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Errorism


Arjun Mahey

BUDDHA OR BUST
By Perry Garfinkel
Harmony Books, New York, 2006, pp. 336, $24.95

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 5 May 2008

One of the few authentic terrors of walking unguardedly into a bookshop in these dark times is that one is almost immediately trapped by an enormous phalanx of thoroughly amiable Spiritual Books on the Inner Self which profess to alleviate all one’s worldly ills, in twelve steps or less, through a sort of spiritual enema: ills from piles to schizophrenia (and everything in between) to be fluently expunged while performing wonders, as a bonus, for one’s social, psychological and sexual life as well. With depressingly colourful covers, and even more depressingly cheerful subtitles (Every Man His Own Jesus, Around The Self In Eighty Days), they flood out of the presses like cheerily wrapped boxes of chocolate, and like chocolate they produce a temporary and illusory rapture while generating an impenitent and quite expensive addiction. One sight of these daft foot-soldiers of delirium is enough to drive any rational, red-blooded human to drink. A conspiracy theorist could argue, persuasively, for a dark compact between the Alcoholic Beverage and the Inner Self Book industries; speaking for myself, however, every time I hear loopy words like Reiki or Art of Living or Deepak Chopra my nerves dissolve in dread and will not revive unless soaked for extended periods of time in several long, cold bottles of beer.   If Blurbs by Famous People are one sort of weapon in this fiendish artillery—and celebrity blurbs, like mid-range weapons, seem to be manufactured at an industrialized rate in our globalized era—then the shock troops of this unilateral Errorism inflicted on a guiltless and oblivious populace is Prefabricated Buddhism. There are more books on Buddhism than Buddhists in these new Dark Ages; whole forests have been felled to continue to generate these pitiless purveyors of worldly Nirvana; and every journalistic hack tricked out with barely enough information to produce an essay on Basic Buddhism is writing a book which Norman Vincent Peale would have given both arms to produce. The future of humankind looks very bleak indeed.   As if things weren’t gloomy enough already there is every sign, in recent years, of a new and pitiless weapon becoming available in the market: The Buddhist Travel Book, a projectile designed to seek out and annihilate the slightest move toward accuracy or aesthetic sense. Would you like water with your whiskey? Mark Twain was once asked by a host of his; to which he ...


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