked this book because I am interested in meditation. This book isn’t explicitly about meditation though, and the title may be a little misleading, but that doesn’t matter so much. This book is a biography, narrated in a humble and yet inspiring way. This book is for anyone who is interested in learning more about the monastic life of a Theravada Buddhist monk, or to anyone who feels they need to read something inspiring about the meaning of life, without being lost in deep philosophical thoughts or being diverted into heavy to digest discussions.
The bottom line
A biography with wisdom, humour and humility, wrapped in an inspiring narrative that portrays both the failures and successes of a Buddhist monk’s life.