GUEST POST and GIVEAWAY
My Buddhist Christmas
by Jeremy Phillips
It’s not surprising that sixteen year old Chris Jones has no idea where he fits in …
After all, he’s a Buddhist kid in America - during the Christmas season. Add in the fact he plays guitar in a punk rock band called The Dharma Bhumz, and his life is one giant paradox. Caught between the principles of his religion and the influence of his hard-partying bandmates, Chris is in a constant struggle for balance.
An upcoming talent show is his chance to shine - or fail spectacularly …
It’s already hard enough preparing for the show, since his friends are more interested in getting high than practicing. And now Chris has to worry about impressing pretty Mary Simpson. To make matters even worse, Mary’s parents are fundamentalist Christians, a few steps above his family on the social ladder, and they firmly believe Chris isn’t good enough for their precious daughter.
Conflicted about his friends, lying to his family, and still mourning a devastating loss, Chris wonders if being an American Buddhist guitar wizard wanna-be is worth it.
Or does any of it even matter anymore?
"So doesn’t it bother you?" I shudder, thinking of ending up like one of the various invalids that my father takes care of. Not to run and play anymore, or even to have proper control of your own bowels. Perhaps it would be better to lose your mind, like the one old fellow I’d seen earlier, staring blindly off into space. Only, perhaps that would be worse.
All of a sudden, I realize that what’s been bothering me is the Buddha’s so-called First Noble Truth, the one that set him onto the path of trying to find Enlightenment - Awakening, Satori, that type of stuff - in the first place. This is the First Noble Truth set into flesh, in the bodies of a hundred different examples, scattered in the building all around me. The Truth of Suffering, that all who are born will come to suffer, at least once in their lifetime, from the unhappy triple curse of sickness, old age, and death.
Praise for the Book
"I realized as I read it that this book is only coincidentally about Buddhism. It is a story about the reality teenage boys live in, about how stressful their lives can become and specifically how this protagonist deals with it. Chris’s occasional musings on Buddhism as it relates to his troubles showed me how he rationalizes his experiences. I gained some insight into what Buddhism, one of mankind’s oldest ways of being in the world, looks like when viewed as part of the American experience, no longer an exotic alien influence. I found this book to be an easy read. The characters seemed real to me and the plot was often surprising; it moved quickly enough to draw me into the story, kept things interesting and presented an ending in keeping with the Christmas spirit." ~ Loyd Phillips
"... I found this book entertaining from start to finish. There is a constant undercurrent of good Buddhist teachings especially the one about being very careful who your friends are. I kept shaking my head about young Chris' repeated poor decisions. But then I reminded myself that he is a teenage boy growing up in a very ME centric American culture where the Dharma can be a hard sell. Fortunately he was able to learn some valuable lessons before it was too late. Karma was working in his favor. The book also has a smattering of information about Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. This is helpful because I find that even many fellow Buddhists can be unfamiliar with this particular tradition. All and all a very good read." ~ Kenneth Mondal
"The story is told from a first person, present-tense view that supports his frequent reflections on how his religious teachings should be guiding his behavior. His rationalizing will sound familiar to all readers. [...] Chris’s musical 'triumph' is not about getting the notes right but about overcoming fear of failure so you try something you are passionate about. He realizes the foolishness of worrying about what other people think of your efforts – they won’t even remember, but you will always remember being brave enough to follow your dream." ~ Sally Dauterman
Guest Post by the Author
My Own Thoughts On My Buddhist Christmas
I have been a student of Eastern philosophy, and Buddhism in particular, for a long time now. But years ago when I first tried to do any reading about it, the very foreign nature of the philosophy tended to get in the way of actually understanding what I was reading. No matter what book I chose to read, no matter what school of Buddhist philosophy I was trying to understand, it was always the same.
A master teacher of some type, a person very different than myself, would be describing these very old ideas, from his very Eastern mindset. Eventually, I came to feel that what might be very helpful for a Western reader such as myself, would be a book that spoke about this stuff in an entirely different way…
When I sat down to write My Buddhist Christmas, I had the idea of writing a young adult fiction story, about an American teenager who had been raised up as a Buddhist all of his life. Such a person, unlike myself who approached Buddhist philosophy with the mindset of an adult raised in the USA, would understand Buddhism as a more intimate, more essential part of how he already viewed the world. Such a kid would understand all that, while still being very much an American teenager.
So when I started to attend services at a Shin Buddhist temple in Spokane, Washington, I found myself wondering how it might be, to be one of the children exposed to that philosophy from an early age. I took my own children to this temple, and I started to wonder how the conflicts of life might go for these kids, conflicts which can be even more of a challenge during the Christmas season.
But My Buddhist Christmas is more than a just a book on Buddhist philosophy. I wanted to write a "coming of age" story, told from the perspective of a main character who was feeling very intensely some of these conflicts. During the course of the story, my narrator character can be seen experiencing a lot of the stresses that a teenager in America will experience.
He experiences the conflict of being infatuated with a pretty girl, and of falling rapidly in love for the first time. He experiences the conflict of trying to keep a group of unreliable teenagers on task, so that they can make some garage band music work out for a talent show that he’s involved with. He experiences the difficulty of peer pressure, in a variety of ways.
As he goes about his life, my narrator also shares with the reader a variety of Buddhist parables and philosophical observations, learned from his childhood. The end result of this, is that as the narrator gets to the end of his story and grows up some about how he is living, as he more fully understands his own Buddhist philosophy, the reader, too, will also gather a greater understanding.
Really, I wrote this book for people of all ages. Adults will read it, and perhaps remember how it was to be a teen, how it was to be growing up and starting to take responsibility for themselves more. Teens and pre-teens who read it, will be able to identify with some of the struggles represented in the story. Ultimately it is my hope that whoever reads it, will come away with a better understanding of what Buddhism has to say about life, while enjoying an entertaining story.
About the Author
Jeremy Phillips has been interested in Buddhist philosophy for more than twenty years, and attends services at a Shin Buddhist temple in Spokane, Washington. When he isn't writing or keeping busy being a father and husband, he works as a Respiratory Therapist at several different hospitals. He lives in Spokane with his wife, children, dogs, and bonsai trees.
Enter the giveaway for a chance to win an ebook copy of My Buddhist Christmas by Jeremy Phillips. The prize will be sent out after 3 November.